Justice Page Announces August 2024 Retirement

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger A. Page has notified Governor Bill Lee that he will retire on August 31, 2024. Justice Page was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2016, serving as Chief Justice from 2021 to 2023. As Chief Justice, he helped secure substantial funding to implement enterprise e-filing for the court system. Under the plan, court records across the state will be electronic and accessible, improving efficiency and data collection and analysis in the court system. Justice Page also promoted access to justice and pro bono service, encouraged greater transparency and efficiency in the judiciary with live streaming of appellate arguments, and maintained good relationships among the judicial, executive, and legislative branches.

His judicial service spanned more than 25 years at the trial court, intermediate appellate, and Supreme Court levels.

“My service on the Supreme Court and in the judiciary has been the honor of a lifetime,” Justice Page said. “The experience has been humbling and inspiring. The Tennessee judiciary is truly a family, and I have been fortunate to walk this path with my great friends in the judiciary. I will miss all of them and treasure their friendship.”

In 2011, Justice Page was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals by Governor Bill Haslam, who would later appoint him to the Supreme Court. Upon his nomination to the Supreme Court, he became the first judicial nominee to move through the new confirmation process required by a 2014 amendment to the Tennessee Constitution.  He was unanimously confirmed by both the Tennessee House and Senate.

“Justice Page has made a huge contribution to Tennessee's justice system, first as a trial judge handling both civil and criminal cases, then on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and now on the Supreme Court, most recently as Chief Justice," Chief Justice Holly Kirby said. “He is thoughtful and deliberate, and he brings wisdom and common sense to the serious issues we must decide. On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoy working with him and will miss him on the Court. We wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

Grounded in rural roots

After justices are confirmed to the Supreme Court, a ceremonial swearing-in is conducted for the public, full of pomp and circumstance and long-held traditions. For his investiture, Justice Page did not choose a historic courthouse or famous location. His choice was Mifflin, Tennessee, a rural location that required detailed instructions by GPS coordinates for some guests to locate the venue.

This West Tennessee native grew up on a farm and attended Chester County public schools. According to the Jackson Sun newspaper, the swearing-in ceremony drew more than 1,000 state officials, dignitaries, judges, and local citizens who descended on the country store less than a half-mile from Justice Page’s boyhood home where he learned to drive a tractor, worked in the cotton fields, and gained his affinity for rescuing stray dogs.

“I was honored that Governor Haslam came to Mifflin to administer my oath of office.  I did not consider any other location,” Justice Page said.  “There is no better place on the face of the earth. The people of Mifflin have supported me for as long as I can remember.  They campaigned for me. They volunteered for me. They repeatedly honored me with their votes, and it was a privilege to bring the historic event back to them.”

Justice Page’s first election in 1998 was to the trial court bench for the 26th Judicial District, comprised of Madison, Chester, and Henderson counties. In Tennessee, both trial and appellate judges face elections at the end of their terms or in the next general election if they were appointed. Justice Page was on the ballot a total of six times, winning every election.

As a trial court judge, Justice Page earned a well-known reputation for managing a heavy docket, moving cases along efficiently and effectively, and avoiding delays whenever possible.

“My goal in any murder case was to have a verdict within one year of the offense date,” Justice Page said. “Except for cases that had a delay in the indictment, I was usually able to achieve that goal. When a murder happens in a community, victims, witnesses, families, and defendants need the process to move forward expeditiously.  We owe it to the people to administer justice fairly.  Timeliness is an important element of that process.”

Justice Page received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1978 from the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy in Memphis. Before his legal career, he worked as chief pharmacist and assistant store manager for Walgreens.  While in law school, he sometimes worked several hours a week as a pharmacist, along with helping to raise his two boys. Justice Page graduated with honors from the University of Memphis Law School in 1984 and ranked 4th in his class. He filled his last prescription as a pharmacist the day before he took the bar exam.

After graduating from law school, he clerked for then-U.S. District Court Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, an outstanding jurist. He credits that experience for much of his success. He moved to Atlanta to practice law in a big city, but after two years, returned to Jackson and practiced at Holmes, Rich, Sigler & Page, P.C. from 1987-1992. While in private practice, he handled civil and criminal cases, frequently taking court-appointed cases for indigent defendants. He left private practice in 1992 and was an assistant attorney general for the state until his election to the trial bench.

On the horizon

Justice Page, age 68, said, “I have been a pharmacist, an attorney, and a judge.  If I hurry, I might have time for one more career.” He noted that there have been a lot of changes in the practice of law and the court system during his long career.

“I was extremely proud of the judiciary’s response to the Covid pandemic,” he said. “Every judge, court clerk, and lawyer made a tremendous effort to keep the courts open and accessible. The technological advances that we gained were a big leap forward and we need to keep building on that work.”

“It has been incredibly gratifying to watch the start of an evolution across the judiciary,” Justice Page said. “I look forward to following those changes and to catching up with my judicial family in between trips I have been planning for years, watching my grandkids play sports, and spending time with my wonderful wife.”

Justice Page is married to retired Chancellor Carol McCoy and has two sons and four grandchildren.