Knoxville Bar Association offers community guide for applicants

Whether it’s a subpoena, family relations case, car accident, property damage claim, business owner dispute, interpretation or the performance of a contract or criminal charges, a large percentage of the public will at some point encounter the court system.

Tennessee elects its trial court judges by popular vote. Candidates for the candidacy must run first in the primary elections on May 3, and then the top voters from each political party will run in the general election on August 4. Several contested court seats are up for grabs in Knox County in 2022.

The Tennessee Code of Judicial Ethics requires certain characteristics of judges. In addition to knowledge of the law, highly qualified judicial candidates must have a strong work ethic, intellect, and a type of judicial temperament that includes courtesy, patience, independence, impartiality, and respect for all participants in the judicial process.

These rules do not allow judicial candidates to discuss their views on controversial issues or take a public position on issues that may come before the court. As a result, many voters do not have the opportunity to learn much about judicial candidates.

As a service to the community, the Knoxville Bar Association has developed a “Get to Know Your Judicial Candidates” section on its website to provide information about state court candidates who are running as judge in Knox County at https://www.knoxbar.org/?pg=Election2022Home. The site includes educational resources so voters know what to look for in a judicial candidate and can make an informed decision at the polls.

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"I voted" stickers on a table during Primary Election Day for the Knoxville City Council at Bearden High School in West Knoxville, Tennessee on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.

But the site’s primary focus is biographical profiles and a link to a video interview of individual candidates to provide Knox County voters with a convenient way to obtain nonpartisan information about the candidates. When reviewing candidate profiles, carefully consider whether the forensic candidate possesses the breadth of experience relevant to the position they are seeking.

Recently, members of the Knoxville Bar Association were asked to carefully assess whether applicants have demonstrated the knowledge, skills, experience, training, education, professional ethics and temperament necessary to fulfill the functions of the positions to which they aspire.

The survey results can be viewed at https://www.knoxbar.org/?pg=Election2022Home. The survey asked members to rate each candidate’s overall suitability for the positions they were seeking based on the following options: Highly Recommended, Recommended, Do Not Recommend, Strongly Do Not Recommend, and Don’t Know the Candidate.

Votes are cast at the West Knoxville Downtown Early Voting location on Monday, August 16, 2021.

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“It is not intended to endorse any particular candidate, but rather to inform the public of the opinions of many attorneys actively practicing in East Tennessee regarding the suitability of candidates for the judicial and related positions to which they want to be elected,” Knoxville Bar Association President Jason H. Long said. “The Knoxville Bar Association is pleased to provide this service to members of our community who have little or no contact with the justice system. “An informed electorate is essential to the effective administration of justice.”

Electing the judges who best meet the criteria of the most qualified candidates is of the utmost importance, because you never know when a judge you vote for today will make a decision that will affect your business, or more importantly , the decision can impact the lives of your family and friends. It is our responsibility to vote for judges whom we can trust to make unbiased decisions based on a fair review of the facts and the law.

This is why it is so important to vote for qualified people to be judges.

This article is by Broderick Young (Arnett Draper Hagood) and Sam Rutherford, co-chairs of the Knoxville Bar Association Judiciary Committee. This column is provided by the Knoxville Bar Association, a non-profit corporation that provides community service programs such as the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, Speakers Bureau, and Education Programs public.

Andrew B. Reiter