Supreme Court

Supreme Court
Pictured in the courtroom at the Supreme Court Building in Nashville are (seated)Justice E. Riley Anderson and (standing from left) Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota, and Justices III, Adolpho A. Birch, Jr., William M. Barker and Janice M. Holder.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is the state’s highest court and the court of last resort. The court normally meets in Jackson, Knoxville and Nashville, as required by the state constitution. The five justices may accept appeals of civil and criminal cases from lower state courts. They also interpret the laws and Constitutions of Tennessee and the United States. The Supreme Court may assume jurisdiction over undecided cases in the Court of Appeals or Court of Criminal Appeals when there is special need for a speedy decision. The court also has appellate jurisdiction in cases involving state taxes, the right to hold public office and issues of constitutional law. Attorneys may present oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Unlike trials in lower courts, there are no witnesses, juries or testimony in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals. After Supreme Court justices have heard oral arguments and reviewed the attorneys’ written materials, or briefs, they issue written decisions, known as opinions. Tennessee Supreme Court opinions on constitutional issues can be appealed only to the federal courts, which may or may not agree to consider the appeals.
Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals are elected on a “yes-no” ballot every eight years. When a vacancy occurs the 15-member Judicial Selection Commission interviews applicants and recommends three candidates to the governor, who appoints a new judge to serve until the next August general election. By state law, judges on the three courts must be evaluated every eight years. Results of the evaluations are published in newspapers across the state, to help voters decide whether the judges should be retained.


Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota, III
318 Supreme Court Building
401 7th Ave. No.
Nashville, TN 37219-1407

Born July 7, 1938, Williamsburg, KY: resident of Nashville since 1943. Married; two children; three grandchildren; elder Woodmont Christian Church; Montgomery Bell Academy 1956; B.A. Vanderbilt University 1960; J.D. Vanderbilt School of Law 1965; U.S. Navy 1960-62; commander in Judge Advocate Generals Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve; practiced law in Nashville 1965-1970; past president Nashville area chapter of American Red Cross and Nashville Rotary Club; Executive Committee YMCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Cumberland Museum and Science Center, NCCJ, Bill Wilkerson Speech & Hearing Center; appointed chancellor of Chancery Court, Davidson County 1970; elected chancellor 1972; appointed to Court of Appeals May 1974; elected August 1974; president, Tennessee Judicial Conference 1979-80; elected associate justice of Tennessee Supreme Court August 1980; re-elected 1982,1990 and 1998; chief justice January 1989-September 1990; September 2001-present.


Justice E. Riley Anderson
Supreme Court Building
P. O. Box 444
Knoxville, TN 37901

Born Aug. 10, 1932, Chattanooga, TN; married; four child1955; LL.B, J.D. University of Tennessee College of Law 1957; graduate Appellate Judges Program (1988) and Advanced ppellate Judges Program (1999), New York University; private law practice in Oak Ridge 958-87; elected charter commissioner of City of Oak Ridge 1962-64; past president of nderson County Bar Association; past member of the Board of Delegates, Tennessee Bar ssociation; past president of Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association; past president of ennessee Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates; past president of Hamilton urnett American Inn of Court; chair of Tennessee Judicial Council 1990- 1995; chair, Select enate/House Committee on Court Automation, 1990-1994; vice-chair, Courts, Children and the amily Committee, Conference of Chief Justices (1998-1999); member, Board of Directors of he Conference of Chief Justices (1999-2000); Judge of the Year Award by the American Board of Trial Advocates (Tenn. Chapter) (1998); Oak Ridge Rotary Club's Vocational Service Award 2000); Tennessee Bar Association's William M. Leech, Jr. Public Service Award (2001); ppointed to Court of Appeals, March 2, 1987; elected to Court of Appeals, August 1988; elected o Supreme Court, August 1990; re-elected to Supreme Court, August 1998; Chief Justice, ctober 1994-May 1996; July 1997-August 1998; September 1998-August 2001.


Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Jr.
304 Supreme Court Building
401 7th Ave. No.
Nashville, TN 37219-1407

Born Sept. 22, 1932, Washington DC. Three children; Episcopal; graduate Dunbar High School, Washington D.C. 1950; attended Lincoln University, PA 1950-52; B.A., J.D. degrees Howard University, Washington, D.C. 1956. Member Howard Law Review, 1954-1956; National Bar Association Judicial Council; Tennessee, Nashville and Napier-Looby Bar Associations. U.S. Naval Reserve, active duty, 1956-1958; former associate professor of Legal Medicine, Meharry Medical College; former lecturer in law, Fisk University and Tennessee State University. Private practice of law 1958-66; assistant public defender in Davidson County 1963-66; assistant district attorney general in Davidson County 1966-69; General Sessions Court of Davidson County judge 1969-78; Criminal Court of Davidson County judge 1978-87; Trial Courts of Davidson County presiding judge 1981-82; member Court of the Judiciary 1983-86; teaching faculty, Nashville School of Law, 1991-present; University of Memphis Distinguished Jurist in Residence; appointed to Court of Criminal Appeals April 1987, elected August 1988; reelected August 1990; appointed to Supreme Court December 1993, elected August 1994; reelected August 1998; chief justice May 1996-July, 1997.


Justice Janice M. Holder
Pembroke Square, Suite 310
119 South Main
Memphis, TN 38103

Born August 29, 1949, Canonsburg PA. Attended Allegheny College, 1967-68; B.S., summa cum laude, University of Pittsburgh, 1971; J.D., Duquesne University School of Law, 1975, and Recent Decisions Editor Duquesne Law Review, 1974-75; senior law clerk to Herbert P. Sorg, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania, 1975-77; practiced law, 1977-90; editor Memphis Bar Forum, 1987-91; chair, Tennessee Bar Association Commission on Women and Minorities, 1994-96; trustee, Tennessee Bar Foundation, 1995-present; secretary, Tennessee Bar Foundation, 1996-1999; Master of the Bench, Leo Bearman, Sr., American Inn of Court, 1995-1997; recipient of Memphis Bar Association’s Sam A. Myar Award as outstanding young lawyer, 1990, Charles O. Rond Outstanding Jurist Award, 1992, and Divorce and Family Law Section Judge of the Year Award, 1992; member, American, Tennessee and Memphis Bar Associations; founding member, Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women; elected Circuit Court Judge for the Thirtieth Judicial District at Memphis, Division II, 1990; appointed to Supreme Court of Tennessee, December 1996; elected August 1998.


Justice William M. Barker
540 McCallie Avenue
Suite 410
Chattanooga, TN 37402-2096

Born September 13, 1941, Chattanooga, TN. Married; three children; Presbyterian; B.S. University of Chattanooga, 1964; J.D. University of Cincinnati College of Law, 1967; United States Army Medical Service Corps, 1967-69; admitted to Bar, 1967; private practice until 1983; president, Chattanooga Trial Lawyers Association, 1977-78; director, Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, 1978-79; fellow, Chattanooga Bar Foundation; Board of Governors, Chattanooga Bar Association, 1979-80; fellow, Tennessee Bar Foundation; adjunct professor, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 1984-present; member of the Alpha Society, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; member University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Alumni Council; Chattanooga Rotary Club; American Legion; chairman, Board of Deacons, First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, 1995-97; Circuit Court Judge, 1983-95; appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, February 1995; elected to unexpired term 1996. Appointed to Supreme Court, April 1998; elected August 1998.