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TN Supremes Pick Haslam’s Chief Counsel as Next AG

Press release from Tennessee’s Administrative Office of the Courts; September 15, 2014:

Herbert H. Slatery, III will be the next Attorney General and Reporter of Tennessee, the Supreme Court announced this morning in Nashville.

Slatery, of Nashville, has served as Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief counsel since 2011. Prior to that, he was an attorney at a Knoxville law firm for 30 years.

“He is an excellent lawyer with proven leadership ability and sound judgment,” said Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee, who stood with the other justices to make the announcement about their unanimous choice in the courtroom at the Supreme Court building in downtown Nashville.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Slatery in remarks after the announcement was made. “I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity.” He thanked his wife, Gov. Bill Haslam, and Attorney General Robert Cooper, Jr.

“He has played an important role in drafting major legislation during the current term and has worked closely with all branches of government. The people of the state of Tennessee can be proud to have someone of his caliber and experience representing them,” she said of Slatery.

Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice Lee thanked all of the applicants for their efforts and their commitment to public service.

“It was a challenging process because of the quality of the applicants. In the end we selected the person who we thought would be the very best lawyer to serve all Tennesseans,” she said.

The Court also praised the work of the outgoing attorney general.

“The Court extends a special thank you to Attorney General Robert Cooper, Jr. for his eight years of dedicated service to the people of Tennessee, as he has led that office with the highest level of skill and intellect,” Chief Justice Lee said.

Chief Justice Lee spoke to this year’s open process for selecting the state’s attorney general, describing how the Court accepted applications from any licensed attorney in the state. The completed and detailed applications were then made available to the public on the Court’s website. The Court also held a public hearing where the applicants and their speakers made their case for appointment and members of the public expressed their opinions about the applicants. Finally, the members of the Court asked questions of the eight applicants during public interviews.

Slatery is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Tennessee College of Law. He has served as counsel to Governor Bill Haslam since 2011. Before serving in the Governor’s office, he practiced law for 30 years with Egerton, McAfee, Armistead and Davis in Knoxville. Slatery and his wife, Cary, have two children who both live in Knoxville.

Lee Elected Chief Justice, Term Begins Sept. 1

Press release from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts; August 14, 2014:

Justice Sharon Lee will become Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, effective September 1.

Justice Lee won a retention election for an eight-year term to the Court in the August 7, 2014 statewide election. She has been a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court since 2008.

“It’s an honor to serve the Court, the Tennessee judiciary, and the people of Tennessee in this role,” said Justice Lee. “I am grateful to the citizens of Tennessee for electing me to the Supreme Court and appreciate the confidence the members of the Court have shown by electing me as Chief Justice. I will continue to work to ensure that courts in Tennessee are fair and impartial.”

Before her appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Lee served as a Judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals from 2004-2008. From 1978-2004, she practiced law in her hometown of Madisonville and also served as a municipal judge, a mediator, and a county and city attorney. Justice Lee received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Tennessee.

Justice Lee is active in her community, serving on several boards including the YWCA Knoxville and the East Tennessee Historical Society. She also is involved with the Volunteer Ministry Center and the 2014 Congressional Medal of Honor Convention. Justice Lee has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Chief Justice William E. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award, the YWCA Knoxville 30 Remarkable Women over the past 30 years, the Lizzie Crozier French Leadership Award from the East Tennessee Women’s Leadership Council, YWCA Knoxville Tribute to Women Honoree, the Woman of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts Council of the Southern Appalachians, the Spirit of Justice Award by the East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women, and the University of Tennessee Alumni Professional Promise Award. Justice Lee has two daughters.

Supreme Court Crowns New Chief Justice

Tennessee Supreme Court justices typically spend their time making serious decisions, but members spent Wednesday morning joking about magic wands and tiaras.

The state’s most powerful judicial body swore in Justice Cornelia Clark as Chief Justice, making her the second woman to hold that Supreme Court position in the state’s history.

“Today, I have the unique honor of becoming a chief spokesman, both ceremonial and otherwise, for this large, diverse and talented group of professionals that occupy this justice system family,” said Clark, 59. “Though we will have occasions in the future where we’re going to have to fuss over a problem, we’ll all stand together in the world to face the challenges ahead.”

The Franklin native is taking over for Chief Justice Janice Holder who stepped down from the post after reaching the end of her two-year term limit.

Although Holder passed the gavel to Clark, she said she’d refuse to give up her “wand.”

Clark had given her the wand in 2008 when she was being sworn in as the chief justice. Since then, Holder says she’s contemplated using it to make her job easier.

“Now I’ve got to admit there are a couple of times when I was writing opinions where I was tempted to use the wand to make the conditions go away. I restrained myself and did not use my wand and I thought better of it and I resolved those issues appropriately,” Holder told the chuckling audience. “After that experience, I decided Chief Justice Clark would not need my wand.”

She then handed Clark two gifts. One was a tiara, which she considered “an essential part of any female chief justice’s wardrobe.” The other was a pink sash with the word “chief” embroidered on it, which — she pointed out — matches the tiara.

Justice Sharon Lee, the third of three women on the five-member board, applauded Clark not only for her appointment, but for creating a succession of female leaders.

“You know, historically, the tradition of a woman severing as Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court was a little slow in our state. In fact, it took 173 years for that to begin,” she said. “I hope it’s one of those new inventions that’s here to stay.”

Clarke was sworn in as Chief Justice before a crowd of some 300 people at the Williamson County Courthouse, the very building where she had made her first appearance as a trial judge.

Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed Clark to the high court in 2005. She was then elected to serve out an eight-year term in 2006.

The five member body, which also includes Justices William Koch, Jr., and Gary Wade, chooses who will serve out the next two years as the chief justice.

“For the past twenty-plus years Justice Clark has served the judiciary, she had demonstrated the kind of generosity and her leadership and devotion to the state of Tennessee,” said Wade. “And so today, it is entirely appropriate that she accept now the leadership of the Tennessee Supreme Court.”

Although representatives from the legal community did not bring gifts like wands or tiaras to the ceremony, they commended Clark for her discipline, leadership, and ability to get things done.

“We’ve been lucky to have years of strong chief justices who have done us good in the eyes of the citizens and the judiciary and the legislature,” said Presiding Judge Joseph M. Tipton, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. “I look forward to and with confidence to Justice Clark leading with the same strength.”