Gov. Lee Appoints Dwight Tarwater To Tennessee Supreme Court

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday announced that he's selected his predecessor's one-time lead legal counsel, Dwight Tarwater, to serve on the state's highest court.

Tarwater will replace outgoing Justice Sharon Lee upon her retirement on Aug. 31. Justice Lee announced in November that she would retire from the Tennessee Supreme Court after serving on the bench since 2008, when she was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.

She is the only remaining justice on the five-member court to be appointed by a Democrat after Justice Cornelia Clark died in 2021.

Tarwater is a partner at Knoxville-based Paine, Tarwater, Bickers, LLP. He previously served as former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's chief legal counsel.

“(Tarwater's) understanding of the judiciary’s appropriate role and commitment to the conservative principles of judicial restraint make him well-suited for the state’s highest court, and I am proud to appoint him to this position," Lee said in a statement.

Lee's selection must be now confirmed by state lawmakers. Republicans have supermajority control in both legislative chambers. Supreme Court justices face “yes-no” retention elections every eight years.

Also Thursday, Lee announced that he had appointed Matthew Wilson to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Section. Wilson is currently an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Tennessee.