published Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Experience varies among General Sessions Court Judge choices

The resumes of 15 local attorneys who've applied for a General Sessions Court Judge vacancy show diverse legal experience and backgrounds.

Gov. Bill Haslam has the power to appoint a replacement for Judge Ronald Durby, who stepped down on Oct. 2 for health problems.

Durby was appointed judge in 1996. In his letter to Haslam he said he hoped his absence would be temporary.

Three of the current applicants -- Yolanda Echols Mitchell, Joe DeGaetano and Ron Powers -- ran in the August special election held to fill the seat of the late Judge Bob Moon, who died in January.

Gary Starnes won that election and will face re-election in 2014 as will whomever Haslam appoints if Durby doesn't return to the job.

The governor's office gave no timeline for his selection but the application deadline passed in October.

Collegedale Municipal Judge Kevin Wilson has served in that position since 1990 and was re-elected to three eight-year terms. Wilson also heads a private practice that does work on real estate, criminal, domestic and medical debt collection.

Wilson said he didn't run in the previous election because then-Soddy-Daisy Judge David Norton had been appointed and he felt Norton was a good choice for the job. He didn't want to run against him.

Gerald Webb II also did not run in the August election but has applied for this position. Webb said he debated running for the seat but his mother was fighting a terminal illness this year; she died in June.

"I didn't want to be involved in the campaign. It would take significant time away from my family," Webb said.

Webb ran for Chattanooga City Court judge both in a special 2003 election and again in the regular election in 2006.

Assistant District Attorney Lila Statom touted her time as a career prosecutor for 23 years in Hamilton County and previously in Nashville. She prosecutes cases almost entirely in Sessions Court and has been lead prosecutor here for the past seven years.

Statom said she didn't run in the previous election because she wasn't prepared to take an absence from work and didn't think it fair to run for office while still working as a state prosecutor.

Here are highlights from the remaining candidates submitted resumes:

* Larry Ables II, former assistant district attorney, chief judicial administrator for Hamilton County.

* J. Harvey Cameron Jr. has had cases in Sessions Court, did work as a title agent, has experience in personal injury law, domestic relations and criminal defense.

* Robert T. Davis, a former city judge in Calhoun, Tenn., has worked as special judge in Sessions Court, former judicial commissioner.

* Richard Petit, legal adviser for businesses in Scenic City Legal Group, has experience in conflict resolution.

* Robert D. Philyaw has had both civil and criminal cases in Sessions Court.

* Janice K. Pulver-Lewis has background in family law, business and zoning, spent 25 years with Tennessee Valley Authority.

* W. Lloyd Stanley Jr. has practiced law in military, municipal, state and federal courts. Works private practice in bankruptcy, personal injury and estate law.

* Philip R. Strang has worked in insurance law, criminal defense and plaintiff work in Sessions Court civil cases.

* Catherine M. White has served as special judge in both city and Circuit Court. Worked family law and insurance defense. Worked as special counsel for city of Chattanooga.

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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