William E. Phillips II was sworn in Tuesday morning as a 3rd Judicial Circuit Court judge by district Chancellor Douglas E. Jenkins.

The ceremony was held in the old Hawkins County Courthouse in Rogersville, where Phillips has practiced law for many years.

Phillips, 44, will fill out the remaining term of Judge Thomas J. Wright, who retired effective Sept. 1. Wright’s eight-year judicial term runs through 2022.

Phillips, of the Phillips & Hale law firm, was one of three candidates for the judgeship. Candidates were recently interviewed by the state Trial Court Vacancy Commission.

Phillips was formally appointed Friday by Gov. Lee to the Circuit Court bench.

“It is an honor to be appointed Circuit Court Judge by Governor Bill Lee after an extensive vetting process,” Phillips told the Rogersville Review. “The 3rd Judicial District has a legacy of exceptional judges. Judge Wright exemplified what it meant to be a fair and just judge. I am humbled to fulfill his term and am dedicated to serving all citizens in the 3rd Judicial District.”

The 3rd Judicial District includes Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties.

Phillips is also Rogersville city attorney. He will transition to the judgeship beginning this week.

There is a backlog of cases on the Circuit Court docket caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Phillips said Monday he is up to the challenge.

“I am looking forward to it,” he said. “I think I will contribute and I will contribute immediately.”

Wright announced earlier this year his intention to retire from the full-time Circuit Court judgeship. He was recently appointed to serve as a part-time senior judge in state courts. Wright had served as a 3rd Judicial District Circuit Court judge since 2006.

Phillips said he looks to Wright as an example of how to conduct business as a Circuit Court judge.

“Judge Wright exemplified a competent judge. They are big shoes to fill. He left a good example of how to do it correctly,” Phillips said.

Should Phillips choose to continue as a 3rd Judicial District Circuit Court judge, he will run for an eight-year term in the 2022 election.

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