Supreme Court Appoints Retired Judge Kelly Thomas As Senior Judge

The Tennessee Supreme Court has appointed former Judge D. Kelly Thomas as a senior judge. He replaces current Senior Judge Thomas Wright, who is retiring. Judge Thomas’ appointment will begin September 1, 2023 and is for a term of two years.

Judge Thomas has over 30 years of judicial experience, serving as both an appellate and trial court judge.  He was a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals for 2006 to 2022, and he previously was a circuit court judge in the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Blount County, from 1990 to 2006. While on the circuit court bench, Judge Thomas founded the state’s second recovery court, which are special court dockets aimed at providing those suffering from substance use disorders with closely monitored treatment plans.

“Judge Thomas has a deep appreciation for the intricacies of the law and procedure,” Chief Justice Roger A. Page said. “The Supreme Court appreciates his willingness to come back and preside over what are often difficult cases. The Court also wishes Judge Wright all the best and is grateful for the work he has done on behalf of our state.”

Prior to joining the judiciary, Judge Thomas was an associate with Thomas & Cunningham and a partner in Thomas & Thomas. He earned both his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. He is a past president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee Trial Judges Association.

“After being an appellate judge, it is a rare experience to be able to go back and sit on the trial bench,” Judge Thomas said. “I loved being a trial judge, and I am grateful to the Supreme Court for this opportunity.”

In his community, Judge Thomas was on the Founding Board of Directors, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Blount County; Chairman of the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County Board of Directors; and Board Member of the Blount County Food Pantry.

Under Tennessee Code Ann. § 17-2-302, the Supreme Court may appoint senior judges when one or more judicial districts require additional resources and the appointment will promote the effective administration of justice in the state. Senior judges can serve by designation of the chief justice in any judicial district in the state and often travel as needed. There are currently six senior judges located across the state.