Davidson County Election Picks from a Nashville Lawyer

Last night, I hosted a neighborhood “meet and greet” for a judicial candidate, and one of my neighbors told me something I didn’t know: We all watch your front yard, to see which candidate signs you have.

At the party, I saw this in real time, as neighbors showed up with pens, the Davidson County sample ballot mailing, and lots of questions.

If you put me in a roomful of people asking me questions, I’ll talk. Having said that, it was terrifying, seeing people circle names (or “X” out others) based just on what I was saying.

But, our city needs good judges and, as I shared my thoughts, I realized that my first-hand knowledge was useful to these people, who had never set foot in the courthouse. I go to courts in Davidson County for a living and nothing impacts my work as much as the quality of the local judiciary. So, I offered my honest and measured comments on each race.

I’ll share (some of) my comments with you all too:

First Circuit Court Judge (Division 1): I pick David Briley over Wendy Longmire. David has a compassionate heart for regular people and a calling to public service, coupled with a strong legal mind. I worked at a law firm with David Briley for more than 13 years, so I’m biased–but in a good way. He regularly represented individuals in personal injury cases, as well as pitched in on the biggest cases the firm handled. Personally, he and I teamed up on a construction lawsuit against one of America’s largest fast food chains, and I got to see him operate in my world. I was impressed (and so was my client). He’s also a nice, conscientious person. He’s someone who I trust to make the right decision.

Seventh Circuit Court Judge (Division 7): This is the Probate Court, and I don’t do probate law. But I know somebody who does it all the time: Andra Hedrick. And she’s running for Probate Judge. By my own review, she’s the most qualified candidate in terms of actual, practical experience. She’d be a great probate judge.

Eight Circuit Court Judge (Division 8): I support Kelvin Jones, the incumbent. He’s smart (look at his resume), and, when I can support candidates whose background and race reflect the larger community they serve, I have promised to do it. If you talk to him, you’ll see that he cares. This is a tough one (people I trust really disagree on these candidates), and I approached this race with a very open mind. I have gone to events for both candidates, and I see a clear argument for both. In short, do your research, and I won’t argue with you on this one.

Criminal Court Judge (Division 5): Whenever a big criminal case is shown on the news, it tends to have Monte Watkins as the judge. And he always does a good job. He’s a good judge and a good person.

District Attorney: My first legal job was a summer clerkship at the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office, and I learned, quickly, that it’s a hard job. Glenn Funk is doing a good job. I don’t do criminal defense, so my measure is how often do I–as a regular citizen–hear complaints about the DA’s office (like what happens in other cities). I just don’t hear about problems with Funk’s office. I trust him and his values.

Chancery Court Part III: There may be no court that I care more about than Chancery Court, Part III. “Chancellor Lyle is the best judge I’ve ever appeared in front of,” and this is her court. When she announced her retirement, I was curious about who would be brave and bold enough to fill those shoes. I am pleased that my friend and former colleague, I’Ashea Myles, is that person. Myles isn’t just running for office, she’s looking to make history as the state’s first ever African-American female chancellor. We need judges who have guts. She’s got my vote.

General Sessions Judge, Division III: Melissa Blackburn may be the hardest working Judge in Davison County. Civil Dockets. Criminal Dockets. The Mental Health Court. The Veterans Court. And, to be announced later today, a new project helping to move individuals ruled incompetent through the system in a way that gets them help–and maybe out of the system.

General Sessions Judge, Division VI: No matter what type of case, I’d trust Jim Todd to get it right.

General Sessions Judge, Division VII: The first 2022 election sign that I put in my yard was for Marcus Floyd. He’s a great, smart guy (and a Hillsboro High graduate), and he’ll be an asset to this city for decades to come.

General Sessions Judge, Division VIII: This is also a close one, with spirited and smart people on each side. In a close race, I tend to favor the incumbent, Rachel Bell. Some folks may complain about the start time of her dockets, but I’d point out what she’s done to help people in Davidson County avoid eviction during the pandemic with the L.E.G.A.C.Y. Housing Resource Diversionary Court and Program, which has helped thousands of tenants (and, yes, landlords–as of September 20, 2021: $18,799,705.71 had been paid to landlords), and also her long-standing expungement clinics.

General Sessions Judge, Division IX: I appreciate that, no matter the case, Judge Lynda Jones never treats any case (or litigant) as a “small” claims matter. She is focused on getting it right, including past efforts to create a business docket in General Sessions. She’s ambitious and works hard.

Circuit Court Clerk: The current clerk, Ricky Rooker, is one of the best in the state, partly because he’s been doing it for so long. Everything they do seems to take lawyers’ needs into account, and they had a smooth transition to a very effective e-filing system in 2020. Part of that success was due to Rooker having a very good deputy, Joseph Day, who is now running for Clerk. If it isn’t broke, don’t change it. I’m voting for Day.

If you were at the house party, you probably got a bit more color and background on some of these races.

You’ll notice that there are a handful of races I’m not commenting on. I haven’t voted yet, and I plan to keep on researching those. This list may evolve. I’m researching all of these until the day I cast my own; they are imporant races.

Finally, this list is biased by my own interactions, experiences, and past; please do your own research.