Bennett, Fleenor picks for Circuit, Chancery Courts

Bennett, Fleenor picks for Circuit, Chancery Courts

April 16th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

J.B. Bennett

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Circuit Court Judge:

J.B. Bennett

The two contenders for Hamilton County Circuit Court judge, Division 1, bring vastly different experiences from the domestic and civil sides of the court's docket.

Catherine Cate White, a sole proprietor, practices mainly family law, which she says is nearly 70 percent of the cases the court deals with.

However, J.B. Bennett, an attorney with Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, practices more civil law, which he says are the court's cases that individually take much more time -- and are often far more complex -- than domestic cases.

With great admiration for White, we believe Bennett deserves the nod for the seat -- currently held by retiring Judge Jacqueline Bolton -- based on the variety of cases he handles and his more extensive jury trial experience.

Both candidates have sat as special judges in various courts, and both believe correctly it is the job of a judge to apply the law and not make policy.

White says her experience as a mother of two, including one special-needs child, offers her the temperament for the court, while Bennett says his complex trials "skill set" is transferable to the bench.

Though Bennett's career has dealt mostly with civil cases, he says his firm does do domestic relations work, and he has the experience of several cases there. White, who has practiced mostly family law for the last 20 years, does have post law school graduation experience in the Chattanooga City Attorney's office and has some jury trial experience.

If she becomes judge, White says she would streamline trial management orders in an effort to move court business along, while should he become judge, Bennett says "electronic filing needs to happen."

Bennett says he wants to follow his father, Hamilton County Assessor of Property Bill Bennett, in giving back through public service. Meanwhile White, who first went into broadcast journalism, would like to emulate Bolton, who also was in local television news before going back to school for a law degree and eventually onto the bench.

We prefer Bennett, though White also would make an able jurist.

Pam Mcnutt Fleenor

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Chancery Court Judge:

Pam Mcnutt Fleenor

Chattanooga is fortunate to have two talented attorneys, Joe Manuel and Pam McNutt Fleenor, seeking the office of Chancery Judge, Part 1. We believe either of them would be effective in the position, but we lean to Fleenor because most of her recent experience has been in judicial dispute resolution -- court litigation -- rather than the alternative dispute resolution Manuel has mastered.

Chancery Court handles cases involving domestic relations, worker's compensation, estates, trusts, contracts, review of administrative action of governmental agencies and boards, collection of delinquent taxes, guardianships, and conservatorships, dissolution of partnerships and corporations, enforcement of liens, boundary lines, breach of contract, fraud, election contests and other matters of a civil nature.

Fleenor, a member of the firm Duncan, Hatcher, Hixson & Fleenor, has had significant recent experience practicing in the Chancery Court she would oversee and was appointed as a guardian for conservatorships -- 60 percent of Chancery Court, Part 1 cases -- by current Chancery Judge Frank Brown.

Manuel, a sole proprietor with trial experience in large firms who was one of three attorneys nominated for a Hamilton County Chancery Court post in 2010, deserves credit for being an early proponent of alternative dispute resolution (mediation and arbitration) when others couldn't see it -- "the law clings to history like no other profession," he says -- and has become a respected author and lecturer on the subject.

Indeed, he has written continuing education courses on alternative dispute resolution and even created an app for the iPhone, iPad or iTouch.

Both candidates come with endorsements from Republican faithful -- Fleenor from former deputy governor and County Mayor Claude Ramsey and retired Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Mickey Barker and Manuel from seven past Hamilton County GOP chairpersons -- while Fleenor was nearly a 3-to-1 favorite by Chattanooga Bar Association voters.


Clarification

While this page endorsed Larry Henry for Circuit Court Clerk in Tuesday's edition, the name of candidate Ron Parson, a Hamilton County Sheriff's Department captain, was inadvertently left out. Henry is opposed in the Republican primary by both Lisa Zarzour Bowman and Parson.