Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 29, 2022

Judges go out with laughs at CBA retirement fĂȘte

Judge Russell Bean, center, with the Hon. Clarence Shattuck, Phillip Lawrence, Eron Epstein and Valerie Epstein. - Photographs by Lynda Hood

Retirement receptions can go one of two ways. They can be maudlin affairs during which colleagues pay flowery tribute to the guest of honor and the future retiree reminisces about the past and thanks those who made it possible.

Or they can include Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.

Poole was one of the guests of honor at the Chattanooga Bar Association’s recent retirement reception for three local judges who didn’t seek reelection this year.

Judges Russell Bean and Jeffrey Hollingsworth joined Poole as the guests of honor at the reception, which took place July 19 in a packed conference room at Pinnacle Financial Partners on Broad Street.

Poole was also the only one brandishing a large bandage on the right side of his forehead, which begged a story as he took the podium.

“We had a graduation ceremony for Mental Health Court yesterday. And the participants asked me about the bandage on my forehead,” he began. “I said I came home from work, asked (my wife) Candice, ‘Are we having that for dinner again?’ and she hit me!

“And then two or three of the participants said, ‘Judge, we won’t let her hit you again.”

Knowing Poole was joking, the gathering of about 180 guests rewarded him with hearty laughter.

Of course, he was only getting started.

“I feel compelled to tell you I’m not retiring,” Poole continued. “I’ve already told Mr. Patterson I’m going to stay.”

Poole emphasized the word “mister” as he referred to Boyd Patterson, the prosecutor-turned-public defender who won the election for the seat Poole will vacate this year.

Patterson, who was present, quipped, “If I go home and tell my wife you’re not leaving, I’ll be the next one with a bandage on my head.”

Poole was first elected to the bench in 2006 and then ran unopposed for a second term in 2014. Before serving as a judge, he practiced as an attorney for 33 years.

Poole announced he would retire in 2022 last summer.

“The people who mean the most to me are here,” Poole said as he surveyed the room. “Candice is here. It’s hard to believe an Old Hickory boy and a Las Vegas girl could stay together for 54 years but we did it. Someone in Sunday School asked me how long she and I have been married; I said we’ve been happily married for 29 years.”

Joking aside – for just a moment – Poole credited his wife with encouraging him to become a judge and then helping him to win his first election.

“She’s kept me on the straight and narrow ever since. I love her for that.”

Poole said his fellow jurists in the room also mean a great deal to him.

“I can’t think of two people I’d rather step out with than my friends Jeff and Russell,” Poole said. “And then there are the lawyers who are here. We’ve had many trials and tribulations over the past 16 years but I love and care for you all and I hope you’re somewhat pleased with what I’ve done.”

In closing, Poole said he’s enjoyed being a judge and is not quite sure what people mean when they congratulate him for retiring.

“Maybe they mean, ‘Congratulations for getting old,’” he joked.

Before entering private practice in 1972, Poole spent three years as a Hamilton County assistant district attorney. Hollingsworth also worked locally as an ADA.

After spending five years in the role, Hollingsworth joined the firm of Stophel & Stophel in 1989. He then won an election to become a city court judge in 2006.

But Hollingsworth said his toughest role since becoming a legal professional was following Poole at the retirement reception.

“The only good thing about this is I’m the youngest of the three of us,” he kidded, earning a respectable swell of laughter.

“To my friends and colleagues who are here – thank you. It’s been a great ride. Going to law school was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I deeply appreciate all the support you’ve given more over the years as well as all the times you gently told me I was wrong.”

Hollingsworth specifically thanked his former partners at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, the firm at which he was practicing when he decided to run for judge.

“I was impressed with how hard everyone worked to get me out of that firm.”

Hollingsworth then announced the local bar is not getting rid of him yet. Instead, he plans to launch a mediation practice with his daughter, Kate Hollingsworth.

Unlike Poole and Hollingsworth, who won elections to the bench, Bean ascended to city court judge through mayoral appointment in 2000. He then won the special election to serve a full term in August of the same year.

“I probably feel closer to the bar than the other two guys because I probably wouldn’t have been a judge if it hadn’t been for the bar vote. At the time, Lee Anderson (of the Chattanooga Times Free Press) said the newspaper could not recommend me for judge. But then the bar gave me a terrific vote.

“Henderson called (attorney) Richard Winningham and asked why the bar was going to bat for me. Richard said because they thought I’d make a great judge.”

A lifelong Chattanoogan, Bean began to practice law in 1969.

While wrapping up his comments at the reception, he said stepping down from the bench will be “bittersweet” and added he hopes he’s indeed been a good judge.

“I tried to be respectful to everyone who stood in front of me, I tried to carry out justice and I tried to have mercy when I could. I hope I’ve done well for the bar association and the city of Chattanooga.”