Fall 2021 General Sessions Judges Conference Held in Nashville

October 14, 2021

Judges from across the state of Tennessee gathered in Nashville last week for the Fall 2021 General Sessions Judges Conference. After a challenging year of working through the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference adopted a fitting theme for the year ahead: Relax, Renew, Recharge. The Honorable Lynda Jones, Conference President and Deborah Taylor Tate, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, kicked off the conference with opening remarks.

“My main message is to thank every one of you because you kept the court systems going in your counties. I hope we did something to help all of you do that, but it was really all of you, on the ground, all day, every day and on weekends for many of you. I just want to thank you from the Supreme Court. They are back in session today. And I want to thank you on behalf of the AOC and our entire state for all you have done,” said Director Tate.

Director Tate looked back on the numbers that showed just how successful operating court in a virtual world can be. There were more than 22,477 zoom sessions with 189,523 zoom participants, over 15, 000 virtual training hours for 11,000 participants, 9.6 million views of tncourts.gov and 109,000 views of livestreamed appellate oral arguments.

“It is just quite remarkable. I still can’t get over that there were over 10 million hits on our web site, said Director Tate. “We knew we were a trusted communicator for the bench and bar, but now we really have the numbers to show that. I’m very proud that we had one of the very first web sites about Covid-19.”

The Honorable Lynda Jones took the podium to recognize the judges who are retiring or have already retired this year. They include: J. Klyne Lauderback, Sullivan County; Judge John A. Donald, Shelby County; Judge Geoffrey P. Emory, Knox County; Judge Ben Hall McFarland, Jr, Rutherford County; Judge Haywood Berry, Wilson County and Judge William W. Locke, Warren County. William E. Higgins, Davidson County, is not running for reelection.

She also recognized the judges who will take the place of those retiring from the bench. They include: Judge Teresa Nelson, Sullivan County, who is filling Judge J. Klyne Lauderback’s seat; Judge Danielle Simms, Shelby County, who replaces Judge John Donald; Judge Trey McFarland (son of Judge Ben Hall McFarland), who is taking is father’s seat in Rutherford County; and Judge Sharon Massey Grimes, Montgomery County.

Judge Jones offered some words of wisdom to the incoming judges. “I’ve only been in this conference for seven years, but you’re going to find that these are the most amazing men and women that you’re going to get to work with and get to know. They are not only brothers and sisters, but some of them are like uncles and aunts. We’re just like one big family. We have disagreements, but we still love each other at the end of the day,” she said.

The conference included numerous topics of interest. The Honorable Dwight E. Stokes presented criminal updates and criminal ethics updates. Marshall Davidson, of the Board of Judicial Conduct and Janet Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Tennessee Attorney General, presented Election Ethics. Deborah Yeomans-Barton, Deputy Director, Legal Aid of East Tennessee presented Domestic Violence: Orders of Protection/Expanding Resources. A Bail Bonds Best Practices Session was presented by the Judge Andy Brigham, Judge Jones, Judge Vicki S. Snyder and Judge Lila Statom.

Kyle Wilson, Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Tennessee, gave a presentation on the dark web (software technology to introduce false evidence/what is possible/how does AI impact evidence). Darrin Grondel, Vice President of Traffic Safety and Government Relations and Chris Konschak, Senior Director of Traffic Safety and Government Relations, both of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility presented Drugged Driving, Roadside Oral Fluid Testing & the Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS). Judge Andy Brigham and Edward Waugh of Wiseman, Bray PLLC provided review on forfeitures and seizures