By Jed McKeehan

If you get involved in a legal proceeding your case will be set to be heard by some type of judge.  Your case could be before a small claims (general sessions) judge, a circuit judge, a chancellor, a criminal judge, a federal judge, an appellate judge, a special master, or it could be before a city judge.

The official name for a city judge is a “municipal judge,” pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Chapter 18.

So let’s discuss what kind of cases a city judge normally hears, and you may be able to guess based on your personal experiences.  City judges will normally hear lower level offenses involving the operation of vehicles, such as speeding and no insurance.  They also have jurisdiction to hear cases that involve underage consumption of alcohol.

Being a city judge is not a full-time job.  Even in cities with more than 100,000 people in them, a city judge only makes $2,000.00 per month unless the city decides to voluntarily pay them more money.  In a town with less than 25,000 people, the city judge only makes $500.00 a month, and often times it can be less than that.  Why would a city judge get paid less than that?  Frankly, because some small towns do not have enough tax income to pay a city judge.

So, for that little amount of money, how do towns find individuals to be their city judges?  Well, telling people that you are a, “judge,” can be seen as a prestigious thing, even if it is for Smallville, TN.  I should mention that city judges are almost always attorneys because they are required to have a law license.

Let’s talk about how much these city judges have to work.  In bigger cities, city judges might have to put in a couple of hours a day to hear cases while in small towns the city judge may only have court once a month for three hours.  There just aren’t that many cases to be heard in small towns.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.