(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final in a series of the judicial races in Rutherford County)
Incumbent David Loughry and challenger Barry Tidwell are matched up in the race for General Sessions Judge, Part II, as the Aug. 7 election arrives.
Loughry, an Independent, and Tidwell, a Republican, answered these questions from The Post in advance of Thursday’s vote.
Personal: Attend First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro and served on the church’s Building and Finance committees. Member of the Blue Raider Athletic Association. Brother and sister-in-law are Ed and Andrea Loughry. Ed is vice chair of Pinnacle Financial Partners and was president of Cavalry Banking. Andrea was the 2012 Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Business Legend of the Year and served as vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees.
Background: Native of Rutherford County. Grew up in Lascassas, attended city elementary schools, and graduated from Central High School. Graduate of University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of Tennessee School of Law. After graduating law school in 1972, served as 1st Lieutenant of the U.S. Army Transportation Corp at Fort Story and Fort Eustis.
Left the military in 1973 to return to Murfreesboro to start practicing law.
Before being appointed by the Rutherford County Commission in 1984 to serve the rest of General Sessions Judge James Clayton’s term, practiced law for 17 years. Worked at Smith & Sellers for two years, before establishing practice, representing clients in many areas of the law, including criminal, civil, divorce, bankruptcy and probate.
For the past five years, taught at MTSU as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Department.
Serve on the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct and am past president of Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference, Rutherford and Cannon County Bar Association, and Andrew Jackson Inn of Courts, which is part of the Inns of Court national association. Also serve on the Board of Governors for the American Judges Association.
As General Sessions Judge, helped establish the Rutherford County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program. Wrote the private act to establish the Rutherford County General Sessions Court, Part III, which was approved by the County Commission and state Legislature.
Why are you running for election?: I enjoy working with people. Early in my career, Judge James W. Buckner encouraged me to become a judge. With his mentoring, I have pursued that dream. For the past 24 years, I have served as a General Sessions judge for Rutherford County. The growth of Rutherford County during that time has exploded, and court dockets have grown, as well.
I hope I’ve made a difference in people’s lives. We all have to live in a society of rules and regulations that apply to everyone, so that people can feel safe in their communities. I’ve tried to be fair and treat everyone equally, while maintaining the integrity of the office.
What is the most important characteristic a judge should have?: Judges have to walk a fine line. As I’ve said earlier, the law applies to everyone, but judges still need to be tolerant. You need to listen to people to find out the source of the problem that leads to crimes being committed. Most people in court have simply made a mistake of judgment and are not career criminals. Judges need to ensure that all the issues are addressed so that defendants will not re-offend. Listening is a powerful tool.
I think there are several important characteristics a judge should have – integrity, fairness, an understanding of the law and courtroom experience. I brought 17 years of law and courtroom experience to my role as General Sessions judge. Initially, I heard juvenile, probate, civil and criminal cases. I’ve been fortunate to gain such a broad range of experience during my years on the bench and privileged to serve the citizens of Rutherford County.
What will be the foundation of your decision-making process on the bench?: Decision-making is a rather complicated process. As a judge I only deal with criminal cases; so first, you need to find the problem that has led to someone being arrested. Many times drugs and alcohol are involved in criminal activity. As a judge, I need to listen to all the parties and be patient.
The law is my foundation for the decisions I make on the bench. Everything starts in General Sessions. We issue warrants, hold preliminary hearings and set bonds. Where probable cause is found, those cases go to Circuit Court. We also resolve thousands of Tennessee Highway Patrol tickets and criminal cases each year.
Why are you running as a Democrat, Republican or Independent?: Judges do not need to be Democrats or Republicans. They should be independent thinkers and make decisions based on the laws and statutes passed by the Legislature. Political parties should have no part in how decisions are made. If you go before a judge, it shouldn’t make a difference whether you are a Democrat or Republican.
I’m running as an Independent because the law is the law. Interpretation and enforcement of the law should not be a partisan matter. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given and respectfully ask for the voters to let me continue to serve them.
Personal: Married to wife Bippy for almost 22 years. Have four children and two grandchildren. Bippy is a 1988 graduate of Smyrna High School and is currently a kindergarten teacher at David Youree Elementary in Smyrna. Mother, Barbara Adams Tidwell, is a 1962 graduate of Smyrna High School and, along with my father, Larry Tidwell, lives in Antioch. Other than three years in the late 1990s, my wife and I have lived in Rutherford County since coming to MTSU in 1988.
Life-long member of the Rural Hill Church of Christ, which my great-grandfather helped begin over 100 years ago. Member of board of directors for Raiders for Christ (The MTSU Christian student center), Ezell-Harding Christian School, and Tennessee Habitat for Humanity.
Background: 1992 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and 1998 graduate of the Nashville School of Law. Clerked during law school for the Metropolitan Legal Department in Davidson County and was law clerk for the Honorable Cheryl Blackburn, Criminal Court Judge in the 20th Judicial District.
Upon leaving Judge Blackburn, opened the Law Office of Barry Tidwell. Partner in the law firms of Tidwell Cartee and Price & Tidwell. Currently practice with the Murfreesboro law firm of Bullock, Fly, Hornsby & Evans. Practice includes criminal defense, personal injury, and domestic relations. Have handled cases in all levels of Tennessee State Courts including the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Why are you running for election?: While the law clerk for Judge Cheryl Blackburn I developed a true respect for the judicial process. Working in a judicial office on a day-to-day basis, being involved writing memoranda of law after hearing both sides of an argument, and applying the law to a set of facts gave me the bug, if you will. Since those days spent clerking I have aspired to sit on the bench as a judge. After much thought and prayer, my wife and I decided that this election was the right time to run for the seat of General Sessions judge.
What is the most important characteristic a judge should have?: Fairness and impartiality are the two most important characteristics of a judge. Being a good listener is critical, and applying the law to the facts is a must.
What will be the foundation of your decision-making process on the bench?: The Tennessee and United States Constitution, as well as the laws of the State of Tennessee, will be the foundation of my decision-making process. Very simply, I intend to impartially apply the law to the facts presented.
Why are you running as a Republican?: I was raised with strong conservative values that I still use as a guide in my life. I am a member of the Republican Party and therefore chose to seek the Republican nomination, which I received, in the March 6, 2014 primary election.