This story was updated May 30, 2018, at 10:24 p.m. with more information.
Hamilton County commissioners voted Wednesday to hire two new judicial commissioners rather than rehire the long-serving chief magistrate and another incumbent.
Commissioners chose Lorrie Miller and Stuart Brown, and then chose Miller to serve as the new chief magistrate for six months.
How they voted
This list shows each commissioner’s vote for first magistrate post, second magistrate post and chief magistrate.
› Chester Bankston: Miller, Brown, Miller
› Greg Beck: Russell, Brown, Miller
› Tim Boyd: Russell, Floyd, Miller
› Randy Fairbanks: Russell, Floyd, Andrew Basler
› Jim Fields: Miller, Brown, Miller
› Joe Graham: Miller, Brown, Miller
› Warren Mackey: Russell, Brown, Miller
› Greg Martin: Miller, Brown, Miller
› Sabrena Turner: Miller, Brown, Basler
The vote was 5-4 for Miller over incumbent Randy Russell and 7-2 for Brown over incumbent Brandy Spurgin-Floyd. Then commissioners voted 7-2 again to make Miller the new chief magistrate. They also voted to extend the magistrates' terms from one year to two.
The four judicial commissioners work nights and weekends in the Hamilton County Jail, setting bonds and signing search and arrest warrants. The county commission created the program in the early 1990s to ease jail overcrowding by getting people out on bond more quickly. Two commissioners are appointed in the spring and two in the fall.
Commissioners this year voted to raise magistrates' base pay from around $65,000 a year to $80,000 in the coming year and up to $92,000 over four years. The chief magistrate gets a $9,200 bump, according to County Attorney Rheubin Taylor.
The pay raise came after a ruling from Tennessee's Administrative Office of the Courts that full-time magistrates are judicial officials and can't practice law on the side.
With the pay hike, commissioners opened up applications for the two expired positions held by Russell and Floyd. Ten people applied, including the incumbents, and commissioners interviewed them last week.
During her interview last week, Miller told commissioners she had 20 years of criminal law experience and was thoroughly familiar with requirements for bail and for warrants. Miller made several suggestions for changes in the magistrate program including consistent procedures and forms, better scheduling and improved reporting to the commission.
Brown's eclectic career includes nearly 20 years in criminal law, as well as decades in business before that. He also told commissioners he had a thorough understanding of bail and warrants.facebook
Russell had served as a magistrate since 2010 and as chief since 2012. He told commissioners he had trained five new magistrates and supervised the program, but some commissioners were unhappy that he had failed to make quarterly reports on the magistrates' activities and hours.
Floyd served for about 18 months and said in her interview she felt she was just hitting her stride in the program.
Commissioners didn't discuss why they voted the ways they did, although Joe Graham thanked the two outgoing magistrates for their service and urged all the candidates to consider applying again in the fall.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.