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Meet your candidates for Municipal Judge… Five questions with Teresa Murray-Smith

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, Elizabethton citizens will be making a selection for the Elizabethton Municipal Judge that Teresa Murray-Smith is currently sitting on the bench for the unexpired term of TJ Little.

The winner of Tuesday’s election between Murray-Smith and Jason Holly will be the Elizabethton Municipal Judge for a four-year term.

Both candidates were asked the same five questions. Here are the responses from those questions by Murray-Smith, who became the first female judge to take the Municipal Judge bench in the August primary to fill Little’s term to completion.

Why are you running for the Municipal Judge of Elizabethton?

For several reasons — the vast majority of my legal career has been one of public service, aiding crime victims, law enforcement officers and the public.
When I retired from nearly thirty years as an Assistant District Attorney General and opened a law practice. Most of my clients were people I met during my career as a prosecutor, which showed the confidence I earned from them.
I have continued to be involved in public service in some way, by activity in my church, in civic clubs, in mentoring younger attorneys and any other opportunity that arose.
I think we all should do what we are able to make our community better.
The position of Municipal Judge deals mainly with traffic offenses. I have a tremendous amount of experience in handling traffic cases enabling me to understand the law and how it applies to the circumstances of each case.
This court also handles code violations, such as building code violations, health and safety violations and the like. My extensive experience gives me the knowledge and the ability to understand the law and the evidence in all the types of cases heard in Municipal Court.
My extensive legal career also gives me an understanding of people, enabling me to relate to them and wisely decide their controversies based upon the law, which is what every case in court really is, regardless how large or small.
What does being the Municipal Judge mean to you?

I do not want this job to have a “position”. I want to assist the City government and the citizens of Elizabethton have the best possible government.
Having practiced law in so many different courts, before so many judges I know how courts may be effectively and efficiently conducted.
I want the citizens of Elizabethton to have a local government, including this court, that is responsive to their needs and represents the best possible means of doing so.
Being the Municipal Judge means to me that I would be a public servant and I will represent them in a professional, honest, and courteous manner.

Why do you feel that you are qualified for the position?

As I indicated above, I have extensive legal experience and training. I have the practical experience of over forty years of litigation in courts all over upper East Tennessee as both a prosecutor and as a civil attorney.
My career focused in the areas of domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse, elder abuse and exploitation, animal abuse and traffic enforcement.
During the later years of my career as a prosecutor I was privileged to mentor young prosecutors including instructing at a statewide new prosecutor’s academy. I also helped instruct law enforcement agencies and regional training.
I earned the respect of my fellow lawyers as a competent and knowledgeable attorney who has the experience to serve in this position. All my experience means I spent time dealing with people from all walks of life and often in very trying circumstances.
I bring to court that experience, understanding and empathy (if needed) to adequately provide judgments within the law for the litigants in Municipal Court.
Having been on the bench for two months now, I find that I am able to efficiently hear the cases as scheduled, giving persons the opportunity to be heard without undue delay. I know I would be able to continue to do so in the future should I be re-elected to the position.

What should be the expectations of those who enter the Municipal courtroom from the judge?

Each person should expect to be treated fairly, with respect and without favoritism to either side.
They should not have their time nor resources wasted. Each person should have the opportunity to be heard, to present their case, have any witnesses subpoenaed to be present or any assistance needed in understanding the process of court.
No one should be scared or upset regarding appearing in this court.
However, they should likewise treat the Court and its personnel with respect by being on time, dressing and behaving appropriately for the Court.

What message would you like to share with the voters who will be going to the polls.
The Tennessee Canons of Judicial Ethics state:
“Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times…. They should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence.”
I have maintained that standard of conduct and pledge to continue to do so should I be returned to the office.
I have always diligently functioned in my profession, obeyed the laws, maintained my law license in a proper manner, paid my just debts and treated people fairly in all dealings.
I would be honored to continue to serve the citizens of Elizabethton.