The governor announced that Shelby County attorney Paula Skahan would succeed the retired Judge Bernie Weinman in Division 1 Criminal Court, while Assistant Shelby County Public Defender W. Mark Ward was named to assume the Division 9 Criminal Court position formerly filled by Judge J.C. McLin. Judge McLin was named to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Division, by Bredesen in September.
In a press release announcing the appointments, Bredesen said, Paula Skahan and Mark Ward have extensive experience working in the Shelby County court system. Over the years, these individuals have demonstrated through their work that they have the knowledge, the skill and the integrity to serve Tennesseans with honor as Criminal Court judges in Shelby County. I congratulate them on these milestones in their careers and appreciate their service to the state of Tennessee.
Paula L. Skahan has practiced law for 19 years -- the last 15 in private practice, primarily in criminal defense law, handling a number high profile capital murder cases. From 1987 to 1989, she worked as an assistant district attorney in the Shelby County District Attorney Generals Office, and from 1986 to 1987, she was an assistant public defender in the Shelby County Public Defenders Office. Skahan also served more than 40 times as a special judge in the Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Court.
The 44-year-old Skahan holds bachelors degrees in English and French from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Memphis State University. She is a member of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, serving on its board of directors since 1990, and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She is also a member of the Association of Women Attorneys and the Memphis Bar Association.
Ward has practiced law for 25 years -- since 1997 as an assistant public defender in the Shelby County Public Defenders Office and as an adjunct professor at The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. He also worked in private practice for 16 years, primarily in criminal defense law, while serving as a part-time public defender in Shelby County.