Of all the judicial races in Shelby County, few have generated the controversy of this one.

Incumbent Judge Paula Skahan was appointed by Gov. Bredesen in 2004. She is white, a lesbian and devoted Democrat.

Her opponent is Tonya Saafir, a young black attorney that has overcome many obstacles to earn her law degree, who is also a Democrat.

I have met Saafir several times and find her to be intelligent, personable and well spoken. The first time I heard her speak I wrote about it and generated a fire storm of comments. It was quite entertaining, except to Saafir who was being smeared quite badly. There were questions about her “Muslim” name and background (false) and the fact that her kids are “half-Muslim” (which doesn’t even make sense — is there such a thing as “half-Christian”?). Out of the blue, someone even threw in a shot at Angelo Cobrasci, the force behind the Shelby County Conservatie Republican Club.

John Farmer did a little digging and has an extensive post on the smear campaign.

In the meantime, I have dug a little and have not found anyone who believes that Paula Skahan is a tyrant or an activist judge.

The Commerical Appeal says of her:

Skahan, 45, worked as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer for 19 years before becoming a judge, and is familiar with all aspects of the Criminal Court operation at 201 Poplar.

Attorney Richard Fields notes:

Judge Paula Skahan was appointed by Governor Bredesen as Criminal Court Judge in 2005 after serving as a public defender, assistant district attorney, and in
private practice as a criminal defense attorney. She has handled capital cases as a
private attorney as well as over 25 felony jury trials and thousands of other cases
in her 19 years of practice. She is supported by law enforcement officer associations as well as defense attorneys and prosecutors. She has received national recognition as the recipient of the “Spotlight Award” from the National Association of Women Judges.

Meanwhile, Tonya Saafir has limited experience and does not even practice criminal law.
Richard Fields is not impressed:

Her opponent, Tonya C. Saafir, is completely unqualified to be a criminal court judge. She has practiced law for only 2 ½ years with virtually no criminal jury
trial experience. She filed bankruptcy in 1998. In 2004 she was sued in General
Sessions Court for non payment of debts, yet on November 28, 2005, she
purchased a 2006 Cadillac Escalade, and no lien is recorded with the state against
this vehicle. On April 8, 2003, she filed a Uniform Civil Affidavit of Indigence in
her divorce complaint.

Bottom line: Tonya Saafir has agressively pursued improving her life, achieving one goal after another. But it is too soon for this one: she simply does not have the experience to make a claim to a criminal court bench at this point in her career.

It is too bad that Saafir did not choose to go after a true activist judge like Childers.

But as these are the only two choices in this race, I will be voting for the more experienced, most qualified candidate: Paula Skahan.

Criminal Court Judge
Division 1

Don't Pick Tonya C. Saafir
Winner! Vote for This One! Paula Skahan

Paula Skahan is additionally endorsed by:

Tonya Saafir is endorsed by:

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