Vance was born on April 10, 1961, in Birmingham, Alabama. He attended Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, Vance clerked for Judge Tom Gee on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit before starting work at the Birmingham law firm Johnston, Barton, Proctor and Powell as a litigator.
Vance was first appointed to the bench to serve out the term of Judge Arthur Hanes in 2002 and subsequently elected to a full term. He was reelected in 2010, without opposition.
In 2006, in Gooden v. Worley, a case that challenged the Alabama law that removed the right to vote from those convicted of felonies of moral turpitude, Vance ordered the state of Alabama to allow ex-felons to vote, holding that the law failed to identify the crimes that fit the definition. Vance was reversed on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Vance ran unsuccessfully for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012. He reluctantly entered the race in August 2012, after the former Democratic candidate Harry Lyon was disqualified from the ballot in large part due to erratic behavior and rants against gays and lesbians. His opponent was former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who had previously been removed from the bench for failing to follow an order from the federal district court to remove a religious monument he had installed in the Alabama Supreme Court building. At the time Vance entered the race, there were no statewide elected Democrats in the state of Alabama. Despite low expectations, Vance was barely defeated by Roy Moore in the general election on November 6, receiving 48.23% of the vote.
In an editorial penned before the election, Moore wrote, "The true issue is whether we can acknowledge the sovereignty of Almighty God over the affairs of our state and our law.”
The October before the election, Vance received endorsement in a letter signed by a highly respected line up of both Republican and Democratic current and former Alabama Supreme Court Justices.
Vance ran a highly popular TV ad featuring his two youngest children, Eleanor and Oliver, that focused on his low key, scholarly demeanor and showed the children admonishing him to "face it Dad, you're a nerd."
Vance is married to law school classmate Joyce White Vance, the United States Attorney in the Northern District of Alabama. They have four children.
Vance's father was Judge Robert S. Vance on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He was killed by a mail bomb in 1989.
Profile at the 10th Judicial Circuit, Jefferson County, Alabama
Bob Vance (jurist) on Twitter