Tennessee Supreme Court Justice speaks on campus Thursday

By Janel Shoun-Smith on 7/22/2014

  
  

Koch,who has been at the center of some of Tennessee's most important legal decisions, will reflect on his career and his future at the Nashville School of Law on Thursday

Just two weeks before an election that could influence how the state’s appellate judges are elected and retained in the future, retiring Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Koch will visit Lipscomb University’s campus to discuss his career, difficult legal issues facing the state and the controversial issue of judicial independence and elections.

Koch, appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2007, retires in July to become the dean of Nashville School of Law, a private law school offering accessible night classes to locals pursuing a legal degree. His Thursday, July 24, appearance at Lipscomb will be one of Justice Koch’s first public appearances since his retirement from the court.

Koch will speak at 6:30 p.m. in Lipscomb’s Paul Rogers Boardroom in the Ezell Center. This “Conversation of Significance” is hosted by Lipscomb’s Institute for Law Justice and Society, which coordinates the university’s undergraduate legal studies program, hosts special events related to law and legal institutions and promotes dialog related to the legal community.

“Justice Koch has had a tremendous career as a lawyer and a jurist and has been at the center of some of Tennessee’s most important political and legal conversations over the last 30 years. I look forward to a very frank discussion about where the legal profession is in Tennessee and where it is going,” said Randy Spivey, academic director of the Institute of Law, Justice and Society at Lipscomb. “We will talk about the future of the Nashville School of Law, Justice Koch’s career in the judiciary, judicial independence and elections, and difficult legal issues that are on the horizon for Tennessee.”

This Conversation of Significance comes at a time when a number of Tennessee Republicans, including Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, have launched a campaign to unseat the three remaining Supreme Court Justices (the two others, including Koch, retired) in the Aug. 7 election. Advocates argue that the current system of gubernatorial appointment of judges followed by retention votes, promotes partisan nominations to the bench, and voters can take a stand by unseating the current judges.

In November, a referendum will be held on a proposed constitutional amendment to clarify the current system of judicial selection. Advocates of the amendment say the current system and this amendment will keep politics out of judge selection.

Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Koch previously served as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals for 23 years and was presiding judge of the Middle Section of the Court. Before his appointment to the bench in 1984, Koch served as counsel to Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, Alexander’s commissioner of personnel and as Tennessee’s deputy attorney general.

He has been actively involved in many professional and civic organizations on the local, state, and national level, especially with the American Inns of Court. An Inn of Court is a local group of lawyers, judges and law students whose purpose is to promote civility, professionalism and excellence in the practice of law. Justice Koch was a founding member in two of these inns and assisted in the formation of five others in Tennessee. He has also served on the board of trustees of the American Inns of Court Foundation and is currently president of the foundation’s leadership council.

At different times during the past 25 years, Koch has served on the adjunct faculty of Vanderbilt University School of Law and the Belmont University College of Law. He has also taught constitutional law at the Nashville School of Law since 1997. He currently serves on the boards of the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

In 2002, Koch was named Tennessee Appellate Judge of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates. In 2006, he was recognized as one of the 500 Leading Judges in the United States. In 1999, he received the Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr. Excellence in Volunteer Leadership Award from the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.