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Samuel Mays

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Samuel Mays
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #1
Appointed by:   George W. Bush
Active:   5/10/2002 - Present
Preceded by:   Jerome Turner
Personal History
Born:   1948
Hometown:   Memphis, TN
Undergraduate:   Amherst College, B.A., 1970
Law School:   Yale U. School of Law, J.D., 1973

Samuel H. Mays, Jr. is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. He joined the court in 2002 after being nominated by President George W. Bush.

Early life and education

A native of Memphis, Mays graduated from Amherst College with his bachelor's degree in 1970 and graduated with his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1973.[1]

Professional career

After law school, Mays served as a private practice attorney in the State of Tennessee for 22 years from 1973 to 1995. In 1995, Mays became Legal counsel to Governor Donald Sundquist (R-Tennessee) from 1995 to 1997. In 1997, Mays became Deputy to the governor and chief of staff for Tennessee Governor Donald Sundquist from 1997 to 2000. From 2000 to 2002, Mays served as a private practice attorney before being appointed to the Federal Bench.[1]

Judicial career

Western District of Tennessee

On the unanimous recommendation of Senators Bill Frist and Fred Dalton Thompson, Mays was appointed by President George W. Bush on January 23, 2002, to a seat vacated by Jerome Turner as Turner died while in judicial service. Mays was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 9, 2002, on a senate vote and received commission on May 10, 2002.[1]

Notable cases

Public school system dispute in Memphis & Shelby County (2012)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (The Board of Cnty. Comissioners of Shelby Cnty., Tennessee, v. Robert E. Cooper, Jr., et al., 2:11-cv-02101-SHM-cgc)

Judge Mays presided over a multi-part federal suit stemming from an on-going and tendentious process to consolidate the public schools systems in the City of Memphis, Tennessee and in Shelby County, Tennessee. In an August 2012 referendum, voters in suburbs in Shelby County approved the creation of their own municipal school districts after the merger, along with state-required minimum tax increases to fund them.[2]

On November 27, 2012, Mays issued a ruling voiding the referendum and all actions Shelby County's suburban municipalities had taken towards creating their own new school districts. Judge Mays found that the legislative debate over the law which allowed for the creation of the new municipal school districts showed that Republican state legislators intended for it to apply only to Shelby County. Due to this, the law was local in effect, and Mays held that since it did not include a provision to gain approval from the entire county, it was unconstitutional.[2] Essentially, Judge Mays struck down the state law as violating the Tennessee State Constitution because it applied specifically to Shelby County, but was passed as a general law. Mays commented that,

There is in the [legislative] history a sense of a wink and a nod, a candid discussion of the bill's purpose occasionally blurred by a third-party correction. The history is clear, however, that the bill never would have passed had it not been intended to apply only to Shelby County.[2][3]

In response, the Tennessee Legislature passed House Bill 1288, a law which repealed the state's 15-year-old prohibition on new municipal school systems statewide, thereby paving the way for all suburban municipalities to create their own school districts. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law on April 24, 2013.[4]

Shelby County and other Tennesseans voted on the referendum in a special election July. The only question on the ballots was be whether they want municipal schools or not.[5][6] The referendum passed in all six municipalities.[7]

The ruling discussed above applied only to state constitutional challenges to the creation of the municipal school districts; the judge has not yet ruled on the other challenges brought by the Shelby County Commission. The Commission has also challenged the creation of the new school systems on the basis of discrimination, saying that if the suburban municipalities are allowed their own districts, this would essentially re-segregate Shelby County, with 90% of the district being black, and the majority of the suburban school districts being white.[8] That part of the suit claims a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and is still pending.[6]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Jerome Turner
Western District of Tennessee
Seat #1
Succeeded by:

TennesseeUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of TennesseeUnited States District Court for the Middle District of TennesseeUnited States District Court for the Western District of TennesseeUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of TennesseeUnited States bankruptcy court, Middle District of TennesseeUnited Stataes bankruptcy court, Western District of TennesseeUnited States Court of Appeals for the Sixth CircuitTennessee Supreme CourtTennessee Court of AppealsTennessee Court of Criminal AppealsTennessee Circuit CourtTennessee Chancery CourtsTennessee Criminal CourtTennessee Probate CourtTennessee General Sessions CourtTennessee Juvenile CourtTennessee Municipal CourtTennessee countiesTennessee judicial newsTennessee judicial electionsJudicial selection in TennesseeTennesseeTemplate.jpg