A pair of Wilson County judicial leaders talked about the impact that 15th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge John Wootten Jr., who announced his retirement late last month, has had on their career.
Wootten served Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson counties as a circuit judge since 1998 and announced his retirement effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The Wilson County Election Commission announced that the qualifying deadline for candidates seeking to complete Wootten’s unexpired term will be Jan. 11, 2020 at noon.
Prior to his becoming circuit court judge, Wootten served as the 15th Judicial District assistant attorney general from 1984 to 1998.
“Someone introduced me to him in Lafayette, and I was impressed with just talking to him,” 15th Judicial District Attorney Tommy Thompson said. “When I had an opening, I called him and asked if he would be interested. I couldn’t have ever had a better attorney in our office. Everybody respected him. He’s always been a hard worker. He listened to both sides of the argument and case.”
Wilson County Public Defender Shelley Gardner said she started working professionally with Wootten in the early 2000s as an intern.
“I have been friends with him since before that when I was in law school,” Gardner said. “He is an absolutely amazing judge. I think his leadership in the courtroom for the 15th District has been impeccable since he’s been in office.”
Wootten has presided over several high-profile cases in Wilson County, including Richard Parker, who was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his in-laws in 2014 and Fallon Tallent, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2003 in the deaths of Wilson County sheriff’s deputy John Musice and Mt. Juliet Police sergeant Jerry Mundy.
“It’s his principle of fairness. Some judges make up their mind. A judge is supposed to listen to both sides in any trial and come to a conclusion based on the evidence. He always embodied that,” Thompson said. “He will be missed.”