With the announcement Judge David Durham would retire at the end of the term, Brian Fuller and Brody Kane announced they would run for criminal court judge in the Aug. 7 election.
Fuller was born and raised in Wilson County, graduating from Lebanon High School in 1989 where he served as student body president. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University in 1993 with a bachelor of science degree in political science. He was then accepted to the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, where he graduated in 1996. While in law school, he served an internship with the U.S. attorney’s office in the criminal division in Knoxville. After graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, he was appointed assistant district attorney for the 28th Judicial District in West Tennessee. In that position, he handled the prosecution of all types of criminal offenses at every level. He worked in that position from 1996-98.
In January 1999, District Attorney General Tommy Thompson appointed Fuller assistant district attorney for the 15th Judicial District, and he has served in that capacity for the last 15 ½ years. He served as lead prosecutor for Smith County Criminal Court from 2002-05. In 2005, he was appointed lead prosecutor for Wilson County criminal court, and he served in that capacity for the last 8 ½ years. During the last 18 ½ years as a prosecutor, he has been involved in the prosecution of all levels of misdemeanor and felony offenses and handled criminal cases in every court in the district.
He has been married to his wife, Jennifer, since 1999. The couple has two boys, Braden, 11, and Bryce, 9.
Fuller is a graduate of Leadership Wilson in 2001, a member of the Tennessee Bar Association and the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce. He has spent several years coaching youth sports teams, including baseball, football and soccer.
Kane, a 1988 graduate of Watertown High School, received his bachelor of science degree in criminal justice administration from Middle Tennessee State University in 1992 and his law degree from the University of Memphis Law School in 1995. After graduation, he began his 19-year career as an attorney, working for Lebanon native and current Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. within the Shelby County criminal justice system – the largest in the state.
He retuned to Lebanon in 1998 and joined the law firm of Lannom, Williams and Kane, expanding his practice to include both criminal and civil law, handling cases in state, federal and appellate courts across the state. In 2004, he founded his own law firm of McBrien and Kane, continuing to represent citizens across the district.
Kane has also served as city judge for Alexandria since 2004. Additionally, he has served as special judge for judges John Gwin, Robert Hamilton and Barry Tatum, hearing and deciding criminal trials, juvenile proceedings, orders of protection, civil lawsuits and mental health commitments. In 2012, he was selected by Gwin to chair the committee that developed and prepared the local rules of court for Division III general sessions court. He is also a graduate of the National Judicial College and was selected in 2012 to serve on the legislative committee for the Municipal Judges Conference.
Kane is a past president and active member of the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary, past president and active member of the 15th District Judicial Bar Association, a board member of the Wilson County United Youth Soccer Association; a commissioner on the Wilson County Water and Wastewater Authority, a Leadership Wilson graduate, a member of the Lebanon, Watertown, Macon County and Jackson County chambers of commerce and a member of the National Rifle Association.
Kane and his wife, Angel, have three children Madison, 17, Zoe, 14, and Neill, 11 and are members of First United Methodist Church. He stays involved with all of his children’s activities, having coached their soccer and baseball teams and recently returning from a mission trip to Nicaragua with his oldest daughter.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Fuller: When current Criminal Court Judge David Durham indicated he planned to retire, I knew there would be a need for an experienced criminal law attorney to fill the position. Having served as an assistant district attorney for nearly 18 years, I have handled thousands of criminal cases and have been the lead prosecutor for criminal court in both Smith County from 2002-05 and Wilson County from 2005 to present. With my extensive experience in criminal court and encouragement from many people, I decided to seek the office of criminal court judge. I truly believe I have something to offer this court and my community.
Kane: I am running for judge because I care about our community. For nearly 19 years, I have practiced in the areas of criminal and civil law. I handled thousands of cases in front of more than 70 judges in state, federal and appellate courts. I learned from these judges and intend to take the best traits and apply them to this criminal court judge’s position. Additionally, many fellow members of the bar and community leaders encouraged me to seek this office.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Fuller: Experience in criminal court is the most important issue. The next criminal court judge must have significant criminal court experience in order to be able to step in on day one and handle complicated issues involving serious criminal cases, such as murder, robbery and child abuse, as well as handle the large docket. Having been the lead prosecutor in criminal court for many years, I have not only handled and tried these cases, but also know the law and procedures, and understand what is required to manage the large caseload. I am the only candidate with this experience.
Kane: The overriding issues in this race are clear; people want to live in a safe community. My wife and I have three children, and we want our hometown to be as safe as possible, for them, our friends, neighbors and the public. Each case should be decided on the facts and law. The words “justice for all,” are not just words to me, I’ve practiced them every day for 19 years in my legal career. I’m ready to take those 19 years of legal experience and put them to work for this community.
What would you say to voters opposed to your running for office to convince them you are the most qualified?
Fuller: Please examine the qualifications of each candidate and how those qualifications relate to the position being sought. A criminal court judge handles the most serious criminal offenses. As a career prosecutor, I am the only candidate that has been in criminal court on almost a daily basis and has tried multiple criminal jury trials involving offenses like murder and robbery. I am the only candidate who has participated and assisted law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of these cases. And I am the only candidate that has experience managing a criminal court docket. My qualifications and experience are unmatched for this position.
Kane: A recent newspaper article revealed the local bar members were supporting me for this position at a rate of 26 to 2. Our local bar is comprised of hardworking men and women who want the best person for the job, someone who has the most experience and will be fair with everyone. Further, I have 19 years experience in the courtroom, and I understand what it takes to be an effective judge.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?
Fuller: Again, the overall criminal court experience that I have is unmatched by my opponent. I have handled thousands of criminal cases over an almost 18-year career as an assistant district attorney. I have worked with law enforcement, crime victims and witnesses in bringing those who have committed crimes to justice. I have tried multiple criminal jury trials and have handled criminal cases in every court and on every level in this district. The experience I have as a prosecutor helped earn the endorsements of both the Wilson County Fraternal Order of Police and the Lebanon Fraternal Order of Police.
Kane: I have judicial experience having served as city judge for more than 10 years. Likewise I have served as special judge for each of our three general sessions courts when one has been out sick or been on vacation. I have heard and decided criminal trials, juvenile proceedings, orders of protection, civil lawsuits and mental health commitments. I understand the enormous responsibility my decisions can make, because I’ve been making them for years. Secondly, I am a small business owner. It’s important that our judges have experience with managing budgets, as well as meeting the expectations of our community. Through my strong work ethic and effective representation I’ve been able to maintain a busy law practice that has grown from referrals.
How is your experience –or lack of experience – a plus or minus for the position you are seeking?
Fuller: My experience would be a huge asset to this position. I have been in this court on almost a daily basis and know the issues that need to be addressed. I know how to try cases, what evidence is required to prove a case, the procedures involved and the legal issues that will arise. Having served as criminal court lead prosecutor for both Smith and Wilson counties, I understand how to manage these dockets in order to improve the efficiency of our criminal court system, not only for those accused, but also just as importantly for the victims of crime.
Kane: My experience as both a judicial law clerk for the Shelby County criminal court judges and later as a Shelby County public defender for three years under the direction of Lebanon-native Mayor A.C. Wharton, is unmatched. I dealt with serious felonies on a day-to-day basis, including murder, rape, child sex crimes, drug offenses, robbery, arson, etc. I know how the judicial system works and how to make it better. Since 1998, I have built a private practice in Wilson County, with both my continued criminal defense practice along with personal injury, workers compensation, employment discrimination, construction and property disputes, divorce, custody and business litigation. A judge should have broad-based experience, and I have that experience.