Justice Janice Holder, First Female to Serve as Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice, Announces Retirement

June 26, 2013

After more than 17 years and many firsts, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder will make August 31, 2014, her last day with the state’s highest court.

Justice Holder announced that she is retiring at the end of her current term and will not seek re-election in the August 2014 judicial retention election. She notified Gov. Bill Haslam by letter today.

“It has been my privilege to serve the people of Tennessee as a trial judge and Supreme Court justice – and an honor to have been selected by my fellow justices as the first female chief justice in our state’s history,” Justice Holder said.

Justice Holder, the third woman to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court, was the first woman to serve as chief justice, a role she held from September 2008 through August 2010. During the Court’s current term, the position of chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court has rotated, each chief justice serving a two-year term.

“As a jurist, Justice Holder has practiced the art of judicial restraint, writing concise, authoritative opinions, and never reaching beyond the issues presented to the court. Much lies ahead in her professional career, but at the end, I will simply miss a respected colleague and a dear friend,” Chief Justice Gary R. Wade said.

Justice Holder also served on the first Tennessee Supreme Court with a majority of women. Justices Cornelia A. Clark and Sharon G. Lee sit on the five-member court with Justice Holder. The court’s current makeup was established in October 2008 when Justice Lee was appointed to the court.

“While Janice Holder will always be remembered as the first woman in history to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, she has also been a courageous champion of the rights of all women, a compassionate leader in the Access to Justice initiative, a staunch proponent of the lawyers’ assistance program, and a dedicated servant to the people of this state,” Wade said.

Justice Holder’s time with the court has included her tireless advocacy of access to justice issues – finding ways to provide legal services to those with civil legal needs. Holder was instrumental in developing both the Court’s Access to Justice Commission and the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, which helps those in the legal profession address health and personal issues.

“Working to provide legal services to those who could not otherwise afford such services has been some of the most satisfying work of my career,” she said.

Justice Holder was first elected circuit court judge of the 30th Judicial District in Memphis in 1990. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee in December 1996, elected in August 1998, and then re-elected in 2006 to her current eight-year term.

Justice Holder has earned numerous awards and honors throughout her career. Earlier this month, the Tennessee Bar Association awarded her the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award for her efforts with the Access to Justice Commission and the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program.

Other honors include: 2010 Legacy Laureate, University of Pittsburgh; 2009 W.J. Michael Cody Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award, Memphis Area Legal Services; 2009 Jurist of the Year Award, Southeastern Region of the American Board of Trial Advocates; 2008 Grayfred Gray Public Service Mediation Award, Coalition for Mediation Awareness in Tennessee; 1999 honoree for exceptional support of the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs; 1990 Memphis Bar Association Sam A. Myar Award for Outstanding Service to the Legal Profession and to the Community; 1992 Chancellor Charles A. Rond Award, Outstanding Jurist, Memphis Bar Association.

Born August 29, 1949, in Canonsburg, Pa., Justice Holder attended Allegheny College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971. She received her J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 1975 and later served as senior law clerk to Herbert P. Sorg, chief judge, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder