On Friday, Sept. 25, attorney Tom Greenholtz took the oath to become a Criminal Court Judge for the 11th judicial district, which serves Hamilton County. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Greenholtz of Ooltewah earlier last month. Judge Greenholtz, 42, replaces Judge Rebecca Stern, who retired June 1.
Upon taking the oath, administered by the Hon. William M. Barker in Judge Barry Steelman’s courtroom, Judge Greenholtz said his reasons for seeking the appointment were twofold.
“One, when our criminal courts are functioning properly, those who are truly guilty are punished according to the law,” he said. “As a result, our families, neighbors, and communities are safer. Also, when the criminal courts are functioning properly, the truly innocent who come before this court are protected. I want to be a part of that.”
Secondly, Judge Greenholtz wants to educate at-risk populations about the consequences of crime in an effort to discourage them from committing acts that will bring them to his court.
“With all of the good work judges do with their robes on, I wonder if even more can be done in the community when our robes come off,” he said as a large group of judges listened from the jury box. “I want to take this court into our schools, churches, and community centers, and talk about what happens here so people will know there are consequences for bad decisions.
“I want this court to get to people out there before they end up here.”
Judge Greenholtz he’s looking forward to meeting the challenge that lies ahead of him, but he cannot do it alone. “I’m going to need your help,” he said. “Together, we can do this. As great as the challenges are, the opportunities are even greater.”
As Judge Greenholtz assumed his new position, his peers promised to provide the help he needs. “I’m looking forward to working with you, Tom,” Judge Steelman said. “You will find this job to be challenging, as I have, and rewarding, as I have.”
After taking the oath of office, Judge Greenholtz said the appointment humbled him. “I can’t tell you how honored I am to be here. I probably shouldn’t be,” he said. “There are many here who are more qualified than I am.”
But Justice Barker expressed full confidence in Judge Greenholtz, his former student and law clerk. “He worked for me for three years. It was the best three years I’ve had as a judge, and I’ve been a judge for 26 years,” Barker, a former chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, said. “Our governor made an absolutely superb choice in selecting Tom. He’s going to be a great judge.”
A long-time attorney at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, Greenholtz said he would miss his “family” at the law firm. “They’ve been wonderful to me over the years,” he said. “They’ve been there when I needed them, and they encouraged me to serve. They truly are that which is remarkable about this legal community.”
Judge Greenholtz was born in Albany, Ga., in 1973, but he has lived and worked mostly in Chattanooga since the mid-1980s. He attended high school at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga., and later graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). While at UTC, he received a bachelor’s degree in public administration.
Judge Greenholtz graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1999, and then worked as a law clerk to Justice Barker during his tenure as associate justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. He has worked with the Chattanooga firms of Summers & Wyatt, and Shumaker, Witt, Gaither & Whitaker. He is currently a shareholder with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. He has practiced in the areas of municipal and government law; criminal defense and civil and criminal appeals; business and commercial advice and litigation; employment law; and anti-trust compliance.
Judge Greenholtz has also served as an adjunct professor of political science at UTC, where he has taught classes in advanced constitutional law.
Judge Greenholtz and his wife, Kathryn, were married in 1999. They have two children, Caroline and Michael. His hobbies include collecting presidential political memorabilia, traveling with his family, taking weekend hiking trips, and learning about American history. He has particular interests in the Revolution War and colonial history, and is a student of the Civil War battles for Chattanooga.
Judge Greenholtz presently serves as president of Orange Grove Center and has formerly chaired the board of Chambliss Center for Children. He also serves on the boards of St. Peters Episcopal School and Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. He has also worked for several years as a volunteer for the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and he is a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga.
Source: Biographical information by the Chattanooga Bar Association
To see more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.