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Irvine campaigns for criminal judge post

Ken Irvine said his wide variety of criminal law experience, ability to handle a courtroom and early success in relieving case backlog are reasons he should get your vote to return as Knox County Criminal Court Judge, Division II.

Irvine’s current post is his first-ever judgeship, having been appointed by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen Aug. 20, 2007, as former judge, the late Ray Jenkins, was in failing health.

Irvine, a Democrat who lost to Jenkins in the 2006 general election, will face Republican Bob McGee in the Aug. 7 general election.

“I’ve been involved in criminal law for over 25 years now,” Irvine said during a recent interview. “I’ve done prosecution work, I’ve done extensive defense work and I’ve done a great deal of appellate work also. But it’s always been in serious criminal cases.

“My time in criminal law has been working in front of criminal courts, in front of juries, handling cases that are complex.”

On the bench, “We’ve really got cases moving again,” Irvine said. “A lot of cases had gotten backed up in Division II when Judge Jenkins’ health was failing and he just wasn’t able to move the cases at the rate they needed to move. And we’ve been able now to get those cases moving. They’re still backed up, and it’s probably going to take the better part of a year to get the backlog cleared out.

“Since I’ve been there I do believe that cases are getting heard and the people are getting fair hearings,” Irvine added. “I think the lawyers appreciate that, and the victims and the defendants are appreciating that they’re getting timely hearings and cases are not being put off.”

Keys to running a courtroom? “Just kinda keep people focused and being prepared so that they’re aren’t delays,” Irvine said. “I think that’s a big responsibility for the judge.

“I think my experience on the prosecution, defense and appellate side has helped me be able to move cases because I have become so experienced with the law, I’ve spent so much time writing appellate briefs and studying law that that’s a real plus that helps me move cases a little faster when someone else doesn’t have that experience.”

Born in Hopkinton, Mass., Irvine moved with his family to South Florida at age 12. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and social science from Florida State University in 1987.

“I didn’t start as a lawyer, I started as a paralegal in the Army,” said Irvine, whose seven years military experience included service with Army Rangers and 101st Airborne. “I still did, then, mostly prosecution work for those seven years, and then I spent another year as a prosecutor in Knox County.”

As for his East Tennessee roots, “My family moved to the Crossville area when I was in the military,” Irvine said, adding The University of Tennessee School of Law “was a good fit.” He earned a law degree in 1990, finishing eighth in his class while graduating with high honors and earning Order of the Coif, the James L. Powers II Award of Excellence in Criminal Advocacy.

Irvine also was elected president of the statewide defense lawyers association in 1990.

Having practiced criminal law in Knox County for 16 years, Irvine earned the Pro Bono Award from Legal Aid of East Tennessee while twice awarded the Robert W. Ritchie award for service to criminal defense bar.

Irvine’s first law-related job in Knox County was with Ritchie Fels & Dillard PC firm. Irvine then moved to Memphis, where he clerked for Judge Joe B. Jones on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals for one year.

Irvine, 49, then opened his own practice.

The Knox County judge and his wife, Terri, are residents of Fourth and Gill neighborhood in Knoxville.


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