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VOL. 39 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 23, 2015

3 state appeals judges finalists for Supreme Court vacancy

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Three state appeals judges appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam were selected Tuesday as finalists to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Governor's Council for Judicial Appointments interviewed nine applicants during a public hearing before narrowing the field to three and sending the names to the Republican governor.

The finalists are Thomas "Skip" Frierson II of Morristown, Robert Montgomery Jr. of Kingsport and Roger Page of Medina. The governor's two appointments to the Supreme Court so far — Jeff Bivins and Holly Kirby — previously served as state appeals judges.

Haslam appointed Page to the western section of the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2011; Frierson to the eastern section of the Court of Appeals in 2013; and Montgomery to the eastern section of the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2014.

The other applicants were tax and corporate attorney Matthew Cavitch of Eads; commercial and employment law attorney Mark Fulks of Johnson City; Department of General Services compliance officer Ted Hayden of Gallatin; employment and civil rights attorney Robert David Meyers of Memphis; criminal defense attorney Herbert Moncier of Knoxville; and Juvenile Court chief counsel and administrative officer Larry Scroggs of Germantown.

Council chairwoman Cheryl Rice said she thought all the applicants were qualified, but that the three appeals judges simply stood out.

"They just happened to be the candidates ... seen as the most qualified by a majority," she said.

The opening created by the retirement of Justice Gary Wade gives Haslam the opportunity to give the five-member court a Republican majority after decades of Democratic control. Justices Wade, Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark were all appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Wade announced this summer that he would retire just a year into his second eight-year term to become dean of the Lincoln Memorial University law school.

While residents last year voted to give state lawmakers the power to reject the governor's appointments, the House and Senate couldn't agree on a mechanism for how to do so this spring. Haslam's appointment will be considered approved if lawmakers still can't resolve their differences within 60 days of the Jan. 12 start of next year's session.

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