“It’s just not the right timing for it,” he told WBIR 10News Thursday. “I think politicians – elected officials – need to find ways to save money and streamline things and that’s what I was trying to do, but I didn’t seem to be getting the right traction from folks.”
The criminal court clerk is responsible for the criminal, sessions and fourth circuit courts. The circuit court clerk oversees civil sessions and juvenile court.
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In a two-page memo sent to the Mayor’s Office, Hammond proposed several options.
He first suggested merging the criminal and civil sessions courts and putting them under the criminal court clerk's purview. He noted that the sessions court judges already hear cases in both courts and it “would be a relatively easy and smooth transition.”
Hammond’s second proposal - which he favored - would combine both operations but put everything under the control of the circuit court clerk, since the state constitution mandates that counties have a circuit court clerk, but not a criminal court clerk.
Hammond proposes making that move by September 2018 when his and Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Shanks' terms in office end. Since neither are term-limited they could each run for the circuit court clerk position.
Shanks at the time called the proposal "regressive."
"I think what he wants to do – he compared it to Blount County – and that’s the model for small counties," she said. "Large counties don’t do that because it provides better customer service for the court systems to be divided so that they can meet customer needs better."
The issue now is moot.
“Since Cathy had said she wasn’t running again, I thought it was a good idea to suggest it then,” Hammond said. “But it doesn’t seem to be the right time, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s not even an issue.”