LOUDON — Following the Loudon County Commission's decision last week to create a second general sessions court judge, the process of appointing a new judge has begun.
Commission voted 8-2 to pass a private act that would establish the second judge. Since the general sessions court was established in 1959 Loudon has only had a single judge, although population has more than doubled, current General Sessions Judge Rex Dale said.
According to Dale, the court system is overburdened and backlogged, leading to long delays in processing cases.
Advertisements in local newspapers this week said the county is currently accepting applications from those seeking appointment to the position. All resumes are to be delivered to County Mayor's office by July 17.
Qualifications for general sessions judge include being 30 years old, a resident of the state for five years, a resident of the circuit or district for one year and authorization to practice law in the courts of Tennessee.
Potential nominations will be discussed at the July 20 regular commission meeting. A vote to select a new judge will be held at the Aug. 3 regular commission meeting. The temporary judge would take office Sept. 1.
The temporary appointment will run until a new judge can be elected during the 2016 election cycle, said Susan Harrison, Loudon County Election Administrator. The position is not necessarily partisan and the political parties can decide if they choose to have a primary.
The Democratic and Republican parties have until Sept. 11 to decide if they want to have a primary or if they will select a specific candidate to represent their party in the Aug. 4 election. If there is a primary in March, political party and independent candidates must qualify by noon on Dec. 10.
Exactly how much the new judge will cost and how to pay for the position is still not completely clear. Judge Dale has proposed an increase in the litigation tax from about $17 to about $69. Commission would have to vote to increase the litigation tax.
The cost of the two judges for the 2015-2016 budget is projected at about $321,000. With the increased revenue from the litigation tax projected at about $134,000, the cost to the county could be reduced to about $187,000, Dale projected. Projections on the litigation tax are based on current collection rates in criminal and civil court.
The private act passed by commission compels the commission to fund the new judge, whether it is through an increase in litigation tax or a withdrawal from the general fund balance, said Commissioner Van Shaver.
Costs still unknown to the county might include the need to hire more clerks in the office of Clerk of Courts Lisa Niles. A lawsuit by Niles asking for six more clerks and raises for others in the office is heading toward litigation in court later this year. County commission has offered to fund four more clerks.
Commissioner Kelly Littleton-Brewster said she voted for the new judge after being assured by Niles that the extra judge would not require more clerks than the six already requested in her suit.