It never fails; on the eve of early voting the unfounded rumors and hurtfully innuendo returns just like a flock of those fabled swallows of Capistrano. The race for the vacancy on the Hamilton County’s general sessions court is the most recent target and – if you fall for the spew now on the street – that the leading contender is today so sick he’s on a pancake/pizza diet because that’s all they can slide under the hospital door, you’ll do us all a disservice.
In General Sessions Court, where all participants are sworn beforehand to tell nothing but the truth, let’s knock this one down with a real loud gavel – Judge David Norton is doing just fine as he wrestles with what I am told is a brief thyroid problem and there is no reason whatsoever to believe that he’s not the definite choice to continue as the late Bob Moon’s successor.
Judge Norton, you’ll recall, was the popular choice of the Hamilton County Commission when my delightful friend, Bob Moon, was snatched away from a glorious ride on the bench by a fatal heart attack in January. Norton, just as everyone suspected, has done a beautiful job in the interim and, while I hardly know him well, I believe he is – beyond doubt – the man we ought to elect to finish the term before a completely new panel of judges is chosen in 2014.
I’ll be the first to admit there are several of my friends running against him but I can look any of them in the eye and tell them that friendship should never be the No. 1 quality you seek when you need a brain surgeon, a car mechanic, an airplane pilot or a snow-ski instructor. You want the very best you can find and, it has been my experience, a fine friendship will result because you’ll be happy with very best there is.
Picking a judge is not real hard if you study the responsibilies. You have to have someone with superior knowledge of the law and also with the even-keeled temperament that is required to make every person feel they have been treated fairly, honestly, and compassionately. We each need to be accorded the same grace and consideration as the next guy.
Judge Norton, tingling thyroid or not, is my overwhelming choice because the people who know the most about what the job takes were unanimous when I asked each of them to advise me -- Judge Norton is far and away the best guy for the job. Judges cannot endorse other judges but I’ve had five – from different types of courts – confide in me that David’s vast knowledge of criminal law, civil law and human rights has already been a great asset to the session court in the past six months.
His qualifications speak loudly. He has 28 years of civil practice as the Assistant Hamilton Co. Attorney under Reuben Taylor. Judge Norton has also heard every type of criminal court case you can imagine in the 27 years he has also been the City Judge in Soddy-Daisy. They reelected him three straight times!
Yes, he’s a tireless worker and that points to what I feel is yet another huge factor any voter should consider – how will he play on a team?
Face it, the way the Sessions Court works is not due to one person but, instead, five judges all pulling together in the same harness. Christie Sell, David Bales, Clarence Shattuck, Ron Durby and Judge Norton have already shown they are an ideal team – why upset such a lineup? Any coach will tell you not to change a roster when it is working and winning.
A quick look at the court will show the five judges hear 40,000 criminal cases a year, another 14,000 civil cases, and render yet another 3,500 decisions regarding mental health cases every Thursday at Moccasin Bend State Hospital. Add that up, divide it by 50 weeks, and you’ll see why any newcomer could cause a train wreck without a keen knowledge of the law, the judicial temperament, and the ability to work side-by-side in the best way for Hamilton County.
I believe there are some good candidates also on the ballot and – if the truth be known – there are a couple of great up-and-comers who bear watching. But to allow some political bull-baiters to spread shallow rumors and untruthful gossip is awful. It’s almost like some rookie lawyer taking a dare to ask Judge Durby if he thought he suffered from football-helmet syndrome from the days he played for Bear Bryant at Alabama. Why be stupid?
It’s not my style to endorse any candidate but I’ll tell people who I vote for if they ask. I’m voting for David Norton. Admittedly, it is sad to embarrass him the day before early voting by revealing he’s having a struggle getting his medicines balanced but – to me -- it’s far worse to sit on your hands when folks are saying mean-spirited things that are not true.
Judge Norton’s deal is temporary, or “day-to-day” as they say in the NFL, and we’ve got to focus instead on the fact he’s the best candidate to serve the people of Hamilton County. He has exemplified himself for 28 years and done not one thing to cause anyone, other than a future defendant, not to be the top choice when the voting starts on Friday.
That said, let’s all keep our hearts and our minds clean and healthy until Aug. 2, when the winners will be determined by those who matter most – us.