Three Republicans are running for Washington County Sessions Court Judge Part II in the May 3 primary.
The race to succeed retiring Judge Don Arnold involves Johnathan A. Minga, Michael Rasnake and Stephanie Sherwood. The winner of the GOP contest will be unopposed on the Aug. 4 general election ballot.
Minga is a graduate of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. He is currently practicing with the Tony Seaton law firm and is a member of the national Keenan Trial Institute.
Rasnake is a graduate of the Cecil C. Humphreys Law School at the University of Memphis. He has practiced law for 25 years, including work as a private attorney and in the public defender’s office. He has spent the last 16 years as an assistant attorney general.
Sherwood is a graduate of the New England School of Law. She is a Johnson City native, where she has operated a law practice for 14 years devoted to criminal, civil and juvenile matters.
• Why do you want to be a judge?
Minga: “I believe this position is the most important thing I personally can do as a legal professional. I’ve spent 14 years standing beside Tennesseans advocating for their rights. While I love what I do, I’ve also learned that I can help exponentially more individuals and families in our community as a Sessions Court judge. I want all of our children to grow up in a safe community where we all have confidence in our local justice system.”
Rasnake: “I want to restore faith and hope in our justice system. The laws we have now are good, but they are only meaningful if enforced as written. If we are to maintain a judicial system in which we can trust, the judge must apply the law fairly, consistently and firmly. As a founding member of the Washington County Recovery Court, my goal is to continue holding drug abusers accountable while extending hope by giving them tools to turn their lives from depending on society to contributing to society.”
Sherwood: “I have had the privilege of representing individuals, businesses and children in General Sessions courts in eight Tennessee counties. The common thread in every matter is the impact this particular court can have on the citizens and businesses in a community. I want to spend the rest of my career in a position of public service and put all I have leaned in my practice and judicial experience to work for the most good.”
• Why do you believe you have the temperament to serve as a judge?
Minga: “I strongly believe every person who walks into a courtroom deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. I’ve seen firsthand how a judicial decision can change a person’s life and I respect that responsibility. I’ve served as a Tennessee Supreme Court Listed Rule 31 Mediator, which means I have been trained and have experience as a neutral, not just an advocate, in dispute resolution techniques and effective listening. Above all, I genuinely care about others and am willing to listen to what people have to say, but I’m also not afraid to make a difficult decision.”
Rasnake: “We are all created in the image of God. No one of us is better than any other. As a defense attorney, private attorney and assistant prosecutor, I have had to deal with clients and parties in all manner of highly volatile, highly emotionally charged situations. Often, I must explain the law as it relates to the facts of a case and guide litigants through the steps of the judicial process. I know that if the judge can be the calm voice in the courtroom and maintain decorum, it goes a long way in keeping all the parties behaving civilly.”
Sherwood: “Good judges listen carefully and apply the law fairly and evenly. Good judges treat every person with dignity and respect. This is my promise. I have made it a priority in my career as an attorney and when serving as a substitute judge, to build a reputation for fairness and a professional demeanor.”
• Is there something from your personal or professional background that you believe will be an asset to you on the bench?
Minga: “Aside from being a mediator trained in dispute resolution, on a personal level, I think being a husband and the father of both a 9- and 1-year-old shapes me as a person and potential judge. I’m extremely active in my children’s lives and as they grow older, I will have first-hand knowledge of what families are going through. Sessions Court, whether it’s juvenile, domestic, or criminal issues, often revolves around families. I’ve seen families torn apart, but I also have helped rehabilitate and bring families back together.”
Rasnake: “I was blessed to be raised in a loving Christian home with parents who taught me right from wrong and to respect authority. Having practiced for the defense and prosecution, I know there are two sides to every story. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17) During my 16 years as a prosecutor, I have had to weigh the facts and the law on a daily basis as to whether there is enough evidence or not to pursue charges, and if so, what charges can be sustained.”
Sherwood: “Working as an attorney in private practice has allowed my to regularly represent clients on nearly every side of an issue. I have learned to evaluate all elements of an argument or situation in criminal, civil and juvenile matters. I can truly assure those coming into my court that I do not bring a bias or prejudice to any matters.”
The early voting period for the May 3 primary is April 13 to April 28. Monday is the last day to register to vote in the election.