KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Only two lawyers have filed applications to replace a retiring Knox County Criminal Court judge, throwing the replacement process a bit askew.
Because only Kyle Hixson and Wesley Stone formally submitted their names, Gov. Bill Lee now has the option of picking any person he wants who is qualified under the law to be a judge in Tennessee.
The attorneys seek to replace Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee, who is stepping down at the end of the year. He has several years remaining in his eight-year term.
The law requires the governor to pick a replacement at least for the short term.
Under routine practice, the Trial Court Vacancy Commission screens applications. It's called upon under the law to provide the governor with the names of three candidates.
But because only Hixson and Stone applied, it can't follow its prescribed function, according to an Oct. 23 letter from William C. Koch Jr., chairman of the commission, to Lee.
State law now "permits you to fill the vacancy with any person of your choosing who is duly licensed to practice law and otherwise fully qualified to serve as a judge of the criminal court in (Knox County)," Koch's letter states.
Koch also forwarded the applications of Hixson and Stone to Lee as he mulls a candidate.
Hixson is a prosecutor in the Knox County District Attorney General's Office. He first joined in 2008, left for a couple years to work in the Tennessee Attorney General's Office and then returned to Knox County in 2014.
Stone this week announced he, too, wanted to be the Criminal Court judge.
He is an attorney with the Hodges, Doughty and Carson firm in Knoxville. He is primarily a criminal defense lawyer.
Stone has practiced law nearly 20 years. He previously worked about eight months as an assistant public defender in the 21st Judicial District, which includes Williamson County.
He grew up in New Tazewell. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee in agriculture, and received his law degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
Criminal Court judges preside over criminal prosecutions in Knox County. There are three Criminal Court judges in the judicial district.