Garrett, Meares and Norquist finalists to fill Fifth Circuit judgeship

By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

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, Mike 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."

Garrett said he was humbled and honored the judicial selection committee chose him as a finalist. "It was a difficult and interesting application process. It was quite an experience, and I’m glad to have that behind me," he said. "I’m ready to move forward and concentrate on convincing Gov. Bredesen I’m the most qualified applicant for the position."

Garrett said he is committed to seeking this position. "I’m going to try to do everything I can to secure the appointment from the governor," he said. "In the event I’m unsuccessful, I intend to run for the office and that of course would begin pretty quickly. The primary next year is in early 2008."

Garrett said he was surprised by the support he received from the members of the bar, employees at the courthouse and the community in general. "I received a tremendous amount of support that helped me," he said. "I was actually
overwhelmed by the number folks who came forward to support me seeking the position."

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."

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 in the process 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."

Gov. Bredesen’s press secretary Lydia Lenker said the governor likes to make these appointments in a timely fashion. Party is not one of the qualities he considers, she said.

"The qualities he looks at are intellectual capability, temperament and qualifications. This is how he rates them, and he tries to have geographic and gender diversity," Lenker said.

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