Garrett, Meares and Nordquist finalists to fill Fifth Circuit judgeship

Three Maryville attorneys are the finalists for the position vacated by Blount County Circuit Court Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., when he was named to the state Court of Criminal Appeals.

Eleven members of the Tennessee Judicial Selection Committee questioned five individuals during a hearing at the Airport Hilton Friday morning. Craig Garrett of Maryville, W. Brownlow Marsh of Maryville, Cathy Morton of Louisville, Michael H. Meares of Maryville and Stacey Davis Nordquist of Maryville were applicants. The committee chose Garrett, Meares and Nordquist.

According to Sue Allison, public information officer for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Gov. Bredesen now chooses among those three to fill the position. "There is no time frame set out in the statute as to when he has to make a decision," she said. "There are background checks conducted on the folks who are finalists."

Meares said he felt relieved, pleased and honored to have been selected as a finalist. The committee was well-prepared, asked difficult questions, and it was obvious they had read the lengthy applications each of the lawyers had submitted, Meares said.

"Obviously that was their function, to try to assess not only our knowledge and qualifications, but also how we would handle questions based on those lengthy applications," he said. "I’m willing to serve as judge if the governor sees fit to appoint me."

Meares said he has been practicing law for 20 years as an advocate for individuals and has been successful in doing that. "I believe I can be equally successful as an advocate for the judicial process, which is intended to reach justice through fair proceedings that give equal footing to every citizen," he said. "If selected, I’ll be fair and follow the law."

Nordquist said she was very excited when she was told she was nominated as a finalist. "It has been an interesting process. It was very exciting because it was a different process. It was interesting seeing how things work. In Blount County I don’t know if we’ve had this experience before," she said.

Nordquist said the committee was very professional and very gracious. "In the private interview, they wanted to ask questions to get to know what type person you were," she said.

Nordquist said there weren’t many surprises because the Administrative Office of the Court had been very helpful in explaining everything that was going to happen in the process. "Everything was very much on time. All the committee members weren’t there. Of the 17, there were 11, most were from East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee," she said. "They were very organized and kept to the agenda. They knew what they wanted to know and went in order of how everything was set up."

Garrett could not be reached for comment.

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