General sessions judge to be appointed in September
The Williamson County Commission will appoint a new general sessions judge at the next commission meeting on Sept. 9, commission chairman Jack Walton said.
The appointed judge will take the seat Oct. 1 and finish the term of Judge Al Nations, who retires Sept. 30.
Aug. 31 of next year marks the end of the term, at which time a new judge will take over for an official eight-year term. The commission is accepting applications to fill the position until Aug. 26.
There are several local attorneys interested in Nations’ job, and most have bigger plans beyond serving just until Nations’ term is up, including municipal court judge Murrey Thomas Taylor, also known as Tom Taylor.
Taylor has served as municipal court judge in the City of Franklin with general sessions jurisdiction in Fairview since 1987. A Franklin resident, he has been an attorney since 1978.
He first ran for the seat in 1990 alongside Jane Franks and David King, and said he “always thought [he] would run again.”
“My kids have left home, and I have fewer responsibilities and thought I’d have time," Taylor said. "I’ve had an active law practice. My wife and I have had lots of things on our hands, and I put it off and now I thought I would give it a try. I think I have a lot to offer Williamson County.”
He received a law degree from University of Memphis and has worked in criminal law, civil law and as a general practitioner in Williamson County.
“Whether or not I receive the appointment from the county commissioners, I will still try for the position,” Taylor said.
Like Taylor, Lonnie Hoover of Ainley, Hoover and Hoover, will run for general sessions judge next year whether or not he is appointed to serve the remainder of the unexpired term.
Hoover has 28 years of law experience, and 15 serving as a general sessions and juvenile court judge. He said general sessions court is his “niche” and he does not aspire to move up.
A Nashville School of Law graduate, Hoover began as a juvenile court referee appointed by former general sessions Judge Jane Franks. When she retired in 1995, Hoover moved up to her position, division one, alongside Nations. He held this position until 2006, at which point he returned to law practice.
Taylor has been the designated special judge for Nations since 2006, handling cases when Nations is not present or there is a conflict of interest.
“I have handled thousands of general sessions cases over the years, and because of that, I can hit the ground running. There will be no learning curve or break-in period,” Hoover said. “My main objective is to be fair and apply the law correctly.”
Hoover said that he has no qualms about handling high-profile cases, murder cases or trials.
“The bigger problem in general sessions court is with the duties of the crushing docket," he said. "The size of the docket has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. There used to be 10-15 people; now you have 100 or 150 on the docket, and sometimes more than that,” Hoover said.
“You have to be able to multi-task and handle a large volume. Fortunately I thrive in that atmosphere.”
He resides in Franklin and has lived in Williamson County for 33 years.
Thus far, County Commissioner Ernie Williams of Williams & Schwalb appears to be the only candidate with no intentions of running for the judge’s seat next year. He stressed that, if appointed to the interim position, he plans to hang up his hat when the term expires.
“I wouldn’t want to run again. I’ve been working toward retirement for some time, and I think it’d be fair to the candidates. There have been rumors, but I am not going to run for office,” Williams said.
Soon to be 66 years old, Williams said retirement is not far off.
Williams has practiced law in Franklin for 33 years, except from 1991 to 1993, when former president George H.W. Bush appointed him US Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
He has served on the county commission for the past decade, and is the budget committee chair.
Walton referred to Williams as the “lead horse in the race” and said he will stand behind his fellow commissioner when the commission decides.
“I’ve told him I would hate to see him leave the commission, but I would support him. He’s a well-thought-of attorney in the community, he’s honest, and I think he would make a terrific judge,” Walton said.
General sessions court is the people’s court, often referred to as the “first and last resort” court, as it is where most criminal and civil cases originate.
There are two general sessions judges in Williamson County’s district, which is the 21st district. The judge to take Nations’ place will serve Division 1. Denise Andre serves Division 2.
General sessions judges hear more than 300 cases each week.
To serve as a judge in Williamson County, one must be at least 35 years old, possess a law degree and live in the county.