The field of applicants to fill an upcoming Criminal Court judge vacancy in the 1st Judicial District narrowed this week, just days before the interviews will occur.
Initially a field of eight, it’s now down to seven after Assistant District Attorney General Ken Baldwin withdrew his application.
The Judicial Nominating Committee, a 17-member panel that consists of mostly attorneys but also business professionals, will interview the candidates at the Doubletree Hotel, 211 Mockingbird Lane. The interviews begin at 9 a.m. The commission will hear comments from the public prior to the interviews, according to an Administrative Office of the Courts notice. Both parts are open to the public.
As soon as all the interviews are complete, the Judicial Nominating Committee will vote and choose three applicants to present to Gov. Bill Haslam. The governor will select the new judge within 60 days.
The 1st Judicial District serves Washington, Carter, Unicoi and Johnson counties.
The applicants still in line for the job are:
- Dennis Brooks, 42, of Telford; licensed in Tennessee since 1997; worked one year in private practice, then started as an Assistant District Attorney General; currently assigned to Carter County Criminal Court. Brooks had planned to challenge Brown in the 2014 election. Brooks said he applied for the judgeship because “I believe in justice — justice for the wrongfully accused and innocent victims. I have repeatedly stood up for defendants that I believe were wrongfully accused.”
- Steve Finney, 51, of Johnson City; licensed in Tennessee since 1990; started in private practice, then served 1991 until 2005 as an Assistant District Attorney General in Sessions and Criminal courts; currently in private practice as a partner at Slagle and Finney law firm. Finney said he has always “desired to serve my community in a way that will serve the public good. I believe that I have the qualifications, legal experience, work ethic, temperament and drive to be a successful, fair and even-handed judge.”
- Collins Landstreet II, 62, of Elizabethton; licensed in Tennessee since 1988; worked as a securities analyst before starting his law career in 1989; currently sole practitioner as a defense attorney with an office in Johnson City. He also works one day a week as an Assistant Public Defender. Landstreet said he is “ready for a new challenge. I think I would be a good judge. I am a fair-minded person and have a good relationship with virtually all members of the bar in my district.”
- General Sessions Judge Robert Lincoln, 51, of Jonesborough; licensed to practice in Tennessee since 1989; worked as a partner in Sherrod, Stanley, Lincoln and Goldstein law firm until his election to judge in 1998; currently serves as General Sessions judge, Part I in Washington County.
Lincoln said his current job as Sessions judge “gives me the unique opportunity to bring to the Criminal Court bench the lessons learned from my years as judge,” and noted the citizens of Washington County “have entrusted me with the power to adjudicate over their lives from birth to death every matter from juvenile, criminal, civil and until recently, probate.”
Lincoln lives in Jonesborough with his wife and children.
- Gene Scott, 37, of Watauga; licensed to practice in Tennessee since 2001; self-employed as a sole practitioner since being licensed, and handles mostly criminal cases. Scott said he is seeking the position “to improve respect for and observance of the law in the community. I am dedicated to improving the judicial system in which I work.”
Scott lives in Watauga with his wife and son.
- Dan Smith, 65, of Johnson City; licensed in Tennessee since 2006; currently sole practitioner as a defense attorney with an office in Jonesborough. Prior to his private practice, Smith spent his career 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. In his application, Smith said being judge “would be a continuation of my past public service and it would be directed to serving my own local community.”
- Stacy Street, 45, of Elizabethton; licensed in Tennessee since 1992; began as an associate attorney with Hampton & Hampton law firm and later became partner; in 2010 opened his current office in Elizabethton as a sole practitioner.
In his application, Street said his “personal and professional experiences in this court and district uniquely qualify me for the transition from advocate to judge.”
Street lives in Elizabethton with his wife and two children.
To view each application, go www.tncourts.gov and click on the link for the vacancy.
Baldwin said this week that he chose to withdraw because he isn’t sure he wants to commit the length of time he feels like the next judge should commit.
“I felt like I would have to give it 10 years. It deserves that. At age 66, if I gave it 10 years, I would be 76 before I would feel comfortable leaving the job,” he said.
At this point in his career, Baldwin would rather work on a year to year basis and retire when he’s ready.
“The job deserves a commitment. I wrangled with that for a long time. It was my dream to do that … it was hard to give up on that,” he said.
The vacancy came about when longtime Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown announced his retirement in December, effective at the end of March.