published Sunday, February 12th, 2012

12 attorneys apply to fill General Sessions Court judge vacancy since Judge Bob Moon's passing

Twelve attorneys are seeking to replace the late Judge Bob Moon on the General Sessions bench, including one who wants to be a caretaker until a special election this August.

A chief magistrate, an arbitrator, a current and several former prosecutors, a civil trial attorney and a city judge are applying for the position, which pays about $156,000 a year. Friday was the application deadline.

A General Sessions Court judge hears both civil and criminal cases. The judge can accept pleas in misdemeanor cases and rule whether there is probable cause to send felony criminal charges to the grand jury.

The Hamilton County Commission plans to appoint an interim judge March 1, who will serve until a special election Aug. 2.

Bryan Hoss, a partner in the firm Davis & Hoss, P.C., said he decided to apply on Feb. 4 after reading that local officials said Assistant County Attorney David Norton was emerging as a front-runner even before the application period closed.

“I think everybody’s concerned that decisions have been prejudged,” Hoss said. “It’s up to the county. If they want to allow the voters to pick the next judge, they’ll pick a caretaker.”

Other attorneys in the running include Larry Ables, W. Lloyd Stanley, Lila Statom, Gary W. Starnes, Patricia Best Vital, Ron D. Powers, Rodney Strong, Robert Philyaw, Valerie Epstein and Michael Acuff.

Norton, a 27-year legal veteran who has served as a municipal judge in Soddy-Daisy since 1985, applied for the General Sessions post last week. Many attorneys want to serve on the bench, Norton said, including him.

He said he wishes statements about his potential status hadn’t been made public because, for him, the application isn’t political.

“A number of them I’ve represented over the years,” Norton said of county commissioners.

He has scheduled interviews with commissioners Larry Henry and Chester Bankston for Monday, but Norton said he won’t know what commissioners will do until the March 1 vote.

“I would be flattered to be the front-runner,” he said.

Staff writer Todd South contributed to this story.


THE CANDIDATES

• LARRY W. ABLES

Education

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, B.S. in public administration, 1999

Florida Coastal School of Law, J.D., 2003

Employment

Chief judicial commissioner, 2007-present

Larry W. Ables II P.C., 2007-present

Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office, assistant district attorney, 2004-07

Crutchfield, Benson & Pope, 2003-04

• MICHAEL L. ACUFF

Education

East Tennessee State University, B.S. in psychology, 1981

University of Tennessee College of Law, J.D., 1986

Employment

Military defense attorney/Army deputy, 2008-present

Solo practitioner, private practice, 2006-2008

Hamilton County District Public Defender’s Office, assistant public defender, 1995-2006

Jahn, Jahn, Cavett & Maddux law firm, associate, 1990-1992

U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, attorney/officer, 1987-1990

• VALERIE W. EPSTEIN

Education

Emory University, B.S. in psychology

University of Tennessee College of Law

Employment

Berke, Berke & Berke, 2005-present

Arb-Med LLC, owner

Unum Insurance Co., in-house counsel

Miller and Martin, law clerk

• BRYAN H. HOSS

Education

University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, J.D. May 2001

Denison University, B.A. in English and history, May 1997

Employment

Davis & Hoss, P.C., partner since 2005, associate from 2001-05

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, adjunct professor since 2008

Monroe, Kaufman & McGhee, law clerk 1999-2001

Davis for District Attorney, 1998

• DAVID W. NORTON

Education

University of Tennessee, 1972

Memphis State University, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, J.D., 1975

Employment

General practice, 1977-present

Hamilton County Attorney’s Office, 1983-present

Soddy-Daisy city judge, 1985-present

• ROBERT D. PHILYAW

Education

Motlow State Community College

Christian Brothers University, B.S. in management, 1995

Buckman School of Management, Christian Brothers University, M.B.A, 1997

University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, J.D., 2001

Employment

Lawyer in private practice, 2002-present

Judge, city of Graysville, Tenn., 2010-present

Shumacker & Thompson, attorney, 2001-2002

Shumacker & Thompson, law clerk, 2000

• RON D. POWERS

Education

University of Tennessee, B.S. in communications, 1988

Memphis State University, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, J.D., 1991

Employment

Baker, Donelson, Caldwell & Berkowitz, attorney, 2006-present

Schumacker Witt Gaither & Whitaker, attorney, 1997-1999

Dietrich, Dietrich & Powers, attorney, 1991-1996

• W. LLOYD STANLEY

Education

University of Tennessee, B.S. in business administration, 1962

University of Tennessee College of Law, 1965

Employment

Private practice, 1974-present

Small Business Administration, trustee, present

Department of Justice, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, 1969-74

U.S. Air Force, judge advocate, 1966-69

• GARY W. STARNES

Education

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, B.S. in education, 1981

University of Tennessee College of Law, J.D., 1986

Employment

Gary W. Starnes, attorney-at-law, 1993-present

Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, P.C., 1987-1993

• LILA STATOM

Education

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, B.S. in political science, 1984

Memphis State University, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, J.D., 1988

Emory University, LLM in litigation, 1989

Employment

Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office, assistant district attorney, 1998-present

Davidson County District Attorney’s Office, assistant district attorney, 1989-1998

Rieves & Mayton, law clerk, 1987-88

• RODNEY C. STRONG

Education

East Tennessee State University, B.S., 1974

Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, J.D., 1978

Employment

Hamilton County District Attorney General’s Office, 1988-present

Attorney in private practice, 1978-1988

• PATRICIA BEST VITAL

Education

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, B.A. in English/American language and literature

University of Tennessee College of Law, J.D., 1992

Employment

Vital Law Office & Dispute Resolution Services, 1993-present

Tennessee Education Lottery Corp., external collection legal counsel, 2009-present

Lusk, Carter & McGhehey, law clerk and later associate, 1990-93

Hamilton County Attorney’s Office, law clerk, summer 1990

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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