JASPER, Tenn. — When city leaders started looking to hire a new city judge, they discovered there is no local ordinance that sets requirements on eligible candidates.
At the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's October meeting, the board made moves to rectify that problem and hired a new city judge, too.
City Attorney Mark Raines said Jasper's municipal code and its charter reference an ordinance about hiring a judge, but "nobody can find an ordinance."
Mayor Paul Evans recommended the board follow a state statute to hire the needed judge since there are no local regulations governing that hire.
"All that we do have [is] the charter that says the judge is to be appointed every January," he said. "We don't have one [an ordinance]. I've looked every place. If we wait on an ordinance, it's going to be January before we do that."
If the board pushed the hire back until January, Evans said the case log would get backed up.
"We don't need that," he said.
Jasper has had only three city judges since 1983.
"That was one of those ordinances that was long lost," Alderman Paul West said. "It never came up. Nobody ever thought about it. It never demanded attention."
State law requires a minimum age of 30, a licensed Tennessee attorney and a resident of the county for the position, and the board voted unanimously to follow those rules until a new ordinance could be established.
Evans instructed Raines to meet with the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service to "clean up" Jasper's municipal code, so the town would have "something on the books, and we won't have to face this [problem] down the road."
"Our municipal code dates back to 1983, so it's completely obsolete now," Raines said. "We really need to bring it up to date."
Once the advisory service's recommendations are drafted, the board will review the ordinance, which would require two readings and a public hearing before it could be approved.
"I'll ask MTAS to basically revamp this, so that it addresses the jurisdiction of the city court, the fines, ordinance violations and bring this up to date," Raines said.
West said he was "taken aback" when he learned that five or six attorneys wanted the city judge's job initially.
"I couldn't imagine what was in it that would draw that kind of attention," he said. "It certainly wouldn't be the pay."
Later, West learned that there are some "fringe benefits" for city judges, including access to continuing legal education and a free legal research service.
Only one of the candidates for the job, Nicole Campbell, didn't currently have access to those benefits, West said, so he recommended her for the position.
The board voted unanimously to hire Campbell as Jasper's city judge.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.