I am writing to respond to Chris Helton’s letter regarding the proposed amendment to the East Ridge City Charter, Ordinance #1166 (regulating the East Ridge City Judge). This amendment updates the residency requirement for the East Ridge City Judge from “East Ridge” to “Hamilton County” and clarifies the East Ridge City Charter to prohibit the East Ridge City Judge from holding any other nonjudicial elected office.
I strongly disagree with Mr. Helton’s characterization of East Ridge City Judge as a “lucrative” office. The office of Municipal Judge in East Ridge (or any other City with a part-time Judge) is far from “lucrative.” In fact, as Mr. Helton well knows, the lawyers who serve as part-time Municipal Judges often donate hundreds of hours of their time to their judicial duties for minimal pay each year. They will all tell you that they do not serve as the City Judge for the money – they do it to serve the community and to provide the benefit of a fair and impartial justice system to our citizens.
We all benefit from having excellent judges at every level of the judicial system.
The changes proposed in Ordinance #1166 provide the very best opportunity for the citizens of East Ridge to have qualified competent attorneys who reside in Hamilton County to campaign for election of City Judge in East Ridge. There is no reason to limit this important office to residents in the East Ridge city limits. The City of East Ridge Municipal Court handles hundreds of cases prosecuted every week by the Hamilton County District Attorney’s office for violations of the laws of the State of Tennessee. The citizens of East Ridge, Hamilton County and the State of Tennessee have the best judicial system possible when well qualified, seasoned and experienced Judges are presiding over these important cases – whether the Judge resides in East Ridge or elsewhere in Hamilton County.
The amendment to the charter on the current ballot gives citizens of East Ridge the opportunity to vote for the most qualified candidate to serve as their Judge. Ultimately, this ordinance does nothing more than allow East Ridge to attract more qualified candidates for the office of City Judge than ever before. Once the candidate qualifies for election, the voters of East Ridge will then decide with their vote who should serve as their Judge. Mr. Helton wants to unreasonably restrict the field of eligible candidates for East Ridge City Judge by limiting the voter’s choice.
Vote “For The Amendment” to adopt the revisions to Ordinance #1166 – then let the Voters, not Mr. Helton, elect the next City Judge.
_ Barry L. Abbott, Esq.