Haslam elevates Bivins from Appeals to Supreme Court

Ex-Boult Cummings attorney was active on Capitol Hill during judicial ethics revamp

Less than three years after Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Jeff Bivins to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, the governor is tapping him again to sit on the state Supreme Court.

“I had the opportunity to appoint Judge Bivins to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and he has served the state extremely well in that role,” Haslam said in a press release. “Tennesseans will benefit from his vast experience as he moves to our state’s highest court.”

Bivins, of Franklin, was chosen ahead of Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin attorney Linda Knight and Larry Scroggs, chief counsel and administrative officer of the Shelby County Juvenile Court. Bivins started off as a member of the Williamson County Commission and practiced law at Boult Cummings Conners & Berry in Nashville before making his way onto the bench. Prior to becoming a judge, his practice focused on commercial litigation, mediation and arbitration and government relations work.

Haslam appointed Bivins to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2011. Within a year, Bivins was walking the halls in Legislative Plaza as a spokesman for the judiciary while lawmakers sought to clamp down on judicial ethics fearing the system at the time constituted “judges judging judges” on professional or moral lapses. Bivins helped broker a deal with the legislature that year to reconstitute and restructure the state’s judicial watchdog to build in more accountability in a panel now called the Board of Judicial Conduct, of which he is a member.

“I am deeply honored to accept Gov. Haslam’s appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Bivins said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as a trial court judge and as a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals. I now will work tirelessly to become an excellent Supreme Court justice."

Bivins is 53 years old and a native of Kingsport. He graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1986 and received a B.A. degree, magna cum laude, in 1982 from East Tennessee State University in political science with a minor in criminal justice, according to the governor’s office.

Bivins is a member of the Tennessee and Williamson County Bar Associations. He is also vice president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the group's co-chair of the Retirement and Compensation Committee. He also sits on its the Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions Committee.

Bivins will replace Justice William C. Koch Jr., who is retiring July 15 to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. The Supreme Court is also losing Justice Janice Holder, who is stepping down this summer after 17 years on the high court. She will be replaced by Court of Appeals Judge Holly Kirby.