Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, May 5, 2017

McVeagh takes over as Bales continues recovery

The Hon. Clarence Shattuck installs Judge Alexander McVeagh with assistance from former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William Barker. - David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Judge Alexander McVeagh will be keeping the Hon. David Bales’ seat warm while the latter is on medical leave.

McVeagh, 31, was sworn in as the judge of Division II of Hamilton County General Sessions Court April 28 at the City/County Courts Building. Gov. Bill Haslam appointed McVeagh to the bench after Bales took a leave of absence to attend to his health.

Formerly an associate with the law firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel in Chattanooga, McVeagh will fill the position until Bales recovers and elects to resume work. He is the 26th General Sessions judge to serve Hamilton County since the court began operating in 1942.

During the ceremony, McVeagh wished Bales a quick return to the bench.

“I’m grateful and humbled that the governor has chosen me to fill Judge Bales’ large shoes, but being here is bittersweet,” he said. “Please join me in praying for a speedy recovery for Judge Bales.”

Members of McVeagh’s personal and professional families were present as were a number of judges and elected officials. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck presided.

Shattuck commended McVeagh for leaving his practice at Chambliss Bahner to serve the judiciary without knowing how long he would be a part of it. He also thanked McVeagh’s former co-workers at Chambliss Bahner for allowing him to take the position.

“Did someone say, ‘Keep him?’” Shattuck quipped after a brief pause.

Shattuck kept the laughter rolling by noting how the Hon. Christie Mahn Sell is no longer the youngest General Sessions judge.

“The senior judges appreciate Alex coming on board, though, because he lowers the average age of the local judiciary,” Shattuck, 80, said.

In remarks prior to the installation, Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz urged McVeagh to remember the motto of the judiciary – “Let justice be done though the heavens fall” – as he settles into his new role.

“The motto of the judiciary is a burden to everyone who wears the robe because it reminds us that the right thing must be done, even though it carries consequences,” Greenholtz said. “Since General Sessions Court is the court with which the most people come in contact, it is especially important that its judges reflect well upon the judiciary.”

Greenholtz, who also practiced at Chambliss Bahner prior to becoming a judge, also said his time working with McVeagh gives him confidence that he will serve with integrity. “Those who don’t know Alex might say he is of tender years, but I know him to be a person of high ethics, a hard worker and a passionate advocate,” he said.

Greenholtz then addressed McVeagh directly, saying, “You have a solemn duty to act impartially ... and to treat both sides with the respect and dignity to which they are entitled. I have full confidence that will happen.”

Following additional comments about the heavy responsibility of serving a court that in 2016 handled close to 50,000 cases, Shattuck installed McVeagh as judge. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William Barker held the Bible on which McVeagh placed his left hand.

Chattanooga Bar Association (CBA) President William Colvin then helped McVeagh don his robe.

Next, Shattuck called the remaining General Sessions Court judges – Sell, Lila Statom and Gary Starnes – to join him and McVeagh. “We’re standing here together in support of Alex,” Shattuck said. “We have his back.”

For three weeks prior to the ceremony, McVeagh sat with and received instructions and advice from each General Sessions judge, including Bales.

McVeagh brought the occasion to an end by promising to live up to the expectations placed upon him.

“For however long I’m here, I pledge to each of you that I will work with all my stamina to uphold the rule of law and honor the state and federal constitutions,” he said. “I won’t let you down.”


McVeagh grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana and attended high school at the Episcopal Church of Acadiana. He then moved to Nashville in 2004 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and political science from Vanderbilt University.

After graduating from college, McVeagh served as head research analyst and law clerk for the Tennessee State Judiciary Committee, where he worked on legislation that affected the criminal and civil justice system.

McVeagh continued to work as a law clerk for the Judiciary Committee while attending Vanderbilt Law School. He later worked as a research analyst and legislative liaison for the Tennessee District Public Defender’s Conference.

After his second year of law school, McVeagh clerked with Chambliss Bahner. Upon falling in love with Chattanooga and graduating from Vanderbilt, McVeagh accepted a position with the firm, where he practiced as a civil and criminal litigator in state and federal courts in Tennessee and Georgia.

McVeagh also worked as assistant district attorney for the City of East Ridge and has represented other localities, including the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County.

Since moving to Chattanooga, McVeagh has been involved in numerous civic and professional organizations. He has served on the board of directors for Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the YMCA’s Community Action Project and the Tennessee Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. McVeagh is also a member of United Way’s Emerging Leaders and Rotaract of Chattanooga.

Through his work with the local and state bar associations as well as LAET, McVeagh has organized numerous legal clinics, including Wills for Heroes, expungement clinics and other general legal advice clinics.

This past January, the CBA recognized McVeagh as its YLD Volunteer of the Year and nominated him to serve on the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.

Source: Biographical information provided by the CBA