County pledges support of 32nd Judicial District
December 19, 2019
Lewis County Circuit Judge Michael Spitzer appeared before the Lewis County Board of Commissioners Monday evening to thank them for consideration of an endorsement to the Tennessee Legislature for the creation of a 32nd District to serve Lewis, Perry and Hickman Counties.
Spitzer was appointed the fifth judge for the 21st District by former Governor Bill Haslam in October of 2018 to relieve an extensive case load.
Historically, judges for the 21st have been elected from Williamson County which has outpaced growth in the other three counties significantly in recent years.
A final report of the Advisory Task Force on the Composition of Judicial Districts, presented in December of this year, recommended the 21st be realigned due to demographic changes. Williamson County population has increased from 58,108 in 1980 to 231,729 currently, with growth expected to continue.
By 2039, Williamson County’s population could reach 340,816, The Boyd Center estimates.
“Public officials and private citizens from Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties stridently expressed their view that they are ignored by officials in Williamson County,” the final report read.
Both the District Attorney General and District Public Defender report “they devote additional State resources to these counties which would otherwise be unavailable to them because of the county resources provided to both offices by Williamson County,” the report continued.
The Task Force recommendation to create a separate judicial district followed the comment, “the differences...can not be reconciled. The district no longer constitutes a ‘community of interest.’”
Support of creation of a new district by the Task Force was based on four basic arguments. There is strong public opinion in favor of the move. A weighted caseload study indicates Lewis, Hickman and Perry should be served by a single judge, providing opportunity for cost savings to the State. A new district would align communities with common interests, suggesting Williamson has become more urban and the other three counties are rural. And lastly, the Task Force recognized the three counties are contiguous and share strong historic, economic and social interests with each other. Travel time for judges would also be greatly minimized.
A motion by Lewis County Commissioner Michael King was seconded by Commissioner Patrick Halfacre with 16 commissioners voting in favor. Commissioner Aren Ragsdale, an employee of the state of Tennessee, abstained and Commissioner Robert Brewer was absent.
The Senate of the State of Tennessee passed a bill in the 111th General Assembly recognizing the need to separate the counties. Lewis County’s resolution of support will be sent to the House of Representatives at the beginning of the 2020 Legislative session.
Perry County commissioners voted on a similar resolution Monday evening, voting unanimously in favor of the creation of a 32nd judicial district.