Circuit Judge Clara Byrd announced her intention to seek re-election.
She currently serves as presiding judge in the 15th Judicial District, which is comprised of Wilson, Smith, Macon, Jackson and Trousdale counties.
The 2014 campaign to re-elect Byrd circuit judge will officially kick off Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at the Wilson County Fairgrounds. The event will feature country food, music and fun.
"I invite everyone to attend and participate in this celebration,” Byrd said. “I look forward to enjoying an evening away from the bench, meeting new people and connecting with friends and supporters from the past. I would like to take this opportunity to ask for your vote. I have considered it an honor to serve as your circuit judge and pledge to continue to work hard, to remain impartial and to equally enforce the law without regard to race, gender, age or financial status."
Byrd regularly tries cases in every aspect of civil and family law. Family law involves divorce, parenting time, paternity, adoptions, orders of protection, grandparent visitation, child support determination and enforcement, terminations of rights, as well as guardianships.
Byrd said the law has changed drastically over the past eight years.
"I spend the majority of my time off the bench educating myself about recent changes in the law, rules and procedures,” she said. “However all of the reading of law books could never compare to the tremendous wealth of knowledge that comes from listening to other people. I listen to problems everyday and have gained a unique education from the lawyers who practice before me, and the litigants who share their life experiences. There is absolutely no substitute for the experience I have learned in problem-solving, overcoming adversity, courage, determination, faith, hope, charity, tolerance of others and patience.
"One of the most challenging aspects of my job is the enforcement of child support orders. When the job market is flooded with qualified applicants and unemployment rates are at their highest, children still have to be fed and clothed. Despite the decline in the national economy, the office of the district attorney general for the 15th Judicial District has collected in excess of $68 million of child support in the last seven years and has continually ranked No. 1 in collections for the state of Tennessee.”
Byrd said the success of the collections would not be possible without the conscientious efforts of the staff of the district attorney's office, the deputies of the sheriff's offices, the court clerks, and the judges in the 15th Judicial District.
“The collection of child support is of the utmost importance to reduce the burden to tax payers of supporting children of those who are capable of working and paying support,” Byrd said. “I currently devote four days per month to hearings on those who are in arrears on their child support obligations. They are required to report to court each month to explain their efforts to pay their current and past obligations.”
Byrd said the finalizing of adoptions is her favorite of cases she hears.
“Most of my other cases do not involve happy children, ecstatic parents and the outpouring of community support for the welfare of the children,” she said. “It truly does take a village to raise a child and sometimes the whole village shows up in Court to support the adoption of a child.”
Civil cases include automobile accidents, contracts, insurance, debt disputes, condemnation, workers compensation approvals, wrongful death, slander, assault and battery, medical malpractice, real estate disputes, judicial committals, as well as appeals from the general sessions and juvenile courts.
During her time on the bench, Byrd has tried more than 100 civil jury trials.
"I enjoy meeting jurors and try to make them comfortable during their term of service,” Byrd said. “I understand the sacrifices they make to serve as judges of the facts of each case. Our country makes few demands on its citizens, but jury service is the opportunity to participate in the judicial process, to listen to the case, deliberate and deliver a verdict as to the judgment to be made in a particular case.
“Prior to the hearing of each jury case, the trial judges have exhausted all avenues of dispute resolution to reduce the number of contested cases to be submitted to the jury.”
Byrd regularly participates in seminars to instruct lawyers and law enforcement personnel about various aspects of the law. She also speaks to groups of elementary and high school students concerning the importance of education, good citizenship and the importance of complying with the law.
“My secretary, Connie Ford, has the tremendous responsibility of being my contact with the world while I am in the courtroom,” Byrd said. “She travels with me to all five counties and avails herself of every technology in order to maintain efficiency and the daily scheduling of court matters. She faithfully returns calls, emails, texts and handles correspondence with lawyers, litigants and their assistants. I have to give her all the credit for maintaining a complex trial calendar and promptly scheduling hearings.
“My husband, Bob Byrd, continues to be the love of my life, and I am eternally grateful to him for his daily efforts in maintaining our home. He retired after 33 years of employment with the state of Tennessee transportation department and 25 years of officiating football. Since he retired, he claims he doesn't know how he ever had time to work, since there's so much to do at home. We have been married for 32 years and have two children, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, three house dogs and two cats.
Byrd and her husband are active members at Cedar Grove Baptist Church and have served as Sunday school teachers and vacation Bible school workers. Byrd serves as assistant pianist and bulletin editor at her church.
In her spare time, the Byrds attend numerous civic and charitable functions to support the organizations in the community.
Early voting begins July 18 through Aug. 2, and Election Day is Aug. 7.
“If you have not registered to vote, we can sign you up during our kickoff Feb. 20,” Byrd said. “Thank you for your support.”