Three appeals court judges among 9 seeking TN Supreme Court seat

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Three state appeals judges appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam are among the nine applicants to fill a vacancy on the bench of Tennessee’s highest court.

The opening created by the retirement of Justice Gary Wade in September provided Haslam the opportunity to give the five-member court a Republican majority after decades of Democratic control.

The appeals judges applying for the vacancy are Thomas “Skip” Frierson II of Morristown, Robert Montgomery Jr. of Kingsport and Roger Page of Medina. The governor’s two appointments to the Supreme Court so far — Jeff Bivins and Holly Kirby — previously served as state appeals judges.

Haslam appointed Page to the western section of the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2011; Frierson to the eastern section of the Court of Appeals in 2013; and Montgomery to the eastern section of the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2014.

The other applicants are tax and corporate attorney Matthew Cavitch of Eads; commercial and employment law attorney Mark Fulks of Johnson City; Department of General Services compliance officer Ted Hayden of Gallatin; employment and civil rights attorney Robert David Meyers of Memphis; criminal defense attorney Herbert Moncier of Knoxville; and Juvenile Court chief counsel and administrative officer Larry Scroggs of Germantown.

Moncier in 2013 sued Haslam in federal court seeking to prevent the governor from naming judges to appeals court benches. He argued that the state’s judicial appointment system deprived him of his right to stand for election to the criminal appeals judgeship that Haslam had named Montgomery to.

Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan dismissed the case in February 2014.

A judicial appointment panel appointed by Haslam will interview the candidates on Oct. 27, and will then narrow down the field to three finalists for the governor to choose from.

While voters last year voted to give state lawmakers the power to reject the governor’s appointments, the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a mechanism for how to do so this spring. Haslam’s appointment would be considered approved if lawmakers still can’t resolve their differences within 60 days of the Jan. 12 start of next year’s session.

The partisan makeup of the high court has been a subject of heavy campaigning in recent years. The constitutional amendment that gave lawmakers the power to reject judicial nominees also confirmed the state’s system of having judges be appointed by the governor and then standing for yes-no retention votes rather than in contested elections.

Only one justice has ever been defeated in a retention election. An effort bankrolled to the tune of $605,000 by Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s political action committee to defeat any of three Democratic incumbents fell far short last year, as most of the legal community rallied behind Justices Wade, Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark.

But Wade announced this summer that he would retire just a year into his second eight-year term to become dean of the Lincoln Memorial University law school.

Here’s a thumbnail bio of each applicant, part of Richard Locker’s report:

Matthew P. Cavitch, 58, of Eads, a sole practitioner specializing in tax and corporate law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard College and 1982 graduate of the Harvard Law School, he has lived in Tennessee since 1989.

Thomas Radcliffe Frierson, 57, of Morristown, a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals since 2013 and previously a Chancery Court judge in Hamblen County. He is a 1980 graduate of the University of Tennessee and 1983 graduate of the UT law school.

Mark A. Fulks, 46, of Johnson City, an attorney in the Johnson City office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz since 2012, a former state attorney general from 2000 to 2012, and a former lawyer in the Memphis area. He is a 1991 graduate of East Tennessee State University and a 1998 graduate of the University of Memphis law school.

Ted M. Hayden, 57, of Gallatin, executive director of compliance for the real estate asset management division of the state Department of General Services and formerly in private law practice in Memphis. The new appointee must be a resident of East or West Tennessee because the state constitution says no more than two justices on the state Supreme Court may reside in the same grand division. Hayden says he is applying as a West Tennessee resident and would live in Shelby County, although he currently lives in Middle Tennessee. He is a 1980 graduate of Murray State University and a 1983 graduate of Vanderbilt University’s law school.

Robert David Meyers, 59, of Memphis, a partner in the Memphis law firm Glankler Brown. Meyers has been a member of the Shelby County Election Commission since 2009 and is currently its chairman. He is a 1979 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, and a 1983 graduate of the UT Health Science Center’s College of Nursing. He obtained his law degree from the UT law school in 1986.

Herbert S. Moncier, 69, of Knoxville, an attorney in private practice who specializes in criminal defense, personal rights, governmental litigation for plaintiffs and constitutional litigation. In 2007, Moncier was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days by the Tennessee Supreme Court for conduct while representing a client in federal court that also resulted from his suspension from practice in the U.S. District Courts of East Tennessee for seven years. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from UT and his law degree from the UT law school in 1968.

Robert H. Montgomery Jr., 62, of Kingsport, a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals since last year, and formerly a Sullivan County Criminal Court judge and Sullivan County assistant district attorney general. He is a 1975 graduate of Vanderbilt University and a 1979 graduate of the UT law school..

Roger Amos Page, 60, of Medina, a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals since 2011 and formerly a Circuit Court judge in Madison, Henderson and Chester counties and an assistant state attorney general. He obtained a pharmacy degree from the UT College of Pharmacy in Memphis in 1978 and practiced pharmacy before attending the University of Memphis law school, where he received his law degree in 1984.

Larry Scroggs, 74, of Germantown, the chief counsel and chief administrative officer of the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County. He was formerly in private law practices in Memphis and Germantown and was the part-time Germantown Municipal Court judge from 1980 to 1986. Scroggs is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He graduated from Harding University in 1963, served in the Navy from 1964 to 1967, and obtained his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1971. He served as a state representative from the Germantown area. from 1996 through 2002.

The Governor’s Council’s meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 27 at the Legislative Plaza state office building, 301 6th Avenue North in Nashville. During the hearing, anyone may express his or her opinions on the applicants.