- Sandra Donaghy - Criminal Court Judge, 10th Judicial District, Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk County.


Qualifications are an extremely important aspect for one desiring to be criminal court judge.

“Whether you are a victim of crime or the defendant, you want your judge to know and understand the law.”  An analogy might be “if you needed heart surgery, would you want the best cardiologist available or would you want a pediatrician to do the surgery.”  Since I have dedicated the last 22 years of my practice to criminal law, I have specialized in this area.  I have studied the law and strive to keep current in the issues that face criminal courts.  On a daily basis, I apply the law to the cases brought to me by law enforcement. Of the candidates running for criminal court judge, my training and experience puts my qualifications head and shoulders above the rest.

 Experience and Qualifications:

My professional work spans 30 years as criminal lawyer, prosecutor, defense attorney, and appointed judge.

My early career in private practice provided extensive experience handling a wide variety of cases. Later, as a defense attorney, I represented the indigent as a public defender.  In 1992, I became an Assistant District Attorney General in Jerry Estes’ Office. My professionalism earned me recognition as Team Leader for McMinn and Monroe Counties and later for Bradley and Polk Counties to mentor and supervise other attorneys.  I was appointed Chief Assistant District Attorney General in 2004.  In 2006, I became an Assistant District Attorney General in the 7th Judicial District where I currently hold the position of Deputy District Attorney General.  I have been a technical and procedural resource for my office while carrying a full caseload.

Throughout my career, I handled the worst and most complicated criminal cases – murder, rape, robbery, drugs, fraud, child abuse, and many more. I fought tirelessly to eliminate violent crime, gangs, and public corruption.  I have successfully prosecuted two death penalty cases.  Using a conservative estimate, I have resolved over 10,000 cases.  I have personally conducted 197 jury trials.

Among hundreds of prosecutors in Tennessee I became the only person to twice receive Tennessee’s highest honor, the President’s Award, for exceptional service to the Criminal Justice System (2005 and 2013), presented by the Tennessee District Attorneys’ Conference.

I use my knowledge and experience to train new police officers at the Cleveland State Police Academy. I also conduct in-service training for law enforcement, educators, and parent-teacher groups.

My past judicial experience includes appointment as Magistrate Judge of the Bradley County Juvenile Drug Court. For four years I worked closely with the Juvenile Court staff, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, education representatives, and families of youth with drug and/or alcohol dependency issues.  On a weekly basis, I met with the team to staff each case and then I formally reviewed each participant’s treatment progress, compliance with terms of supervision, educational goals, and behaviors within her or his family home. I exercised this judicial function from October 2006 to July 2010.  Policies and protocols were developed with a steering committee.  Our juvenile drug court was successful and this court serves as a model to other Tennessee communities.

Protecting the public and the rights of the accused for twenty-two years:

2006 to present: Deputy District Attorney General in the 7th Judicial District of Tennessee.

1997 to 2006 and 1992 to 1996: Assistant District Attorney General in the 10th Judicial District of Tennessee.

1996 to 1997: Assistant Public Defender assigned to the Multiple Defenders Division, a sub-office within the Public Defender’s Office.

1984 to 1992: Private practice as a sole general practitioner.  My practice was general in nature and I handled both civil and criminal cases, from complicated divorce and child custody matters to minor traffic tickets.  I practiced in the circuit courts, federal court, municipal courts, and before administrative law judges.  I was the first woman appointed as a Court Commissioner (1988-1989); was named permanent guardian ad litem; and was hired in 1989 on a limited basis as a special prosecutor by the District Attorney’s Office to handle paternity, child support, and URISA cases.

 Commitment to education: 

Adjunct teacher:

1998 to present: I have been hired to teach substantive classes in criminal law at the Cleveland State Police Academy. Three police academies are held each year.  I present 96 hours of instruction annually in the following areas: basic law, constitutional law, stops, arrest, search and seizure, statements, evidence, criminal procedure, and victims’ rights. For the past several years, I have been the Lead Legal Instructor.

I have presented in-service training for law enforcement toward annual Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) continuing education requirements.

2002 to 2002: I taught substantive criminal law at Cleveland State Community College in the Legal Assistant/Criminal Justice Department.

1985 to 1986: While in private practice, I taught Business Law at Gateway Technical College in Racine, Wisconsin. I was certified in the instructional area of Business Administration by the Wisconsin Board of Vocational, Technical and Adult Education in 1985.

 Extensive public service experience:

American Red Cross professional:

1976 to 1981: I was the full-time Director of Safety Services for the Lakeshore Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross in Racine, Wisconsin. I recruited, trained and supervised 700 volunteers to conduct classes in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and water safety.

 Civic involvement from an early age:

Swim Instructor/Life Guard:

1965 to 1976: I volunteered as an assistant swim instructor when I was just 10 years old. When I became old enough to be certified, I was hired as a life guard and swim instructor. I taught swimming lessons to children and adults, part-time, through college.  I directed adapted aquatics programs designed to provide recreation and teach water safety to mentally and physically handicapped children. I recruited and trained assistants for these programs.  I developed a report card to document and reward the progress made, which was published in national Red Cross literature and adopted by programs across the country.

Real world small business experience: 

Manager/Employee in family owned business:

1965 to 1985: From about the age of 10 until after law school, I helped my parents with the family-owned restaurant business, The Sunshine. This business was started by my grandfather in 1932. My parents assumed management and control in 1956. Over the years, I washed dishes, cooked, waited tables, and handled light bookkeeping. In 1996 after my mother died and when my father became ill, I ran the business until I was able to sell it.

Partnership: During calendar years 1999-2004, I was a partner in a business formed to manage the summer resort of my grandmother, known as Chapman Cove.


Law School: 

University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, Wisconsin

Degree Awarded:        Juris Doctorate (1984)

Argued on the International Moot Court Team.

Interned with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

Practicum with Legal Aid Clinic through the UW Law School, working under the supervision of licensed attorneys, representing the indigent in small claims civil matters.


University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Degree Awarded: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (1976)

 – Sandra Donaghy – Criminal Court Judge, 10th Judicial District, Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk County.

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