By Cillea Houghton
Nashville, TN — Sam Coleman vows to keep his promise to the Metropolitan Council and the city of Nashville by proving why he’s “the people’s judge” with his election for General Sessions Court Judge in the 10th division. Coleman is running to fill the final four years of former Judge Casey Moreland’s eight-year term.
Coleman served on the Metro Council in Districts 32 and 33 before he was appointed by his peers to fill Moreland’s vacant seat in Division 10. Frank Mondelli Sr. and Tillman Payne III are also running for the seat, with the election set for May 1. Coleman is the only African American male judge in the General Sessions Court. “I was honored and privileged to be selected by my colleagues in the Council and I think that they recognize that I was a hard worker and I was a public servant, so they were willing to take a chance,” Coleman said.
Coleman was appointed to the position after Moreland stepped down following allegations that he tried to stop a woman from making public allegations against him with bribery and was arrested on federal charges. Integrity is at the core of Coleman’s mission, promising to provide justice fairly and honorably. “I have restored the integrity of the Division 10 General Sessions Court,” Coleman said. “I have been fair, I have held people accountable, I serve with compassion, I understand people’s conditions. And more importantly, one of the overall factors that make a good judge is somebody that can look to both sides of an issue and make a fair decision and that’s what I’m able to do and it has been proven in my last six months of work. I think that I kept my promise to the Council.”
His three terms on the Council warranted many positive outcomes in Antioch, with Coleman spearheading a project that brought a new community center and remodeled library to the area, re-named a portion of the district Cane Ridge and instituted a new fire department. He also collaborated with police to reduce crime and worked to balance the issues of development and overcrowding. “Moving people forward from one place to another and just being there for them in terms of fighting for many issues that are city wide as well as just community wide,” he said of his rewarding time on the Council.
He also spent 17 years practicing law as a defense attorney, offering pro bono assistance for families that were in need of an attorney, but struggling financially. Prior to his appointed position as a judge, Coleman spent 32 years working for the state in the Department of Children’s Services, moving his way up from officer to administrator, working hands on with the children coming off the streets into the correctional system. He said the position provided him with management skills that play a major role in his career as a judge and instilled the importance of compassion in a position of power.
“I think one of the basic things I learned is that you can’t give up on people,” he says of what lessons he took from working in Children’s Services. “I see a change in life and that was because the system didn’t walk away from them and they stayed there… It developed a great strength in myself and just the compassion of dealing with human life, I think that drew more out of me than anything. You have to have compassion, but you have to be thorough and you have to hold people accountable.”
It is this vast skillset that helped propel Coleman onto the judge’s bench, with his sense of integrity, fairness and a champion for honest justice making him a trustworthy candidate in the eyes of his peers. “I am considered the people’s judge in my circle,” he said. “And they know me that way from being a man of the people on the city council. I was a representative that they can call upon and now I think most of them look at me as ‘the people’s judge.’”