Chief Justice Drowota Retiring from Supreme Court

June 6, 2005

Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota, III, who has served longer than any of the 183 active state court judges, is retiring after 35 years of judicial service, including a quarter century on the Tennessee Supreme Court and two terms as chief justice.

Drowota“This morning I visited with and delivered to Governor Phil Bredesen a letter advising him that I will retire as chief justice and as a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court effective Sept. 2, 2005,” Drowota said Monday. “I will be forever grateful to the people of Tennessee for allowing me the opportunity to serve in the state judiciary for 35 years. Serving the people of Tennessee on the Supreme Court for the past 25 years has been an extraordinarily rewarding experience.”

Drowota , 66, began his judicial career in 1970 when he was appointed by Gov. Buford Ellington to the Chancery Court of Davidson County . In 1974, Gov. Winfield Dunn appointed him to the state Court of Appeals where he remained until his first election to the state Supreme Court in 1980. Grafton Green, a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1910-1947, is the only justice who served longer than Drowota on the state’s highest court.

“I have had the opportunity to adjudicate important and interesting legal issues, and I have been fortunate to serve with 12 different justices—men and women of the highest intellect and integrity ,“ Drowota said. “It has been my privilege to work with and to learn from each one of them, and I sincerely appreciate my colleagues for electing me to serve twice as chief justice during my time on the court.

Drowota’s first term as chief justice in 1989-90 was a period of transition for the court, including the swearing in of Martha Craig “ Cissy” Daughtrey as the first woman Supreme Court justice in Tennessee history. She now serves on the federal 6 th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“As chief justice I have had the great honor and opportunity to work on a daily basis with extraordinary members of the bench, with a wonderful office and court staff, and with the bar,” the chief justice said. “These persons continue to amaze me with their vision and to inspire me with their dedication. As I end my second term as chief justice and retire from the Tennessee Supreme Court, I am proud to be able to say that the Tennessee judiciary - from general sessions court judges to supreme court justices—consists of hardworking, conscientious individuals who are committed to the rule of law and to affording to all Tennessee citizens equal justice under law.”

During his tenure as an appellate judge, Drowota has participated in more than 4,500 decisions and has authored at least 1,000 majority opinions and more than 100 dissenting and concurring opinions.

"To be sure, Chief Justice Drowota's opinions, both civil and criminal, have served to update Tennessee law and bring it in line with much of the rest of the country,” Staff Attorney Marshall Davidson and Law Clerk Lisa Rippy wrote in an article to be published in the Nashville Bar Journal and the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy.

“He has written in a direct and concise style with a common-sense focus on making the law clear to judges, lawyers, and the public. A Drowota opinion, forged from practical realities, tells busy readers what they need to know. Direct and to the point, the opinions speak with strength and clarity. They are promptly issued too, for Chief Justice Drowota is keenly aware that few things cause litigants and their lawyers more frustration, and the judiciary more criticism, than the failure of courts to decide cases on a reasonably prompt basis.”

Drowota earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Vanderbilt University , where he also was a member of the football team. He later served as a Naval officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-la and was commanding officer for a local reserve unit. He retired after 27 years of active and reserve military service.

The chief justice is active in civic affairs and has served on the boards of the YMCA, American Red Cross, the Nashville Rotary Club, Montgomery Bell Academy, the Cumberland Museum and Science Center, the Frist Foundation and the Bill Wilkerson Speech & Hearing Center.

Drowota has been married for 42 years to the former Claire Hooper. They have two children, Helen Drowota Close of Nashville and Dr. Frank R. Drowota of Murfreesboro . He is an elder of Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville , where he has attended since he was 5 years old. His father was the church’s founding minister and served the congregation for 30 years.

Gov. Phil Bredesen will appoint a successor to Drowota on the five-member Supreme Court. The state Judicial Selection Commission will accept applications, interview applicants and conduct a public hearing before recommending three names for the governor’s consideration.