Seven local attorneys vie for Sessions judge post

Becky Campbell • Oct 13, 2012 at 9:49 PM

Seven local attorneys met the deadline earlier this month to apply for a new Sessions Court judge position created by the Washington County Commission to ease the overloaded dockets two sitting judges battle everyday.

“The application deadline was Oct. 1,” said County Attorney John Rambo. The 18-page document was modeled after the state application for the Court of Appeals, Rambo said.

“This is an unprecedented process that Washington County is going through. Most of the time there’s no application, no interview. You just show up,” and there are nominations and a vote, he said.

“The Legal Services Committee and commission were determined to have a process so the public can see.”

That committee met last week to discuss how the process will go forward. Rambo said the applicants will be interviewed Nov. 8 beginning at 9 a.m.

Going in alphabetical order, each candidate will have 10 uninterrupted minutes to address the committee and state their case for being selected. After the last applicant speaks, the Legal Services Committee will ask questions. Once the committee members are finished, any county commissioner in attendance can question the applicants.

If the process isn’t completed by the end of the day, Rambo said the interviews will continue Nov. 13.

“The selection will occur on Jan. 3 at 10 a.m. There will be a special meeting just for this topic of selecting the third judge,” Rambo said. Upon being selected, the new judge will be sworn into office.

Rambo said the judge will have 180 days to close out their practice, but will already be handling cases from the bench.

The candidates, listed in alphabetical order by last name and a brief summary about them, are:

- Robert D. ‘Don’ Arnold, 70; licensed in Tennessee since 1967; has worked as an assistant district attorney general, where he prosecuted criminal cases, and in private practice representing clients in criminal and civil cases in Sessions Court and Johnson City and Washington County Juvenile courts; practices in Washington and surrounding counties; has served in public office as a Johnson City commissioner, Johnson City mayor and in the Tennessee state senate representing Washington and Hawkins counties.

- Kenneth C. Baldwin, 65; licensed in Tennessee since 1975; worked in private practice in criminal and civil courts in East Tennessee, including Juvenile, Sessions, Circuit, Chancery, Criminal and federal; since 1984 has worked as an assistant district attorney general in the 1st Judicial District, now holds position of senior attorney; currently assigned to Criminal Court in Washington County but has worked all courts in all four counties in the district.

- Douglas J. Carter, 63; licensed in Tennessee since 1975; has maintained a private practice office for 37 years and worked in all phases of Sessions Court, including Civil, Criminal and Juvenile; primarily focuses on civil cases involving domestic, juvenile and custody issues, accident and personal injury and wills and estates.

- Stephen A. Darden, 52; licensed since 1985; partner at Hunter, Smith & Davis; entire practice in corporate law involving cases pending in the state and federal civil court systems, state and federal administrative bodies, or that involve providing advice to employers regarding their legal obligations to employees; served as a Johnson City commissioner 2001-11, Johnson City mayor and Johnson City vice mayor.

- William Carter ‘Bill’ Donaldson, 48; licensed in Tennessee since 1990; has worked as a public defender since beginning his law career in Kentucky, then on to the 10th Judicial District in Tennessee before moving to the public defender’s office in Washington County; currently assigned to Criminal Court in Washington County as well as Mental Health Court; handles all variety of cases through the judicial system.

- Michael D. Rasnake, 43, licensed since 1996; worked five years as an assistant public defender, four years private practice and the last seven years as an assistant district attorney general, most spent prosecuting cases in Sessions Court and enjoys the fast pace of that court.

- Danny R. ‘Dan” Smith, 65; licensed in Tennessee since 2006; began his law career while serving in the Marine Corps until he resigned his commission and took a position as an assistant U.S. attorney; rejoined the Marines until his military retirement and again worked as an assistant U.S. attorney before starting his private practice in 2007; concentrates on criminal defense, but also handles civil cases to include divorce, wills and personal injury.

The information contained in each attorney’s application provides greater detail on their education, work history and how they would address scheduling issues and case management if they were hired as judge.

The completed applications are available for viewing on the county website at http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/node/257.

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