Defeated circuit court judge candidate Tom McFarland
failed to convince the Tennessee Court of Appeals to
reverse the decision that threw out his election
In an 11-page opinion filed on Monday, the court
affirmed Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s ruling in
the case and taxed McFarland with the court costs.
“Costs on appeal are assessed to the appellant,
William Thomas McFarland,” the court said.
“The case is remanded for the collection of costs
assessed in the trial court.”
Mike Pemberton defeated McFarland in the Aug. 7,
2014, election for 9th Judicial District circuit court
McFarland filed a complaint in Roane County Chancery
Court two weeks later.
He alleged Pemberton didn’t meet the one-year
residency requirement to run for judge and asked for the
election results to be voided.
Blackwood was assigned to the case after Chancellor
Frank V. Williams III recused himself.
Blackwood determined McFarland’s complaint was
time-barred and dismissed it.
McFarland then appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The 9th Judicial District is made up of Roane,
Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties.
Willis Hall, a former McFarland client, filed a
complaint with the Roane County Election Commission on
March 31, 2014.
Hall claimed Pemberton shouldn’t be on the ballot
because he wasn’t a resident of the district.
The commission held a public hearing on Hall’s
complaint on April 28, 2014.
After listening to Pemberton, Hall attorney Wes
Kliner and multiple citizens, the commission voted 5-0
at the hearing to put Pemberton on the ballot.
“During the time in question, Pemberton, though
originally from Roane County, maintained a law office in
Knox County, and his kindergarten-age son attended
school in Knox County,” the Court of Appeals said.
“He owned a 2,500-square-foot home on the lake in
Roane County that he and his family moved into in July
McFarland didn’t take part in the April 28, 2014
However, the Court of Appeals determined he was an
aggrieved party to the commission’s decision and had 60
days to appeal.
He did not.
“McFarland was not a party to Hall’s complaint, but
this does not disqualify him from bringing a challenge
to the commission’s decision,” the court said in its
“McFarland and Pemberton were the sole candidates in
the election for circuit judge. The commission’s
decision regarding Pemberton’s qualifications, in
effect, would determine whether McFarland was the only
candidate in the election and, thus, the default winner.
Therefore, he had a ‘special interest in the agency’s
The court also found that McFarland, who held the
elected position of Roane County attorney at the time,
was well aware of the allegations surrounding
Pemberton’s residency months before he filed his
“It is undisputed that McFarland had knowledge of
Hall’s complaint and the commission’s decision to keep
Pemberton on the ballot,” the court said.
“He was quoted in local newspapers as making comments
concerning the hearing, Pemberton’s residency, and the
commission’s final determination.
“He also recused himself from representing the
commission at the hearing due to his obvious conflict of
interest,” the court continued.
“Still, he waited to challenge Pemberton’s
qualifications until after the election.”
Pemberton, all five members of the Roane County
Election Commission and Tennessee Coordinator of
Elections Mark Goins were defendants in McFarland’s
Monday’s decision came more than four months after
the Court of Appeals heard arguments from the parties in
Knoxville on July 1.
“The judgment of the trial court that the complaint
in this case is time-barred is affirmed,” the court