By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — At different times in her career, Ana Escobar’s prosecuted and defended domestic violence cases since 1995. Now, she wants to preside and judge.
“I know how hard it is for somebody to accuse someone who they love or have loved,” Escobar said while discussing her bid for a seat on the bench in Division III of General Sessions Court.
The judge in that Davidson County court hears domestic violence cases for eight months and then goes “into the regular rotation” as a judge being assigned to other kinds of cases.
“It’s hard as a defense attorney,” she said. “I become invested in my clients and their families and I fight more for them because I care for them.
“Sometimes the law is unfair and people go to jail for a ridiculous amount of time, just because of circumstances or what luck they had when they were born.”
After almost three years, Escobar left her job as a prosecutor for District Attorney Glenn Funk to run for judge. Previously, she worked for Tory Johnson. She’s been a public defender, a private practice attorney and she’s qualified to practice in federal court.
Escobar is Hispanic. On the campaign trail, people ask her if she’s related to Pablo Escobar. She’s not. It’s spelled the same way. Escobar is like Smith in Columbia, South America, where she was born.
“My parents were brave enough to come here,” Escobar said. “We came here legal when I was 6 months old and my parents taught me work ethics, to study hard and I became a naturalized citizen.”
They moved here because her father’s medical residency was at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“Thirty years ago, nobody was Hispanic” in Nashville, she recalls, “so I’ve learned to work twice as hard and get half the credit…
“I can speak Spanish and read it, but I’m not that great at writing it.”
Escobar, 47, has lived in Nashville for some 30 years, and is “proudly” Catholic “I went to St. Bernard’s and St. Henry’s and St Cecilia’s.” Her bachelor’s is from Vanderbilt. Her law degree is from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
She’s divorced with an 11-year-old son; a “single mom supporting him alone,” she said.
State lawmakers set certain mandatory minimum sentences for domestic violence offenders, but judges have more discretion when facing first time offenders.
“Judges should explore those options” for classes, therapy, recovery for addiction,” Escobar said. “It’s part of a judge’s duty to explore and learn and innovate … Having been on the YWCA board, I thought I knew about domestic violence, but not really until I spoke with hundreds of victims did I understand the complexity …
“I’ve been on 20 non-profit boards, professional associations and government commissions,” she said, including public service with then-Mayor Karl Dean to create “MyCity Academy … a leadership program for new Americans and neighborhood leaders to learn about Metro government …” Several have been appointed to various boards, thereby diversifying those city panels.
The concept “was in a [Washington, D.C.] white paper when Obama was president,” she said.
Escobar hasn’t held elected office. “I was going to run for judge in 2022,” she said, “but then this opportunity was so perfect.”
Gov. Bill Haslam appointed now-former Sessions Court Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton to the 20th Judicial District Criminal Court bench.
“I want people to vote for me, to learn more about me,” she said. “I hope to earn their vote.”