Three left to select from for chancellor's position

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By Susan Sharp

The governor now has a field of three candidates to choose from to fill the Eighth Judicial District Chancellor’s seat. The position became open when Chancellor Billy Joe White died in November 2012. He had served as chancellor for more than 30 years.

Following a public hearing in February, Scott County General Sessions Judge Jamie Cotton, Charles Sexton, a private practice attorney, and Andrew Tillman, a senior law clerk at the Tennessee Court of Appeals are the final three contenders.

Charles P. Sexton

Sexton, a partner in the law firm of Sexton, Sexton and Kazee in Scott County, said he was surprised at being selected as one of the final applicants.

Calling the public hearing “intense” Sexton compared it to being in the courtroom. Relying on his business background during the public hearing, Sexton said he realized the interview was “all about selling yourself.”

He hopes to take his varied experiences and apply them to the chancellor’s position.

“I think I can do a lot of good for the district,” Sexton said. “I want to keep everyone equal under the law.”

If selected to replace White, Sexton would like to make changes in the court’s operations. He envisions moving the docket to an electronic format. Taking a cue from the federal system, which has had an electronic filings system for several years, Sexton thinks a similar model could work in the district.

But he is cautious to say the docket is among the few items he sees that need change. The day-to-day operations are in good standing, according to him.

“The system we currently have works,” Sexton said.

Sexton has been in private practice since receiving his law degree in 2001. Prior to this, he held other jobs that included working for the Scott County highway and recreational departments.

In his current practice, Sexton estimates 50 percent of cases are personal injury and worker’s compensation cases, his application said.


Andrew Tillman

Tillman, a senior law clerkat the Tennessee Court of Appeals since 2009, said he was “very pleased” to among the three men selected as a possible replacement for the former chancellor.

The hearing held few surprises for him. However, he did say facing a panel of lawyers made him a “tad bit nervous.”

“I have a lot of experience and I wanted to communicate that,” Tillman said.

At the moment, Tillman said changes were not on his mind if appointed to the position. It would be “premature and presumptuous on my part to immediately predict changes,” he said.

Tillman also has a diverse background, which he believes would be an asset on the bench.

From completing an internship with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to growing up on a farm Tillman believes he has “practical experience” that would be applicable as a chancellor.

“We all want to do something that we are really good at and I feel lead to do this,” he said.

As law clerk, Tillman is responsible for the reviewing and researching of trial court proceedings prior to the presiding judge’s analysis, his application said.

Prior to this position he was in private practice for 18 years.

He has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Tillman resides in Scott County.

James L. Cotton

Cotton has served as the general sessions judge in Scott County since 1990. For the last 20 years he has been an adjunct professor at Roane State Community College teaching legal courses, his application said.

In 2004 he ran for the unexpired term left vacant when Circuit Court Judge Conrad Troutman retired. Cotton was defeated.

Among his accomplishments, Cotton lists founding the Scott Women’s Shelter, helping to organize the Scott County Drug Court and the Scott County Truancy Board.

Cotton didn’t return calls for comment.

There is not a definite timeline on when Haslam will make the final appointment, according to Michele Wojciechowski of the Administrative Office of the Courts.