Judge Carma Dennis McGee was publicly sworn in as a member of one of Tennessee’s highest courts Friday in Savannah at an investiture.
Judge McGee, a former 24th Judicial District chancellor, was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Governor Bill Lee to fill the seat of former Judge Brandon Gibson. Judge Gibson stepped down from the Court earlier this year to become a senior adviser to Governor Lee.
A graduate of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Judge McGee worked in private practice for 15 years before she became a chancellor. She was appointed to the 24th Judicial District Chancery Court by Governor Bill Haslam in 2014 and won election to a full term on that court later that year.
Governor Lee swore in Judge McGee in the auditorium of Hardin County High School in Savannah. Numerous judges, state leaders, friends, and family were in attendance for the event.
“I am proud of who you are,” Governor Lee said during the ceremony. “I’m proud of the leadership that you have shown. I am proud of the conservative values that you hold, and I’m proud to appoint you as the next judge for the Court of Appeals in the Western Section.”
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger Page, a fellow West Tennessean and longtime friend of Judge McGee, noted that Judge McGee is now the fifth woman ever to sit on the Court of Appeals.
“She has important shoes to fill,” he said. “I am thrilled to say that for the first time in the history of the Court of Appeals she is not filling the shoes of a man, but the shoes of a woman, Judge Gibson.”
Justice Page also remarked on the extensive process that Judge McGee had to go through in order to attain her new position, which is a highly sought after one. He pointed out that of the 23,000 lawyers or so in Tennessee, less than 1,000 become judges. Of those judges, only 29 sit at the appellate level.
Judge McGee was one of 14 who applied to the seat on the Court of Appeals. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments chose three of those applicants to present to the governor. Out of those three, Governor Lee selected Judge McGee. Judge McGee then had to be confirmed by the Tennessee House of Representatives and the Tennessee Senate. She was confirmed unanimously, as Justice Page highlighted.
“I am confident that Judge McGee will have a long career in our appellate courts,” Justice Page said.
Some of Judge McGee’s new colleagues on the Court of Appeals were also in attendance, including Judge Kenny Armstrong, Judge Arnold B. Goldin, and Judge J. Steven Stafford. Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge John Everett Williams was also there.
“On behalf of Chief Judge Swiney and the other members of the Tennessee Court of Appeals we want to formally welcome Judge McGee as a member of this court,” Judge Stafford said. “The Court of Appeals has a rich history of judicial excellence and it’s our belief that Judge McGee will only add to that standard.”
Judge Goldin spoke of what Judge McGee’s presence would add to the Court.
“We’re delighted to have a full complement now,” he said. “It definitely makes a difference, and she’s so highly qualified we’re just delighted to have her.”
When it was Judge McGee’s turn to speak, she devoted most of her time to words of gratitude for the many people who helped her reach this point in her career.
First, she thanked Governor Lee for the opportunity and said she was “honored by the faith you have placed in me.” She also thanked members of the General Assembly, including Senator Dolores R. Gresham, for their support.
Judge McGee also had kind words for Justice Page and Judge Stafford.
“Both of these judges have been very helpful to me throughout the process and throughout my entire career,” she said. “I have looked up to both of them. Thank you for all of the wisdom you have shared, all of the questions you have answered, and for being here today.”
Some of the most heartfelt words were reserved for her family. She expressed appreciation to her husband and kids for their steadfast support both when she was an attorney and when she was campaigning for office.
“They’ve been to a lot of fish fries and barbecues and pancake breakfasts and have walked in a lot of parades,” she said. “So I thank them for that and their tireless efforts on my behalf.”
She also paid special tribute to her parents, reflecting notably on the influence of her father, who passed away last year.
“There is probably no other one earthly person that was more instrumental in my success throughout my life than my father was,” she said. “He taught me from a young age that just good enough is not good enough. He instilled in me that desire to go above and beyond and to always give your 100 percent best at everything. And I would not be here today without his and my mother’s guidance and the lessons that they taught me throughout my life.”
Other words of thanks went to her staff, members of the Hardin County Bar, friends, and other judges who had traveled to Savannah for the ceremony. She emphasized how she has been embraced by the Tennessee judiciary since the years of her first appointment.
“When I was first appointed 2014 and went to what’s called the Judicial Academy, some of the older judges at that time said, Welcome to the Judicial Conference, it is truly a family,” she said. “At that time I really did not understand what that meant. But through these last five years I have come to understand. I am privileged to count many of you as my friends and for that I am grateful and thank you all for being here to share this time today.”
Finally, Judge McGee spoke to the role that faith has played in her career, thanking God for getting her to where she is now.
“Lastly, and most importantly, I thank God for His blessings and for this opportunity,” she said. “As I stand before you today I can say without a doubt that my cup truly runneth over. To he to whom much is given, much is also required. I pray that God will grant me the wisdom to be a faithful steward over the responsibilities that He has entrusted to me.”
Click here to watch a video of the ceremony.
Click here to see more photos from the ceremony.