2019 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence Recipient

Tennessee Judge Duane Slone

Tennessee Judge Duane Slone is the 2019 recipient of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, one of the highest judicial honors in the country. Judge Slone, of the Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial District, is being recognized for his ground-breaking work helping people with opioid use disorder. The award will be presented to Judge Slone by the Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. during a ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court November 21.

Combatting the opioid epidemic is not just a professional commitment for Judge Slone. It’s personal.  In 2011, Judge Slone and his wife, Gretchen, adopted an infant son who was born suffering from withdrawals as a result of his birth mother’s opioid use. 

This knowledge and understanding shaped Judge Slone’s approach to helping those who come into his court. “We must understand that addiction is a preventable, treatable condition and people recover. We must go as far upstream as possible, meet people where they are, and provide hope and healing. I believe it is our duty as judges to find a way to help them.”Although he had presided over drug court for years, once Joseph came into his life, Judge Slone gained a much different perspective about addiction. He sought information from medical professionals who explained substance use disorder as a chronic brain disorder. “Simply put, my child’s mother experienced cravings for opioids that were 10 times more powerful than my cravings for food … for Joseph’s mother, her opioid use was a matter of survival,” he said.