Criminal Court hopefuls point to experience

Published 8:38am Thursday, May 1, 2014

In less than a week, Carter Countians will vote in the Republican Primary.
Among the primary contests is that of the First Judicial District’s Criminal Court Judge Part I seat. The position has been held by Judge Robert Cupp, who decided not to seek re-election this year.
Two candidates are seeking the post – Elizabethton attorney Lisa Nidiffer Rice and Dennis Brooks, who has served as a lead prosecutor in the First Judicial District district attorney general’s office.
The First Judicial District covers Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, and Washington Counties.
Primaries are being held in three of the four counties next Tuesday.
In asking for votes, Rice cited her experience working behind the prosecutor’s and defense attorney’s desks, as well as collaboration with law enforcement bodies like the Elizabethton Police Department and Carter County Sheriff’s Department.
“I feel like my lengthy experience in watching, observing, and participating in the legal system has given me a unique perspective to sit in the position of criminal court judge,” she said.
Should she win the judgeship, Rice said that efficiently administrating a courtroom would be one of her priorities.
“The efficient administration of justice is extremely importation. The qualities that a judge should possess are efficiency, patience, tolerance and knowledge of the law,” Rice said.
In addition to those qualities, Rice said she would employ lessons from the Old Testament of the Bible to incorporate into her judgeship. She pointed to a passage in Deuteronomy, which says, “Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, or the stranger who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgement. You shall hear the small, as well as the great. You shall not be afraid in any man’s presence.”
“I think those terms and those passages from the Old Testament are guiding principles I would like to incorporate into my judgeship,” Rice said.
Rice received a bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University and her doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee College of Law.
Her opponent, Brooks points to his 15 years serving as a lead prosecutor in the DA’s office. He currently works as the assistant district attorney general and works primarily out of Carter County.
Brooks said, “Protecting the community where my family and friends live is important to me, and I would feel even stronger about that as a judge.”
Since earning his law license in 1997, Brooks has spent his entire law career working in the First District. He has worked almost 100 jury trials – in each of the district’s counties – including five first-degree murder convictions this year, the most recent against Marvin Potter of Mountain City, who made national news after his arrest in the deaths of Billie Jean Hayworth and Billy Payne Jr. in Johnson County.
Brooks lists as one of his main concerns is the persistent problem of drug abuse.
One tool Brooks said he would consider adapting in the fight against drug abuse is implementation of a drug court in the first district.
In addition to drug court, Books also outlines additional ideas for improving criminal court, such as expediting restitution payments.
Brooks, who lives at Telford, like Rice graduated from ETSU and the University of Tennessee School of Law.

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