Tarik Sugarmon ousts incumbent Dan Michael for juvenile court judge in 2014 rematch

Shelby County Juvenile Court

Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon defeated incumbent Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael in a script reversal from the duo's 2014 race.

Sugarmon won with a wire-to-wire lead, grabbing 43% of votes to Michael's 33%, with all precincts reporting. William "Ray" Glasgo and Dee Shawn Peoples, the two other candidates for the bench, received 13% and 9% respectively, putting them both far behind the two front runners.

In the 2014 matchup between Michael and Sugarmon, there were less than 10,000 votes separating the two, with Michael ultimately being elected to the bench for an eight-year term.

Meet the new juvenile court judge

Sugarmon's public service experience started when he was young, after his father brought him along to pass out campaign materials for President John F. Kennedy.

Sugarmon and his family lived in several South Memphis communities and, after returning from Howard Law School in Washington, D.C., he first moved into the Peppertree Apartments before moving to the Greenlaw community in North Memphis.

He was exposed to community hardships and violence which deepened his desire to serve. As one of the first three Black children to integrate Peabody Elementary in the early 1960s, Sugarmon said, "That was my first contact with trauma."

He believes his own experiences give him a keen insight into the lives of children who grow up surrounded by hardship, along with how to break a cycle created by hardship.

"I have to ask myself, as somebody who's been committed to the community, is what kind of county to want to leave for our children?" Sugarmon told the Commercial Appeal in July.

Now elected to the juvenile court bench, Sugarmon is ready to try and overhaul due process in the court, pointing to a 2018 report that cited racial disparities in the court's due process system.

"The last report in 2018, Sandra Simkins highlighted the fact that they have still not resolved the due process concerns, there's still major disparities in the way that African American children are treated in that system," he said.

Although Sugarmon has commonly been called soft on crime, he rebuffs that idea. He acknowledges the way out of the current need to send any young people to adult court for violent crimes must start earlier.

"I understand there has to be responsibility, especially for serious crimes. But I do want to focus on the redemptive aspects of the juvenile system," he said. "What we've been doing for the last 60 years isn't working."

From the bench, Sugarmon now wants to focus on young offenders when they first come into contact with juvenile court, and getting kids "on a track of rehabilitation immediately."

Lucas Finton is a news reporter with The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached at Lucas.Finton@commercialappeal.com and followed on Twitter @LucasFinton.

Micaela Watts contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Sugarmon ousts Michael for juvenile court judge seat in 2014 rematch