Frankenberg kicks off campaign for General Sessions Judge in Division II
By Bill Howard
Sharon Frankenberg is one of Knox County’s five judicial magistrates. Magistrates, appointed by the county commission, do the criminal law work for General Sessions judges. Common duties include reviewing an arrest warrant to determine if there is probable cause to keep the person in jail, setting bail, issuing search warrants, and conducting hearings about seizures.
Being a magistrate is a full-time job, but Frankenberg maintains a small civil law practice on the side, focusing mainly on collections and foreclosures. She’s been a magistrate since 2015 – appointed three times – and was one of the first judicial commissioners appointed in 1994. These positions are part of her 33 years of law practice in Knoxville.
On May 3 next year, Frankenberg’s name will be on the primary ballot as a candidate for General Sessions Judge in Division 2 of Knox County General Sessions Court. She will run as a Republican. She hosted a group of supporters Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Summit Hill Drive.
“It’s the next logical step professionally,” said Frankenberg, when asked why she sought the judgeship. “It gives me more trial time (which is) more like being a lawyer. It would be more interesting to do some of the preliminary hearings that they do. Right now we don’t really do too many trials. We do hearings but a lot of them are one-sided.”
Campaign themes, according to her website – Frankenbergforjudge.com – are “access to justice, transparency, and ensuring defendants have the opportunity to be heard.”
“The more open we are about what we do, the more likely our citizens will have respect for, and confidence in, our judicial system,” Frankenberg says on the site.
Frankenberg hopes that the General Sessions Court, which currently hears a wide variety of cases, will one day be divided into specialized courts: one for drug cases, one for domestic violence, etc. Should that happen, her preference would be to preside over a court that handles cases involving mental health.
“My interest level is very much in the mental health court,” she said. “Trying to come up with some way to treat these folks. I have a lot of experience in my life dealing with people who have mental illnesses. I think it would be something where I’d feel like I’d accomplished something if I got into (such a) court and that’s what we dealt with.”
“Right now I see people and then they go on to the next court and I don’t find out what happens to them until they come back (reoffend),” Frankenberg said. “Why haven’t we been able to treat them and why haven’t we been able to send them somewhere where they have their medication on a regular basis?”
Frankenberg acknowledged that part of her interest in mental health is because of a family member who has had such struggles. “Right now they get medicated and then they let ‘em out and they don’t get medicated any more,” she said. “And then they go off again and it’s sad.
“We don’t have enough resources dedicated to taking care of people. We need medical and mental issues taken care of. Right now we put them in jail.”
A Knoxville native who graduated from Farragut High School, Frankenberg, 58, earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UTK. Her law degree is from UT Law. According to her campaign literature, she won cases both before the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Frankenberg hopes to replace Judge Geoffrey Emery, who is retiring at the end of this year. She expects an interim judge to be named before next year’s winner ascends to the bench in September
“Serving on the trial bench in Knox County has been a lifelong aspiration of mine,” Frankenberg said on her website. “In my 33 years of practicing law, I have learned not to prejudge cases. I look at all the facts and understand the case as a whole, including the nuances.”