Four Judges Proudly Participate in Swearing-in Ceremonies for their Children Entering the Practice of Law in the state of Tennessee

December 3, 2021
Chancellor Pamela Fleenor, 11th Judicial District, was excited and honored to swear-in her daughter, Christina Michelle Fleenor, on November 17.
 
“She asked me. She said, ‘Mom, do you want to swear me in?’ And I said, ‘sure.’ The other choice this year was to do it virtually by the Supreme Court. I was sworn in by the Supreme Court in Nashville in person. It kind of lacks a little luster to do it that way (virtually),” said Chancellor Fleenor.
 
The hardest part was deciding on a ceremony date. Christina’s dad, Philip E. Fleenor, is also an attorney. Both mom and dad had to pull out their trial calendars to schedule it. Fortunately, Chancellor Fleenor had two hearings pass on November 17 and the swearing-in date was set.
 
“You’re obviously very proud as a parent and it’s emotional,” said Chancellor Fleenor. “I always try to make it a big deal. I swear in a lot of the young attorneys. I always try to make it a big deal for them. Tell them if they want to invite family or friends and maybe give a few more extra questions than is required by the oath and things. It was just a lot of fun to share that with our close friends and clerks, a lot of the clerks came over.”
 
She was a bit surprised by the advice her husband, Christina’s father, offered. 
 
“Her dad gave her a charge that was a little different. He told her to read the rules of professional conduct and be familiar with them, be familiar with the local rules, and be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Both of my kids played sports, so that’s always what we told them. Play hard, have fun, humble in victory, gracious in defeat and that’s part of it. Always have deference for the court and be sure and shake your opponent’s hand after the transaction or case.”
 
Christina Fleenor is a recent graduate of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.
 
It was a family affair on November 15, when Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge L. Marie Williams had the pleasure of swearing-in her son, Jonathan Cleary.
 
Jonathan was presented by his father and Judge Williams' husband, Jeff Cleary. Judge Williams' brother, Frank Williams, served as Jonathan's sponsor and her first cousin, James Williams, also attended the ceremony. Both gentlemen are attorneys at Miller & Martin.
 
Jonathan is a fourth generation Tennessee lawyer on the Williams side of the family and third generation on the Cleary side.
 
Two more children of current judges were sworn in on November 16, via Zoom, by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeff Bivins.
 
Meredith Joy Maroney is one of those new attorneys. She stood beside her dad, Chancellor Steven W. Maroney, 26th Judicial District, as he presented the motion to grant her admission to the practice of law in the state of Tennessee.
 
“It was a real honor,” said Chancellor Maroney. “It took me back because I could remember, it doesn’t seem like that long ago, that I had that experience of being sworn in before the Supreme Court. She wasn’t even born then. It’s kind of amazing. In the blink of an eye, we’ve raised a daughter who is very accomplished and now she is getting to appear before the Supreme Court to be sworn in. It’s humbling and it’s exciting, and nostalgic—all of those things rolled into one.”
 
Meredith graduated from the University of Tennessee with a communications degree, thinking she would pursue a career in sports broadcasting. By her junior year, she decided she wanted to go to law school. It was a decision that surprised her dad, but he knew her undergraduate courses helped develop her communications and writing skills, which would benefit her in the law profession.
 
“The best advice I could give Meredith, or any other young attorney, is to develop a strong work ethic. You’re going to do a lot of things early in the law profession, what some may consider to be grunt work. Just keep a cheerful attitude and display a strong work ethic and you’ll be recognized for it,” said Chancellor Maroney.
 
That should come easily to Meredith, as she spent many childhood days inside her dad’s law office singing on the Dictaphone and pretending to be a lawyer.
 
“I still have what basically amounts to her first law complaint,” said Chancellor Maroney. “She drafted one on her own in my office. She was playing around and she brought it to me. It was a fictional work complaint and she decided the guilty party was the boss and the worker was earning $40,000 a month. I thought, I would really like to quit the practice of law and take that job. She got the whole thing worked out and the award, and had me sign it for her.”
 
Justice Bivins acknowledged this special moment between father and daughter. 
 
“It’s a time of pride and a time of celebration, so we welcome you, Ms. Maroney. We welcome you to the practice of law in the state of Tennessee. Congratulations and we wish you the best. It’s my pleasure to grant the motion,” he said.
 
Meredith is a graduate of William & Mary School of Law and a new associate attorney at the law firm of Rainey, Kaiser, Revere and Bell.
 
Paul Estep, son of Judge Roger Estep, Claiborne County General Sessions Court, was also sworn in, via Zoom, by Justice Bivins. He was presented to the Court by his father.
 
“He has successfully completed all requirements to practice law before this bar and I, therefore, move to grant Paul Estep’s admission to practice law before this Court and the courts of Tennessee,” said Judge Estep.
 
“We know it’s always a special time for new admittees to be sworn in, but we also know it’s got to be a special time, indeed, when you can move the admission of your son or daughter and see that happen again. We congratulate you and congratulate the family,” said Justice Bivins.
 
Paul is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law and a member of the Estep & Estep Law Firm, which was established by his grandfather in 1952.
 
In a typical year, the Court takes a full week in November to crisscross the state, visiting Knoxville, Nashville, Jackson and Memphis, for live ceremonies where they are able to see and hear from the families of the new admittees. The Court is hopeful that live ceremonies will resume next year.
Chancellor Pamela Fleenor, Philip Fleenor and Christina Michelle Fleenor at her swearing-in ceremony

Meredith Joy Maroney and her father, Chancellor Steven Maroney, at her zoom swearing-in ceremony

Judge Roger Estep joined his son, Paul Estep, for his zoom swearing-in ceremony

Judge L. Marie Williams pictured with (left to right): Jonathan Cleary, Frank Williams, James Williams, and Jeff Cleary.