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Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee to retire in August 2023

Lee is currently the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court and the only justice from East Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee notified Gov. Bill Lee that she will retire on Aug. 31, 2023, according to a press release from the state Supreme Court.

“Serving in the Tennessee Judiciary for the past 19 years has been the greatest honor of my professional life,” Lee said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Tennesseans and have done my best to fulfill my judicial oath by upholding the state and federal Constitutions and administering justice faithfully and impartially.”

Credit: Sharon Lee
Judge Susano with his friend and colleague, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee.

The Tennessee Supreme Court said at the time of her retirement, Lee will have served 15 years on the Supreme Court and four years on the Court of Appeals.

She is currently the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court and the only justice from East Tennessee, according to a release. She is also the only Democrat.

Lee is a passionate University of Tennessee fan.

She was appointed to the court in 2008 and retained by voters in 2010, 2014 and 2022.

As chief justice from 2014 to 2016, the Supreme Court said she promoted access to justice and spearheaded several innovations, such as the state's Business Court pilot project. She also helped implement electronic filing, a review of the state’s indigent representation system and a statewide docket cleanup initiative.

“Justice Lee has always been forward-thinking, innovative and open-minded,” Chief Justice Roger A. Page said in the release. “She has never forgotten where she came from and the people she serves. She is a justice of the people and has advocated for transparency and ensuring the Court’s opinions and orders use language that is accessible to everyone, not just attorneys. She has served her state well and the Court wishes her all the best in her retirement.”

As an appellate judge, Lee participated in over 1,500 cases, writing close to 450 opinions, according to the release. She has been actively involved with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission, the Board of Law Examiners, the Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Tennessee Lawyer Assistance Program, the Technology Oversight Committee and the Trial Court Electronic Filing Committee.

From 2004 to 2008, she served on the Tennessee Court of Appeals — the first woman to serve on the Eastern Section of the Court in its 79-year history, according to the Supreme Court. Lee was retained by voters in 2006 after receiving unanimous approval from the Judicial Evaluation Commission.

Before entering the judiciary, Lee maintained a small-town practice in Madisonville for 26 years, according to a release. In addition to representing individuals and businesses in civil and criminal matters, she served as the municipal judge for Madisonville and as attorney for Monroe County, the city of Madisonville and the city of Vonore.

Credit: WBIR
Justice Sharon Lee shakes hands with Hector Sanchez, Knox County's newest judge.

The Supreme Court said Lee has been a trailblazer for women and has received numerous recognitions, including the University of Tennessee Distinguished Alumna Award, University of Tennessee Centennial Alumnus Award, University of Tennessee Alumni Professional Achievement Award, Webb School of Knoxville Distinguished Alumni Award, YWCA of Knoxville Tribute to Women Honoree, YWCA of Knoxville 30 Remarkable Women over the past 30 Years Honoree, Girl Scouts Council of the Southern Appalachians’ Woman of Achievement Award, Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award, Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award, ABOTA Tennessee Chapter’s Courage Award, East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women’s Spirit of Justice Award, East Tennessee Women’s Leadership Council’s Lizzie Crozier French Award, and the National Association of Women Judges’ Spotlight Award.

A frequent speaker to school, civic and legal groups, Lee is active in her community, serving on the adjunct faculty at the University of Tennessee College of Law and on the boards of the Knoxville YWCA, Knoxville YWCA Foundation, East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville Executive Women’s Association, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Monroe County Boys and Girls Club, Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, Knoxville Bar Association, Webb School of Knoxville Alumni Council, University of Tennessee College of Law Dean’s Council, and as an honorary member of the 2014 Congressional Medal of Honor Convention Committee, according to a release.

Lee graduated with honors from the Webb School of Knoxville, the University of Tennessee College of Business and the University of Tennessee College of Law, according to the Supreme Court.

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