Alumna to become Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Tennessee

University of Tennessee College of Law alumna Pamela Reeves has been named Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Tennessee and will be sworn in April 1.

Reeves will succeed U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan who has held the chief judgeship for the past seven years. 

“I am both honored and humbled to assume this position,” Reeves said. “Fortunately, Chief Judge Varlan and the team he has put together in the last seven years has the court working so smoothly, I am confident we can make a seamless transition. I look forward as chief judge to helping our court serve the citizens of the Eastern District of Tennessee.”

Varlan said Reeves’s legal and administrative background leave her “eminently qualified to lead our district as the next chief judge.”

“Her becoming our court’s first female chief judge is a tribute to her and a historic milestone,” Varlan said.

Reeves has been a U.S. Eastern District judge since being nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2014. She will be the first woman to hold the district’s chief judge position in the court’s 222-year history. 

Reeves graduated from the College of Law in 1979 and went on to practice law in Knoxville until her appointment. She served as president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators. 

As chief judge, Reeves will serve as the lead judicial administrative officer for the district and oversee the day-to-day court operations. The chief judgeship rotates every seven years to the next judge in seniority who is under the age of 65. 

Reeves was recently featured in the College of Law Six-Pack Video Series. View her interview and her thoughts on leadership here.