Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw has been serving the children and families in his jurisdiction since his appointment to the bench in 2013. He will now have the opportunity to do even more to support children and families thanks to his recent appointment to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.
Governor Bill Lee announced Judge Philyaw’s appointment to the TCCY in December for a three-year term. As a member of the TCCY’s 21-person policy-making body, Judge Philyaw will help further the organization’s mission of improving the quality of life for children and families and providing leadership and support to child advocates, said officials.
“That’s what I do in my day job as a judge, so I think this is just another way to try to better serve the residents of Hamilton County,” Judge Philyaw said. “And also hopefully have a broader impact as well.”
Much of the TCCY’s work is done in support of special programs. One such program is KIDS COUNT. The TCCY serves as the Tennessee affiliate of KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey foundation that provides data and policy recommendations to state leaders. Each year the TCCY publishes KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee, a data book analyzing statistics about child well-being in the state.
Another TCCY program is the Second Look Commission, which examines data about children in Tennessee who are repeat victims of severe child abuse. The Second Look Commission is led by Craig Hargrow, who also serves as deputy executive director of the TCCY. Judge Philyaw has worked with Mr. Hargrow before examining the issue of disproportionate minority contact in the justice system. The TCCY has a task force dedicated to that issue.
Judge Philyaw said he is looking forward to engaging with a whole range of issues as a member of TCCY, but he hopes to be able to direct special attention to an issue especially important to him: juvenile justice.
“I’ve tried to be a strong advocate for juvenile justice issues, especially over the last two years with all of the reforms that have been implemented and are still being tested,” he said. “I’m looking at this as just another opportunity to be involved and try to effect positive change and continue the good work that the TCCY already does. Juvenile justice is going to be an important topic over the next few years. I hope that as a TCCY commissioner I can help in more ways regarding the rehabilitation of serious youthful offenders.”
Judge Philyaw received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration degree from Christian Brothers University. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence and the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award.
He has received numerous awards during his time on the bench as well. In 2015, Judge Philyaw was given the Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award by Legal Aid of East Tennessee. In 2019, Judge Philyaw received the prestigious McCain-Abernathy Memorial Award from the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Law Judges. He is a member of the Chattanooga Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, the Tennessee Judicial Conference, and both the National and Tennessee Councils of Juvenile and Family Law Judges.
Judge Philyaw will be one of two judges serving on the TCCY. The other is Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Green.