Local News

Story published: 01-09-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Arnold chosen as new judge


By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

In a 19-to-3 vote, Washington County Commissioners appointed Robert D. “Don” Arnold as General Sessions Judge, Part III.

Following almost a year of planning, which included the approval of a private act from the General Assembly and the formation of a special Legal Services Oversight Committee to determine the application process, the final decision was made during a called meeting Jan. 3 that was completed in just 9 minutes.

The meeting began with a public hearing, during which registered voters had the opportunity to submit names of eligible individuals for consideration. No names were offered during the hearing.

Commission Chair Greg Matherly then opened the floor to nominations from county commissioners.

Commissioner George “Skip” Oldham nominated Arnold, and Commissioner David Tomita nominated Stephen M. Darden.

Both candidates completed the extensive written application and participated in the personal interviews held two months earlier.

“Would anyone else like to hear from the candidates?” Matherly asked commissioners. All declined, already prepared to cast their votes.

Arnold was elected in a majority vote, with Darden receiving support from Commissioners Mitch Meredith, Joe Grandy and Tomita. Commissioners Pete Speropulos, Joe Corso and Gearld Sparks were absent.

Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp administered the oath of office immediately after the election, and Arnold thanked the commission for affording him the opportunity.

“He is a judge with all the elements of office,” County Attorney John Rambo said after the meeting. “If they need a search warrant signed in the middle of the night, he can do it.”This worked for Arnold, who said he welcomed the responsibility of his new role and planned to take the bench the next morning. “I think we’re expecting a light docket,” he said.

Arnold, 70, received his law degree from the University of Tennessee. Early in his career, he taught business law at Steed College and East Tennessee State University. He later served a four-year term in the Tennessee General Assembly representing the 3rd Senatorial District, in addition to working as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor in the District Attorney General’s Office.

The majority of Arnold’s career was spent as a partner in a private practice law firm. He also owns and operates a 137-acre cattle farm.

Election to the judgeship wasn’t easy, according to Arnold. “I worked hard to garner the support of this group,” he said.

Commissioner Sam Humphreys said he liked both candidates, but voted for Arnold because he had known him longer.

“I received several calls on behalf of Steve Darden also,” he said.

Tomita said he grew up with Darden, which was just one of the reasons for his nomination. “He would have made a good judge, and he may still,” Tomita said.

Applications for the judgeship also were submitted by Kenneth C. Baldwin; Douglas J. Carter; William C. Donaldson; Michael D. Rasnake; and Dan R. Smith.

Another judgeship opportunity will be available in Washington County at the end of March when Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown retires.

Gov. Bill Haslam will appoint Brown’s replacement, who will serve in the office until the Aug. 2014 election.

Arnold’s term will also end in Aug. 2014, and candidates for both offices will be elected by the public going forward.