By Janice Church, Area Director – WestCare Tennessee
I had the privilege of interviewing the Honorable Judge Dennis W. Humphrey at our office. I named this article, “The Judge With A Heart,” because I have worked with him for over nine years in different capacities. I first met Judge Humphrey when I was a child abuse investigator for Roane County. He showed great concern for the children and their parents and always made sure that the children were safe. He also took the time to identify the needs of the parents with the ultimate goal of reuniting families if possible.
Judge Humphrey serves as Roane County’s judge for general sessions, their juvenile court and their recovery court. Dennis was born in Harriman, TN. He attended Roane State and Tennessee Tech University and took a class from the University of Alaska before going to law school in Nashville, TN. When asked about his early work history, he said that he built houses with his father, which was fulfilling to be able to work alongside and learn from him. During his last year of law school and the year after graduation and passing the bar, he worked with the Court of Criminal Appeals as a law clerk for Judge Charles O’Brien. He then began a private practice that served Lebanon, Nashville and Murfreesboro for about two years. In 1984, he returned to Roane County and was hired as Assistant District Attorney for the Ninth Judicial District until 1998. That year, he was elected as Roane County’s General Sessions Court Judge and still remains in this position. When asked what he enjoyed about working for the district attorney, he responded that it was getting justice for victims and their families.
Judge Humphrey has been a judge for twenty-three years. When asked if he would run again in 2022, he said that he plans to run one more time, but wants to continue to be a part of the recovery court and assist the community as much as he can. When asked why he decided to be a part of the recovery court, he said with a smile that he first agreed to be the recovery court judge because of the opportunities that he’d get to attend conferences and various trainings. But, after a couple months of presiding over the recovery court, he saw the differences in the participants’ lives and discovered that his new purpose was to help those in need and assist the community in dealing with the overwhelming problems that addiction causes.
When asked about his family, he said that he has a daughter who is 18 and will graduate from high school this year, as well as a twenty-year-old son that is attending college. He said that he was blessed with loving parents and two loving brothers.
He feels that building healthy family relationships is important. This is the reason why he wants to help families stay together. Through the recovery court, he has seen many children and parents reunited as well as family relationships repaired. He pointed out that in 2019 and 2020, four babies were born drug free to recovery court participants and feels that this is one of the highlights of the recovery court.
Judge Humphrey said that he has accomplished many things in his life and career, but is most proud of becoming a father. Outside of his career, he loves horses and owns several that sometimes get out and he’ll have to chase down. Another interesting fact is that he worked on the Alaska Pipeline. He also enjoys telling jokes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he continued to hold recovery court through BlueJeans video calls. Up until recently, he would come to the WestCare office and log in to hold these hearings, but now logs on from home.
He takes an interest in the lives and progress of each participant in recovery court because he is “A Judge With A Heart.” As the treatment provider for Roane County Recovery Court, I have to say that we are lucky to have a judge that cares so much about our participants. He is always available to assist and encourages those in need to seek treatment.
Recovery Court allows me to follow the spirit of the law to achieve justice for everyone and to encourage and support recovery.-Judge Humphrey
I want to end this article by saying that Roane County is lucky to have a judge that cares so much about the community and its citizens. He is a judge that looks at the person as a whole and looks for ways to help, not just punish. He has taken the time to learn about the disease of addiction and how it changes people and how recovery can change people. I am honored to be able to say that I have the privilege to work with him. I have learned a lot from him and look forward to nine more years.