NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Before she was known as judge, Denise Andre worked for the Davidson County Circuit Court. She said being in the courtroom gave her the confidence to take a big leap.
“It kind of got in your blood, the law,” Andre said. “I went to law school at night. My daughter started first grade, and I started my first year of law school.”
She went on to work for 20 years as a title attorney before she embarked on another huge step in her career.
“Someone suggested I run for judge,” Andre said. “That really wasn’t what I had planned, but I finally decided to after much encouragement and ran and won. I’m on my second term.”
That unexpected pivot put Andre just where she needed to be to make a difference in so many lives in Williamson County.
“I saw a lot of struggle, people that had addictions that were coming into the courtroom. It was like a revolving door, a lot of multiple DUIs,” Andre said.
Andre had an idea. She attended a national conference of drug court professionals, came back and called a community meeting.
“Someone at that meeting said, ‘why can’t these people just stop drinking? Don’t they have the willpower?’ The truth was, of course, they couldn’t. Addiction is a very deceitful, cunning destructive disease and most of the people that are addicted had trauma in their lives,” Andre explained.
In 2010, together with law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, and treatment and recovery professionals, Andre founded the General Sessions Williamson County DUI court. Non-violent offenders serve jail time then go to treatment, attend recovery meetings, perform service work and check in with her weekly.
“It is the best part of my week because I get to experience the changes in their behavior, the changes in their lives, the changes in their families,” Andre said.
Andre said the DUI court program makes our streets safer and saves taxpayers money.
“We’re not having to incarcerate the same people over and over again and families are doing so much better,” Andre said.
The program has a 93-percent graduation rate.
“Now when we have in-person graduations, I have children of the participants come to me and my team and say, ‘thank you for saving my mom and my dad and making my life so much better,’” Andre said.
Making families stronger and communities safer, that’s what makes Judge Denise Andre a remarkable woman.