published Thursday, March 8th, 2012

New Hamilton County General Sessions judge David Norton must give up other positions

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    David WIlson Norton hugs Sherry Paty after being sworn in as the newest General Sessions Court judge by Judge Clarence E. Shattuck late Tuesday morning.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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A Hamilton County General Sessions judge sworn in this week has resigned from his positions as Soddy-Daisy city judge and assistant county attorney and may have to resign as commissioner on two utility boards.

And all of that only guarantees Judge David Norton a job until Aug. 2, when voters will decide the permanent replacement for the late Judge Bob Moon.

The Hamilton County Commission appointed Norton to the bench on March 1 by a 7-1 vote.

Taking the appointment for the interim period before the election is “just a gamble that you make,” Norton said Wednesday. “I’m going to do whatever’s required to fulfill the duties of the Sessions Court judge.”

At least seven other people have picked up petitions to run for the Sessions Court spot.

Norton, who has said he will run in the election, told the Times Free Press that he had resigned his Soddy-Daisy judgeship Wednesday but had not yet submitted resignations for the utility boards.

He serves as one of three commissioners for the Hixson Utility District and as chairman of the Utility Management Review Board for the Tennessee comptroller of the treasury.

The state constitution dictates that judges of supreme or inferior courts shall not “hold any other office of trust or profit.”

Tennessee attorneys general opinions from 1998 and 2005 state that Sessions Court judges cannot remain members of utility boards or serve as city judges under the constitution.

Norton had not had a chance to review the opinions but said, “I’m going to follow the law” as it relates to what he must do regarding the utility boards.

He must also reassign any private practice legal cases he’s handled, which he said he’s already begun to do. His practice is small and run from a home office, he said, and will not present much difficulty to reassign.

Norton has sat in for Sessions Court judges in the past. He was named an early front-runner for the interim position shortly after Moon’s death on Jan. 26.

Soddy-Daisy Finance Director and City Recorder Burt Johnson said Wednesday that the city’s municipal court, which meets each Tuesday, “will have sit-in judges for the time being.”

Sworn-in as a Sessions Court judge Tuesday, Norton no longer works as a Hamilton County assistant attorney.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said his office is looking at what to do with the position.

“Eventually it is going to be filled, but I don’t know when,” Taylor said.

When asked if he would hold the post open until August, Taylor declined to specify a date.

Hixson Utility commissioners make $400 monthly, said Carolyn Hickman, utility general manager. The assistant county attorney position pays $90,549 and the Soddy-Daisy judgeship is an $18,000 annual position. The review board position is unpaid.

A judge in Sessions Court makes an annual salary of $156,792, a pay increase of $43,443 for Norton if he wins the August election.

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 ...

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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