The scope of Chattanooga’s City Court may be much reduced these days, but the court still serves a vital function in the life of the community. Though it no longer handles criminal cases, City Court has an expansive and still expanding role in the enforcement of a variety of important municipal codes.
That is a task that calls for a judge with the skills to balance the demands of the law with the needs of individuals. Given that requirement, this page endorses Gerald Webb for the City Court judgeship in the May 2 election.
The recommendation of Mr. Webb should not be viewed as criticism of Sherry Paty, the incumbent who is seeking her first full term on the city bench. Far from it. Ms. Paty, too, has impressive professional credentials. Mr.
Webb, however, is better suited to address the very specific needs of City Court.
To be sure, a significant portion of the City Court docket is composed of rather mundane traffic and parking cases. Still, those cited for such offenses deserve a fair hearing rather than disinterested assemblyline justice.
Mr. Webb, a prosecuting attorney in the district attorney’s office who has taken leave to campaign, worked previously as both an intern and as a clerk in City Court. He instinctively understands the operations and nuances of a court in which lawyers almost never appear. He will listen and then impose penalties that serve the law as well as the individual. That may mean, for instance, a fine for a chronic or reckless offender in one instance but passing —; and months later dismissing —; a similar ticket for someone who has no previous offenses.
In addition to traffic cases and parking tickets, city court hears environmental cases, housing, building and property code violations, demolition orders, animal control complaints, and a variety of other code cases. Mr. Webb’s career has provided the experience necessary to handle such a case load.
As a prosecutor, he has handled a wide variety of cases —; everything, he says, "from fishing without a license to major felonies." He knows his way around the courtroom, and his expertise is as broad as it is wide. He’s earned the respect of members of the local bar and of those who work in the community’s courts. By temperament and by training, Mr. Webb is perfectly prepared to handle the variety of issues likely to be brought before City Court.
Mr. Webb has an intellectual vigor and a desire to serve the public that match his proven legal skills. He understands that judgment must be tempered with mercy, particularly in cases where individuals run afoul of the law by omission rather than commission. There is no need, he says, to punish an elderly and well-meaning person living on a fixed income for failure to maintain his or her home when sending that person to the proper city or social agency will remedy the problem. That’s the sort of wisdom and discretion needed in those who sit in municipal court.
Chattanoogans deserve and need a judge with legal expertise, compassion and a people-friendly approach to justice. Mr. Webb will provide that. On May 2, he should be given the opportunity to serve as City Court judge.