Judge Rob Philyaw Given McCain-Abernathy Award

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A number of Tennessee judges, including Judge Rob Philyaw, received awards at the joint Tennessee Council of Juvenile Judges/Tennessee Juvenile Court Services Association Conference in Franklin.

These awards included annual service awards, as well as one award that was given for the first time ever at the conference.

Judge Wayne Shelton – Lifetime Achievement Award

The Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to longtime Montgomery County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Wayne C. Shelton. Judge Shelton first took the bench in 1979 and has served continuously, making him one of the longest serving active judges in the state.

Henry County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Vicki Snyder, who currently serves as the president of the TCJFCJ, said that the idea to give Judge Shelton the award came up at a recent meeting of the council’s Executive Committee. When discussing judges who had been particularly influential in sharing their wisdom and guidance with others, Judge Shelton’s name invariably came up.

In fact, Judge Snyder said, it was Judge Shelton who first encouraged her to join the Executive Committee.

“I had only been a judge a few years and felt less than qualified to serve on such a committee,” she recalled. “However, with his encouragement and advice, I agreed. It has been a learning experience beyond belief and, yes, lots of work. But I cannot thank him enough for giving me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and do something ‘uncomfortable.’ As a result, I have learned more than I could have imagined, met amazing people, and have had the opportunity to serve a wonderful group of folks.”

She added that Judge Shelton is an inspiration, not only due to his deep experience on the bench, but because of his warm personality.

"His laughter and love of life is infectious,” she said. “Whenever I have the opportunity to spend time in his company, I feel a little better about this world and the people in it. His middle name should be JOY...because he is just that...a joy!! He truly loves his family, friends, coworkers, and the families and children he serves on a daily basis. We are a better council because he is counted among us.”

Montgomery County Juvenile Court and General Sessions Judge Tim Barnes is another person who counts Judge Shelton as a key mentor and influence on his career. Judge Barnes helped to introduce Judge Shelton at the conference awards luncheon.

“He’s been a great mentor, inspiration, and friend over the years,” Judge Barnes said. “He’s been a great influence on my career. He’s always the person I go to for advice. He’s been on the bench so long that any situation that arises, he’s probably seen it twice. He’s just a great resource for all the judges and court personnel.”

Judge Shelton received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Rhodes College in 1967. His undergraduate years were followed by service in the military. Judge Shelton served in the United States Army as an artillery officer from 1968 to 1972. He went on to receive his Juris Doctor from The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1975. Upon graduating, Judge Shelton went into private practice in Clarksville for several years, until he was appointed to the bench in 1979.

During the course of his career, Judge Shelton has served as president of the TCJFCJ and has been awarded the Judge Elizabeth McCain Memorial Award in recognition of service to the Tennessee juvenile courts. He is also a member of several national juvenile court organizations.

The award came as a surprise to Judge Shelton. He said with a smile that he only realized something was afoot when he entered the conference room to see his wife, Patty, and one of his sons sitting there.

“It’s good; I was totally surprised by it,” Judge Shelton said after receiving the award. “I was a judge before many of the people in here were even born. So I guess it really is an achievement award for a lifetime.”

Judge Rob Philyaw – McCain-Abernathy Award

This year’s McCain-Abernathy Award went to Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert D. Philyaw.

The McCain-Abernathy Award is bestowed each year upon “a Tennessee judge with juvenile court jurisdiction who has demonstrated outstanding service dedicated to the improvement of juvenile justice in Tennessee for the benefit of the children and families served by the state’s juvenile courts.”

The award is named after former Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth McCain, who served as the executive secretary of the TCJFCJ for a number of years, and after former Giles County Juvenile Court Judge Jerome Abernathy, who served as president of the TCJFCJ from 1989 to 1990.

Judge Philyaw received his Juris Doctor from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and was admitted into the Tennessee Bar in 2001. Thereafter, he went into private legal practice for several years. In 2011, he was named municipal court judge for the city of Graysville. In 2013, he was appointed to the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

“Nearly every day I try to remind myself what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and quite frankly that my time as judge is limited,” Judge Philyaw said upon receiving the award. “I’ve told my administrator, some of my key people, that one of my biggest fears is getting to the end of my time as judge and having to feel like we just got by and didn’t really make a difference. So, a lot of times at 6 in the evening, I have to pinch myself and remind myself that what I’m doing, what we’re doing, matters, and it matters every day.”

Judge Sharon E. Guffee – Leadership Award

The Tennessee Juvenile Court Services Association’s Leadership Award went to Williamson County Juvenile Court Judge Sharon E. Guffee.

The Leadership Award is given “to an individual who demonstrates leadership by investing in others, influencing better decisions, encouraging growth in our field, and offering steadfast support during difficult times.”

TJCSA President and Williamson County Juvenile Services Director Zannie Martin presented the award to Judge Guffee.

“They say that a good leader takes a team to the edge and pushes them off, not to watch them fall, but instead to watch them fly,” Martin said while introducing the award. “I have the privilege of working with such an individual, and I am grateful for her example.”

Judge Guffee earned her Juris Doctor from the Nashville School of Law in 1997. She served as an assistant district attorney in the 21st Judicial District for six years before entering into private practice. During this time, she also worked as a part-time magistrate. She became a full-time magistrate in 2007 and was appointed to the Williamson County Juvenile Court bench in 2013.

Magistrate Jane C. Franks – You Inspire Us All Award

The You Inspire Us All Award went to former Williamson County Juvenile Court Judge and current Magistrate Jane C. Franks. This award is presented to “an individual who consistently inspires others to believe in children, to believe in our work, and to believe in our ability to make a difference.”

“With 40 years of work in this field, she holds wisdom and perspective that threads throughout the foundation of our system,” Ms. Martin said before presenting Judge Franks with the award.

Judge Franks became the first female judge in Williamson County when she was appointed to the Williamson County General Sessions bench in 1977. She also became a Williamson County Juvenile Court judge in 1980. Judge Franks served on the bench for nearly 20 years, having won election in 1978, 1982, and 1990. She came out of retirement in 2014 to work as a part-time magistrate of the Williamson County Juvenile Court.

Judge Franks earned her Juris Doctor in 1971 from the Nashville School of Law, an achievement prompted by her daughter asking her several years earlier where she went to college. Inspired, Judge Franks worked to get a GED and an undergraduate degree, which she earned from Peabody College. At the time of her graduation from law school, Judge Franks was a mother of 11.

During her time on the bench, Judge Franks played a key role in the development of the CASA program and the Alternative Learning Center.

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