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Commissioner Williams takes interim general sessions judgeship

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Commissioner Williams takes interim general sessions judgeship

New General Sessions Judge Ernie Williams after his appointment Monday. BHP PHOTO.

In a vote of 16 to 6, the Williamson County Commission appointed Commissioner Ernie Williams as interim General Sessions Judge.

One commissioner was absent, and Commissioner Williams was excluded from the vote. 

He contested with local attorney Lonnie Hoover for the seat, replacing former judge Al Nations, who retired Sept. 30.

Williams, who resigns as commissioner to take the interim seat, made it clear that he will not run for election next year but will only serve until the temporary judgeship expires Aug. 31, 2014.

A former marine who served as US Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee from 1991 to 1993 during the George H. W. Bush administration, Williams joined the commission 10 years ago in place of his late wife.

He and Hoover were allowed three minutes to address the commission before the vote.

Hoover opened with a metaphor to convey that he has 15 years experience as a general sessions judge, whereas Williams has none.

“Let’s assume you have the opportunity to fly across the pond and the airline gave you the opportunity to choose one of two pilots. It’s a big responsibility, because not only are you going to be on this plane, but your family and many of your friends will be as well,” he told the commission.

“Both pilots have been good pilots for close to 30 years. They have good reputations. Ernie is a great pilot, but has never flown as pilot in command. The pilot Lonnie has flown not only as pilot in command, but flown this thousands of times, never crashed and burned and never had a close call,” Hoover said.

In stressing the importance of the decision, Hoover referred to the size of the general sessions docket.

Hoover closed by saying, “I will do an honest and fair job, and apply the law evenhandedly to all citizens of Williamson County.”

Commissioners Brandon Ryan, Bob Barnwell, Travis Hawkins, Kathy Danner, Judy Herbert and Dwight Jones voted in his favor.

Herbert said after the meeting she has nothing against Williams, but voted for Hoover because she has worked with him before. She said Hoover is “fair, tough on crime, efficient and fast.”

A Nashville School of Law graduate, Hoover was a juvenile court referee, then served division one in general sessions court from 1995 to 2006 alongside Nations.

Hoover lives and practices law in Franklin. He plans to run alongside Tom Taylor for the eight-year judgeship in 2014.  

In his address, Williams told the commission that given his 33 years of law practice and work as US Attorney, he understood “what it takes to be a judge.”

He continued that he would retire after the temporary position, giving the candidates an “even keel” on which to run next year.

“This is the promise that I make. I promise I will treat the litigators with respect, to not be condescending. They deserve that,” he said.

“I will do my best to work with [Judge Denise] Andre. My goal is to make a smooth-running county general sessions courtroom to have respect for. Whoever takes that position, I hope they take over a position running smooth, and they feel the pressure to make it continue on.”

Following the vote, Williams thanked the commissioners.

“I have mixed emotions. I have become attached to this body. As I mentioned, I’m going to do my very best.”

Though Williams does not have Hoover’s experience in the general sessions courtroom, he received Commissioner Lew Green’s vote.

“He has the knowledge to do what needs to be done, and he’s more than capable.”

Jessica Pace covers Williamson County, Williamson County Schools and the Town of Nolensville for BrentWord Communications. Contact her at jess@brentwoodhomepage.com or follow her on Twitter @Jess_Marie_Pace.

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