Judge Lee serving as clerk, master

Friday, October 7, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Marshall County's Chancery Court has a clerk and master to deal with dockets, notices and other records for court cases, but the man succeeding long-time clerk Tommy Higdon says he has no intention of keeping the job for a long time.

Retired Circuit Court Judge Charles Lee accepted the appointment from Chancellor J.B. Cox last month with the understanding that he is, in effect, serving as an interim clerk and master until the chancellor can find a suitable successor to Higdon.

Both of the current court officials provided that explanation recently. As a result, Lee and Cox have a gentleman's agreement. When Cox decides to name a more permanent clerk and master, Lee will resign.

"The chancellor was not in a position to name a person clerk and master," Lee said from his second floor office in the Marshall County Courthouse. "He wanted more time to consider his choice.

"He asked me to look at the statutes about appointing clerks and masters," Lee continued. "I did and found there is no provision for the appointment of an interim clerk, except under three specific situations that don't apply here.

"He, as did I, thought it would be problematic to leave the position vacant," Lee said.

Meanwhile, there have been indications that the chancellor has someone in mind to succeed Lee, but circumstances have not made that possible.

Lee realized the circumstances and volunteered to serve until the chancellor's candidate is available.

"I can assure you, I have no intent of being the permanent clerk and master," Lee said. "Technically, my appointment is for a six-year term, but when the chancellor is ready to appoint, I'll be ready to step down, although I've found it to be a very interesting position."

Lee concluded his interview with a few lighthearted remarks.

"After law school, my mentor told me that if you really want to know how the law system works, go see the clerk," he said.

It still holds true, he said while recalling his career that included work for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, serving as an assistant district attorney and as a circuit court judge.

"I now have a position of real power."