published Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Only three of 11 judge elections contested

Municipal Judges

These courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases, city ordinances and preliminary hearings in felony charges. Judges serve an eight-year term and campaign in nonpartisan elections.

Contested

* East Ridge City Judge

Ryan Hanzelik

Cris Helton

Arvin Reingold (I)

Annual Salary: $18,000

* Collegedale City Judge

Harry W. Miller III

Kevin Wilson (I)

Annual Salary: $33,600

Uncontested

* Red Bank Judge

Johnny Houston (I)

Annual Salary: $20,000

* Soddy-Daisy Judge

D. Marty Lasley (I)

Annual Salary: $18,000

* Town of Lookout Mountain Judge:

John Higgason Jr. (I)

Annual Salary: $6,000

* Town of Signal Mountain Judge:

Mark Rothberger (I)

Annual Salary: $15,000

General Sessions Court

There are five divisions of Sessions Court. This court handles civil cases under specific monetary limits and criminal cases and can adjudicate misdemeanors and preliminary hearings in felony cases. The courts meet daily. All Sessions judges receive the same base salary statewide of $165,000.

Contested

* Division I

Christie Mahn Sell (I)

Rex Sparks

Uncontested

* Division II

David E. Bales (I)

* Division III

Clarence Shattuck (I)

* Division IV

Lila Statom (I)

* Division V

Gary Starnes (I)

Source: Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, judicial candidates, city governments

Only three of the 11 incumbent local judges who qualified Thursday for the Aug. 7 election face challengers in their races.

The East Ridge city judge race has the most competitors with incumbent Judge Arvin Reingold competing against former East Ridge City Attorney Cris Helton and local attorney Ryan Hanzelik.

This is Hanzelik’s first run for political office. He said he had been contacted by numerous residents who felt that the court dockets in East Ridge are not run efficiently and that too much leniency is shown to repeat offenders.

“It’s time for some changes to happen in East Ridge,” Hanzelik said. “I do believe I would be tougher on crime, and I say this respectfully, than the current judge.”

Reingold was appointed judge in 2000 when Judge William Luther retired. He won two-year term elections in 2002 and 2004 before winning the 2006 statewide eight-year term he’s serving.

The judge said his dockets may take some time, but he believes in giving prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims and defendants a fair hearing.

“I don’t care if it’s a traffic violation or a criminal violation, a person will have their day in court,” Reingold said. “I try to be courteous.”

Helton said that as a lifelong East Ridge resident he is concerned with the increase in crime in the city.

The former prosecutor, now a private criminal defense attorney, said he “will bring new and fresh ideas to the court while dispensing firm but fair justice to those charged with crimes.”

•••

Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell will face local attorney Rex Sparks in the nonpartisan race.

In 2006 Sell defeated four other candidates for the open Division I seat when then-Judge Richard Holcomb retired.

Sessions Court and municipal court judges serve eight-year terms.

Sell touted her commitment to the community and pointed to her work to partner organizations and create a domestic violence docket that could better handle the unique needs of domestic violence victims.

She said she is also working with representatives from both the public defender and district attorney’s office to form a similar docket for cases involving defendants with mental health problems.

“This access to resources saves our county money in the long run,” Sell said. “It provides awareness to the community and helps reduce and eventually eliminate some of these cases.”

Sparks first worked as an attorney in juvenile and domestic relations court in Virginia from 1989 to 1992 before working in private practice in Virginia until 2002. From 2003 until 2012, he served as a prosecutor in the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office.

He has held a private practice since leaving his position as prosecutor.

“I want to be a servant of the people, not a ruler of the people, by applying the rule of law to the facts of each case,” Sparks said of his reason for running.

•••

Three-term incumbent Collegedale Judge Kevin Wilson faces opposition from local attorney Harry W. Miller III.

This is the first challenge he’s faced since his first run in 1990, Wilson said.

“I believe in trying to help people if they are willing to attempt to correct their problems,” Wilson wrote. “I try to treat everyone with respect, but at the same time I have the experience to see through the excuses I hear on a weekly basis.”

Miller has practiced mostly civil law in areas such as bankruptcy, personal injury and worker’s compensation since 1984.

“My family and I are dedicated to serve and committed to the community of Collegedale,” Miller wrote. “By serving as the city judge of Collegedale I will be able to further those commitments.”

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

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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