Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to confer closely with his legal counsel Herb Slatery in the selection of a Criminal Court judge to replace Richard Baumgartner. Slatery, in turn, has talked with several veteran attorneys in Knoxville, soliciting their opinion of the three candidates. Since the legislative session has ended, the appointment may come soon. Retired Judge Kerry Blackwood has been filling in the interim.
The judicial nominating commission has submitted the names of Scott Green, Stephen Sword, and Chuck Burks.
The Knoxville legal community was shocked that Sessions Judge Andy Jackson did not make the final cut, but upon reflection the current judicial nominating commission does not have any members from Knoxville. The members were appointed by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and then-House Speaker Kent Williams and is heavy with members from Upper East Tennessee, Nashville, and executives from businesses like FedEx and Blue Cross. The interview likely played a major role in the selection process.
The sense now is that while all three candidates are qualified, Green might have an edge. He is respected and well liked and has been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. But no one is placing any bets on the outcome.
Meanwhile, the only two Knoxvillians who have applied to be appointed to the Judicial Nominating Commission in the next go-around are Mark Stephens, head of the Knoxville public defender's office, and local attorney Cheryl Rice. Stephens is a Republican and Rice is a Democrat.