Commission to pick Duggan’s successor, no November election allowed

Members of the Blount County Commission will pick General Sessions Judge David Duggan’s successor and that individual will be on the ballot during a special election in August, 2010.

An opinion from a State Election Commission attorney released on Aug. 14 cleared up the questions as to whether the commission would appoint Meares’ successor or if anyone qualifying could be put on the November ballot.

Blount County Elections Administrator Libby Breeding requested clarification after some questioned whether a special election was needed in November to fill the seat Duggan will vacate when he assumes the Circuit Court Division II seat he won during the Aug 7 election.

According to the state election commission attorney, Article 7 Section 5 of the Tennessee State Constitution states elections for civil and judicial officers are to be held on the first Thursday in August preceding the expiration of their respective terms of service.

Knox County had a similar situation following the vacancy of a General Sessions judge seat. While some wished to have a special election in November to fill the seat vacated by Judge Bob McGee, an opinion from State Attorney General mirrored the opinion given by the State Election Commission attorney. The Knox County Commission must fill the vacancy and then have a special election in August, 2010.

Blount County Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett said he thought all along the Constitution was very clear that judges were to be elected in the biennial August election period. “I think the state election commission made the right decision. When we looked at it, we felt the constitution was clear. Knox County was preparing to have an election in November, and I guess they didn’t know what article 7 said in the constitution,” he said. “It’s one of those things I thought was clear, and the attorney’s opinion confirmed that.”

Duggan beat Circuit Judge Mike Meares in the Aug. 7 race. Meares was selected by Gov. Phil Bredesen after the governor elevated Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr. to the State Court of Appeals.

In Knox County, McGee was elected Aug. 7 to fill the Knox County Criminal Court, Division II, judgeship left vacant by the death of Ray Lee Jenkins.

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