By Jedidiah McKeehan

When we think about appearing or going to court in the US, and specifically in Tennessee, we typically think about appearing before a judge. However, there are a wide range of actual titles given to the individuals who may be deciding your case. Even though that person may not be officially called a, “judge,” let’s be honest, they will be passing judgment upon you.

Although this list is probably not exhaustive, here are some of the different judges you might find yourself in front of.

Supreme Court Justice There are Supreme Court Justices on both the federal and state level. These are the most important judges there are. If a case gets heard by them, then it has been appealed at least twice. Also, the Supreme Court gets to choose which cases it wishes to hear, and which cases it does not want to hear. There are five Tennessee Supreme Court Justices and nine federal Supreme Court Justices. Unlike in a trial court, multiple judges hear the cases simultaneously and then they vote as to how they wish to rule and issue a written decision stating what their ruling is.

Appellate Judge If the decision of a trial judge gets appealed, the first court to hear the appeal is the Court of Appeals. This is usually a panel of three judges. Unlike the Supreme Court, they must hear cases appealed. In Tennessee, some appellate judges will hear only criminal cases, and some will hear only civil cases.

Judges Everyone knows what a judge is. The person hearing and deciding their case, right? There are many different types of judges. There are circuit court judges, general sessions judges, and juvenile judges, to name a few. Judges in Tennessee must run for office and be elected, while federal judges are appointed to their positions.

Chancellor Chancellors preside over Chancery Court and are similar to judges in their level of authority, however, they hear different types of cases. There is not a ton of difference between chancellors and judges as to what they are doing day to day. Typically, they are both hearing cases and making decisions on a daily basis. Chancellors are also elected to their positions.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox and surrounding counties. Visit for more information about this and other legal issues.