Gerald L. Melton, Public Defender for the 16th Judicial District, has officially announced his candidacy for re-election.
The Public Defender is responsible for representing indigent persons who are accused of committing criminal offenses, "thereby fulfilling the right to counsel as provided by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article One Section Nine of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee," Melton stated. As Public Defender, Melton maintains an active personal caseload and supervises the work of thirteen Assistant Public Defenders. Gerald’s undergraduate degree is from Middle Tennessee State University and his law degree is from the University of Tennessee. He trained in capital case defenses and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
In addition to the Public Defender's obligations in the local courts and appellate courts, the job requires Melton to be the chief administrative officer for the local public defender's office. In that capacity, the Public Defender makes personnel decisions, budget decisions and has other administrative responsibilities attendant to running the local office. In performing these duties, Melton's goal has been to run the office "in accordance with sound business practices and the public trust."
Melton views the obligations of the Public Defender with a broad vision. While the primary role of the Public Defender is to represent the interests of the person immediately before the court, Melton believes that performing that duty also assures the continued viability of the Constitutional rights of all persons. “Defending the rights of one person,” Melton said, “protects the public against the use of unwarranted governmental power.” He added, "This task is more important today than ever before."
Scroll down for more...
In addition to his duties as District Public Defender, Melton has a background of service to the legal profession. He has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Tennessee Bar Association and as a member of the House of Delegates of the Tennessee Bar Association. He has been Continuing Legal Education Coordinator for the Public Defenders Conference of Tennessee and has served as an advisor to the Tennessee General Assembly on matters of criminal law and procedure as a member of the Tennessee Sentencing Commission. He served on Governor Haslam’s Sentencing and Recidivism Commission, and he has served on the Tennessee Medical Examiners Advisory Board for the State of Tennessee. Melton has also served on the Bench and Bar Relations Committee of the Administrative Office of the Courts. His fellow Public Defenders have selected him President of the District Public defender's Conference on two separate occasions.
Gerald is an adjunct instructor in the Criminal Justice Department at Middle Tennessee State University, where he has taught criminal law for several years. He has former students who are now actively involved in law enforcement and former students who have completed law school and who are now practicing attorneys.
Gerald is married to Marcia Garrett Melton, who is a professional educator in the Cannon County School System. Marcia is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Cannon County Schools and in that capacity, she has been honored by being named Supervisor of the Year for the State of Tennessee. She has also served as Superintendent of Cannon County Schools. Gerald and Marcia are the proud parents of five children, and they have eleven grandchildren.
Public Defender Melton is active in community affairs. Gerald and Marcia are members of the Lions Club, members of the Friends of Edgar Evans State Park and they are involved with the Arts Center of Cannon County. They are members church of Christ. Gerald and Marcia have also been known to hobnob with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Moving forward, Melton hopes to add social worker services to the Public Defender’s office in order to better address systemic factors that lead individuals into situations resulting in criminal charges. In his announcement, Melton stated, "It is with great appreciation that I have served as your Public Defender for several years, seeking to fulfill this public service obligation while at the same time maintaining a balance of faith, family and friends. I humbly ask for your support as I seek the Republican Party nomination in May."