The Kiwanis Club hosted a get-to-know the candidate event Thursday at its weekly meeting.
The focus was on judge candidates for the 10th Judicial Criminal Court seat and Circuit Judge Part 2 in the 10th Judicial District.
Incumbent 10th Judicial Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy, the only Democratic contender, was not available to attend the event, due to a court proceeding in another county within the district, according to Bruce Bradford, club president.
Present for the meeting were candidates for the 10th Judicial Criminal Court, Sandra Donaghy and Van Irion, who are both Republicans.
Donaghy said she is a resident of Bradley County who has practiced law in Anderson County for the past eight years.
“I want to come home,” she said, as one of the primary reasons for seeking the position in the court.
Donaghy was a former prosecutor under then-District Attorney General Jerry Estes.
Donaghy has also served as a public defender during her 30 years of experience in the law practice.
She said she would be a good steward of tax dollars, which pays for judges, clerks and other elements within the judicial system.
“What happens in court needs to be handled properly,” she stated regarding management and training of assets and personnel.
“My experience is broad and deep, handling murder cases and burglaries are some of the cases I have worked on,” Donaghy added.
Up next was Irion, who hails from Monroe County.
Irion said he practiced law in seven states and had constitutional law background as well as civil, criminal and other experiences.
“I am glad to say I had other jobs prior to being an attorney,” Irion said as he addressed the Kiwanians.
“Judges need to be able to relate to anyone,” he added.
Irion said the was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and has performed extensive research in the medical field as well. He has also been a volunteer in his community as a firefighter and EMT.
Chal Thompson, William “Bill” Brown and Andrew Freiberg are seeking the Part 3 Circuit Court judge’s seat.
Thompson was the first to speak on his qualifications and why he was pursuing the position.
“The Circuit Court handles approximately half of the Criminal Court actions that come from General Sessions Court,” Thompson said.
For the past 27 years, he said he has practiced as an assistant district attorney general.
“I have handled cases from simple to more complex,” Thompson added.
He also noted a strong commitment to the Judicial Drug Court program.
Thompson said he had been involved in the program for seven years.
“No one addicted ever started out thinking they would be an addict,” he said.
Drug Court is a step used for rehabilitation of offenders and to eliminate recidivism in the court system among repeat offenders.
“I would like to see the Drug Court system expand,” Thompson said.
Candidate Bill Brown said he has been a part of the Cleveland community just about all of his life.
“I was born in the parking lot behind my office,” he jokingly said.
Brown was born at Speck Hospital in downtown Cleveland, where the parking lot was adjacent to his law office on Ocoee Street.
Brown said he served in the military and practiced law at the same time.
He explained his commitment to public service as well as practice and having presented over 200 jury trials during his career. He also served as an assistant district attorney.
Brown said he has been in private practice since 1988 and has also held a seat for 15 years on the Cleveland City School board.
Freiberg was the final candidate to present his qualifications and what he would like to pursue if elected to the office.
“I have practiced criminal law in this district for 10 years as an assistant district attorney general and now in private practice,” Freiberg said.
He is also a proponent for the Drug Court system, citing the fact a majority of criminal activity such as burglary and medication thefts are related to an overall problem with drug activity.
“We need to make it uncomfortable to offenders,” he said, adding he feels the system needs to “reprioritize who we put in jail.”
He also noted there were a number of faith-based programs which could help with offenders who have become repeats in the judicial system.
Freiberg also said new technology should be utilized to speed up court processes.
He mentioned video conferencing and an easier and advanced warrant signing process as some of the improvements he would like to institute.
“I have the experience here … in the 10th District in the practice of criminal law,” said Freiberg.
After the meeting adjourned, Kiwanians had the opportunity to meet and ask questions of each candidate.