By JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – A Tennessee panel selected three finalists Thursday for a state Supreme Court opening: two middle judges from the appeals court and a high-profile attorney from the attorney general’s office.
The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments voted in favor of sending Republican Gov. Bill Lee the names of Tennessee Associate Attorney General Sarah Campbell and the judges of the State Court of Appeals, Kristi Davis and William Neal McBrayer. Eleven candidates applied for the opening, although two dropped out of the race before interviews took place on Wednesday and Thursday.
There is no specific timeline for when Lee will make his selection. Subsequently, the candidate must also be confirmed by state legislators.
The seat was left vacant by the death of Judge Cornelia Clark in September at the age of 71. He had been diagnosed with cancer.
Clark was appointed by former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen. All but one of the remaining judges – Sharon Lee – were appointed by former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, signaling a likely turn to the right for the court with Governor Lee‘s upcoming appointment.
Davis, 48, has served on the Court of Appeals since August 2020, following an appointment by Governor Lee. The Court of Appeal deals with civil cases and there is a counterpart Intermediate Criminal Court of Appeal. Davis had previously spent about six years as a Knox County Circuit Court judge.
Davis said she initially intended to practice criminal law, including internship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and time as a paralegal for a judge in the state’s Criminal Appeals Court. But she eventually moved to a civil law-focused law firm that brought her into the courtroom for cases.
Campbell, 39, an associate solicitor general and special assistant to the state attorney general, joined the attorney general’s office in 2015 and has represented the state on appeals ranging from abortion laws to newsletters. postal vote. Previously, she worked as a law clerk for United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Justice William Pryor at the 11th United States Court of Appeals.
During her interview, Campbell told the panel that there would be an “adjustment period” from a defender of state positions to a neutral judge, but she said she believed the adaptation would take only a short time, citing his previous judicial internships.
McBrayer, 58, has served as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals since May 2014. He was appointed to the post by Haslam.
McBrayer who has been in private practice for two decades dealing with insurance and then bankruptcy cases. When asked by panel members about his lack of expertise in criminal law, he replied that no one can be familiar with all areas of law and that judges should always research any subject that they are seized.
Senior Deputy State Attorney General Herbert Slatery withdrew from debate for the opening of the State Supreme Court on Wednesday and instead joined Governor Lee’s office as legal counsel in chief.
Jonathan Skrmetti, most recently the deputy chief attorney general, had also served as deputy attorney for the United States in Memphis. Skrmetti replaces Lang Wiseman in the governor’s office.
Travis Loller in Nashville contributed to this report.
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