Justice Lee Honored With The Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award

Justice Sharon G. Lee will receive the Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award for her innovative and lasting contributions to the field of mediation at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Association of Professional Mediators (TAPM) on April 8, 2022. The award is part of the celebration of Mediation Month proclaimed by Governor Bill Lee.

Justice Lee spearheaded the launch and implementation of the Tennessee Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Plan that encouraged state courts to refer cases to mediation to help reduce the backlog of cases that arose during the pandemic. In October 2021, the Court amended its ADR Plan to carry the Plan forward as a resource for Tennessee courts.  Later, Justice Lee worked to revise the ADR Plan to continue to make mediation more available and provide quicker, less expensive, and potentially more satisfying alternatives to continuing litigation, without impairing the quality of justice or the right to trial.

“I am honored to receive this award,” Justice Lee said. “Mediation is an integral and valuable partof our system of justice which allows people to resolve disputes efficiently and effectively. The COVID pandemic disrupted our lives and caused backlogs in our court system. We learned new ways to adapt, and the ADR Plan is a great example of such an effort. Mediators across Tennessee stepped up to offer their services to help ease court backlogs and allow people to settle their disputes during a difficult time. We will carry the success of that program into the future.”

Governor Bill Lee proclaimed April 2022 as Mediation Month in Tennessee, in recognition of the contribution of mediation and to encourage its further growth in the State.  Mediation is a growing profession. There are now approximately 1,400 mediators listed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to assist the courts in resolving disputes, and additional trained mediators volunteering their time at community mediation centers across Tennessee. Per the Tennessee Commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediators self-reported 7,213 mediations last year, with 72% of the cases fully or partially resolved through mediation. Justice Lee was a Rule 31 listed family mediator with advanced family domestic violence training before she joined the bench.

“Justice Lee has long served as an advocate for mediation, especially using mediation as a means of access to justice. She embodies what the Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award seeks to recognize,”  TAPM President Cindy Ettingoff said. “Justice Lee’s strong support of mediation of court disputes has benefitted Tennesseans from all walks of life, especially during the COVID pandemic.”

The Coalition for Mediation Awareness in Tennessee (CMAT) was formed in 2006 to maximize the resources and expertise of various groups who provide alternative dispute resolution services. TAPM is a member of CMAT. CMAT presents the annual Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award to persons who make innovative and lasting public service contributions through alternative dispute resolution in Tennessee. The award is named after its first recipient, Grayfred Gray, Emeritus Professor, University of Tennessee College of Law, and founder of UT’s outstanding Mediation Clinic.

TAPM’s Vice-President Jackie Kittrell said, “As the Supreme Court Liaison to the ADR Commission, Justice Lee has helped showcase how mediation can mean access to justice for people in need – people who can solve their own disputes with the help of a Rule 31 pro bono mediator. Justice Lee was an important part of Tennessee’s COVID-19 response, and a big help to state and county courts’ administration of justice.”

Past recipients of the award also include former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, Marietta Shipley, Shelby R. Grubbs, Robert P. Murrian, Jocelyn Wurzburg, Larry Bridgesmith, Carol Berz, Jean Munroe, Anne Sides, Stephen L. Shields, Margaret M. Huff, Linda Warren Seely, the Executive Directors of Community Mediation Centers, Jacqueline Kittrell, former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark, and Judge Deborah M. Henderson.