published Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Chancery Court hopefuls tout conservative positions


by Chris Carroll

What's next

* Democrats will host a similar forum on Saturday at 1 p.m. Valerie Epstein, the only party member running for the office, is expected to be the nominee named at the forum.

* Republicans will host a caucus to select their nominee on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the East Ridge Community Center.

Five Republican attorneys flaunted their conservative stances Monday night in a meeting designed to acquaint voters to people vying for a judgeship on Hamilton County's Chancery Court.

Chancery Court is the venue where wills, trusts and estates are resolved along with general disputes over money. Legal arguments between the city and county are also handled in that setting.

Held inside a Westview Elementary painted red with Robin Smith congressional campaign signs, Monday's event allowed candidates to detail their credentials for about 10 minutes.

Gary Starnes rolled off about 15 names of prominent Republican politicians he'd campaigned for "in 100 degree heat," saying his opponents had the career experience but not all were diehard conservatives.

"Sometimes we're not always popular, but I'm always a Republican," Mr. Starnes said.

Joe Manuel took a different approach, telling the 150 listeners to search for judicial qualities reminiscent of the biblical figure Solomon. He urged his audience to ask other lawyers and judges about each candidate.

"You cannot hide your reputation," he said. "Trial lawyers are some of the most transparent people anywhere."

David Norton also shied away from party politics and instead focused on what qualities a judge should possess.

"A good judge is going to be a good lawyer and a good listener," he said. "From that, one can make the right decision."

Linda Hall promised to refrain from judicial activism if she becomes a judge that hears a broad range of cases.

"One thing I can promise you I will do is not legislate from the bench, but rather apply from the law as it is written by the Legislature," she said.

Jeff Atherton went with experience, highlighting 22 years of practice and 20 years of coaching home-schooled children the ways of mock trial.

"If you look at how much I care for the people that will come before me and the legal profession, I would think when you take that in consideration, I hope that sways folks in my favor," he said.

A surprise retirement announcement from longtime Chancellor Howell Peoples opened the floodgates to nominees earlier this year. Valerie Epstein, the only Democrat running for the office, is expected to be the party choice.

Mr. Atherton and Mr. Manuel were both selected by the Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission as potential candidates to fill the gap between now and the general election in August. Gov. Phil Bredesen hasn't yet appointed an interim chancellor.

Once candidates are selected by each party, an Aug. 5 general election will determine who will serve out Chancellor Peoples' term, which does not expire until 2014.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Nominees expected this week in judge's race

Article: Parties announce caucuses in chancellor race

Article: Hall announces race for chancellor position

Article: Chancellor Peoples to retire after 32 years

Article: Clocking time on the bench

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