Judge Vicki Snyder Wins Prestigious Judge Leon Ruben Award in a First for a Female Judge

October 1, 2019

History was made at the recent Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference in Chattanooga, as Henry County General Sessions Court Judge Vicki S. Snyder became the first female judge to win the conference’s top honor. In another first, a newly-created award was given to Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Clarence E. Shattuck, Jr., who recently retired after 36 years on the bench. A third award was given to Tim DiScenza, former disciplinary counsel for the Board of Judicial Conduct.

Judge Leon Ruben Award for Excellence

This year’s Judge Leon Ruben Award for Excellence went to Henry County General Sessions Court Judge Vicki S. Snyder. This award is given out annually to a judge or judges who distinguish themselves through their outstanding service to the community, the conference, and the judiciary as a whole. Judge Snyder is the first woman to win the award, which has been handed out annually since 2013 and which is named after former Davidson County General Sessions Court Judge Leon Ruben.

Conference President and Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Gary Starnes introduced the Judge Leon Ruben Award by explaining that it “is not given out lightly” and is presented only to those who truly exemplify what it means to be a great judge.

“They do things differently,” he said. “They go above and beyond the call of duty.”

Judge Starnes said that Judge Snyder was wholly deserving of the historic honor.

“I’m proud to present this to you, Judge Snyder,” he said. “Thank you for your service to our conference.”

Accepting the award, Judge Snyder took the opportunity to speak of her love for her job and her respect for her colleagues.

“You know I count myself as privileged to work alongside each of you,” she said. “It’s  a special joy to be able to do  what we do on a daily basis, and I’m grateful for that.”

She said she was honored to win an award named after the late Judge Ruben, who she called “one of a kind” and the embodiment of the “fruits of the spirit” found in the Bible.

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” she said. “To be able to emulate that is what I hope for every day. Thank you so much.”

Judge Snyder worked in private practice and as both an assistant public defender and an assistant district attorney general in Tennessee’s 24th Judicial District before winning election to the Henry County General Sessions Court bench in 2006.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin and her juris doctor from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.

The Judge Leon Ruben Award is not the first prestigious judicial award that Judge Snyder has won in recent years. In 2016, she was recognized with the McCain-Abernathy Award by the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Conference’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award was given to former Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Clarence E. Shattuck, Jr, who first took his seat on this court in 1982.  Judge Shattuck stepped down from the bench in March.

Judge Starnes said that the Conference decided to give Judge Shattuck its new Lifetime Achievement Award in appreciation and recognition of his outstanding leadership over the years and for his “exceptional contributions and longtime commitment to the judiciary and the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference.”

Judge Shattuck spoke warmly about his long relationship with the conference, which he has attended since the start of his judicial career. He said that since that time he has had the pleasure of getting to know a number of excellent General Sessions judges.

“Thanks to my colleagues over the years,” he said. “You made my send-off very, very good. I appreciate every one of you. Thank you very much.”

Judge Shattuck graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law and entered private practice in Hamilton County in 1960. He was appointed to the Hamilton County General Sessions bench in 1982 and was subsequently elected to five terms as judge.

During his tenure, Judge Shattuck presided over an astonishing number of cases.

“Since 1994, it’s actually estimated that Judge Shattuck has presided over 375,000 criminal cases and over 125,000 civil cases, and tack on another 12 years from when he took the bench – think about this – Judge Shattuck himself has presided over close to a million cases here in this county,” fellow Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Alex McVeagh said in an April 2019 article in the Hamilton County Herald.

Friend of the Conference Award

One more award was also given out at the conference. The Friend of the Conference Award was given to Tim DiScenza, former disciplinary counsel for the Board of Judicial Conduct. DiScenza was a federal prosecutor for 33 years at the Department of Justice before he took the role with the Board in 2010, Judge Starnes said.

“He knew what he was doing, and he’s one of the finest chief disciplinary counsels we’ve ever had,” Judge Starnes said. “If you messed up, you got reprimanded. On the other hand, he was very good at weeding out frivolous and false claims. He did what he was supposed to do.”