The term "Standing Room only" applied Monday when Maryville attorney Michael Meares was sworn in as the newly appointed judge to Blount County Circuit Court Division II.
Friends, family and colleagues packed the third floor courtroom previously presided over by Judge D. Kelly Thomas. Thomas was on hand and sat in the judges chair momentarily at the beginning of the ceremony before coming down to do the honors and swear in the new judge. Laura Webb, Meares wife, stood at his side.
A couple hours after the ceremony, Meares had already presided over
his first grand jury. "Im already hard at work," he said. The
judge shared a few thoughts on his first day in office and named just a
few of the many people he wanted to
thank for supporting him in his career.
"I want to thank my parents who taught me the value and reward that comes from hard work and sincere intentions," he said. "Id say, in addition, I have to thank my wife, Laura Webb, and my four children, Caitlin, Megan, Maggie and Sam for supporting me in this new endeavor and for giving me a reason to work every day."
The judge said he also wanted to thank his friends and colleagues in the community for believing in him and supporting him. Governor Phil Bredesen, whose office announced the appointment on June 27, also received appreciation from Meares, "for having the faith in my ability to be a fair and impartial judge."
Meares, who served as a practicing attorney and partner at the law firm Dungan and Meares, filled the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge D. Kelly Thomas to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
"Judge Meares is an experienced legal professional who will serve our state in the highest tradition of the court," Bredesen said in the announcement press release. "He brings a reputation for fairness, wisdom and professionalism to his new post, and I want to thank him for his dedication to our state."
Meares began his legal career as an associate at the law firm of Shutts and Bowen in Miami, Fla., and moved in 1986 to the law firm of Meares, Morton, Meares and Ansley in Maryville. He entered public service in 1989, as the first public defender for the 5th Judicial District.
"I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve as judge. I will work hard for all citizens and commit to being fair and following the law," Meares said, in a press release. "We have a tradition of great judges in Blount County, and I am proud to have the opportunity to be counted among them."
Meares received the Distinguished Service Award from the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and has worked closely over the past 10 years with Legal Aid of East Tennessee, serving on the board and acting as co-chair for the annual fundraising campaign in Blount County.
Meares, 51, graduated from Duke University and received his legal
degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law. He attends Saint
Andrews Episcopal Church and has served in several local organizations,
including the United Way of Blount County, Blount County Adult Literacy
and the Community Action Agency. He was chairman for the Blount
Democratic Party and has served as a board member for the Foothills Land Conservancy.
Three Maryville attorneys were the finalists for the position
vacated by Judge Thomas when he was named to the state Court of
Criminal Appeals. Eleven members of the 15-member Judicial Selection
Commission came to the Airport Hilton in January and chose three
nominees for Bredesen to consider to fill the seat. From a list of five
candidates, they chose Meares and Assistant Public Defender Stacey
Davis Nordquist and Maryville attorney Craig Garrett and presented
names to the governor.