Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch, Jr. informed Governor Bill Haslam Thursday that he intends to retire from the Court in July 2014 to become the dean of the Nashville School of Law.
At the time of his retirement, Justice Koch will have served on the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court for 30 years. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Tennessee as a judge,” Justice Koch said. “I am also looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges that await me after I am installed as dean of the Nashville School of Law.”
“My service on the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court has been rewarding and meaningful, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to serve as Chief Justice next fall,” Justice Koch added. “However, when the Board of Trustees approached me about succeeding Dean Joe C. Loser, Jr., I realized that I could make no better use of my time and energies than becoming involved in the professional development of the women and men who desire to provide their fellow Tennesseans with excellent and affordable legal representation.”
Justice Koch began his service to the State of Tennessee in 1971 as a part-time law clerk to Attorney General and Reporter David M. Pack. He became an assistant attorney general in 1972. In 1977, Attorney General Brooks McLemore promoted him to deputy attorney general. In 1979, he accepted Governor Lamar Alexander’s offer to become his legal advisor and then his Commissioner of Personnel. In 1981, Governor Alexander named Justice Koch Counsel to the Governor. In 1984, Governor Alexander appointed Justice Koch to the Court of Appeals where he served for 23 years, the last three years as the Presiding Judge of the Middle Section of the Court of Appeals. In June 2007, Governor Phil Bredesen appointed Justice Koch to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Justice Koch has been actively involved in many professional and civic organizations on the local, state, and national level. His commitment to the legal profession is reflected in the role he has played in the growth of the American Inns of Court movement in Tennessee. An Inn of Court is a local group of lawyers, judges, and law students whose purpose is to promote civility, professionalism, and excellence in the practice of law. Today, there are eight American Inns of Court in Tennessee. Justice Koch was a founding member in two of these Inns and assisted in the formation of five others. Justice Koch has also served on the Board of Trustees of the American Inns of Court Foundation and is currently president of the Foundation’s Leadership Council.
Throughout his career, Justice Koch has also been committed to legal education. At different times during the past 25 years, Justice Koch has served on the adjunct faculty of Vanderbilt University School of Law and the Belmont University College of Law. He has also taught Constitutional Law at the Nashville School of Law since 1997. The students at the Nashville School of Law have named Justice Koch Fourth Year Instructor of the Year three times and have invited him to be their commencement speaker six times.
Justice Koch has received numerous awards and honors during his career. In 2002, he was named Tennessee Appellate Judge of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates. In 2006, he was recognized as one of the 500 Leading Judges in the United States. In 1999, he received the Dr. Thomas F. Frist, Jr. Excellence in Volunteer Leadership Award from the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. He currently serves on the boards of the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Born Sept. 12, 1947, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Justice Koch graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., with a B.A. degree in 1969. He received his J.D. degree from Vanderbilt School of Law in 1972 and his LL.M. degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1996.