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Concurrent clerk, judge election ordinance passes second reading

By Bill Short

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously passed an ordinance on second reading that would allow concurrent election of the City Court clerk and judge.

Board members took the action during their Dec. 3 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Don Lowry and seconded by Alderman Jim Brown.

The ordinance was unanimously passed on first reading at the board’s Nov. 5 meeting. It is scheduled for a public hearing and final reading at the Jan. 7, 2013 meeting.

City Attorney Barbara Lapides has noted that, because Millington’s elected city judge exercises concurrent General Sessions jurisdiction, the new City Charter requires the City Court clerk to also be elected. But under Tennessee law, Millington is allowed to provide for this when that election takes place.

Lapides has said the proposed ordinance would continue the current City Court clerk in office until the next city judge election in 2014, so they would be elected at the same time.

“The judge is elected for a term of eight years,” she said, “and the City Court clerk’s term is only four years. So, every other time the City Court clerk is elected, the city judge will be elected.”

Lapides has called it “an efficiency that makes sense” for the two individuals to be taking office at the same time whenever they can.

Interim Mayor Linda Carter has said it was brought to the board’s attention “during the Charter change” that this needed to be accomplished. Because Millington is not in compliance with state law regarding the General Sessions Court, she said the ordinance would establish that the city is in the process of complying.

At the Nov. 5 meeting, Alderman Brett Morgan asked whether a “brand-new” city judge and City Court clerk would have to do any “catching up.”

“Well, when you have anyone who is new to a position,” Lapides replied, “there is some learning curve. There’s no way around that.”

But Carter said City Judge Wilson Wages had requested that the clerk and judge be elected concurrently. And other judges have told her that it “makes for a smooth transition.”

While noting that Millington requires its elected city judge to be an attorney and a resident, Lowry asked whether any qualifications have been established for the City Court clerk. Carter said the clerk must be a resident.

In response to another question by Lowry, Lapides said the clerk does not need any kind of “certificates” to be elected. But after the election, some training must be completed, either through The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service or the state.

“But given the nature of the job,” she concluded, “it’s inconceivable to me that anybody would want to be City Court clerk who wasn’t either already fairly knowledgeable about administration of court matters or willing to learn that pretty quickly.”

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