3 finalists for Chancery vacancy from Scott

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TAZEWELL — It was a clean sweep of sorts for Scott Countians before Tennessee's Judicial Nominating Committee here Thursday.

The committee, charged with whittling a list of candidates for the 8th Judicial District's chancellor vacancy to three finalists from which Gov. Bill Haslam will choose, selected three Scott County applicants as its finalists.

Current Scott County General Sessions Judge Jamie Cotton Jr., Oneida attorney Patrick Sexton and Huntsville attorney Andrew Tillman were the finalists selected by the nominating committee following a public hearing and a round of interviews in the Claiborne County seat, which was the home of the late Billy Joe White. White, the district's long-time chancellor, died in November after suffering a stroke.

The three Scott Countians were among six to apply for the vacancy. Also applying were Campbell County attorneys Elizabeth C. Asbury and Kathy Parrott and Claiborne County attorney Thomas Jackson Tabor Jr.

Thursday's action by the nominating committee was delayed from Jan. 18 due to inclement weather.

Cotton, 59, has served as Scott County's General Sessions judge and juvenile judge since 1990. He most recently won re-election in 2006. His current term ends in 2014. He also serves as a director at First National Bank of Oneida and provides legal counsel for Citizens Gas Utility District.

Sexton, 41, is a practicing attorney at Oneida's Sexton, Sexton & Kazee. He has practiced law since 2001, primarily dealing with civil matters. He is a deacon at New Haven Baptist Church in West Oneida.

Tillman, 61, is a senior law clerk at the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville. A practicing attorney since 1989, he is currently a law clerk for Judge Charles D. Susano Jr. at the Court of Appeals. Prior to that, he was a managing partner at Knoxville's Paine, Tarwater, Bickers & Tillman law firm.

The committee's action insures that Gov. Haslam will make his third judicial selection from Scott County in less than one year. Last summer Haslam appointed Oneida's Lori Phillips-Jones to replace Wm. Paul Phillips as the district's attorney general. Months later he appointed Huntsville attorney Mark Blakley to replace Martha Yoakum as the district's public defender. Both Phillips and Yoakum retired after lengthy careers.

All of the appointments will serve the remainder of the current term, which ends Aug. 31, 2014. Phillips-Jones and Blakley have expressed their intentions to seek election to their positions in the August 2014 election. Presumably, whomever is selected by Gov. Haslam to fulfill the Chancery Court vacancy will as well.

The 8th Judicial District currently consists of Scott, Campbell, Fentress, Claiborne and Union counties. A proposal currently being considered by Republicans in the state legislature could complicate the election process by adding Anderson County to the district. With a population of 75,000, Anderson County is nearly twice as large as the district's next largest county (Campbell, 40,000).

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