VOL. 133 | NO. 38 | Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Potter Vacancy Would Put Fourth Special Judicial Election on Ballot
By Bill Dries
There could be a fourth special judicial election on the August ballot with word Monday, Feb. 19, that General Sessions Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter will retire effective March 1.
The commission declared the vacancy at its Monday meeting after hearing from Potter. No dates have been set for applicants to apply or to be interviewed by the commission.
Under terms of the county charter, the commission fills such vacancies.
Potter was elected to another eight-year term of office in 2014 that runs through 2022. The appointee would serve until there could be a special election to fill the remainder of the term.
The August ballot features special nonpartisan elections for two judicial positions in Circuit Court and another in Criminal Court. In those cases, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam filled the vacancies with appointees to serve until the August special elections are decided. The elections decide who fills the remainder of those terms of office, which also run through 2022.
Potter recommended attorney and city public works deputy director Patrick Dandridge for his appointment.
Potter started the court devoted to hearing blight and code enforcement complaints 33 years ago after being a City Court judge with a regular docket of blight and related complaints within the city of Memphis.
“I saw men and women living in substandard conditions who came to court and wanted redress,” he told commissioners. “I promised that if ever given the opportunity, I would do something about it.”
The court has also become the setting for public nuisance complaints under state law involving not just blighted properties but street gangs and alleged members of those gangs.
Environmental Court was the first of the specialty courts in Shelby County that was followed by a drug court, a domestic violence court and a veterans court – all also in General Sessions Court.
Dandridge oversees code enforcement for the city and is the supervisor of Shelby County commissioner Eddie Jones, who is a city code enforcement officer. Jones is seeking a county attorney’s legal opinion on whether he can vote for Dandridge as the appointee.
County Commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer said the commission will consider the vacancy and Potter’s recommendation.
“It will be seven votes wins the day,” she told Potter.