published Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Hamilton County moves to hire four magistrates


Oct. 5: Security and Corrections Committee meeting at 8:30 a.m.

Oct. 10: Magistrate applications are due to commissioners by noon.


Contracts expire Oct. 31 for:

* Larry Ables, chief magistrate

* Randall Russell

* Pete Johnson

* Yolanda Mitchell

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The Hamilton County Commission has kicked off its magistrate hiring process and will be taking applications for four positions up for review at the end of October.

Magistrates -- technically known as judicial commissioners -- are primarily tasked with setting bonds, issuing warrants and appointing public defenders at night and on weekends. They are required to work at least 40 hours a week.

Security and Corrections Committee Chairman Mitch McClure, whose committee oversees the program, said a meeting will be held Oct. 5 to discuss hiring procedures and set interview dates with prospective candidates. Applications are due to the commission office by noon Oct. 10.

"I would love to have been able to do a public hearing prior to this process," McClure said. "We will have to do one later though."

Commissioners can hold annual public hearings about the program, but they are not required to do so.

McClure, who served more than a decade ago on the Blue Ribbon Committee that created the program, said he thinks it is due for a full review and that he plans to conduct one later.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said he received notice that at least one of four magistrates, Pete Johnson, would not be reapplying. Johnson told Henry he plans to take another legal position.

Henry and other commissioners worked in years past to create staggered terms for magistrates so that no more than two would be up for consideration at a time. But all four positions are up for review this year.

"We got a little behind due to the appointments at the beginning of the year," Henry said.

The Security and Corrections Committee will consider how to re-create the staggered cycle, McClure said.

Magistrates must be licensed lawyers. They are authorized also to also civil law but not criminal law.

In 2010, magistrates earned $59,363 salaries, plus benefits. The chief magistrate earned an additional $5,000.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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