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VOL. 127 | NO. 173 | Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Election Winners Take Oaths of Office

By Bill Dries

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The Labor Day weekend served as a political marker for past and future events in Memphis politics.

The four Shelby County general election winners from the Aug. 2 vote are officially in office as the weekend ends and the workweek begins.

The newest Shelby County commissioner, Steve Basar, takes the oath of office Wednesday, Sept. 5, during committee sessions for the legislative body.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich took the oath of office Thursday, Aug. 30.

“I’ll use my courtroom voice,” Weirich, a career prosecutor, said after taking the oath from Federal Appeals Court Judge Julia Gibbons.

Weirich pledged her office would be “tough but fair” in its role as the county’s chief prosecutor.

“It’s a tougher road to go down,” she added as she pledged a consistency in handling cases that asks, “Do we have a reason to do what we’re doing?”

“Let us go forward and do the work that truth dictates and justice demands,” she added at the end with a phrase often used by attorneys on both sides in their closing arguments to juries.

General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton took his oath Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building. Stanton’s win in the Aug. 2 general election caps a political comeback in which the General Sessions Court judges tapped him to serve as interim clerk after elected clerk Otis Jackson was suspended by them following his indictment on official misconduct charges.

Stanton, whose only previous bid for public office was his 1990 run for Criminal Court clerk, then beat Jackson and Shelby County Commission Chairman Sidney Chism in the March Democratic primary and beat Republican nominee Rick Rout in the August general election.

Shelby County Assessor Cheyenne Johnson, like Stanton, had concerns a relatively high turnout in the Republican suburbs for municipal school district ballot questions might set the stage for an upset. But Johnson, a Democrat, campaigned hard there as well as within predominantly Democratic Memphis. She now looks ahead to the 2013 countywide property reappraisal.

Basar, Weirich and Johnson serve two-year terms, while Stanton was elected to a full four-year term.

Basar and Weirich are serving out the remaining terms of incumbents who resigned and the offices will be on the 2014 county ballot for full four-year terms. Johnson’s office is moving to the 2014 election schedule because of a county charter change approved by voters in 2008 that moved the office to a different election cycle.

Stanton’s office remains in the other even-year election cycle.

As the holiday weekend began, there was another oath of office taken Downtown.

U.S. District Court Judge John Fowlkes took the oath at City Hall Friday, Aug. 31, before a capacity crowd of friends, family and local, state and federal judges. Fowlkes had already started his duties last month after taking the oath in a private ceremony.

Fowlkes, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is a former Shelby County Criminal Court judge appointed to that position by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen. He then won the rest of the term of office to 2014 in the 2008 elections.

Fowlkes mused about why he put his name up for consideration as a federal judge.

“No more elections,” he joked to laughter from a group of state trial and appeals court judges who will be running in 2014.

The once-every-eight-year ballot that includes the nonpartisan judicial races is known among politicos as the “big ballot” because of its length.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, whose recommendation of Fowlkes was essential to the White House nomination, said there were some discussions about Fowlkes age, 61, which is considered a bit older than most nominees for the lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

“He promised me 15 years,” Cohen said.

Fowlkes pointed to his 90-year-old father, John T. Fowlkes Sr., as he told Cohen, “I am my father’s son. I will be here for a long time.”

His other judges in the Western District of Tennessee joked about several hundred cases from several of their courtrooms now transferred to Fowlkes.

Judge Daniel Breen of Jackson, Tenn., noted he didn’t transfer any to Fowlkes but that others had given Fowlkes cases he called “the hounds of Baskerville.”

“You can hear them barking all the way down the hall,” he quipped.

Judge Thomas Anderson said Fowlkes breaks his four-year run of being the judge with the least seniority in the district.

PROPERTY SALES 21 82 6,474
MORTGAGES 7 53 4,088
BUILDING PERMITS 240 353 15,714
BANKRUPTCIES 38 58 3,328