Former Judge Rebecca Stern wants back on the bench.
After presiding over criminal court cases from 1997-2015, Ms. Stern announced on Tuesday her candidacy to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Judge Don Poole.
In 2010, Ms.
Stern was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent most of that year undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment but continued to work throughout. She retired five years later.
“I needed time to focus on my health and the things that are really important in my life,” she said about her decision to leave the bench. “Throughout my journey with cancer, I concentrated on my work. I never took time to focus on myself and my health the way I should have, and I needed to do so.”
Ms. Stern and her husband, Doug Curtis, also an attorney, spent most of their time the next 15 months in Puerto Rico where they have long-time vacationed and own an Airbnb. They opted to rent a furnished apartment while deciding whether or not to move permanently to Puerto Rico. During this time, Ms. Stern’s husband worked remotely for a Chattanooga law firm and Ms. Stern often returned to Chattanooga to see her doctors and to spend time with friends and family.
“After a year, I was ready to return to work,” Ms. Stern said, noting that in October 2016, she opened a law practice in Chattanooga, specializing in criminal defense work. She continues to practice law in Chattanooga.
She said, “I’ve been a prosecutor, a judge, and now a defense attorney. The role I most enjoy is that of judge because I can take a neutral position and look at a case from both sides. I love interacting with jurors, particularly, and I like to be able to apply creative, solution oriented approaches to sentencing by using drug court and mental health court.”
A native of Ooltewah, Ms. Stern left high school after her junior year and earned a GED. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee College of Law.
She began her career at the law firm of Strang, Fletcher, Carriger, Walker, Hodge & Smith, and then worked as a prosecutor at the Hamilton County District Attorney General’s Office where she focused on child abuse and domestic violence cases. Under her leadership, an Inter-Agency Domestic Violence Task Force was initiated.
During her 17 years as a criminal court judge, she developed and presided over the successful Hamilton County Recovery Court, known as “drug court,” and served in multiple leadership roles in the Chattanooga Bar Association, including president and board member.
“I was blessed to be appointed to the bench and to have been elected three times and I would like to return to public service as a judge, where I feel I can do the most good," she said. "If I’m elected to the bench again, I plan to continue the good work and high standards set by Judge Poole.”
Candidates for the 2022 Hamilton County ballot can pick up their qualifying papers beginning Dec. 20 for the 2022 elections.