On April 8, 2022, as part of the celebration of Mediation Month proclaimed by Gov. Bill Lee, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee will be honored in Nashville for her innovative and lasting contributions to the field of mediation. Justice Lee will receive the Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Association of Professional Mediators (TAPM).
Justice Lee spearheaded the launch and implementation of the Tennessee Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Plan that encouraged state courts to refer cases to mediation to help reduce the backlog of cases that arose during the pandemic. In October 2021, the Court amended its ADR Plan to carry the Plan forward as a resource for Tennessee courts.
At the April 8 event via Zoom, other distinguished attendees will some past recipients of the annual public service award – Jocelyn Wurzburg, Margaret Huff, Knoxville Community Mediation Center Executive Director Jackie Kittrell, and Nashville Conflict Resolution Center Executive Director Sara Figal.
At the TAPM meeting, Professor Dwight Golann and panelists Sukhsimranjit Singh and Larry Bridgesmith will present an advanced training program “Difficult Moments: Evaluating Without Words, Incorporating Religious Values, Delivering Bad News, and Other Edgy Techniques, A Video-Based and Interactive Program.”
“I am honored to receive this award,” said Justice Lee. “Mediation is an integral and valuable part of our system of justice which allows people to resolve disputes efficiently and effectively. The COVID pandemic disrupted our lives and caused backlogs in our court system. We learned new ways to adapt, and the ADR Plan is a great example of such an effort. Mediators across Tennessee stepped up to offer their services to help ease court backlogs and allow people to settle their disputes during a difficult time. We will carry the success of that program into the future.”
“Justice Lee has long served as an advocate for mediation, especially using mediation as a means of access to justice. She embodies what the Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award seeks to recognize,” said TAPM President Cindy Ettingoff. “Justice Lee’s strong support of mediation of court disputes has benefitted Tennesseans from all walks of life, especially during the COVID pandemic.”
TAPM’s Vice-President Jackie Kittrell said, “As the Supreme Court Liaison to the ADR Commission, Justice Lee has helped showcase how mediation can mean access to justice for people in need – people who can solve their own disputes with the help of a Rule 31 pro bono mediator. Justice Lee was an important part of Tennessee’s COVID-19 response, and a big help to state and county courts’ administration of justice.”
Governor Bill Lee proclaimed April 2022 as Mediation Month in Tennessee, in recognition of the contribution of mediation and to encourage its further growth in the State. Mediation is a growing profession. There are now approximately 1,400 mediators listed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to assist the courts in resolving disputes, and additional trained mediators volunteering their time at community mediation centers across Tennessee. Per the Tennessee Commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediators self-reported 7,213 mediations last year, with 72% of the cases fully or partially resolved through mediation.
About CMAT and the Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award: The Coalition for Mediation Awareness in Tennessee (CMAT) was formed in 2006 to maximize the resources and expertise of various groups who provide alternative dispute resolution services. TAPM is a member of CMAT.
CMAT presents the annual Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award to persons who make innovative and lasting public service contributions through alternative dispute resolution in Tennessee. The award is named after its first recipient, Grayfred Gray, Emeritus Professor, University of Tennessee College of Law, and founder of UT’s outstanding Mediation Clinic. Past recipients of the award also include former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, Marietta Shipley, Shelby R. Grubbs, Robert P. Murrian, Jocelyn Wurzburg, Larry Bridgesmith, Carol Berz, Jean Munroe, Anne Sides, Stephen L. Shields, Margaret M. Huff, Linda Warren Seely, the Executive Directors of Community Mediation Centers, Jacqueline Kittrell, former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark, and Judge Deborah M. Henderson.
About TAPM: The Tennessee Association of Professional Mediators promotes professional mediation as the primary approach to conflict resolution in Tennessee.
More about Justice Lee and her public service: The recipient of the 2022 Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award is Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee. Justice Lee has made enduring contributions to Tennesseans through her strong support of mediation of court disputes, especially during the COVID pandemic. She spearheaded the launch and implementation of the Tennessee Supreme Court ADR Plan that encouraged state courts to refer cases to mediation to help reduce the backlog of cases that arose during the pandemic. Later, Justice Lee worked to revise the ADR Plan to continue to make mediation more available and provide quicker, less expensive, and potentially more satisfying alternatives to continuing litigation, without impairing the quality of justice or the right to trial.
Justice Lee was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2008 and retained by the voters in 2010 and 2014. She served as Chief Justice from 2014 to 2016. From 2004 to 2008, she served on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, being the first woman to serve on the Eastern Section of the Court in its 79-year history. Justice Lee practiced law in her hometown of Madisonville from 1978 until her appointment to the bench in 2004. Besides representing business entities and individuals in civil and criminal matters, she was the attorney for Monroe County, the City of Madisonville, and the City of Vonore. She also served as the Madisonville municipal judge. Justice Lee was a Rule 31 listed family mediator with advanced family domestic violence training. She is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Lee attended Vanderbilt University and received a degree in Business Administration with high honors from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She earned her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law.