Chatter 20 Under 40: Alex McVeagh

Chatter 20 Under 40: Alex McVeagh

June 28th, 2018 by Compiled by Jennifer Bardoner in Chatter

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Alex McVeagh

Alex McVeagh

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge — the youngest in the state of Tennessee — appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam; Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission member; Tennessee Bar Association's Young Lawyer Division Hamilton County representative and board member; Chattanooga Bar Association's Young Lawyer Volunteer of the Year for 2017; journal editor and board member of the Federal Bar Association's Chattanooga Chapter; Howard High School mentor through the Chattanooga Chapter of Rotaract; former board member of YMCA's Community Action Program and of Legal Aid of East Tennessee; Vanderbilt undergrad and law school graduate.

What is your anthem or theme song?

"Dream On," by Aerosmith.

If you were a musician, what would your stage or band name be?

As in real life, I prefer to just go by Alex. I don't think I will ever get used to being called "Judge," particularly outside of the courtroom.

If you were starting a band, who from your life would you pick to be in it and why?

My family, best friends and legal mentors. Not only has each one of them contributed to the person I have become, but each one continues to enrich the communities in which they live and work.

Which member of the band would you be?

I would probably be the manager. A genuine control freak, I enjoy helping coordinate many moving parts, relying on differing points of view, while also never being afraid to ask for help. I believe I could compile quite the star-studded band.

If you achieved rock star status, what would you hope it would be for?

I would hope it would be for my work in delivering fair, impartial and legally/constitutionally correct rulings for the citizens of Hamilton County in my role as General Sessions Judge. I hope that it would also be for helping to spread the Tennessee Supreme Court's primary pro bono initiative, ensuring access to justice for all Tennesseans in both the civil and criminal legal arenas. And finally, I hope it is for assisting Hamilton County and its substance-dependent and mentally ill populations (as well as helping increase the overall safety of all Hamilton County citizens) through growing our drug/recovery court and mental health court.

Random green room demand?

Boiled crawfish. At any given meal I can sit down and eat about 7 lbs of these amazing mudbugs.

Who are your top influencers (not necessarily musically)?

The top influencers in my professional life would undoubtedly be legal mentors from Chambliss Law Firm, including Bruce Bailey, Judge Barker, Hugh Moore, Hal North and Jeffrey Maddux. In addition, my Hamilton County General Sessions Court colleagues, as well as the three Criminal Court judges, have all served as great influencers and friends during this past year.

Which musical style best describes your personality?

I would say Cajun music, anchored by the accordion and fiddle (my two favorite instruments) — the music I grew up listening to in Lafayette, Louisiana. It is typically forward-driving, energetic and upbeat, even when sometimes telling difficult stories. I try to conduct myself accordion-ly.

Who would write the soundtrack to your life and why?

Well, there are many composers, songwriters and authors who come to mind, but for the purposes of this interview, I will go with the authors of the last book I recently (re)read and the first book I read after deciding to move to Chattanooga: Leroy Phillips and Mark Curriden's "Contempt of Court."

Phillips, a famous late Chattanooga trial lawyer, and Curriden detail an often unknown story in Chattanooga's history, one that saw the United States Supreme Court issue its first stay of execution for an African-American man, Ed Johnson, who was wrongfully convicted for rape and who was ultimately lynched by an angry mob — with the assistance of the sheriff — on the Walnut Street Bridge.

The sheriff was ultimately convicted of contempt of court in the first and only criminal trial brought directly before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is probably not the answer you were expecting, but I just wanted to bring a bit of attention to this case as community leaders recently decided to honor Ed Johnson with a memorial near the Walnut Street Bridge.

First album you bought for yourself?

A bit hard to recall, but I believe the first cassettes I ever purchased were Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" and Eric Clapton's "Layla."

If you could change one thing about Chattanooga, what would it be?

As has been recognized by many national media outlets over the last couple of years, in my opinion, Chattanooga is a pretty perfect place to visit and live. If I had to pick something, I would obviously love to see a reduction in the large numbers of criminal defendants that pass through my court every day, but such is reality in any medium- to large-size city. I appreciate the hardworking government leaders who continue to try to advance policies to address the root causes of criminality, as well as the brave men and women in uniform who fight to keep our communities safe.

Being able to magically teleport my car through the ridge cut at 5 p.m. wouldn't be too bad either.

To what cause would you donate the proceeds from your first benefit concert?

Hamilton County's Drug/Recovery Court, an alternative sentencing program designed to help treat addiction and reduce the cycles of crime. It has proven quite successful in Hamilton County and in jurisdictions across the country, not to mention saving the county thousands of dollars in incarceration costs.