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Judge Jill Bartee Ayers Sworn in as 44th Court of Criminal Appeals Judge

Judge Jill Bartee Ayers was welcomed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in a special investiture ceremony held in the State Capitol on August 30. She is the 44th judge to take the bench on the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Judge Ayers is basically the best and the brightest. She has the characteristics you need to be a great judge and she is a great judge. She has patience. She has common sense. She has a really good knowledge of the law,” said Judge Robert Wedemeyer of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Judge Ayers, who is only the fifth female to hold this position, said she is humbled and grateful for the opportunity.

“I had a lot of, as we all do, dreams as a young girl and I will tell you standing here as a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals was never one of them. It’s funny how these things happen. I do truly believe that God creates opportunities that we just don’t expect and sometimes you have to take advantage of those opportunities and take a leap of faith and see what happens,” said Judge Ayers.

Judge Ayers was appointed by Governor Bill Lee on January 12, 2021, as one of three candidates recommended to the governor by the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments out of 11 applicants. She was confirmed by the General Assembly on April 12, 2021.

“You certainly have not only a stellar professional reputation, but your peers and those who work alongside you, those you have stood before, the community that surrounds you, made this selection—I wouldn’t say it made this selection easy, but it certainly pointed me to the most appropriate pick for this position,” said Governor Lee. “I am incredibly honored to have made this important decision and now have this incredibly important honor to welcome you to the Court of Criminal Appeals.”  

Judge Ayers previously served as a circuit court judge in the 19th judicial district, which covers Montgomery and Robertson counties. She presided almost exclusively over criminal cases, including more than 50 jury trials.

“I often tell judges when they come on board, the most difficult thing they will have to do is step out of that role as an advocate and become a neutral,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins. “Judge Ayers was a natural for that. She did it from the time she took the bench. She exhibited that throughout her tenure on the trial bench and I have every confidence, as she is starting to do already, will exercise that on the Court of Criminal Appeals. She is an excellent writer. She will make us proud to be a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals.”

The vacancy on the Court of Criminal Appeals – Middle Section was created by the retirement of the Honorable Thomas Woodall, effective December 31, 2020. There are 12 Court of Criminal Appeals judges in Tennessee, broken into three grand division– Eastern, Middle and Western. Judge Ayers joins Judge Timothy Easter, Judge Robert Holloway, Jr.  and Judge Robert Wedemeyer in the Middle Section, which traditionally hears cases at the Nashville Supreme Court Building. It is common for the Court of Criminal Appeals to mix judges from different sections on panels, which means Judge Ayers will likely also hear cases from the Western and Eastern Sections.

Judge Ayers was a partner at Batson Nolan PLC in Clarksville prior to being appointed to the circuit court bench in 2015 by former Governor Bill Haslam. She is a graduate of Belmont University and the University of Tennessee College of Law. 

Visit the TN Courts YouTube page to view the ceremony: