Does judge hopeful live in district?

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By Damon Lawrence

Charles Holiway has a lot of duties for the upcoming election.


Investigating the residency of candidates isn’t one of them, however.

“That’s not our responsibility,” said Holiway, who serves as Roane County’s administrator of elections.

“It’s the candidate’s responsibility to say that they meet all the qualifications or requirements, such as age, residency, and all that.”

Mike Pemberton, a candidate for 9th Judicial District circuit court judge, said he meets residency requirement.

“I live here,” he said. “It’s a non-issue.”

The judicial district is comprised of Roane, Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties.

According to the state, the circuit judge must be “a resident of the state for five years and of the circuit or district for one year.”

“I think someone is just grasping at straws if they’re trying to say Mike Pemberton doesn’t live here,” said Pemberton supporter and good friend Mike “Brillo” Miller.

Pemberton owns a house on Kirkham Drive south of Rockwood, which is in the 9th Judicial District.

He also owns a home on Millstone Lane in Knoxville, which is not in the district.

There were fresh tire marks in the carport of the Knoxville home during a recent drive through the area.

Pemberton has a 5-year-old son. Though a scooter was propped against the Roane home’s carport, the Knoxville house had a number of children’s toys in the carport, as well as a trampoline and swing set in the yard.

“We stay there from time to time,” Pemberton said.

Pemberton’s law office is on Kingston Pike in Knoxville.

The office is about a five-minute drive from his home on Millstone Lane. It’s about a hour’s drive from his home in Roane County.

“For the vast majority of time, I’ve always maintained a condo — or an apartment or a house in Knoxville because of the hours I work,” Pemberton said.

Despite the close proximity of the Knoxville house to his law office, Pemberton insists the majority of his nights are spent in Roane County.

“I know there was a 20-something-day period in December where I didn’t even set foot in my Knoxville house,” he said.

“I’m here,” he maintained. “Now, am I here every night? No. I can’t be, because my cases.”

Pemberton’s wife, Dana, supports her husband.

“If you were to count the days, the majority of them are in Rockwood, not Knoxville,” she said. “But he’s not saying that he doesn’t stay in Knoxville — and he’s never said that.”

Holiway said Pemberton has filed the “proper paperwork” to run, but seemed hesitant to call him a qualified candidate.

“He’s registered in Roane County,” Holiway said. “He picked up a petition, and he’s turned in the petition with the number of qualified signatures.

“As far as qualifying, that’s all I know.”

If someone challenged Pemberton’s residency, Holiway said the state would have to make a final determination. So far, it’s a non-issue, because “we haven’t had any official questions or anything from anybody,” Holiway said.

Pemberton’s father is former Rockwood football coach Tom Pemberton, and his family has deep roots in Roane County.

“I’ve lived in this county my entire life, except for about 20 months,” Pemberton said.

Dana Pemberton said her husband’s residency was never an issue until he decided to run for judge.

“He has always maintained Roane County as his residence, and when we married, that was always well understood,” she said. “His heart and soul is this county.”

According to Roane County property records, the Pembertons purchased their home on Kirkham Drive on Jan. 11, 2013.

The Pembertons said they’ve lived in the Kirkham Drive home since last July. They didn’t move in right away, they said, because the house was being renovated.

“We thoroughly looked into any residency issues legally before he got in this race,” Dana Pemberton said. “We feel extraordinarily confident that should not be an issue in this campaign.”

Election Day is Aug. 7. Early voting is from July 18 to Aug. 2.

“I’ve always been very involved in the community and continue to be involved in the community,” Pemberton said.

“The fact that I happen to have a second house that’s outside — there’s a bunch of people that have second houses,” he added.