Longtime Smith County Court-at-Law Judge Thomas A. Dunn will retire on Dec. 31, 2014, his office confirmed on Tuesday.
Three Tyler attorneys, Jim Huggler, 44; Mike Patterson, 63, and also a mediator; and Jason Ellis, 31, are interested in running for the seat in the November 2014 election and have filed the paperwork to name their campaign treasurers.
Dunn, whose age is unavailable, has served as a County Court-at-Law judge since 1996, according to the Smith County website. He graduated from the University of Houston in 1972, and the South Texas College of Law in 1975, and is one of a small number of attorneys in Texas who is dually certified in both family and criminal law, according to the website.
Dunn worked in private practice from 1976 to 1979 in family and criminal law — and as a mediator — and served as Assistant District Attorney in Smith County from 1979 to 1996. Since 1996, he has held his current position. Dunn has been a frequent lecturer in the fields of criminal and family law in various continuing legal education courses in Texas, according to the website.
Dunn has been a member of the State Bar of Texas since 1976 and is a member of the State Bar of Texas-Criminal Law, Family Law and Judicial Sections, Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists, the Texas Association of County Court at Law Judges, and the Texas Center for the Judiciary, the website stated.
Huggler is a former Smith County prosecutor, who left to become a private criminal defense attorney in 2003. In a statement, Huggler said several attorneys and members of the community who had encouraged him to seek judicial office had approached him.
“I have the greatest respect for Judge Dunn and appreciate his years of service to the community,” he said in his statement. Huggler graduated from the South Texas College of Law.
Patterson, who graduated from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, is an attorney and has been a mediator in Tyler for the past 17 years, according to his website. He said in a statement that many in the community have encouraged him to run for Judge Dunn’s seat.
“With almost four years as a prosecutor and 17 years as a neutral mediator, I believe I’m uniquely qualified to serve as a judge,” Patterson said.
Ellis also graduated from the SMU law school after he attended on a scholarship. He began his career as a Smith County prosecutor, and now works in private practice. Ellis said in a statement that he has the energy and enthusiasm to work hard.
“Crime never sleeps, and we need judges willing to be available at all times for our dedicated law enforcement officers who need arrest warrants and search warrants approved and signed,” he said in the statement. “I will be available,” Ellis said.