Tennessee is the only state in the country where the state’s most powerful judges pick the state’s most powerful attorney.
The five justices of the Supreme Court will launch their attorney general selection process Monday. The man they pick — there are eight of them applying, no women — will serve in the post for the next eight years.
Each of the candidates will be invited to deliver 10 minutes of remarks. Or, if they’d prefer, applicants can speak for a shorter period and leave time for someone else to speak on their behalf — provided the total presentation doesn’t exceed ten minutes.
Time will also be allotted during the process for public comments. Afterward, the judges will interview the candidates for about 15 minutes each.
If the process isn’t completed by the end of the day Monday, it may continue on Tuesday.
The justices haven’t indicated if they’ll make their deliberations or selection decision-making procedures open to the public following the initial interviews.
Below are partial gleanings from the applications each candidate filled out. You can read the applications in their entirety by clicking on the link.
- Resides in: Brentwood
- Age: 52
- Present Occupation/Employer: Attorney at Leader, Bulso & Nolan, PLC (2008-Present).
- Nature of Current Practice: 75 percent business litigation, 25 percent administrative and pro bono matters.
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 012005
- Income Earned from Sources Other than Practice of Law: Some earnings on investments.
- Reasons for Applying: “I decided to seek the position of Attorney General because I would love to use the next eight (8) years of my legal career to champion the legal rights of the people of Tennessee. At its core, the legal profession is a profession of service. Two of our founding fathers, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were highly accomplished lawyers who routinely sacrificed their private, financial interests to serve the interest of their country. As they demonstrated, there is no higher calling to service in the legal profession that to use the law to serve the people. I wish to serve as Attorney General because I wish to serve the people of Tennessee in a position where I can best use my skills, talents and experience to improve the lives of the people of this state.In addition, I believe that I can in eight years make a lasting impression on the Office for the better. Whatever success I have enjoyed in my legal career is likely attributable to hard work and a commitment to excellence. Vince Lombardi once famously observed, “Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing .. . You don’t do things right once in a while … you do them right all of the time. ” The same is true in the practice of law. Every brief has to be done right. Every argument has to done right. Having an Attorney General who has the experience and the ability to inspire the next generation of assistant attorneys general to work hard and to develop a commitment to doing the small things right every day will, in time, pay huge dividends for the State of Tennessee. I would welcome the opportunity to work with the dedicated public servants, present and future, in the Attorney General’s office to use the state-of-the-art tools available in the legal field today to provide the highest level of service possible to the State of Tennessee and its citizens.”
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., (Tennessee’s Current Attorney General)
- Resides in: Nashville
- Age: 57
- Present Occupation/Employer: Attorney General and Reporter, State of Tennessee (2006-Present).
- Nature of Current Practice: Representing the State of Tennessee.
- Other Employment in Legal Field: Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, (1984-2003); Adjunct Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Law (1998-present, except 2004, 2009); Legal Counsel to Gov. Phil Bredesen, State of Tennessee (2003-2006).
- Previous Government Service: Served on the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners (1994-2006); served as Gov. Bredesen’s designee on State Board of Equalization (2003-2006); candidate for appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2005, application was not submitted to the governor for consideration by the Judicial Selection Commission.
- Year Licensed: 1984
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 10934
- Income Earned from Sources Other than Practice of Law: Earned 24 percent of 2013 income from investments, 3 percent from Vanderbilt Faculty stipend.
- Reasons for Applying: “I sought this position in 2006 to answer the call for public service that I have felt strongly throughout my career. That call today is just as strong as it was eight years ago. My continued excitement about coming to the Office every day, along with confidence that my experience as Attorney General is the best preparation to face the challenges ahead, are the reasons that I am seeking another term.The mission of this Office is to provide legal representation to the State that is “creative, independent, quality-driven, [and] professional.” The Office’s accomplishments during the past eight years show that we have been creative, quality-driven and professional in our work, and our record speaks for itself. But of equal if not greater importance has been the Office’s independence.The results of the August election have been properly interpreted as a statement that Tennessee voters want to keep partisan politics out of our judiciary. That same election made clear that the Office of Attorney General is an important part of the judicial branch and that the voters’ mandate against partisan politics applies equally to it.The Office does not represent any particular office or branch of government. It represents the interests of the entire State and its people through work that is strictly nonpartisan and nonpolitical. That has long been the Office’s tradition and a key source of its authority. It has been a priority during my term, and the public interest requires that it continue.Achieving these goals is hard work. Managing a large law firm is difficult; doing so in a manner that provides excellent, nonpartisan legal advice to the three separate branches of government is even more challenging. With my experience and record, I believe that I am best positioned to lead the Office in providing that representation for the next term.”
- Resides in: Johnson City
- Age: 45
- Present Occupation/Employer: Attorney at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C., Johnson City, Tenn. (June 29, 2012-Present).
- Nature of Current Practice: 40 percent commercial and business litigation, 30 percent employment litigation, 10 percent commercial foreclosure/related litigation, 10 percent bankruptcy, five percent conservatorship proceedings, two percent divorce, two percent criminal prosecution and one percent criminal defense.
- Other Employment in Legal Field: Wampler & Pierce, P.C., Memphis, Tenn. (1999-2000); Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Justice Division (2000-2012).
- Previous Government Service: Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Justice Division (2000-2012); served on Governor’s DUI Task Force (2007); served as attorney general’s representative on the Indigent Defense Fund Study Committee (2010); applied for a position on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals three times, nominated in 2011, but not appointed.
- Year Licensed: 1998
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 019387
- Reasons for Applying: “I enjoy public service, and I think the Attorney General’s Office can benefit from my education and experience.”
- Resides in: Nashville
- Age: 36
- Present Occupation/Employer: Attorney at WSMLEGAL PLLC (Jan. 2014-Present).
- Nature of Current Practice: 75 percent business litigation, 20 percent non-litigation legal advice for businesses and five percent representation of clients in government agency interactions.
- Other Employment in Legal Field: Office of the Attorney General and Reporter of the State of Tennessee, assistant attorney general, special litigations division (June 2003-July 2004 and July 2005-Dec. 2008); MGLAW PLLC/Frost Brown Todd LLC (Jan. 2009-Dec. 2013).
- Previous Government Service: Office of the Attorney General and Reporter of the State of Tennessee, assistant attorney general, special litigations divisio (June 2003-July 2004; July 2005-Dec. 2008); during time as assistant AG, served as associate or chief counsel to Gov. Phil Bredesen, Lt. Gov’s John Wilder and Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, and members of the Tennessee Supreme Court and other ranking government officials.
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 022839
- Reasons for Applying: “I am seeking the position of Attorney General for two reasons: on any given day, the Attorney General makes decisions that can do more good for people in the State of Tennessee than most people ever have the opportunity to do in an entire career, and I know what the job entails and know that I would enjoy it.The Attorney General makes decisions that have far-reaching, observable consequences for the people of the State of Tennessee. In my time at the AG’s Office, the Attorney General made litigation decisions related to: citizens’ exercise of their First and Second Amendment rights, the rights of the accused, parental rights, due process rights, equal protection under the law, Tennessee’s water supply, consumer protection from dubious business practices, state-provided healthcare for children, tax burdens on individuals and corporations, and countless others. Each of those decisions had a positive effect on people in Tennessee.As an extreme, impactful example of the good that can be done, one need only look at the life circumstances of a child that was removed from a home full of drugs and abuse due to the efforts of the attorneys in the General Civil Division. Another example is the Attorney’s General prosecution of criminal appeals that ensures those individuals found guilty of crimes by a jury remain incarcerated for the term of their sentence, something the Criminal Justice Division does with the help of the Solicitor General on a daily basis. One could also cite the Consumer Advocate and Protection Division’s pursuit of individuals for the unauthorized practice of law in low income areas in which many people are convinced to spend money with the promise of citizenship – a promise that never materializes. Another example that is becoming a bigger priority is the Medicaid Fraud and Integrity Division’s pursuit of claims against those in the medical industry that are cheating our State out of much needed tax dollars. There are too many examples to list them all, but the common thread in all of them is that an effective Attorney General can do some very real, very concrete good for the State. I would be honored to lead the great attorneys at the office in an effort to do as much good as possible for the people of this State.In addition to all the good that can be done, I also want to be Attorney General because I know I love the job. I have always believed that to be great at something, one must be all-in in terms of commitment and enjoyment. The great ones don’t just relish parts of the job or only results. Instead, they embrace the entire job and enjoy the process. My time at the AG’s Office provided me a unique perspective of the inner workings of the office and of what is involved in this position. From the back and forth with the General Assembly and Executive branch, to the litigation on behalf of the State, to the interactions with many great people inside the AG’s Office working together on a matter, I understand what the job entails. I can say unequivocally that I would enjoy it. From the day-to-day to the extraordinary, I know I would wake up every day looking forward to going to work.”
James Douglas Overbey (Member of Tennessee State Senate)
- Resides in: Maryville
- Age: 59
- Present Occupation/Employer: Attorney at Robertson Overbey, Knoxville (1982-Present); city attorney for the City of Alcoa (2005-Present); member, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Statewide Planning and Policy Council (2009-Present); member, Tennessee State Senate for District 2, representing Blount and Sevier counties (2009-Present); member, Department of Children’s Services’ Commissioner Jim Henry’s Children’s Advisory Council (2013-Present); member, Second Look Commission (2013-Present); member, Supreme Court Advisory Commission on Rules and Practice and Procedure (2014-Present).
- Nature of Current Practice: 35 percent municipal law, 35 percent health care law, 20 percent corporate law and 10 percent commercial litigation.
- Other Employment in Legal Field: Fowler, Rowntree, Fowler & Robertson, Knoxville (1979-1982).
- Previous Government Service: Board of County Commissioners for Blount County (1982-1990); finalist for position of U.S. Magistrate for Eastern District of Tennessee (1990); candidate for the Tennessee State House (1994); applicant to the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission for nomination to the Tennessee Supreme Court (1998); member of the Tennessee State House (2001-2008).
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 006711
- Income Earned from Sources Other than Practice of Law: 13 percent of incomes is derived from service as a State Senator, two percent is from investments.
- Reasons for Applying: “For a person who has been a practicing attorney in this state for thirty-five years with experience ranging from antitrust litigation, grand jury investigations, and all manner of corporate and commercial litigation, and who also has spent a total of twenty-four years in public service, as a county commissioner and member of the General Assembly, the office of Attorney General presents a unique manner to combine his vocation and avocation. My goal in running for the offices of state representative and senator has been to make a positive difference for the people of my home state. I believe the office of Attorney General allows me the opportunity to combine a lifetime of legal and courtroom experience and public service to continue my efforts to make a positive difference in Tennessee by serving as its chief legal counsel.”
Herbert H. Slatery, III (Serves Currently as Legal Counsel to Gov. Haslam)
- Resides in: Nashville
- Age: 62
- Present Occupation/Employer: Counsel to Gov. Bill Haslam (Jan. 2011-Present).
- Nature of Current Practice: Advises Gov. Haslam on legal matters pertaining to legislation, coordinates legal matters for the governor’s office.
- Other Employment in Legal Field: Attorney with Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis, P.C., Knoxville (1980-2010).
- Year Licensed: 1980
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 009077
- Income Earned from Sources Other than Practice of Law: 15 percent of income is derived from other sources.
- Reasons for Applying: “First, l have a genuine interest in seeing the Office of the Attorney General continue operating at a high level, as it has for many years. The quality of the attorneys assuming that position over the years is a testament not only to the Court’s ability to evaluate and select those attorneys but also to the selection process itself. Over the past three and a half years working in the executive branch, I have acquired a deep appreciation for the independence afforded to the position by the Tennessee Constitution. In rendering opinions, making strategic decisions in litigation, and providing legal counsel l have observed how the Attorney General has the opportunity to independently make decisions without having to take into account, in an overbearing fashion, the political consequences of those decisions to his office. The Attorney General may focus his time, energy and attention on his constitutional responsibilities without campaigning for office and without being affected by how those decisions would affect his own future. He acts .in the best interests of the State of Tennessee and not for his personal ambition.Second, at my career stage, tbe magnitude of the challenges of being an Attorney General is appealing. The idea of assuming that position with the validation of the Court would be an honor, to say the least. That kind of opportunity is rare and it quickly passes.Third, l think that I would be particularly suited to carry on the high level of services rendered by that office. My temperament, my experience in managing a law firm, my knowledge of how the executive branch operates, my familiarity with the budgeting process and financial background, the credibility that I have worked to build with the leaders and members of the General Assembly, and my working relationships with those commissioners leading the departments and agencies all create a set of circumstances that would provide a foundation, from which to successfully carry out my responsibilities. I would not be starting ” from scratch” in most instances. I am familiar with many of the more complex cases overseen by the Attorney General, the history of dealing with the opponents, and the plans to resolve the disputes. I have had the privilege of working with many of the lawyers in the Attorney General’s office, all of whom are impressive lawyers. All of this will facilitate the transition to new responsibilities.”
Andrew R. Tillman (Judge, Scott County)
- Resides in: Huntsville
- Age: 62
- Present Occupation/Employer: Chancellor for the Eighth Judicial District (April 2013-Sept. 2014).
- Nature of Current Practice: Not applicable.
- Other Employment in Legal Field: Clerk, Ludeka, Hodges and Neely, Knoxville (Summer 1987); clerk, Baker, Worthington, Crossley, Stansberry and Woolf, Knoxville (Summer 1988); attorney, Paine, Tarwater, Bickers and Tillman, LLP, Knoxville (1991-2009); senior law clerk, Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr., Tennessee Court of Appeals (June 2009-April 2013).
- Previous Government Service: senior law clerk, Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr., Tennessee Court of Appeals (June 2009-April 2013).
- Education: Bachelor of Science in mathematics, NEOSU, Oklahoma (1970-1974); Juris Doctor, University of Tennessee – College of Law (1986-1989).
- Year Licensed: 1989
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 013979
- Reasons for Applying: “I learned my work ethic from my father. Even though my father was very smart and worked very hard, we were poor. I developed my own understanding of that situation. Over time, I came to understand that my father was paid for serving others, and that he, as the bible teaches, esteemed others higher than himself. My need to work, like my father’s is linked to the thought that I must serve others.Most recently, I served as Chancellor of the 8th judicial district. I was comfortable in the job, but apparently was not political enough to retain the appointment in the August 2014 election. I was defeated. In applying for this position, I am looking for another opportunity to serve. It would be a privilege and an honor to serve as the Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter. Even though the interaction is largely with government agencies and department heads, the goal is to serve the citizens. My background makes that a very attractive goal.”
- Resides in: Brentwood
- Age: 57
- Present Occupation/Employer: director, Administrative Office of the Courts (Dec. 2013-Present).
- Previous Government Service: Assistant attorney general, tax division, Attorney General’s Office (Aug. 1986-Feb. 1990); assistant attorney general and senior counsel, tax division, Attorney General’s Office (April 1990-Feb. 1995); deputy commissioner, TennCare Division, Department of Commerce and Insurance (Feb. 1995-Dec. 1998); member, vice-chair and chair of the Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission (2009-2011); member, Access to Justice Commission (2009-2013); solicitor general, Tennessee Attorney General’s Office (Sept. 2011-Dec. 2013).
- Education: University of the South, (Aug. 1974-May 1975); Bachelor of Arts in political science and history, Vanderbilt University (Aug. 1975-Dec. 1977); Emory Law School (Aug. 1978-May 1979); Juris Doctor, Vanderbilt Law School (Aug. 1979-May 1981).
- Year Licensed: 1981
- TN Board of Professional Responsibility #: 009711
- Reasons for Applying: “When I left my employment with BCBST, I deliberately sought to return to a position within State government because in a State position, one can truly impact and make a positive difference for our State and its citizens. In my opinion, there are few better positions to make such a difference than serving as the State’s chief legal officer. The Attorney General’s Office has evolved over the years into one of the state’s largest law firms handling complex and important issues affecting Tennessee. The practice has a broad and diverse range. The Attorney General represents the State on all criminal and civil appeals, and defends or commences litigation concerning tax, consumer interests, bankruptcy, public interest, health and other civil areas. The Attorney General also issues relevant and important written opinions to State officials and members of the General Assembly. Attorneys in the office also work closely with State agencies and their counsel to resolve regulatory and other important matters. This work not only intrigues me, but it also represents a challenge I would like to face. Most importantly, the work of the office is important to the Tennessee citizens; it is essential that the attorneys for the State provide quality representation and adequately represent the interests of Tennessee. I am also impressed with the work ethic and integrity of many of the attorneys and staff who work in the office, several of whom have devoted their entire careers to serving the people of Tennessee. I would enjoy the opportunity to again work with these individuals. l would hope to continue and build upon the work of those who have been in charge of the office, if I were fortunate enough to be chosen as Attorney General.”