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VOL. 125 | NO. 187 | Monday, September 27, 2010

Higgins Takes Long Road to the Bench

By Bill Dries

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Gina Higgins thought 2006 was the year she would run for judge in the once-every-eight-year races known by politicians as the “big ballot.”

But when she asked two trusted colleagues, her law partner Rita Stotts and retired Circuit Court Judge George Brown, they said the time wasn’t right.

After the death of Stotts, who was a Circuit Court judge, Higgins was among those who applied to be one of the three finalists recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission for the vacant Circuit Court Division 4 position. She wasn't a finalist and Gov. Phil Bredesen went with finalist Lorrie Ridder.

Undeterred and with Brown now saying the time was right, Higgins challenged Ridder in the Aug. 5 special election.

She won in an unusual slate of five special judicial elections in which three appointed judges, including Ridder, lost their bids to remain in office through 2014.

Higgins took the oath of office soon after, and last week she took the ceremonial oath before a group of over 100 family members, friends and other judges at City Hall.

“I’ve already had the practice round and I think I know how this is supposed to go,” she said of the first smaller ceremony in which she was sworn in by Chancellor Walter Evans before talking about her longer-than-expected path to the bench. “I tried to do it my way and it didn’t work out just that way. God saw fit to do it his way, because in doing it his way he was showing all of us that it was him and not me.”

Higgins was described by Viola E. Johnson, her other law partner in the firm with Stotts, as “a woman of integrity” with “a wicked sense of humor.”

And Higgins remembered Stotts as a presence “who is never far away” and “a lawyer’s lawyer and a judge’s judge.”

Among the other judges attending the ceremony was fellow Circuit Court Judge Bob Weiss, another of the winners from the Aug. 5 judicial elections.

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