published Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Hamilton County makes plans to fill Judge Bob Moon's seat

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    Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Bob Moon.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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The first official discussion of General Sessions Judge Bob Moon's replacement came Wednesday in the Hamilton County Commission meeting.

But under their breath, commissioners talked about "vultures" who've been circling his empty chair since news of his death broke last Thursday.

Commissioner Joe Graham said a potential candidate approached him about the matter at Moon's funeral over the weekend. Graham declined to name the person.

Despite criticism of what they deemed premature interest, commissioners on Wednesday kicked off the race for the $156,000-a-year judgeship.

"I had a discussion with the other judges in General Sessions and certainly their decision is to go ahead and expedite this," Commission Chairman Larry Henry said.

Commissioners passed a resolution asking the county's Election Commission to place a special election for the nonpartisan judgeship on the Aug. 2 ballot.

After that, they set the ground rules for the interim appointment process, with a goal of appointing someone on March 1.

The deadline for applications is Feb. 10 at noon. Commissioners will then individually interview candidates between Feb. 13 and 29.

Commissioner Greg Beck argued the commission should publicly interview candidates.

"I notice in the past we had an open discussion for school board members and county magistrates," Beck said. "I noted we have had individual meetings for county commissioners and judges."

Henry said he thinks private interviews will allow applicants and commissioners to be more candid.

"My personal belief is that gives us a more one-on-one relationship with the applicant," Henry said.

Beck was on the commission for the most recent General Sessions appointment process.

"Not to muddy the waters or anything, but last time, nobody set an appointment with this commissioner," he said. "I think a little partisanship sets in right there. To show equity across the board, I think a public interview would give us a chance to question the applicants."

Henry said candidates "may or may not want to have the interview."

State law requires the commission to fill a General Sessions vacancy within 120 days of it being announced.

"I want the dust to settle," Commissioner Tim Boyd said before the meeting. "I think we need to take plenty of time to make the right decision. We're talking about applications on a judge that affects people's lives for the rest of their lives."

Boyd said during the meeting that the chairman's process seems reasonable.

Two potential General Sessions candidates attended the meeting -- Gary Starnes and Robert Philyaw.

Starnes, who primarily engages in civil trial work, said he has sat in as a judge in Sessions Court and City Court.

"I'm considering applying and would consider it an honor to be appointed," he said.

Philyaw said that it's still too early to comment.

The qualifying deadline for the Aug. 2 general election will be April 5 at noon.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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