Spivy, Haywood apply for judgeship

Friday, September 30, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

The county attorney and the county's water utility attorney want the county commission's appointment to be the next sessions court judge, as does, according to unconfirmed information, a former county attorney.

Sessions Court Judge Steve Bowden's resignation, dated Wednesday, is effective today, and County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett says its receipt prompted an announcement requesting letters expressing interest from lawyers who want to succeed Bowden.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday to select a new judge. The meeting will be in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square.

Wednesday, County attorney Bill Haywood and Cecilia Spivy, attorney for the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities, confirmed information that they'd be applying for the job. Calls Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning resulted in no contact with former County Attorney Lee Bussart Bowles.

Former Lewisburg Councilwoman Quinn Brandon has decided against applying for the position, but she indicated she might run for the bench in one year after an interim term expires or in three years when Bowden's eight year term would have expired.

Bowden decided to continue his private law practice instead of becoming a full-time judge.

"Since the 2010 census, the Marshall County General Sessions and Juvenile Judge position has become a full-time position which would not allow the judge to practice law," Bowden wrote to Commission Chairman Mike Waggoner on Wednesday. "After much deliberation, I cannot take the full-time position...

"Effective Oct. 1... I am resigning as General Sessions and Juvenile Judge of Marshall County," Bowden said.

Accordingly, the county is advertising the opening. Applicants must be at least 30 years old, be a Tennessee resident for five years, a county resident for one year and be licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Letters of interest are due at the county mayor's office by 4 p.m. Oct. 6, but they might also be brought to the commission meeting that Thursday night.

Spivy's letter was mailed to the mayor's office with the expectation it would be received Thursday. She declined to say more at that time. Haywood spoke about his application Wednesday when he stated why he should be elected by the commissioners.

"I just think I'm the most qualified attorney in town other than the judge who's resigning," the county attorney said, citing his experience in sessions court and circuit criminal court.

He's been the city court judge in Chapel Hill for 15 years.

Haywood would have to resign as county attorney if he was appointed, but that resignation would not have to be until April 5.

"I can continue to practice as a private attorney for six months and would continue to serve (as county attorney) until they appointed someone else," Haywood said.

Asked if he would recommend Bowles as county attorney after he resigned, Haywood replied, "Yes, her or Steve (Bowden) either one."

Bowden's pending resignation became apparent Monday night during the county commission's monthly meeting when Haywood announced he felt as though there would not be a hearing in circuit court on the commissioners' request for a ruling that Bowden could continue part-time. Commissioners cited a lack of money. The state's argument was that state law mandates a full-time judge not practicing as an attorney when a county's population exceeds a set number. Bowden agreed.

Also that night, Commissioner Don Ledford asked the commission chairman to place on the panel's Oct. 24 meeting agenda a discussion on creating a committee on whether consolidating municipal and county governments into a metropolitan form of administration of public services would be feasible.

Some leaders in Lewisburg and Marshall County have privately advocated elimination of Lewisburg General Sessions Court. It's been seen as a way for the city to cut costs and end confusion among defendants on where to go. Haywood was asked about consolidation.

"I don't like it," the county attorney said. "I like keeping them separate."

As for why, he replied, "We have such a volume of cases in city and county that it would be an overload for one judge to handle both courts."

The full-time position of Marshall County General Sessions and Juvenile Court judge pays nearly $126,400 annually.

Meanwhile, county commissioners are considering another step toward renovating the courthouse that would include a reorientation of the front door from the south side to the west side. It will have some effect on office space.