After more than 25 years of service, Tennessee’s longest serving state appellate judge, Charles D. Susano Jr., has announced he will retire from the bench effective April 30. Judge Susano is a longtime parishioner of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville.
In a letter to Gov. Bill Lee, Judge Susano said “It has been the highest honor of my life to have served the people of the state of Tennessee, and I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity.” In response, Gov. Lee stated, “We appreciate Judge Susano’s long tenure and leadership on the Court. He has been admired in the legal community for many years, and his service will be missed.”
Born in 1936, Judge Susano is a Knoxville native who attended Knoxville Catholic High School, where he was the captain of the school’s first city championship basketball team in 1954. In 1958, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and served in the U.S. Army until 1960. After being honorably discharged, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he graduated in 1963.
In March 1994, Gov. Ned Ray McWherter appointed him to the Tennessee Court of Appeals Eastern Section. Judge Susano was elected statewide in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, 2006, and 2014. He served as presiding judge of the court from 2012-2014.
He has served in other roles as a member of the judiciary, including sitting as a special judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court and serving on the Court of the Judiciary from 1999-2003. Among his many accolades, Judge Susano was recipient of the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award in 2017; Appellate Judge of the Year from the American Board of Trial Advocates, Tennessee Chapter, in 2003; and Courage in the Face of Adversity Award from the Knoxville Bar Association in 2004. Although permanently paralyzed from the chest down as the result of a fall in June 1993, Judge Susano has never let his disability keep him from serving his community and the state of Tennessee.