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Judge Kyle Hixson’s Law Career Lands Him on 40 Under 40

All throughout law school and even after Judge Kyle Hixson (’05, ‘08) earned his law license and began working at the Knox County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, his love for sports broadcasting persevered. He was a lawyer by day, but on some nights and weekends, he was a broadcaster working to cover various University of Tennessee, Knoxville athletic events for the Vol Network.

“That was perfect, it was something I really enjoyed doing and that I was able to continue doing for about three or four years after I got my law license,” he said. “Initially that was my plan, to get into sports broadcasting. I was full bore headed towards that and then the law school opportunity came up so I went that route instead.”

As his recent gubernatorial appointment to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals indicates, law school turned out to be the right choice for Hixson. So much so that his illustrious career earned him a spot on the prestigious 2023 Volunteer 40 Under 40 list.

Though he loved sports broadcasting, Hixson made the choice to leave it behind as his law career ramped up and demanded more of his time. But the judge says his education at the College of Communication and Information has served him well throughout his time at the UT College of Law and in his profession. 

“It was funny, I was worried a little bit initially because I didn’t know how my communications degree would translate to law school. But once I got to law school, I was like, wow, this really does fit. It really has been very helpful because so much about the practice of law is about communication, either written or oral communication,” he said. 

After a few years as a prosecutor in Knox County, Hixson moved on to work in Nashville as an assistant attorney general for the Office of Attorney General and Reporter, representing the State of Tennessee in federal and state courts. In 2014 he returned to Knoxville and began working as a deputy district attorney. It was during his time working for the attorney general that Hixson realized just how much he enjoyed the writing and research part of the law—both of which are prominent aspects of being a judge. So in 2020 he ran, and won, a seat as a criminal court judge in Knox County. Then, this past year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee appointed Hixson to be one of four East Tennessee judges serving the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Thankfully, the position allows Hixson to continue residing in Knoxville, a city he loved even before he moved to it from his original hometown of Crossville.

“Being an hour away, Knoxville and UT are kind of where you’d go if you wanted to go to the ‘big city.’ Growing up, it was always my dream to attend the university and I just knew from a very young age that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t apply to any other schools. I was coming to UT,” he said. “I was just telling some people that, growing up in Crossville and being a lifelong Tennessean, you just know that the university isn’t just a school, it represents our state and everything that the Volunteer state stands for.”

Because of the value Hixson places on his alma mater, being honored with a spot on the Volunteer 40 under 40 is not something he takes lightly. Even with the accomplishments and honors he’s earned during his law career—including that he is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Eastern, Middle, and Western Federal District Courts for the State of Tennessee—there’s something special about this recognition.

“It’s such a cool honor, it’s really amazing and I see some of the other names on the list and I feel like I don’t really belong. But like I said, the university has meant so much to me, so to be honored in this way is really humbling and means so much to me,” he said.