The ultimate guide to the judicial races on the August ballot

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 04, 2022 12:29 PM CT | Published: July 24, 2022 4:01 AM CT

Almost half of the 163 races on the Aug. 4 ballot are judicial races.

And these are the races that voters consistently complain they are least equipped to judge, no pun intended.

In the run-up to the August election, The Daily Memphian is making our election coverage free to all readers. Please consider supporting local journalism and this community by subscribing to this site or by donating to our organization. Thank you for your continued participation and support.

The 119 candidates for judge of various courts in the 70 judicial races account for a third of the 344 candidates to be found on the “big ballot,” as it is called by politicos.

The judicial races are further down the long ballot and don’t get as much attention as the other races because of that position and a code of ethics that limits what those running for judge can say to get votes.


Early voting opens with Shelby County’s ‘big ballot’


Nevertheless, the races are important — and the candidates are just as dogged in their pursuit of votes. 

Because of the limits on campaigning, judicial candidates rely heavily on sheer name recognition to carry the day with voters surprised by the races and not really sure how to judge those who want to be judges.

With that in mind, here is The Daily Memphian’s comprehensive guide to voting in the judicial races. We’ve not listed the 13 races where an incumbent is unopposed along with the 26 retention races for the state appellate court positions that amount to a yes/no vote for the incumbent.

That leaves 31 judicial races for to review.

A condensed form of this review is also featured in The Daily Memphian’s “On The Record” podcast.

Here are the endorsements made in these races and others by the Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association as well as the Judicial Qualification Poll of the Memphis Bar Association.

They are a poll and a set of endorsements by attorneys who practice in the courts.

Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge

The race for Juvenile Court Judge is the other contest on the August ballot rooted in calls for criminal justice reform — the primary race being the battle for District Attorney General between incumbent Amy Weirich and challenger Steve Mulroy.

Juvenile Court Judge is a nonpartisan race that nonetheless has divided Republicans and Democrats.

The 2022 race is a rematch of the 2014 showdown between Dan Michael and Tarik Sugarmon to succeed outgoing Judge Curtis Person Jr., who served a single eight-year term.

Dan Michael: The incumbent is seeking a second term, billing himself as the judge who has brought reform to the court.

Michael worked for the court under both Person and Person’s predecessor, the late Kenneth Turner, who ruled the court and its procedures for decades.

Tarik Sugarmon: Memphis City Court judge who ran unsuccessfully for the position in 2014 on a reform platform.

Sugarmon, the son of civil rights icon and the late judge Russell Sugarmon, is campaigning as a break from more than 50 years of control of the court by Turner and his two hand-picked successors.

William “Ray” Glasgow:

Glasgow is an attorney in private practice whose law practice includes family matters.

Dee Shawn Peoples:

Peoples is an attorney whose practice involves representing children before the court and their families.


Ballot Basics: Early voting is July 15-30


Circuit Court

<strong>Carlos Bibbs</strong>

Carlos Bibbs

The nine divisions of Circuit Court hear a variety of civil cases including divorces, personal injury claims, condemnations, citizenship restoration and worker’s compensation cases. 

<strong>Carol Chumney</strong>

Carol Chumney

An estimated 5,500 cases in filed each year in Circuit Court.

<strong>Kenneth Margolis</strong>

Kenneth Margolis

Five of the nine judges are running unopposed on the August ballot.

Two incumbents — James Russell and Jerry Stokes — are not seeking re-election.

<strong>Stuart Breakstone</strong>

Stuart Breakstone

<strong>Cedrick Wooten</strong>

Cedrick Wooten

The remaining two judges have challengers.

<strong>Mary L. Wagner</strong>

Mary L. Wagner

<strong>Paul A. Robinson</strong>

Paul A. Robinson

Circuit Court Judge Division 2

One of the two races for judge where there is no incumbent seeking reelection. In this case the outgoing incumbent is Judge James F. Russell.

<strong>Damita Dandridge</strong>

Damita Dandridge

Carlos A. Bibbs has been senior assistant city prosecutor since from December 2014. Prior to that time, he was assistant city attorney from 2012-2014.

<strong>Larry E. Parrish</strong>

Larry E. Parrish

Carol J. Chumney. Trial Attorney for 34 years. Best known for serving 17 years in the Tennessee State House and a single four-year term on the Memphis City Council as well as several bids for Memphis mayor.

<strong>Robert&nbsp;Weiss</strong>

Robert Weiss

Kenneth Margolis. Owner Law Office of Kenneth Margolis Law for 14 years. 

Circuit Court Division 6

<strong>Melanie Taylor Jefferson</strong>

Melanie Taylor Jefferson

Incumbent Judge Jerry Stokes is not seeking re-election.

Stuart Breakstone. Owner, Breakstone and Associates Law Firm specializing in divorce and separation services, child custody services and child custody support services and business development and litigation.

<strong>Gadson William Perry</strong>

Gadson William Perry

Cedrick D. Wooten. Managing partner of Humphrey & Wooten LLC since Jan. 2007. Chief Administrative Officer for the Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office since Sept. 2021 and a former Chief Administrative Officer of Criminal Court Clerk’s Office.


Here are the changes voters will be navigating when early voting begins


Circuit Court Division 7

<strong>Joe Jenkins</strong>

Joe Jenkins

Paul A. Robinson Jr. Robinson was on the ballot eight years ago as a candidate for Chancery Court Judge.

Mary L. Wagner. The incumbent Division 7 judge was appointed to the position in 2016 and elected to the bench in 2018. Previously an associate for Rice, Amundsen and Caperton from February 2011 to October 2016. A former Shelby County Republican Party chairwoman.

<strong>Richard W. Parks</strong>

Richard W. Parks

<strong>Joe Townsend</strong>

Joe Townsend

Circuit Court Division 8

Damita Dandridge. A Shelby County Judicial Commissioner for 20 years and professor at LeMoyne-Owen College for 30 years.

<strong>Michael G. Floyd</strong>

Michael G. Floyd

Larry E. Parrish. President, Parrish Lawyers P.C. since May 2014. Former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the “Deep Throat” obscenity case in the 1970s.

Robert ‘Bob’ Weiss. The incumbent Judge, elected in September 2010 special election.


Three major countywide races in August may mean change


<strong>Paula Skahan</strong>

Paula Skahan

Chancery Court

Sam Winnig

Sam Winnig

The three divisions or “parts” of Chancery Court also hear civil cases and have some overlapping jurisdiction with Circuit Court.

That includes divorce cases and workers compensation but not personal injury claims that are not the result of breach of contract.

<strong>Jennifer Fitzgerald</strong>

Jennifer Fitzgerald

The court also hears cases for the removal of public officials and other claims that pit one part of government against another along with declaratory judgments, public nuisance claims and enforcement of awards made in arbitration.

<strong>Joe Ozment</strong>

Joe Ozment

All three incumbent Chancellors are seeking eight-year terms on the August ballot.

Chancellor Part I

Melanie Taylor Jefferson. Self-employed attorney 

<strong>Gregory Thomas Carman</strong>

Gregory Thomas Carman

Gadson William Perry. Incumbent Chancellor, appointed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in 2021. Before his appointment, Perry was a partner with Butler Snow LLP.

<strong>Amy Mayne</strong>

Amy Mayne

Chancellor Part III

Joe Jenkins. The incumbent chancellor, elected to the bench in a 2016 special election. Before that, Jenkins worked in the General Sessions Court Clerk’s office as administrator of the civil divisions of that court. 

<strong>James Jones</strong>

James Jones

Richard Parks. General practice attorney for 34 years. Parks ran for Probate Court judge eight years ago, finishing third with Kathleen Gomes winning the full term. He also ran unsuccessfully for Memphis City Council in 2007. 


Ballot Basics: Laying out the 2022 election year


<strong>Michael McCusker</strong>

Michael McCusker

Probate Court

The court is best known for hearing matters related to wills and estates. It also handles conservatorships, guardianships, mental health hospitalization orders, name changes and corrections to birth certificates.

<strong>Carlyn Addison</strong>

Carlyn Addison

One of the two incumbents, Judge Kathleen Gomes, is running unopposed on the August ballot.

Probate Court Judge Division 2

Joe Townsend. Attorney practicing law since 1986.

<strong>Christopher Lareau</strong>

Christopher Lareau

Karen D. Webster. Incumbent Division 2 judge since winning the office in the 2006 elections. (No photo available)

Criminal Court

<strong>Reginald Henderson</strong>

Reginald Henderson

The trial courts for criminal offenses all the way up to and including death penalty cases. Four of the 10 current Criminal Court judges are not seeking reelection this year. One of the six remaining incumbents, Carolyn Blackett, is unopposed.

The courts handle an average 207, 378 cases per year. 

<strong>David Pool</strong>

David Pool

Criminal Court Division 1

Michael G. Floyd. An attorney licensed in Tennessee, Arkansas and Pennsylvania who has run for numerous judicial positions over the years. He is in private practice and is outside litigation counsel for the Memphis Shelby County Education Association.

<strong>Ross Sampson</strong>

Ross Sampson

Paula Skahan. The incumbent, Skahan assumed office in 2004. From 1990 to 2004, she was a private attorney and before that, she served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Shelby County District Attorney’s office for three years and as a public defender for one year. 

Criminal Court Division 2

<strong>Kenya Brooks</strong>

Kenya Brooks

Incumbent Judge Glenn Wright is not seeking reelection.

<strong>Lee Coffee</strong>

Lee Coffee

Samuel Winnig. An assistant district attorney for Shelby County since 2010. He has also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney. He is an instructor in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office’s recruit classes and is an adviser to the Memphis Police Department’s Crump Precinct.

<strong>Chris Craft</strong>

Chris Craft

Jennifer Fitzgerald. Works alongside her father, Larry Fitzgerald, as a principal attorney at Fitzgerald, Harris and Fitzgerald representing clients in state and federal courts. 

<strong>Sanjeev Memula</strong>

Sanjeev Memula

Joe Ozment. A private attorney who primarily focuses on criminal defense. Previously, he was a judicial law clerk in the Shelby County Criminal Court. 

Gregory Thomas Carman. Attorney and supervisor in the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.

<strong>A. Melissa Boyd</strong>

A. Melissa Boyd

Amy G. Mayne. Attorney and assistant public defender.

Criminal Court Division 3

Incumbent Judge Bobby Carter is not seeking reelection.

<strong>Mark Ward</strong>

Mark Ward

James Jones. A private attorney who focuses primarily on state and federal criminal defense issues but also handles a variety of civil litigation matters.

Michael R. McCusker. Assistant district attorney since 2001. Previously, he worked for one year in the private sector handling divorces, share-holder disputes and insurance defense.

<strong>Lynn Cobb</strong>

Lynn Cobb

McCusker ran in the Democratic primary for Criminal Court Clerk in 2014 and two years earlier applied for an appointment to a Criminal Court Judge vacancy.

Criminal Court Division 5

Incumbent Judge James Lammey is not seeking reelection.

<strong>Victoria Gillard</strong>

Victoria Gillard

Carlyn Addison. A Juvenile Court magistrate for 11 years. She previously served as an Assistant Public Defender for seven years.

Christopher J. Lareau. Senior prosecutor in the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office and has practiced law for 18 years.

<strong>Lawrence Pivnik</strong>

Lawrence Pivnik

Criminal Court Division 6

Incumbent Judge John Campbell is now a state criminal appeals court judge.

Reginald Henderson. An assistant district attorney in the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office since 1991. 

David L. Pool. A judicial commissioner since 2016. Previously, he spent six years in private practice and four years as in-house counsel for Drexel Chemical Co.

<strong>Lincoln Hodges</strong>

Lincoln Hodges

Ross Sampson. A criminal defense attorney who represents clients in both state and federal court.

Criminal Court Division 7

Kenya Brooks. An attorney who ran for the same position in 2014.

<strong>William Larsha</strong>

William Larsha

Lee V. Coffee. The incumbent, elected to the position in 2006. Previously, he was an assistant district attorney in Houston, a public defender Shelby County Public Defender’s Office, an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Western District of Tennessee and assistant district attorney general for the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office.

<strong>Danielle Mitchell Sims</strong>

Danielle Mitchell Sims

Criminal Court Division 8

Chris Craft. The incumbent judge was appointed to the bench in 1994 by former Gov. Ned McWherter and won a special election in 1996.

<strong>Lisa N. Stanley</strong>

Lisa N. Stanley

Craft is serving his third full eight-year term. He presides over the court that handles major violators and career felony offenders.

Sanjeev Memula. An Assistant Public Defender since 2000.

Criminal Court Division 9

<strong>Deborah Means Henderson</strong>

Deborah Means Henderson

A. Melissa Boyd. Practiced as a solo attorney since 2012. Previously, she was an assistant district attorney from 2007-2012. 

Mark Ward. The incumbent, appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2004 and elected to a full term in 2006 and reelected in 2014.

General Sessions Court

<strong>Varonica R. Cooper</strong>

Varonica R. Cooper

With civil and criminal divisions, Shelby County General Sessions Court is the largest court in the state of Tennessee.

It includes Judicial Commissioners appointed by the Shelby County Commission to make decisions on bail and release of prisoners ahead of their first formal court appearances.

<strong>Betty Thomas Moore</strong>

Betty Thomas Moore

The six civil divisions handle cases up to $25,000 including evictions, recovery of personal property, emergency mental commitments, denials of handgun permits and the drug dealer eviction program.

The six divisions hear 65,000 new cases annually.

<strong>Lonnie Thompson</strong>

Lonnie Thompson

All six of the incumbent judges are seeking another eight-year term. Only one, Judge Phyllis Gardner, is unopposed.

General Sessions Civil Court Division 1

Lynn Cobb. The incumbent judge, appointed to the court in 1996 by the Shelby County Commission. Cobb won his first full eight-year term in 1998.

<strong>Bill Anderson</strong>

Bill Anderson

Victoria Gillard. Private practice attorney specializing in personal injury litigation.

<strong>Handel Durham</strong>

Handel Durham

Lawrence Pivnick. Retired law professor at The University of Memphis School of Law. Pivnick ran in the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District in 2020. Also a member of the Shelby County Democratic Party’s executive committee. 

General Sessions Civil Court Division 3

<strong>Perry S. Hayes</strong>

Perry S. Hayes

Lincoln Hodges. Attorney at Law Lincoln Hodges PLLC in Germantown.

<strong>Lee Wilson</strong>

Lee Wilson

William “Bill” Larsha. Attorney practicing law in Memphis for more than 30 years, most of that time litigating in the Shelby County General Sessions Courts.

Danielle Mitchell Sims. The incumbent judge appointed by the County Commission in August 2021. Before that, she was a Judicial Commissioner.

Lisa N. Stanley. Attor

<strong>Sheila Bruce-Renfroe</strong>

Sheila Bruce-Renfroe

ney at Stone Higgs & Drexler in Memphis. 

<strong>Gerald Skahan</strong>

Gerald Skahan

General Sessions Civil Court Division 4

Deborah Means Henderson. Incumbent judge elected in 2006.

Eran E. Julian. Attorney at The Law Offices of Eran E. Julian in Memphis. Since 2006 has practiced primarily criminal defense. (No photo available)

General Sessions Civil Court Division 5

<strong>Cathy Anderson</strong>

Cathy Anderson

Varonica R. Cooper. Principal of Cooper Law Firm LLC in Memphis. Previous experience in entertainment law as well as criminal defense, immigration law, personal injury and family law. 

Betty Thomas Moore. The incumbent judge elected in 1998.

<strong>Patience &lsquo;Missy&rsquo; Branham</strong>

Patience ‘Missy’ Branham

General Sessions Civil Court Judge Division 6

Kim Gilmore-Sims. Attorney who ran in 2014 for the division of General Sessions Criminal Court that is the environmental court. (No photo available)

<strong>Greg Gilbert</strong>

Greg Gilbert

Lonnie Thompson. Incumbent Judge in Division 6 since 1998 when he won his first term of office.

General Sessions Criminal Court

The seven divisions of criminal court are the first stop for those charged with felonies. In addition to those preliminary hearings, the court also hears misdemeanors, traffic and environmental cases.

<strong>Kevin Reed</strong>

Kevin Reed

Several of the divisions of General Sessions Criminal Court are specialty courts including an environmental court, a veterans court, a domestic violence court and a drug court.

<strong>Erim Sarinoglu</strong>

Erim Sarinoglu

Those courts hear other cases but specialize in certain kinds of cases that include recommendations for treatment and orders of protection as needed.

Two of the nine General Sessions Criminal Court incumbent judges are not seeking new terms on the August ballot — Tim Dwyer and Chris Turner.

The remaining seven incumbents all have challengers on the August ballot.

<strong>Terita M. Hewlett</strong>

Terita M. Hewlett

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 7

This division serves as the Veterans Court for Shelby County. 

Bill Anderson. The incumbent was appointed to the bench by the Shelby County Commission in 2010. He then won a 20-candidate special election later that year.

<strong>Karen L. Massey</strong>

Karen L. Massey

Anderson won his first full eight-year term in 2014.

He established and worked for the funding of the veterans court program he oversees.

Anderson worked as a criminal defense attorney for 26 years before becoming a judge.

Handel R. Durham. Began practicing law in 1983. His primary area of practice has been criminal defense, medical malpractice, personal injury and collections law. He also is a divorce referee.

<strong>Mischelle Alexander-Best</strong>

Mischelle Alexander-Best

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 8

This division is the designated Shelby County Drug Court, which was founded by incumbent Judge Tim Dwyer in 1997. Dwyer is not running for re-election.

<strong>Ronald Lucchesi</strong>

Ronald Lucchesi

Perry S. Hayes. An assistant district attorney for Shelby County for more than 29 years. 

John “Jay” H. Parker II. A criminal defense attorney for more than 21 years. (No photo available)

Lee Wilson. Former General Sessions Judge appointed to the court by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2009. Wilson lost a bid for a full eight-year term to Chris Turner in a 2010 special election. During his 35 years in law, Wilson has been a defense attorney, prosecutor, divorce attorney, judicial commissioner and judge.

<strong>Louis Montesi</strong>

Louis Montesi

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 9

This division is the designated mental health court. 

Sheila Bruce-Renfroe. Has practiced law for 22 years including as counsel for the City of Memphis and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division in civil matters.

<strong>Terrance Tatum</strong>

Terrance Tatum

Gerald Skahan. The incumbent was elected in 2014. Skahan previously practiced criminal defense law.

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 10

This division serves as the Domestic Violence Court. Incumbent Judge Chris Turner is not seeking re-election.

<strong>Addie Burks</strong>

Addie Burks

Cathy Anderson. Began her career as an Assistant Public Defender in 1995 and now serves as lead public defender. She ran unsuccessfully for Division 10 in 2014.

Patience “Missy” Branham. Assistant District Attorney for 15 years specializing in domestic violence homicide cases. Branham was in private practice before that since the 1980s.

<strong>Patrick Dandridge</strong>

Patrick Dandridge

Greg Gilbert. Chief prosecutor for the Domestic Violence Special Unit of the District Attorney’s office. Gilbert has been a prosecutor for 23 years. 

Rhonda Wilson Harris. One of the first Judicial Commissioners appointed by the County Commission in 1998. Harris was among those who applied for the General Sessions Criminal Court vacancy in 2009 that went to Lee Wilson. (No photo available)

<strong>Danny Kail</strong>

Danny Kail

Kevin Reed. A Shelby County judicial commissioner since 2009. Reed was previously a city court prosecutor in Mason, Tennessee and a Shelby County public defender.

He ran unsuccessfully for Circuit Court Judge in 2014.

Erim Sarinoglu. Assistant Public Defender leading the Forensic Litigation Team.

<strong>Christian Johnson</strong>

Christian Johnson

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 11

Terita M. Hewlett. In private law practice since 2009. She is outside counsel for the city prosecutor’s office in traffic cases. Hewlett also serves as Adjunct Professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College teaching paralegal students in the business and legal studies department.

<strong>Loyce Lambert-Ryan</strong>

Loyce Lambert-Ryan

Karen L. Massey. The incumbent, was elected in 2006. She previously was a criminal trial public defender. Massey is a United States Air Force veteran. 

Jimmy Thomas. An assistant district attorney since 2018, Thomas is assigned to the Special Prosecution Unit. Thomas is also a lieutenant and legal instructor with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. (No photo available)

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 12

<strong>Kenya Hooks</strong>

Kenya Hooks

Mischelle Alexander-Best. A former General Sessions Court judge who upset incumbent judge Charles Gallagher in the 1998 big ballot and then lost to challenger Karen Massey in the 2006 elections.

Best was the second General Sessions Judge to make her court a domestic violence court, taking the reins from Judge Ann Pugh, who originated the court.

Since losing in 2006, Best ran unsuccessfully in a 2014 challenge of Massey as well as in the 2010 special election won by Bill Anderson. She has also applied for numerous appointments to fill court vacancies and was nominated for an appointment to the old Shelby County Schools Board.

Ronald Lucchesi The incumbent, was elected in 2014. 

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 13

Louis Montesi. The incumbent was elected to his position in 1990 and re-elected to full eight-year terms three times since then. Before taking the bench, Montesi was an Assistant District Attorney, an assistant city attorney and city chief prosecutor in city court.

Terrance Tatum. Attorney supervisor in the Shelby County Public Defender’s office. Tatum has 25 years of trial experience.

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 14

This court is the Environmental Court.

Addie M. Burks. A criminal defense attorney whose work has included juvenile and child support cases.

Patrick Dandridge. The incumbent was appointed by the Shelby County Commission to fill the vacancy and the rest of the term of office in a 2018 special election. He is seeking his first full eight-year term.

Dandridge is a former deputy city public works director, overseeing code enforcement specifically.

Danny Kail. Attorney who vied for the 2018 appointment to the court. Kail ran for Probate Court Judge on the 2014 big ballot and then Probate Court Clerk in 2010.

General Sessions Criminal Court Division 15

Christian Johnson. An attorney in private practice, Johnson is also a U.S. Marine Corps advanced diesel mechanic who worked as a paralegal before becoming an attorney.

Loyce Lambert-Ryan. The incumbent ran unopposed on the 2014 big ballot. Ryan is the only judge Division 15 has had since its creation in 2000. Ryan, a former public defender, was elected shortly after the creation of the new court division.

Memphis City Court: City Court is not a court of record. It hears primarily traffic violations and other alleged violations of city ordinances. Races for the three divisions of city court are on the city ballot every eight years with the next regularly scheduled election in 2027.

This year’s ballot features a special election for Division 1.

Kenya Hooks. The city’s chief prosecutor in city court since 2019.

Carolyn Watkins. The incumbent, appointed to the court by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. Watkins is the former administrator of the Shelby County Equal Opportunity Compliance office.

 

Topics

August 2022 election 2022 judicial races 2022 juvenile court judge race

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.

Julia Baker

Julia Baker

Julia Baker covers criminal justice for The Daily Memphian. A lifelong Memphian, Julia graduated from the University of Memphis in 2021. Other publications and organizations she has written for include Chalkbeat, Memphis Flyer, Memphis Parent magazine and Memphis magazine.

Alicia Davidson

Alicia Davidson is a lifelong Memphis resident and graduate of The University of Memphis College of Journalism and Strategic Media. When not scribbling about the latest Memphis news, you will find her reading historical biographies, cooking Italian cuisine and practicing vinyasa yoga.


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