Hamilton County Chancery Court candidates to meet in May primary

Hamilton County Chancery Court candidates to meet in May primary

March 18th, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

ABOUT CHANCERY COURT

Chancery Court is a court of equity, based on the English system in which the chancellor acted as the "King's conscience." A chancellor may modify the application of strict legal rules and adapt relief to the circumstances of individual cases. The Chancery Court handles issues that include lawsuits, contract disputes, injunctions and name changes. Matters such as divorce, adoptions and worker's compensation can be heard in either Chancery or Circuit courts.

Source: Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Pam Fleenor

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Joe Manuel

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about contested races in the May 6 Hamilton County primary.

Two candidates for a court that has wide responsibilities but is rarely seen by the public will meet in the May primary.

Pam McNutt Fleenor and Joe E. Manuel, both Republicans, are vying for the open chancellor seat in Hamilton County Chancery Court Part 1. Chancellor Frank Brown III announced last year that he would not seek another term.

Fleenor, 54, has practiced law since 1986 and worked in areas such as personal injury, civil rights violations, employment defense, breach of contract and complex commercial litigation. She was recently endorsed by former Hamilton County Mayor and Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey.

Over the course of her career, she said, about half of her caseload has been plaintiff-based, the other half defense-based.

Fleenor said she heard nearly two years ago that Brown might retire and she asked him about the work. He advised her to take on more conservatorships to gain additional experience.

Conservators are appointed by chancellors to handle the affairs of people who are mentally incapacitated or need assistance because of health problems. The majority of the Part 1 caseload is conservatorships.

She took on indigent conservatorship work to learn more about the process in preparation for running, she said.

Fleenor said in her work in Chancery Court she's seen how important compassion and concern are in such emotional cases.

With her youngest child starting college soon, she said the timing was right to "freely devote myself to this position."

Manuel, 60, has practiced law since 1978. His work includes hospital and products liability, condemnation, business and land, personal injury, workers compensation and aviation cases.

He estimated that 60 percent of his career legal work has been defense and 40 percent plaintiff-based.

Manuel also stressed the need for focus and concern when dealing with conservatorships and emphasized his experience in such cases.

"It's one of the most important decisions of [families'] lives," he said.

Both candidates have sat as special judge in General Sessions Court. Manuel has served as a mediator and arbitrator in legal disputes.

"It's very much like a chancellor," Manuel said of the arbitrator work. "I enjoyed being on the other side of the bar, listening to witnesses, analyzing that and reaching a decision in a case."

Fleenor is a Central High School graduate who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and her law degree from the University of Cincinnati.

Manuel grew up in West Tennessee and graduated from Memphis State University before receiving his law degree from the University of Tennessee.

This is the first political campaign for both candidates, though Manuel was selected as one of three candidates presented to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen to replace former Chancellor Howell Peoples in 2010. The other two candidates were Arthur C. Grisham and Jeffrey M. Atherton.

The governor declined to appoint a chancellor and left it to the next election. Atherton won the Republican nomination and election. He is running for re-election this year and is unopposed.

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