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University of South Dakota School of Law Thurgood Marshall Lecture  

Last Updated: Aug 28, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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About Judge Curtis L. Collier

Judge Curtis L. Collier is a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  He is assigned to the Chattanooga Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. 

Judge Collier was born and raised in rural Eastern Arkansas.  He attended undergraduate school at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee and law school at the Duke University Law School in Durham, North Carolina.  While in undergraduate school he was a member of the Air Force R.O.T.C. program.  Following his graduation from Duke Law School, he entered the United States Air Force in the Judge Advocate General’s Department where he served as a Captain.  While on active duty he litigated approximately 30 courts-martial and administrative board cases, supervised the claims program for one base, headed the Civil Law Section at another base, and headed the Military Justice Section at his last assignment.  After his release from active duty, Judge Collier served in the Air Force Reserves where he attained the rank of Lt. Colonel.

In 1979, he joined the United States Attorney's office in New Orleans, Louisiana as an Assistant United States Attorney, serving as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Louisiana where he held supervisory positions including head of Special Investigations, Chief of General Crimes  and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.  He moved from New Orleans to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1987 to join the United States Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  He was the Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney-in-Charge of the Chattanooga branch office where he oversaw other attorneys in both civil and criminal litigation while carrying an active litigation case load or his own.  While an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Orleans and Chattanooga, Judge Collier tried approximately 75 cases.  In his supervisory role, he participated in a great many more.  These trials span several substantive areas of the law, including allegations of public corruption, environmental contamination, securities fraud, money laundering, bank fraud, mail fraud, tax fraud and evasion, narcotics trafficking prosecutions, violent crime and transgressions of the RICO and Continuing Criminal Enterprise statutes.

In 1995 he was nominated by President William Jefferson Clinton to serve as a United States District Judge in Chattanooga.  During his tenure on the bench he has presided over almost 300 federal civil and criminal trials.  In 2005 Judge Collier became the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and served as chief judge for the full seven year term which concluded in 2012.  While Chief Judge, he presided over a number of memorable cases included United States v.  Rejon Taylor, the first federal death penalty case tried in Tennessee.  He also presided over a number of complex federal civil law suits, including two of the five multi-district litigation (MDL) cases ever filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee, In re UnumProvident, a MDL case involving a large number of nation wide class action lawsuits against the largest provider of disability insurance in the world and In re Skelaxin, another MDL case involving a number of class action and stand alone lawsuits alleging antitrust violations regarding pharmaceutical manufacturers King Pharmaceutical and Mutual Pharmaceutical.  He also presided over Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, a civil RICO lawsuit asserting a novel theory of liability based on the employment of illegal aliens against the nation’s largest meat processing company, Tyson’s Foods, Inc.  One of the most widely publicized matters he handled was In re Moncier, a disciplinary action involving a Knoxville attorney.  Judge Collier has handled other complex civil litigation involving subject matter such at patents, trade marks and copyrights, environmental law,  ERISA and the like.  Judge Collier also sat by designation on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, where he participated in numerous panel decisions and published several opinions in the fields of criminal law, employment discrimination litigation, civil rights, business litigation, environmental law, securities law and summary judgment practice.

While serving as a federal judge, Judge Collier has been involved in federal court administration and management.  He served on a number of judicial committees at the district court level, at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and with both the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center.  He serves on the governing board of the Federal Judicial Center, on the District Judge Education Advisory Committee, and on the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.  He participated in the Federal Judicial Center’s formal orientation course for newly appointed U.S. District Judges and has served as an instructor and mentor for newly appointed district court judges. He was an instructor at the inaugural Phase III training for mid-career federal district judges at Vanderbilt University Law School in October 2014.  In addition, as Chief Judge of the district court, he was responsible for the administrative matters of the district court. 

Judge Collier has also been active in a variety of legal, educational and community activities.  He is a frequent speaker and lecturer at educational, legal and community events.  He has made presentations, lectures, or presided at Moot Court or Mock Trials at the Duke University Law School, Vanderbilt Law School, the University of Tennessee Law School, the Walter F.  George Law School of  Mercer University, and the Duncan Law School of Lincoln Memorial University.  Judge Collier has often given talks on legal ethics, professionalism and civility, and leadership to professional organizations.  He has spoken at Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Covenant College and other colleges and high schools.  In October 2014 he spoke to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Men’s Basketball team on achievement and overcoming obstacles.

He is active in several bar associations.  He is a member of the Arkansas Bar Association, the Chattanooga Bar Association, the S.L. Hutchins Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the Justices Brook-Cooper Inn of Court, the Tennessee Bar Foundation and the Chattanooga Bar Foundation.

Judge Collier is the recipient of numerous awards and commendations from his time as a student, with the U.S. Air Force, with the Justice Department and as a federal judge.  Among these awards are the Whitney M. Young Award, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga on October 28,  2014, induction into the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Chattanooga Alumnae Chapter African American Achievers Hall of Fame on June 7, 2014, being inducted into the Historical Black College and University Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010, being presented with the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Century Award of Excellence in 2011, being presented with the NAFEO Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009, and receiving the Charles S. Murphy Public Service Award from Duke University Law School in 2006.  He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

Judge Collier lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his wife, Cheryl.  He has three children, Galen, Cayanna, and Christian, and two grandchildren, Julianna and Antwan.  He is a member of the Second Missionary Baptist Church where he serves on the Board of Trustees, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and a number of other organizations.


About Judge Collier's Lecture

The title of Judge Collier's lecture is "The Lawyer: A Force for Change in Society." 

Judge Collier's lecture will focus on Thurgood Marshall as a model for lawyers who have been involved in major cases that reshaped American Law, often necessitating tremendous integrity and the display of personal courage and requiring sacrifice.


Links to Additional Information About Judge Curtis L. Collier

Biographical Information from the Federal Judicial Center

A profile article on Judge Collier was published in Federal Lawyer (available via WestlawNext):  G. Clinton Heyworth, Hon. Curtis Collier, Chief Justice, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Federal Lawyer, Vol. 58, Issue 3 (March/April 2011), pp. 20-21


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