Deputy AG, former Cracker Barrel exec among appeals court applicants

Baker, Gullett, Butler Snow partners also throw hat in ring for Cottrell bench seat

A deputy attorney general and the former legal boss at restaurant chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store are two of the 10 candidates to take a seat on the Tennessee Court of Appeals in a year and change.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will consider Janet Kleinfelter’s and Forrest Shoaf’s applications alongside those of members of law firms Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, Butler Snow O’Mara Stevens & Cannada and Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin. The applicants are looking to fill the seat that will be vacated by Judge Patricia Cottrell, who last month said she will step down at the end of August 2014. That news set in motion a hurry-up gathering of the Judicial Nominating Commission, which needed to quickly gather and vet candidates because it will seek to exist at the end of this month.

Kleinfelter is a veteran of the state’s legal team. At the AG’s office, she heads up the public interest division, which oversees the operation of nonprofit entities, handles charitable oversight and charitable solicitations as well as issues involving open meetings, public records and campaigns and elections.

Shoaf retired in late 2011 from Cracker Barrel, where he had been chief legal officer and secretary for seven years. Since then, the 63-year-old has invested in former Nashville Scene Editor Bruce Dobie’s media company and waded into the Republican political arena, where he has mulled running against Scott DesJarlais in 2014.

Also applying to fill Cottrell’s seat are three attorneys from three of the city’s more prominent law firms. They are Matt Sweeney of Baker Donelson, Neal McBrayer of Butler Snow and Linda Knight of Gullett Sanford.

Sweeney is a former Circuit Court judge in Nashville and presiding judge of the district's Trial Courts. He also has taught trial practice as an adjunct faculty member at Vanderbilt University School of Law and civil procedure as a lecturer at the Nashville School of Law.

McBrayer specializes in bankruptcy and creditors' rights cases as well as work involving financial services and transportation and logistics companies. Knight also focuses on bankruptcy law as well as commercial litigation and general business law.

The other applicants for Cottrell’s seat are as follows:

• Robert Lee Holloway Jr., Circuit Court judge for the 22nd Judicial District in Columbia

• Kathryn Ann Stephenson, assistant general counsel at Corrections Corp. of America

• Christina Henley Duncan, partner at Rogers Duncan & North in Manchester

• Robert L. Huskey of The Huskey Firm in Manchester

• Nashville solo practitioner John Kitch

The Judicial Nominating Commission will meet next Friday in Nashville to interview and hear public comments regarding the applicants. From there, it will send its recommendations to Gov. Bill Haslam.