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Voting Smart Updates – July 22

July 22, 2014

vote for judges


Voting Smart: Back in River City’s Guide to Shelby Co.’s 2014 Judicial Elections is now COMPLETE!. We added three more sections:

  • Addition to Appellate Courts tab: Analysis and commentary on Tennessee Supreme Court incumbent retention elections 
  • Section IV: Amendment #2: Selecting Judges (appears on a new tab/page accessed from our home page). This section covers the proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 2, 2014 ballot. It will change the way we select judges in our appeals courts and the Tennessee Supreme Court


We have also changed one of our candidate recommendations.  Many of you saw a disturbing article about General Sessions Court Judge Lonnie Thompson in  Sunday’s Commercial Appeal. We knew that Judge Thompson had been charged in 2006 in a domestic violence incident. Noting the outstanding ratings Judge Thompson  received from our attorney panel and the fact that the charges were dropped, we initially  recommended Judge Thompson over newcomer Christian Johnson in the Div. 6 race. After reading the CA account of two more domestic violence incidents (1994 and 2013; all three incidents with separate women), we were forced to reconsider. Even though charges were dropped each time, the appearance of a pattern of conduct is deeply disturbing.

Under normal circumstances, we would not endorse a judicial candidate with a resume as thin as Mr. Johnson’s (he just passed the bar in October 2013). Mr. Johnson is, quite frankly, an unknown quantity. Still, the options here are not terrific. Mr.  Johnson worked his way through law school at the University of Memphis as a paralegal, and therefore has more experience than the average new JD. We are more comfortable with Mr. Johnson at this time than we are with Judge Thompson, and he will have our vote in the General Sessions Div. 6 race.

We suggest you consider both candidates very carefully before making your own decision.


get out and vote



Appellate Judicial Races Are Up!

July 19, 2014

TN-Supreme-Court-sign stock-590x260


The Appellate Courts section of Back in River City’s Voting Smart Guide is now available on the tab marked Appellate Courts on our home page. This is  complicated stuff, folks, and we are doing our best to make it clear to all readers.

We still have more to come, including background information on the referendum for three Supreme Court justices and a section we’re calling Politics in Judicial Selection.  This section will explain why we are voting to replace all three Supreme Court Justices on the ballot. It will also include links to their individual performance evaluations as rendered by the Tennessee Judicial Performance Commission. Finally, it will give you background you’ll need to navigate the political storm brewing around November’s referendum on a State Constitutional Amendment that will both alter the judicial selection system we’ve used for 20 years (arguably, illegally) and enshrine the concept of “merit selection” rather than contested elections for judges in appellate courts, including the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Watch for these (we hope, FINAL) sections to our Guide on Monday, July 21st.

We are honored, humbled and awed by the response our Voting Smart Guide is receiving. We have  received  many positive and encouraging from judges, judicial candidates and engaged voters.

thank you smiley

Remember that we are happy to answer questions and you are welcome to post your own polite and informed opinions, whether or not they agree with ours.

Early voting has begun at 157 Poplar Ave. You can vote there tomorrow (Saturday) from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All early voting satellite locations will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. beginning Monday, July 21st. Click here for a  list of early voting locations.


go vote

How Our Thumbs Are Voting for Amy, the Appellates and the Supremes

July 17, 2014



We know that many of you have been waiting for the final sections of Voting Smart: Your Voting Guide to Shelby County’s 2014 Judicial Elections. Yesterday we announced that information and our endorsements for all judicial elections (except the Appellate Court and  Tennessee Supreme Court retention referenda) were up on our website and Facebook pages Back in River City and Voting Smart .

We also owe you a weighing in on the Shelby County District Attorney General race.

We are still working on the Appellate/Supremes section. It contains a fairly lengthy history of judicial selection in Tennessee (of  questionable interest except to history and political geeks like us) as well as background data on the candidates.

But early voting begins tomorrow, so here’s the bottom line for you Early Birds who just want to know how we’re moving our thumbs.

thumbs down


It’s thumbs down on everyone – Appellates and Supremes –  for us.  

It may surprise you, but this decision goes beyond any partisan concerns we may have (although they, too, factor in).

Our final analysis of these races will be up posthaste. (I get to have a life again when the final period is in place so I assure you I am motivated!).

As for the District Attorney General’s race, here’s a quick summary:

Amy Weirich was elected with strong bi-partisan support. She has been in office only two years, a fraction of  a full  eight-year term. She is doing her job well. It would take an extremely strong opponent to justify replacing her. We all know that the contentious Judge Joe Brown doesn’t fit that definition. Enough said. We’re sticking with Amy.

Thanks to everyone who has read and shared the Guide and offered your kind encouragement.  We are honored that you find our research and analysis of value. Please continue to spread the word that the Guide exists. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions; our job is to help everyone make more informed and thoughtful decisions.

So, go out and vote to make a better Memphis!







Voting Smart: Now You Can, Memphis!

July 16, 2014


its here

We’ve just posted three new installments of   Voting Smart: Back in River City’s  Guide to Shelby County’s 2014 Judicial Elections. 

The Guide begins on the tab marked Voters Guide  on our homepage. Here you will find information on how to use our Guide. This tab includes Section I, Voter Information and PreparationSection II, our Recommendationsand the first part of Section III, our Analysis of candidates running for  Circuit Court, Chancery Court and Probate Court judgeships.

For  technical reasons we continue to whine about,  we have had to separate the Guide on multiple tabs/pages on Back in River City due to its length. Analysis for Criminal Court candidates is on a separate tab; as is analysis for the General Sessions candidates, Appellate races, and Tennessee Supreme Court races. Our recommendations for the Appellate and Tennessee Supreme Court races (these are the vote-up-or-down races) will be published tomorrow.

no-troll-200Again, we heartily welcome your comments here and on either of our Facebook pages for Back in River City or Voting Smart. Let us know if you spot an error, or if you have an important update (your information should be documented, not just anecdotal). We don’t expect everyone to agree with our choices, so debate away. We will also answer questions about how we made a final determination between candidates in races where there was more than one strong choice. But, remember, we are here to encourage civil discourse, so be your very best polite self (no trolls!) , or your comment will not be published.


We appreciate our readers and supporters!







Here It Is! Our First Installment: Voting Smart for Circuit Court Judges

July 15, 2014

We are proud to offer Back in River City’s comprehensive voters guide to Shelby County’s 2014 Judicial Elections.  It’s L O O N N N G, and early voting begins on Friday, so we are publishing in installments as we complete each section.  The entire guide will appear as a separate tab on our home page.  It includes voter information, including early voting locations and times; information about the ballot and voting in the primaries; a list of our endorsed candidates in each race we are covering; and analysis of how we came to our recommendations.

Read more…

Vote Smart in August 7 Judicial Races

July 3, 2014


The upcoming August 7, 2014 ballot  (☚ check it out) is the kind most voters dread: it’s longer than a Memphis summer; includes candidates you have never heard of for offices you don’t understand; and the outcome will have a profound effect on our quality of life, both locally and statewide.

The ballot begins with primary races for Tennessee Governor, U.S. Senator, state senators and representatives, and state executive committee men/women. Next are 24 judicial races: nine for Circuit Court,  three for Chancery Court, two for Probate Court, 10 for Criminal Court. County District Attorney and County Mayor follow, then County Commissioners, Property Assessor, and County Trustee.

By this time, you’ll be singing,

My back is aching and my knees are weak, I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet.

[email subscribers click here for Elvis]

wait there's more

You still have to make sound decisions in 14 races for General Sessions Court judges (both civil and criminal).

Then it’s Juvenile Court judge, Sheriff, and Clerks for  Circuit, Criminal, Juvenile and Probate Courts; County Court Clerk and Register of Deeds;  School Board Commissioner for your district; and, if you live in Collierville, Germantown, or Millington, your municipal judge (fortunately, the municipal judge races are all unopposed).

That does it for the local races, but not for statewide. Finally, you will be voting to oust or retain three Tennessee Supreme Court justices and 20 Court of Appeals judges – both civil and criminal, and not only in the Western District, but the Eastern and Middle Districts as well.

Feeling pretty confident?

judge with bag over face

We didn’t think so.

But vote you should, and not just “straight ticket” (judges aren’t listed by party affiliation, if they have one) or by whose yard signs you’ve seen the most, or (my mother’s favored voting method, God rest her non-political soul) who is the best looking.

The 66 judicial elections (53 races with challengers) make the August 7 ballot  unusually long and intimidating. You may not think that selecting judges has much of an impact on your life, but they do, either directly (for example, if you are cited for a building codes violation on your new master suite addition, have a messy divorce, adopt a child, or have an errant teenager) or indirectly (think crime and punishment).

Most local judges are elected every eight years in Tennessee. Under our Tennessee Plan system, voters vote “up or down” to retain or replace Supreme Court and Appeals justices every eight years. At any time, it is difficult for the average voter to cast a sound, informed vote when multiple judicial races are at stake. For most people, researching individual judicial candidates falls into the category of “rational ignorance” - i.e., the perceived benefit is not worth the time investment.

Anyway, who among us really knows the difference between a District Court, Chancery Court, and General Sessions Court?

Anyone? Anyone?



Back in River City’s Guide to the 2014 Judicial Elections

To help you avoid voter fatigue and low-information voter syndrome, Back in River City is publishing a free, comprehensive guide to the judicial races appearing on the August 7, 2014 ballot.  The guide will include our own recommendations, based on extensive research on each candidate, including factual information as well as surveys and interviews with a bi-partisan panel of  respected local attorneys. There will also be links to online information about each candidate so that you may do your own research. 

The guide will be published here and on two Facebook pages: our Back in River City page, and at  Voting Smart: 2014 Shelby Co. Judicial Elections. We will release the guide in sections, starting with General Sessions Court candidates (civil and criminal). The entire guide will also be available on a separate page here at Back in River City before early voting begins on July 18th. Meanwhile, send us your comments and questions about the judicial races, and we will respond. If you are an attorney with significant, recent courtroom experience (but not a current candidate for judge) you may request to be on our attorney panel. Contact us at or or message us privately through one of the Facebook pages listed above.

Please forward this post to your friends and family. The more people who vote knowledgeably, the better the outcomes for everyone in Shelby County.


election 2014 180 pixels




Women: How to Rekindle Your Flickering Light Within

June 14, 2014

Who is today’s woman?


Advertisers tell us she is sexy, strong, confident, and self-possessed. Screenwriters often depict her as the one in charge, the adult in the room who holds families and relationships together, while irresponsible men carry on in bad-boy ways. Innately, we think of women having an inner light and shedding that  light on others.

But in real life, Tammy Gaitor Miller sees women all around who are spiritually dying, suffering from a sense of brokenness, isolation, unworthiness and defeat. That brash, have-it-all, do-it-all attitude that society tells women to adopt often leads to poor choices that result in calamity. Real life isn’t always the same as what marketing experts or feminist ideologues want it to be. Real life is messy and unpredictable, unexplained and unenlightened. For many women,  life today  ~ especially in Memphis ~ is a house of horrors. One room opens to reveal dysfunctional relationships with men; another, domestic violence; another, financial worries. Down the hall:  consequences of  crime and substance abuse, elder care responsibilities, single motherhood, insufficient resources, broken families, broken dreams, guilt, shame, despair.

Tammy conceived a way to start the  healing process for women. She imagined women coming together for a time of unity, listening to speakers who would provide insight,  affirmation and answers. A time of hope and introspection to rekindle the flickering light within.

Saturday, June 28, 2014, Tammy will host Turn Off the Lights Women’s Conference at  the Holiday Inn Fogelman Executive Conference Center across from the University of Memphis on Central. Four speakers ~ all men ~ will share their own stories of brokenness, experiences that have led them to give women the honor and respect they deserve. Topics will include:

  • Women Breaking Barriers and  Building Bridges (UNITY)
  • Women Embracing and Valuing Life: Living Life As Outstanding
  • Understanding : The Power of a Woman’s Worth

An open question and answer session with the speakers will wrap up the evening.

Speakers include:

Anthony D. Collins  Author, blogger, motivational speaker and radio host based in Chicago, IL. Latest book: Life Is Outstanding

anthony collins

Trent D. Williams Self-described “rehabilitated bad boy” Trent Williams of New Orleans is an author, radio show host and certified life coach whose wisdom about the good and bad of relationships was earned from experience.

trent williams


Aaron Jordan, Jr.  was born in Memphis, graduated from Christian Brothers University, and now resides in Murfreesboro, TN. His first book, published in 2013,  is The Power Within, A Woman’s Worth: From Both Sexes

aaron jordan 2

Brandon Gaitor, a “military brat” who graduated from Ridgeway High, says that coming to live in Memphis at age 12 changed him forever. He is a community builder and grassroots advocate for change to bring a better future for the city. Brandon is  Project Coordinator for the City of Memphis Health Educational and Housing Facility Board, a member of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, a member of the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition, a founding member of Memphis United and sits on the Board of Directors for the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. Brandon credits his Christian spiritual foundation as the bedrock of his passion and motivation.

brandon gaitor

Tammy Gaitor Miller is a radio show host, founder of Butterfly Evolution transformation ministry and girls’ tammy butterfly cropmentoring group 901Butterflies, an advocate for personal empowerment and a better Memphis, a motivational speaker in Shelby County Schools, and numerous other activities that make our world better ~ all of which she does in addition to a busy career as a relocation specialist. Tammy is also my Soul Sister and an inspiration in my life.  When Tammy sees a need, especially when it comes to women and children, she works to find a solution. She is sponsoring the Turn Off the Lights Women’s Conference to address the need for women in difficult circumstances to find inner healing, hope, encouragement, and wholeness.

The three hour conference begins at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 28th. Location: Holiday Inn Fogelman Executive Conference Center, 330 Innovation Drive (off Central across from the University of Memphis). Registration  is only $22. To register or for more information, go to or call 888-483-7445.

All women are invited, so bring a friend to experience an extraordinary night of “rehabilitated” men speaking to women’s deepest needs. Rekindle your inner flame and share your light. We will all be better for it.

 Messages of Light


“Most of us are imprisoned by something. We’re living in darkness until something flips on the switch.”― Wynonna Judd


“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

“And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
― John 1:5, Holy Bible: King James Version

I challenge you today to go past fear, doubt, worry and the darkness, and Turn On your Light, Allow the Spark to Light your candle and when you have done so and basked in the feeling of being truly alive and have filled your cup, share with another who still lives in the dark.

― Inshan Meahjohn, The Hidden Path



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