Letters to the Editor
Reader asks others to vote for Bryan in public defender race on May 2
To the Editor:
My brother, John Henderson, has been public defender for the 21st Judicial District of Tennessee for the past 16 years, and he will be retiring this year. Vanessa Bryan has been an Assistant Public Defender, working alongside John for all of those 16 years, and she is currently campaigning to succeed him as Public Defender.
I highly recommend her for that office, and I ask for your vote for her on May 2.
I first met Vanessa when she came to John’s office seeking a job. I remember she had a one-month-old baby in her lap. An attorney as well as a young mother, she was applying for a part-time assistant public defender position. John liked her immediately, was impressed with her credentials and hired her to help him set up the office of public defender in this district, which the state of Tennessee had just legislated.
As Vanessa’s children grew, her part-time position turned to full time, and many, many times over the years I have observed how well she does her job, and what a help she has been to my brother. She is highly respected all over the district for her dedication to the job, her efficiency, and her organization. It is her wish, as well as mine, that she continue to serve clients who cannot afford to pay for their defense in court.
In addition to her work as assistant public defender, Vanessa has worked diligently in the 21st Drug Court, a very strict program designed to rehabilitate and educate drug and alcohol offenders to live substance-free lives. Vanessa has worked with the Drug Court since its beginning three years ago. I first heard of this outstanding program from my friend, local attorney Gayle Moyer Harris, who told me about the good work that was being done. Drug Court was started as an answer to the frustration of Gayle’s husband, Judge Harris, and Judge Tim Easter with the growing problem of the “revolving door” of addicts in the criminal justice system. There was no effective treatment. Now, non-violent drug and alcohol addicts are sentenced to Drug Court for a two-year program. Participants are drug tested intensely while serving some time in the local jail, and counseled for any mental illness accompanying the addiction. Participants are followed for two years after graduation from the program. Recidivism rate is less than 10 percent.
This is such an impressive percentage — when you consider how many lives have been turned around.
I have watched that little one-month-old baby, Joey, grow up as one of my grandson’s best friends, and her older son, Zach, mature into a fine young man. My husband, Iain Macpherson, taught both boys. We’ve gotten to know and like Vanessa’s husband, Nelson Bryan, through our mutual theatre activities. Vanessa has been a Sunday school teacher at our church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, for at least six years.
Iain and our daughter and son-in-law, Laurel and T.J. Aiello, join me in this wish to have this fine lady succeed my brother as public defender.
We ask for your vote for Vanessa Bryan for public defender in the May 2 Republican Primary.
Peggy & Iain Macpherson
Laurel & T.J. Aiello
Franklin, TN 37064
Attorney says Schwalb’s campaign promise is wrong
To the Editor:
During the “Candidate Debate” hosted by WAKM Radio last Friday, John Schwalb, who wants to replace an incumbent Circuit judge in the upcoming Republican primary, made one of the worst campaign promises I have ever heard in a judicial election. When asked by the radio hosts what changes he would make to the way the Circuit Court does business, Mr. Schwalb promised to do away with the current system by which cases are assigned and handled and replace it with what he said was “the way the Courts in Davidson County manage their cases.” He then described what he meant by saying that under his proposal a case, once randomly assigned by the Circuit Clerk’s office, would remain with the original judge to whom the case was assigned until it was disposed of. Under this proposed system each of the four trial court judges would have a docket of criminal as well as civil cases and those civil cases would include cases filed in the Circuit Court and the Chancery Court.
Mr. Schwalb’s campaign promise is not only factually wrong – that is not the system used in Davidson County where there are separate criminal and civil circuit courts as well as separate Chancery Courts and a separate Probate Court – it is a promise that is bad on its own merits. His proposal is a bad system for three reasons.
First, it would complicate rather than streamline the management of civil cases. Currently, two of the four Circuit Judges handle the Williamson County criminal docket while the other two judges handle the civil dockets from the Circuit and Chancery Courts. In this way parties who have a civil case do not have to risk their cases being set for trial or other disposition only to have them “bumped” on the docket in order to make room for criminal cases that have a constitutional priority. Mr. Schwalb’s proposed system would do just the opposite. Moreover, currently the judges are able to schedule two civil motion dockets each month where routine as well as more complicated “non-jury” matters can be decided. Under Schwalb’s system each judge would have to hold both a criminal and civil motion docket each month and busy lawyers, even those who only do either criminal or only civil trial work, would find themselves having to go to court twice as often for the same number of cases.
Second, it would decrease the quality of our courts. Under the current system the Circuit Judges work a two-year rotation between the criminal and civil dockets. This way, for two years, the judges are able to concentrate on the substantive and procedural differences between these two diametrically opposite aspects of the justice system thereby improving the quality of their decision making. By comparison, Davidson County’s criminal court judges never hear civil cases and the civil judges never hear felony cases. Under Mr. Schwalb’s proposal each circuit judge would have to be a “jack of all trades;” anyone familiar with that phrase knows that the description ends: “but master of none.” The same thing would happen to our trial court judges if they were required to hear a murder case on Monday, a will contest on Tuesday, a divorce case on Wednesday, a robbery case on Thursday and a contract dispute on Friday. Such a system would be bad for the judges and the litigants.
Third, it is a system that Williamson County outgrew over a decade ago. By his own admission over the radio, Mr. Schwalb has not been practicing in Williamson County very long and does not know many of the other lawyers in the Williamson County Bar Association. His admitted lack of experience might explain why he is not aware of the fact that his campaign promise of a “new way” to manage cases is in reality the old way that worked when the population of the county and the case loads in our courts were a small fraction of what they are today. The system for managing cases was changed to meet the demands of a growing population and increasing case load.
Judges Easter, Bivins, Davies and Heldman have done a good job managing a difficult task. No system is perfect, but turning back the clock the way John Schwalb promised is nothing short of ridiculous.
Joseph A. Woodruff
Franklin, TN 37067
Longtime friends urge support for Ernie Williams
To the Editor:
The year was 1990 and our boys were entering Mrs. Stegall’s first-grade class at Grassland Elementary. In the next few years we would come to know Nancy and Ernie Williams as good friends spending time together at activities such as talent shows, baseball games, the Bethlehem fish fry and impromptu potlucks. We were with the them when Ernie, then U.S. Attorney for Middle District of Tennessee, presented the American flag that would fly over the new Grassland school, when our sons Matt and Jared took turns pitching in Grassland Athletic Association (GAA), when their daughter Vicki had her first child, and when our dear friend and former county commissioner Nancy passed away very suddenly in 2002.
We have known the Williams many years. We know Ernie now. We want you to know him as well to know his investment of himself in this community. We also would like you to know of his investment in this county. Since 2002 he has been one of our two Ninth District county commissioners and has represented us well.
You could probably guess Ernie is an old Marine when he talks. He is forthright. Not a bad quality at all when it comes to politics. You can tell he has led men and women, but what becomes more apparent is his commitment to not only the individual, but to the whole. He understands what it means to serve.
In the last four years Ernie has served the Ninth District and Williamson County. He has helped ensure that we are safe as chairmen of the Law Enforcement Committee. He has helped finance and maintain the high standards of education that attract so many to Williamson County. He has supported parks and recreation so our kids have a place to play. He has proven good stewardship by voting to hold down property taxes.
Ernie Williams is a fine person and friend. He is a great representative for the Ninth District. Since 1979 when the Williams moved to Williamson County and Ernie began his work here, he has invested himself in this community. Since 1994 when Nancy became a county commissioner Ernie supported his wife s involvement in local representation. Since 2002 he has invested himself in this community and county as our district representative.
We would like to ask you to join us in voting for incumbent Ernie Williams as one of our two Ninth District commissioners. Our votes will have a strong impact on our homes and families and on the investments we are making in Williamson County. Please vote for Ernie Williams every vote will count!
Bill and Robbin Holland
Franklin, TN 37069
Posted on: 4/19/2006