Opinion: Elect Judge Alex McVeagh to Circuit Court post

Staff File Photo By Olivia Ross / Hamilton County Circuit Court Judicial candidate Alex McVeagh speaks during an interview on Jan. 19, 2024.
Staff File Photo By Olivia Ross / Hamilton County Circuit Court Judicial candidate Alex McVeagh speaks during an interview on Jan. 19, 2024.

Two candidates are seeking the Republican nomination to fill the unexpired term of Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Marie Williams in the March 5 primary election, and both say they have the right experience for the job.

Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Alex McVeagh has presided over about 80,000 cases since being appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Bill Haslam in 2017 (and was subsequently elected), while attorney Michelle Coffman has spent the majority of her 23 years in law practicing in the court over which she seeks to preside.

We suspect either would make an effective jurist for the court, but we believe McVeagh's general experience as a judge and his innovation in helping create the county's misdemeanor drug recovery court and two online mediation programs (medical and eviction) make him the better choice.

The winner of the Republican primary will face unopposed Democrat Kisha Cheeks in the Aug. 1 general election. The winner will serve until 2030. The position pays $204,552.

McVeagh has been endorsed by 13 local judges, including two who have practiced or do practice in a state circuit court, as well as by police and firefighters unions. In the most recent Chattanooga Bar Association judicial poll, he and now-Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Greenholtz received some of their fellow members' highest marks.

He previously sought an appointment in 2022 as a judge in Hamilton County Criminal Court, replacing Greenholtz. Ultimately, Gov. Bill Lee appointed Amanda Dunn to that position.

McVeagh said in a recent Friends of Hixson forum that if he is elected he would attempt to create online mediation programs in Circuit Court as he has done in General Sessions Court to help the court operate more efficiently.

Similarly, Coffman told the same group she has mediated hundreds of cases, with a success rate of 85%, and would continue to do so if she is elected. She also said when time allows she would mediate cases in other courts to speed the resolution of those cases.

She said she has a "level of experience that meets with this court," while McVeagh said his judicial experience is a critical asset in seeking the post.

With no disrespect to Coffman's years of practicing in the Hamilton County Circuit Court, we endorse McVeagh for the judgeship because we believe his temperament, work ethic and philosophy will transfer there seamlessly.

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