16th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Terry Fann’s Road to the Bench Paved with Encouragement

Encouragement. That is the single word that best defines 16th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Terry Fann’s journey to becoming a judge. Judge Fann was appointed by Governor Bill Lee in November 2023 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of  Judge Mark Rogers.

“My youngest son was married in April. My wife and I celebrated our 40th anniversary in June, and at the end of June some colleagues approached me and said, ‘Hey, did you know Judge Rogers retired?’ I did not,” said Judge Fann. “They encouraged me to apply for the vacancy, and it felt like the time was right in my career and in my life. When I started pursuing it, doors started to open and I received a lot of encouragement from local lawyers, from friends, and judges. As I pursued the public hearing and was selected as one of the three nominees to be interviewed by the Governor, there were doors that were opened that I had no idea were there.”

Encouragement is also what landed Judge Fann in law school.

“My undergraduate degree was actually in agriculture business,” said Judge Fann. “That was a long way from being a judge back in 1983. My wife’s uncle, who’s my partner, Steve Waldron, was a trial lawyer in Murfreesboro and he encouraged me to go to law school. I worked for a couple years and decided that his offer was a pretty good offer. I was in agriculture finance and the economy was not great so I decided a career change was probably best. I took his advice and encouragement and went to law school in Memphis.”

Judge Fann went on to have what he describes as a very challenging and rewarding career as a trial lawyer, a role that helped prepare him for his first day on the bench.

“It was a different point of view,” said Judge Fann. “I’ve practiced 36 years as a trial lawyer so sitting on the bench and listening and observing was a very different point of view, but I actually was comfortable up there. I felt like I was prepared, I was ready after having tried as many cases as I have in 36 years.”

Judge Fann also credits the advice and guidance he’s received since his appointment.

“I’m just overwhelmed and honored by the kindness and the assistance of all the people involved,” said Judge Fann. “Whether it’s the clerk or the security deputies, the lawyers or the judges, they’ve all been very welcoming and a huge amount of assistance in getting me going. It didn’t surprise me. They were very encouraging from the time I received the appointment from Governor Lee. I didn’t know what to expect and it is such a different position and it’s such an important position that the amount of solicited and unsolicited advice that I received was tremendously helpful to me.”

For other lawyers hoping to follow a similar path, Judge Fann’s advice is to be fair to colleagues.

”Be respectful in courtrooms and to the judges. And try to maintain high character and high integrity with everyone you deal with because, over time, if you’re seeking the position of a judge, your reputation is one of the most important assets.”

Judge Fann was sworn in on November 29, 2023, by retired Judge Rogers, and the event was hosted by the Cannon and Rutherford County Bar Associations. Judge B. Jo Atwood presided over the ceremony, which was attended by all of the current sitting judges and several retired judges.

“I was very honored and very proud to be standing before our judges, my colleagues, my friends and family, and being sworn in as the next Circuit Court Judge,” said Judge Fann. “It was a really good turnout. We had a huge crowd of people.   I literally was overwhelmed by the support, the attendance, and the encouragement that everybody gave to me at the swearing-in ceremony.”

Judge Fann’s longtime partner, Steve Waldron, introduced him during the investiture. Retired Judge David Bragg, who was one of Judge Fann’s mentors, gave the invocation.

Judge Terry Fann is sworn in by retired Judge Mark Rogers
Judge Terry Fann is sworn in by retired Judge Mark Rogers