When Bledsoe County's Justin Angel took the oath of office Friday evening to assume his seat as a 12th Judicial District Circuit Court judge he marked some milestones, at least as far as recent history is concerned.
At age 32, Angel was one of the youngest people to hold a trial judge post in Tennessee. He's also the first Republican in three or four decades to hold a trial judge's seat in the 12th Judicial District and the first to hail from Bledsoe County, he said.
The 12th Judicial District is comprised of Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.
"I made no secret about my age. I think citizens everywhere I campaigned were excited about a fresh face, new blood and new ideas, and someone with youth, enthusiasm and passion," said Angel, who turned 33 last weekend.
Angel knows he's not "the youngest" because Hawkins County has a 31-year-old trial judge in Alex E. Pearson, he said. Candidates for a trial judge post must be at least 30 years old to get on the ballot.
He said his age won't factor in his decision making, but he noted that he is closer in age than most judges to many people who will come before him in court and he's more "savvy with technology," giving him some common ground.
Angel said that while his partisanship will not play a role in his approach to the bench, his conservatism means that he is a Christian and a strong supporter of state and federal constitutions when he interprets law.
"I'm putting politics aside and the campaign aside, but I never put aside my Christian, moral beliefs," he said.
Tennessee State Courts spokeswoman Michele Wojciechowski said department records don't say who the youngest person ever to serve as a Circuit Court judge was, but law degrees only come with a number of years of college education, so it's been more difficult in recent times to become a judge by age 30.
Angel characterized himself as a "regular guy from Bledsoe County," and said he believes having a young family gives him some perspective.
"Being a young father with a 2-year-old son, that puts me in a unique position when I try divorce and custody cases," he said. "I'm in that demographic. I'm well aware of what most of them are going through."
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...