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Sessions judge hopefuls say job requires fairness, knowledge of law

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Keith Bowers

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Jason Holly

Elizabethton attorneys Jason Holly and Keith Bowers Jr. are vying for the office of Sessions Court Judge in the Carter County Republican Primary.
The winner will face another Elizabethton attorney, Misty Buck, who is running as an Independent in the August General Election.
And the winner of that election will succeed current General Sessions and Juvenile Judge John Walton, who is retiring from the bench after 16 years.
There are more similarities between candidates Holly and Bowers than differences. Each operates his own private law practices in Elizabethton.
Bowers, in addition to his law practice, serves as county attorney for both Carter and Washington counties and city attorney for the town of Watauga.
He also serves on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Nominating Committee and chairs the Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender’s Board.
A Carter County native, Bowers grew up in the Stoney Creek community, and decided to become an attorney while serving an internship with the Tennessee Legislature.
He attended East Tennessee State University, obtaining a bachelor of business administration degree with a concentration in marketing in 1995, and a bachelor of science degree with a concentration in political science in 1996. He received his doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee in 1998.
Bowers began his legal career at the law firm of Hampton & Street in Elizabethton in 1999 and founded his law firm in 2002.
He is licensed to practice law in all state courts in Tennessee and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Holly graduated from the University of Tennessee, receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1996. He graduated cum laude from the Cumberland School of Law in Alabama in 2000, receiving his doctorate of jurisprudence.
His practice areas include real estate, debtor’s rights, consumer rights, personal injury, probate and estates, criminal, worker’s compensation, insurance disputes, business and commercial litigation, construction, and other civil litigation.
In addition to his law practice, Holly serves as a board member of the Elizabethton Boys and Girls Club, is a board member of Mission Safety International and a member of the Elizabethton Rotary Club.
Both Bowers and Holly feel that their experience in private practice has prepared them for the bench.
Both feel that fairness as well as common sense is a necessary trait for the judgeship they are seeking.
General Sessions Court deals with everything from traffic tickets to initial appearances for criminal charges, small claims and detainer warrants.
“Sessions is more of a volume of court, but shorter matters insofar as how long they’re before the judge,” Bowers said. “I think my skill as far as organization and handling multi-tasking, as I’ve done in my practice, will lend itself really well to that job.”
Holly, who handles cases practically every day in General Sessions Court, said as an attorney he has learned to look at both sides of a case. “I’ve handled all kinds of cases, and always, fairness comes into play,” he said. “Next to knowledge of the law, being fair is a must for a judge.”
Both men pledge to give their best to the job.
In addition, the sessions court judge also serves as the county’s juvenile judge. Among matters served in this court are child custody and delinquent juveniles.
Both candidates note the case load for sessions court is large and will demand a lot of time.
“It is a matter of being in court and deciding cases every day of the work week. It will demand consistency,” said Bowers, to which Holly agreed.
“I plan to give my best to making sure the letter of the law is followed in every case, every day,” Holly said at a recent political gathering.