Judge Sharon Massey Grimes Takes Over For Late Husband On Montgomery County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Bench

January 25, 2021

Earlier this month, longtime Clarksville attorney Sharon Massey Grimes was appointed to the Montgomery County General Sessions and Juvenile Court bench to fill the unexpired term of her late husband Judge Ray Grimes, who passed away in November after serving as a judge for 22 years.

The Montgomery County Commission chose Judge Massey Grimes out of five candidates who had applied for the position, which will be up for election in 2022.

For Judge Massey Grimes the appointment represents the best move forward in a difficult situation. While she never aspired to this particular job, once her husband passed away she felt called to seek the position so that she could carry on his legacy.

“I would have rather this not have happened, but it did and so we just have to take the obstacles and challenges that we’ve been given and make the best of it,” she said. “What appeals to me now is that I want to continue the work he had been doing.”

One part of her husband’s legacy she is most passionate about continuing is the Montgomery County Recovery Court, which Judge Grimes started in 2005 and presided over until his death. Judge Massey Grimes recalled helping her husband draw up the policies and procedures of the court during its planning stages and noted the special satisfaction he got over the years from seeing how it helped turn lives around.

“Ray took great pride in helping persons with addiction issues,” Judge Massey Grimes said. “He was part of the team and never wore his robe in Recovery Court.  He believed in the saying, ‘You held out your hand and changed my life.’”

She also wants to carry forward the caring spirit and dedication that her husband embodied on the bench. Judge Massey Grimes said he truly cared about each and every person who appeared before him and strove to give them hope for a better future.

“Even though he championed consequences and tough love, he always had a positive outlook for any person in front of him,” she said. “He was a kind, compassionate person who wanted the best for all the litigants, adults and juveniles in his courtroom, and I wanted to make sure that continued.”

While Judge Massey Grimes gained a lot from her husband that will be useful in her new role as a judge, she also brings her own extensive professional experience to the General Sessions and Juvenile Court bench.

Her career started when she graduated from Austin Peay State University and went to work for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. She ended up spending 13 years there, as a case worker and then as a team coordinator. In those capacities, she spent a great deal of time in the courtroom and first became interested in pursuing a career in law.

Judge Massey Grimes pursued that interest by enrolling in the Nashville School of Law while still employed at DCS. At the same time that she was working a full time job and attending law school, she was also raising two young children.

“I learned to survive on very little sleep,” she said of that period.

Judge Massey Grimes earned a Juris Doctor in 1998 and then joined the firm of McMillan & McMillan. In 2000, she left that firm to start a successful solo practice, which she has operated for the past 20 years.

That practice focuses mainly on family and adoption law, but also encompasses criminal law. On the domestic side, her many years as a litigation attorney made her very familiar with Juvenile Court and juvenile justice laws. She also spent a lot of time working with military personnel and seeing up close the effect that court involvement can have on a career in the armed services, important knowledge to have in an area with such a large population of service members and veterans.

In addition to her legal practice, Judge Massey Grimes also owns a title insurance company in Clarksville. She is also a member of several professional organizations, including the Montgomery County Bar Association and the Tennessee Bar Association. She is one of only six lawyers in the state to be chosen as a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Recently, she served as a member of the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission and is proud of her past service for three terms on the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

So far, all of her experience has made for a smooth transition onto the bench. She was sworn in at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and then had her first order of protection docket at 9 a.m. That afternoon she had criminal court.

“It was a full first day,” she said.

In the past couple of months, Judge Massey Grimes has heard from numerous people who have told her stories about how their lives were positively impacted by her husband. Some of these were attorneys who said Judge Grimes gave them valuable experience in the courtroom early in their careers and taught them how to be better lawyers.

There were also individuals who had appeared before Judge Grimes in court.

“Some of the people who came to the visitation were strangers to me but told me how he had saved their children’s lives, or saved their lives,” Judge Massey Grimes said. “There were times I can remember where a young person came in front of him who didn’t have anyone or anything, and he wanted to help them know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Even though things were dark at that moment, he would encourage them, and oftentimes if a juvenile or even an adult did something good, he would have people stand up and give them a standing ovation in front of the courtroom.”

Those stories of changed lives meant a lot to Judge Grimes and they mean a lot to Judge Massey Grimes. She hopes to be able to add to that rich legacy through her time on the bench.