Law and Order: Collierville

Monthly Membership Meeting Hosts Collierville Municipal Judge Leigh Ann Dobson

It was another Monthly Membership Meeting and another packed house, as Chamber members and guests gathered Wednesday, August 6, at First Baptist Church of Collierville to hear guest speaker, Collierville Municipal Court Judge Leigh Ann Dobson.

Before the day’s featured speaker, Collierville Board Chairman Jimmy Turner took the podium to recognize elected officials and other civic leaders in attendance, as well as to call attention to the day’s caterer Simply Done Catering, to thank the church for the use of their facilities and to offer appreciation for the support offered the Chamber by their Premier Partners. He then turned the podium over to Leadership Collierville’s Executive Director, Tasha Holmes, for a very special recognition.

Noting her organization’s 30-year association with the community, Holmes also reminded everyone that it was her third opportunity to use a Chamber luncheon to present the H.R. Houston award. The award is presented to a Leadership Collierville member for dedication to the organization and service to the community. The 2023 H.R. Houston Award was presented to Bill Samisch, Senior Vice President of First National Bank & Trust (and Chamber board member), recognizing both his passion to help others and his sense of humor.

Collierville Chamber President and CEO Mark Heuberger then stepped to the podium to recognize several organizations that had recently joined the Chamber.  He offered representatives from several new members a chance to introduce themselves and their companies. Heuberger then asked Chris Webb, Chamber board member and Senior Vice President, Private Client Relationship Manager with First Horizon – the day’s luncheon sponsor – to offer a few remarks about the bank. Webb called attention to the bank’s $85 B in assets, its provision of a full range of services across 12 Southern states. He highlighted the bank’s numerous national recognitions, including being one of the world’s best banks and its recognition as being a “best employer,” but reminded the audience of the bank’s true focus as being “all about relationships.”

Mark Heuberger outlined guest speaker Judge Leigh Ann Dobson’s journey from B.A. University of Florida to several years teaching middle school and eventually her graduation from the Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law at the University of Memphis in 1984. After clerking for a criminal court judge, Dobson pursued a career in family law, having her own practice for more than 30 years. Additionally, she is an active member of Zonta International, a global network of professionals who advocate for women’s rights, education, and social justice. She also volunteers and supports the Memphis Golden Retriever Association. And, as Heuberger noted, “Leigh Ann Dobson is Collierville’s first female judge.”

Leigh Ann Pafford Dobson was appointed as Collierville’s Municipal Judge when Judge Craig Hall died in 2019. She won re-election in 2020 to serve out the remainder of the former judge’s tenure and was re-elected for a full 8-year term in 2022. She began her remarks by noting her pride in “being your judge in Collierville,” adding that she had closed down her 30+ year private family law practice.

Dobson offered the audience an overview of Collierville’s Municipal Court, its wide range of responsibilities including general sessions and traffic court, and her own various judicial duties (on call from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.) overseeing a courtroom venue for a wide range of prosecutions. Dobson deals with domestic issues, traffic citations, and the most heinous of criminal cases that are often sent to Criminal Court at 201 Poplar in Memphis. While her own judicial power limits her sentencing to 11 months and 29 days, she uses her power to protect the interests of the Town, frequently requiring those found guilty of property crimes to provide restitution, in addition to court costs and fines. There are four prosecutors who work for Collierville.

Dobson directed remarks to the top traffic violations within her jurisdiction, from speeding to seat belt violations, and mentioned her creative efforts to deal with juvenile traffic violators through the Juvenile Probation Program. Offenders may face a variety of punishments, including having licenses taken away for set periods of time, writing papers, or doing community service – all in an effort to teach the young drivers a lesson while offering the court a means of dismissing the ticket prior to its going on a permanent record.

Looking at criminal cases, Dobson mentioned her power of bond-setting and the message that a high bond can send to criminals within the greater community about the seriousness of Collierville’s court. She offered specific information about criminal cases within her court: drug-involved cases; driving, shoplifting; unlawful possession of a weapon, DUIs, and domestic crimes. Dobson commented that “86% of criminal activity in the town comes from those who don’t live in Collierville.”

Dobson concluded her remarks by fielding several questions, before leaving the podium to a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

Concluding the day, Heuberger asked Dr. Mary McDonald, founder and CEO of MCD Partners, and Maureen Yarbrough, Founder and CEO of Signs Matter, Inc., onto the stage to discuss the Ascend Regional Business Summit to be held November 7th at the Hilton Memphis. The summit will feature a talk by Academy Award Winning Documentarian Bill Courtney and a day’s worth of professional development. Ticket and panelist information can be found here.