Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced his appointment of a replacement for Judge Barbara Haynes on the Davidson County 3rd Circuit bench.
His choice? Veteran Nashville attorney Phillip Robinson, a local domestic-relations specialist who was the top choice of the Nashville Bar to succeed Haynes, especially since it’s widely expected the 3rd Circuit will be designated a family law court.
OK, sure, but why make the appointment now?
Early voting in the primary that will choose the candidates for the August election, which will in turn choose Haynes’ permanent replacement, began last week. Robinson is up against Jocelyn Stevenson and Stan Kweller in the Democratic primary.
Kweller, Robinson and independent Scott Rosenberg were on the list of potential replacements sent to the governor by the Judicial Selection Commission.
So, the governor tapped Robinson just as he is seeking the voters’ approval.
Why now, though? Haynes stepped down last year, and the general election is six months hence.
“Judge Haynes has been retired since last year, and for the efficient administration of the court, the governor felt it was important to make an appointment at this point,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said.
True as that may be, it definitely helps Robinson’s electoral prospects — though most insiders expected him to win, incumbency advantage or not.
Not to say this was a political calculation on the governor’s part — Robinson is, of course, a Democrat, and party aside, he’s considered the most qualified for the position.
And not that Robinson needs to boost: In addition to the high marks from the bar, the governor’s blessing and a resume tailor-made for the new focus of the circuit, his surname reveals a connection to a prominent Nashville political family that includes numerous judges and legislators and, for the more conspiratorially minded, an Old Hickory political machine that essentially ran county government in the era before Metro.
Robinson has the goods to be a stellar jurist, but now he has something just as valuable: the governor’s seal of approval.