Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Muecke Barker sat in his sixth floor office of the Tallan Building this week among the mostly bare walls and empty bookshelves where numerous law books will ultimately be stored.
He has joined the law firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, where he will concentrate his 25 years of legal experience in the areas of mediation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution as well as serve as a mentor to the firm’s young lawyers.
He has been on the job a week.
“So far nobody has called wanting mediation,” he said with a laugh.
Career At a Glance
* 1983: Appointed by then Gov. Lamar Alexander to Hamilton County Circuit Court bench and was later elected to to the post in 1984 and 1992.
* 1995: Appointed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist to the Court of Criminal Appeals and was elected in 1996.
* 1998: Appointed by Gov. Sundquist to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
* 2005: Elected by his colleagues to serve as chief justice.
The 67-year-old retired jurist said he still is trying to learn his way around the firm, which occupies four floors of the building.
Mr. Barker retired from the state Supreme Court on Sept. 15, after tiring of the early morning and late night commutes to and from Nashville.
“I can tell you every bend in the road between here and Nashville,” he said.
But he admits that there were other factors that played into his decision to hang up his robe.
“I’ve seen some judges that stayed on the bench longer than they should, and I didn’t want to be one of those,” he said.
Richard Bethea, who heads Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel’s litigation practice group, said Mr. Barker will make a great addition to the firm.
“We are honored that Justice Barker has chosen to continue his legal career in private practice with our firm,” Mr. Bethea said. “His high ideals, keen intellect, experience and gift for peacemaking will make him a great mediator and arbitrator of disputes for the benefit of all parties.”
Most in the firm are certain Mr. Barker’s schedule will get busier, but even so, he likely will have time to complete the items on his to-do list: travel, spend time with his grandchildren and get involved with church and mission work.
Mr. Barker said he will work about 40 weeks a year, which will allow him time to do the other things he loves.
Mr. Barker graduated in 1964 from what was then known as the University of Chattanooga with a degree in English. He received a scholarship to go to law school at the University of Cincinnati and graduated in 1967.
After serving two years in the army, Mr. Barker returned to Chattanooga in 1969 and practiced law with Dietzen, Dietzen and Barker until 1983.
He served on the Hamilton County Circuit Court bench for 12 years before sitting on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals for three.
He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1998 and was elected by his colleagues to be chief justice in 2005.
“I loved every minute of that job,” he said of his time on the state’s highest court, but he said he is looking forward to getting back into private practice.
Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel also represents the Chattanooga Times Free Press.