Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Distinguished Alumni: General Sessions Court Judge J. Todd Ross






Appalachian School of Law Distinguished Alumni:
General Sessions Court Judge 
J. Todd Ross


J. Todd Ross graduated from the Appalachian School of Law in 2002, and like many of his ASL colleagues, rose quickly to a position of service, responsibility, and power.  A decade after graduation, Hawkins County, Tennessee voters elected him to the position of General Sessions Court JudgeRoss, a Republican, handily defeated Democrat Terry Risner by 2,819 votes, 4,064 to 1,245.  Ross will serve the remainder of an eight-year term that began in 2006.  Ross intends to run for re-election in 2014.
"I hope to be Hawkins County's General Sessions judge for a long time." 


The jurisdiction of General Sessions Courts varies from county to county based on state laws and private acts. This court of limited jurisdiction hears both civil and criminal cases and one serves every county.

Legal requirements limit the court's civil jurisdiction to specific monetary limits and types of actions. They also limit the criminal jurisdiction of this court to preliminary hearings in felony cases and misdemeanor trials in which a defendant waives the right to a grand jury investigation and trial by jury. General Sessions judges also serve as juvenile judges except in counties in which the legislature has established separate Juvenile Courts.

From is published bio:
A Hard-Working Attorney
Throughout his career as an attorney, Judge Ross earned a reputation for providing quality legal representation to his clients throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, while building a successful multi-jurisdiction, multi-attorney law firm. Judge Ross represented thousands of clients, while maintaining a thorough and compassionate approach to best serving the needs of each client. 
A Devoted Husband 
Judge Ross met Heather at East Tennessee State University where they were both students. They married May 18, 1996, following Todd’s graduation from graduate school and Heather’s graduation from nursing school. Heather has been a Registered Nurse for 15years. During their 17 years of marriage they have been blessed with three children, Sydney (15), Lauren (10), and John (7), all students in Hawkins County public schools. 
A Proud Father 
Judge Ross will tell you that his greatest joy and proudest achievement was becoming a father. Watching his children grow, being involved with their education and their many activities has been central to his life. Todd recognizes that our kids are God’s greatest blessings, and we must treasure them above all else. 
A Community Leader
Judge Ross has volunteered for, and accepted, the role of leader in a variety of community activities. As a counselor, a school supporter, a coach, a mentor, a parent, a board member, and a concerned citizen, Todd understands the responsibility that he has, and that all of us have, to contribute to our community and to serve our fellow man.
And "Coach Todd" 
As a little league coach for many years, for football, basketball, T-Ball, softball, and soccer, Todd understands the positive growth that comes from old fashioned ideas like “team-work” and “good sportsmanship” and “self-sacrifice.” He believes that one of Hawkins County’s greatest assets is its community spirit and small-town atmosphere where adults look out for their own kids and their neighbor’s kids too. Todd believes that those are qualities worth protecting.
Judge Ross earned a B.S. degree from Eastern Tennessee State University in 1993 with a major in psychology and business.  He earned a Master's in Education from ETSU in 1995 with a focus on marriage and family counseling.  

He created the law firm of Ross and Associates in 2004, located in Kingsport, Tennessee. He worked there until his election to the bench. While in private practice his firm provided legal services in the areas of bankruptcy, personal injury, workers compensation, family law, Social Security, estates and trusts, real estate transactions, and criminal defense.

Ross promised to restore the reputation of the court after Hawkins County experienced a scandal.

In May 2012, the late Judge David Brand died in office. The Hawkins County Commissioners appointed former Judge James F. Taylor to the bench in July of 2011. Taylor eventually had to resign in May 2012 as part of an agreement with the Court of the Judiciary. Taylor resigned after local prosecutors indicted him on 41 counts of theft charges.  Prosecutors alleged "that when Taylor was an attorney and part-time judge, he falsified documents to make it appear that he represented clients that he had not been hired or appointed to represent, then submitted false bills to the Administrative Office the Courts, which reimburses lawyers for services to indigent clients."

Under a plea agreement, Taylor will serve 13 years and be disbarred at least through 2025.


J. Todd Ross said in a pre-election comment:  

The most immediate issue that will face whoever takes office in September will be restoring public confidence in the Office of the General Sessions Court judge. Throughout the last several months, the controversies and allegations related to this position seem to have taken a dramatic toll on public opinion as it relates to the Court. The General Sessions Court has the potential to be a major influence on our community, but it needs the support of the community to be successful.
Appalachian School of Law was founded with a focus on professional ethics.  We know that Judge Ross will serve the public with the highest integrity.

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