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Help Hamilton County’s Next Division 3 Criminal Court Judge
A STERN VOICE FOR JUSTICE
Experience. Innovation. Knowledge.
Rebecca has worked as a prosecutor, a criminal court judge, and a criminal defense attorney. Her varied experience has given her a holistic understanding of the law.
Across all her roles, Rebecca has proven to have a judicial temperament, a discerning mind, and a voice for justice.
Throughout her career, Rebecca has approached issues with creativity, establishing problem solving solutions.
Her deep understanding of criminal law renders her an ideal fit for this role.
Hamilton County’s Next Division 3 Criminal Court Judge
“I was blessed to be appointed to the bench and to have been elected three times. I would like to return to public service as a judge, where I feel I can do the most good. If I’m elected to the bench again, I plan to continue the good work and high standards set by Judge Poole.”
— Rebecca J. Stern
Early Life & Education
Rebecca grew up in Ooltewah and attended schools in Collegedale, eventually dropping out of high school to work full time. She worked in her father’s truss company, building roof trusses for a while; however, she quickly realized she did not enjoy that kind of work, and knew she needed to get back in school. She took the GED test, and soon after enrolled at Chattanooga State Community College. After five quarters there, Rebecca transferred to UT Chattanooga, where she graduated with High Honors and a B.S. in Psychology.
No stranger to hard work, Rebecca held two jobs while completing her studies at UTC. She was a server at a local steak house, and also tutored dorm students at Baylor School. After graduating from UTC, Baylor School offered her a position, the objective of which was to create a Study Skills and Testing Department for the school. She had planned on starting law school after graduation, but instead accepted Baylor’s offer, teaching there for three years. She then attended the University of Tennessee School of Law, and graduated with honors and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree.
After graduation, Rebecca’s first position in the legal field was as an Associate at the Chattanooga law firm Strang, Fletcher, Carriger, Walker, Hodge & Smith, where she practiced primarily in the area of Environmental Law. She loved the firm, but had attended law school with goals of practicing in the area of Criminal Law. After two years at that firm, she heard about an opening in the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office for a special Child Abuse Prosecutor. Rebecca decided to go for it. She applied for and secured that position, and in that role, she definitely found her niche.
A Passion for Criminal Law
Rebecca found she had an affinity for prosecuting and working in the criminal courts. While working as an Assistant DA, she participated in the group that established the Children’s Advocacy Center, and helped establish an inter-agency Domestic Violence Task Force. In 1997, Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist appointed Rebecca to the bench in Hamilton County Criminal Court, Division II. In 1998, she ran to keep that seat, and won that election by a respectable margin. She was re-elected to that seat in 2006, and again in 2014. Rebecca served as the Criminal Court Judge in Division II for 17 years.
An Innovative Approach to Problem Solving
In 2005, Rebecca established the Hamilton County Recovery Court, also known as Drug Court, the goal of which is to rehabilitate non-violent offenders whose drug addiction compelled them into the Criminal Justice system. She presided over that very successful docket for ten years while also handling her share of other criminal court cases. In 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent most of that year recovering from surgery, and going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Except for two weeks following surgery, she worked throughout her treatment, in spite of losing her hair and feeling very weak most of the time. Working was her way of coping with the fear of cancer, and the terrible effects of cancer treatment.
A Dedication to Practicing Law
In 2015, after losing a close family member to cancer, Rebecca decided to retire, in a futile effort to slow the “hands of time,” and to recover mentally and physically from her own battle with cancer. She spent most of the next 15 months with her husband in Puerto Rico, while he worked remotely for a Chattanooga law firm.
After just one year of retirement, Rebecca was ready to go back to work, so in October of 2016, she opened a small law practice in Chattanooga, specializing in criminal defense work. She continues to practice criminal defense law in Chattanooga to this day.
“I believe I am the best candidate for Division III because of my many years of criminal court experience, my innovation in establishing a problem solving court like drug court, my proven judicial temperament, and my deep understanding of the criminal laws. I have proven that I can be fair, impartial, and respectful to those who have come before me, while following the law.”
Rebecca J. Stern
Why She’s Running
For Hamilton County Division 3 Criminal Court Judge
“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.”
The Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge in Division III, to be elected in 2022, will preside over the Hamilton County Mental Health Court, which is an objective close to Rebecca’s own heart. The goal of Mental Health Court is the same as the goal of the Recovery Court she worked to establish in 2005-to rehabilitate non-violent criminal offenders. If elected, Rebecca will be able to continue this important work.
I didn’t have a life. I was merely existing. I used drugs and alcohol daily. When I walked into the courtroom that day, there was something so spiritual that guided me in there to ask for help. Judge Rebecca Stern saw the desperation in me. I was adopted by her. I’m forevermore grateful for her. I can now be a good citizen, husband, and mentor to others like me because Judge Stern gave me a chance to heal.
I was sexually exploited, homeless, and addicted to drugs for 20 years. Judge Stern saw something in me that I could not. Midway through drug court, she ordered me to go to college. Now I am a college graduate, wife, homeowner, and organization founder. Because of Judge Stern’s help, I can now help others as she helped me.
I went from a promising straight-A high school student with a bright future to a hopelessly crack-addicted prostitute with no way out. Judge Stern’s Drug Court program gave me hope back and a way out of the life I had become trapped in. Now I have a wonderful marriage and a happy healthy well-adjusted son. I manage the office for a large security company and have completed a college degree. None of this would have been possible without Judge Stern’s unwavering support and encouragement through the program. I can now help others out of the same seemingly hopeless pit I was once lost in. I will be forever grateful.
I used drugs for over 15 years and I had many criminal charges. I was given a chance by Rebecca Stern. I was doomed to go in and out of jail. She allowed me to go into drug court. I never thought I could have days of sobriety but now I have actual years. I own my own business. I am married. I am the grandfather of two of the most beautiful boys I have ever seen. I sponsor people today. I can be a son to my dad which is something I knew nothing about before. So Rebecca Stern not only helped me change my life but she changed the lives of everyone around me and for that I am grateful.
I met Judge Stern at the lowest point in my life. I had just been sentenced to 19 years!! I was broken from the inside out. I was caught cooking methamphetamine on Christmas Eve 2005. One day while sitting in jail and reading the paper, I learned about a new program called Drug Court. They were taking applications for nonviolent drug offenders. Honestly, I did not think I had a chance because of the severity of my charges. Long story short, I had no hope for the future and what she did for me was unbelievable. To this day I am very grateful that she took the time out of her day to help me. I am proud to say 16 years later that I am a productive member of society and a proud father and husband. Soon after graduating from Drug Court I went on to get my general contractor’s license and now have my own business. I know how humble she is and she would tell me that I did it, but without her believing in me and helping me to get confidence and pride back in my life, I don’t know where I would be. I definitely would not be helping people like I’m able to do today! I always thought I was going to be a number for the rest of my life but she showed me that I can be anything I want to be! Thank you, Judge Stern, for putting others in front of you.
Before Drug Court, I would use drugs to help me to stay awake and alert, which caused me to make some really poor decisions. After going through the program, I was able to get my life together and on track. My family was restored. I am now able to help others, who are dealing with addictions, to see that you can recover and live a better life. If it was not for Rebecca Stern and drug court showing that they care about the lives of people and believe in helping individuals. I don’t know where I would be. They worked together to make this world a little bit better. By giving everyone a second chance.
Any reference to “Judge Stern” refers to Rebecca Stern’s previous time on the bench. She is currently not a sitting Judge and is seeking election.
EARLY VOTING: April 13-28, 2022
ELECTION DAY: May 3, 2022
Help Hamilton County’s Next Division 3 Criminal Court Judge