Tennessee Gov. Haslam appoints Kyle Hedrick to replace Neil Thomas on Circuit Court

Tennessee Gov. Haslam appoints Kyle Hedrick to replace Neil Thomas on Circuit Court

December 11th, 2017 by Judy Walton in Breaking News

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Kyle Hedrick will step onto the bench Thursday as the new Circuit Court Division IV judge for Hamilton County.

From there, though, he'll have to step foot on the campaign trail, as the position will be up for election in 2018.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday announced Hedrick as the replacement for Judge Neil Thomas III, who retired early in October after 20 years on the bench. Hedrick was chosen from a panel of three finalists, who included Jennifer Peck and Jim Exum.

"Kyle Hedrick has vast experience working in the 11th Judicial District, and I am pleased to make this appointment," Haslam said in a news release.

Hedrick said by phone Monday he was "ecstatic, literally," to receive the call from Haslam legal counsel Dwight Tarwater, who told him he had the best application and the best interview. He joked that his mane of gray hair might have had something to do with it, too.

"I think at times people looked at my color of my hair and made the wrong assumptions," said Hedrick, 55.

Speaking seriously, then, he promised to work hard, and to be respectful and responsible to everyone who comes to court.

"When everybody leaves out of there, at a minimum they should understand why the ruling was the way it was. Not everybody's going to walk out of there happy, but I hope they'll walk out understanding why, according to the law, this was the appropriate result."

He thanked the governor, Tarwater and the Trial Court Vacancy Commission "for all the work they have done and especially the confidence they have placed in me to get this job done."

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 5/11/17. Neil Thomas speaks to CTFP reporters during a meeting at the newspaper on Thursday, May 11, 2017.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Hedrick is a graduate of Lipscomb University and earned his law degree at the University of Tennessee in 1987. He practices with the firm of Ramer & Hedrick and has served as administrative hearing officer for East Ridge, Collegedale, Red Bank and Chattanooga.

Hedrick said he expects to be sworn in Wednesday afternoon and take the bench Thursday. Circuit Court deals with domestic relations, civil and criminal cases.

He said he will be running in the May Republican primary for election to the seat. The general election is in August 2018.

Peck and Exum didn't respond to calls for comment Monday, but Hedrick can expect at least one challenger in that GOP primary.

Catherine Cate White was among the nine original applicants for the position but wasn't one of the three finalists. She has a family law practice and has been a lawyer since 1988. She also is an approved family law mediator.

"I decided to go ahead and run anyway because the appointment is a temporary position only," White said Monday. "While he does have the benefit of name recognition with the appointment, I've been campaigning since October, and I'm getting my name out there."

She said the position is important because family law involves the most intimate details of people's lives, relationships and finances.

"One bad decision can affect generations, and the judge has to know what he or she is doing," White said.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

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This story was updated Dec. 11 at 11:30 p.m. with more information.