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Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch Jr. recently announced he would retire in July to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. His announcement came at the same time that current Nashville School of Law Dean Joe C. Loser Jr. said he would retire in 2014. Koch has served on the Supreme Court since 2007. He previously was a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals for 23 years, was counsel and commissioner of personnel to then Gov. Lamar Alexander, and served as the state’s deputy attorney general. Koch has taught at the Nashville School of Law since 1997, also teaching on the adjunct law faculties of Vanderbilt and Belmont. He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt in 1972 and holds a master of laws from the University of Virginia Law School. He is a founding member of the Harry Phillips American Inn of Court and the Belmont College of Law American Inn of Court. 

Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Holly M. Kirby of Memphis has been appointed to the state Supreme Court by Gov. Bill Haslam. Kirby will succeed Janice M. Holder, who earlier announced she would retire at the end of her term in 2014. Kirby, the first woman to sit on the Court of Appeals, has served in that position since 1995. Prior to her appointment to the Court of Appeals by former Gov. Don Sundquist, Kirby was a partner at the Memphis law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson.

Jackson lawyer and Alamo resident Brandon O. Gibson has been appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals by Gov. Bill Haslam. She will replace Judge David R. Farmer when his term expires in August 2014. Gibson has been in private practice at the Pentecost & Glenn law firm in Jackson since 2003. She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2000. She served as chair of the TBA’s Law & Technology Committee in 2012-2013.

Knoxville-based Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop and Memphis-based Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell have merged to form Lewis Thomason. The new firm has 91 attorneys in four offices: Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and Sevierville. Lisa Ramsay Cole is Lewis Thomason’s president and managing shareholder of the Nashville office — the same position she held with Lewis King. Michael E. Keeney is the new managing shareholder of the Memphis office. He previously was managing partner at Thomason, Hendrix. The firm’s physical addresses and phone numbers remain the same. A new website is available at www.lewisthomason.com.

The firm also recently announced that Mikel A. Towe has joined the Knoxville office, where he will focus on general civil litigation. Towe graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2013. He worked as a summer associate for Lewis King in 2011 and 2012.

Waller recently announced that Ted R. Habermann has joined its Nashville office as counsel. He will advise clients on all aspects of franchise law. Habermann has worked with franchisors for more than 20 years. He previously was vice president, secretary and general counsel for Shoney’s Inc. and general counsel for Servpro Industries Inc. Habermann earned his law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law.

Drew Davis and Shalondra Pickford have joined the Memphis law firm of Donati Law as associates. Both graduated from the University of Memphis School of Law in 2013. Davis will practice in the areas of civil litigation, personal injury, workers’ compensation and criminal defense. Pickford will focus on Social Security disability and employment law.

The Association for Women Attorneys (AWA) has named Linda Warren Seely the 25th recipient of its Marion Griffin-Frances Loring Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the legal profession. Seely is the director of Pro Bono Projects and the Campaign for Equal Justice at Memphis Area Legal Services. She is a former president of the Memphis Bar Association and a current member of the TBA House of Delegates. She earned her law degree from Memphis State University in 1981.

Amber Floyd Lee, an attorney with Cox and Lee PLLC in Johnson City, is the new president of the Washington County Bar Association. She earned her law degree from the Appalachian School of Law in 2009. Other officers are Vice President McKenna Cox with Cox and Lee, Secretary Kris Hatcher and Treasurer Robert Bates with the Law Offices of Tony Seaton, and Communications Officer Suzanne Cook with Hunter, Smith & Davis.

Bass, Berry & Sims recently welcomed associate John T. Spragens to its Nashville office. He will focus on health care fraud, compliance and government investigations. Spragens earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 2012. Prior to attending law school, he worked as a reporter for the Nashville Scene and as a legislative assistant and communications director for U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper.

Hodges, Doughty & Carson has named Wesley D. Stone a member of the firm effective Jan. 1. Stone joined the firm in 2008 after maintaining a private practice for eight years. He graduated from the Cumberland School of Law in 2000. The firm reports that Stone will handle criminal defense, juvenile delinquency cases and state and federal appellate work.

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has added two new tax lawyers to its Nashville office. Steven Wood and Julie Boswell join the firm having previously worked for the Brentwood firm of Thrailkill, Harris, Wood & Boswell, which ceased operations when the other partners retired at the end of 2013. Wood joins the firm as a shareholder and will focus on income tax, estate planning and administration, business law and tax-exempt organizations. Boswell joins the firm as counsel and will focus on federal taxation, estate planning and administration, mergers and acquisitions, general corporate matters, charitable trusts and private foundations.

Esther Roberts Bell, CEO and founder of Global Intellectual Property Asset Management, has been certified as a Rule 31 Listed General Civil Mediator. Bell previously served as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration. At Global IP she handles civil mediation, including intellectual property mediation. She earned her law degree in 2001 from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

The board of directors of Memphis Area Legal Services recently elected new officers. Each will serve a one-year term. TBA members among them are: President Jonathan Hancock with Baker Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Vice President Mary Wolff with Wolff Ardis; and Treasurer Clayton Purdom with Martin, Tate, Morrow & Marston.

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Memphis lawyer and former TBA Board of Governors member FRED MOSELEY ACUFF JR. died Dec. 6, 2013, at the age of 67. Acuff earned his law degree from the University of Alabama in 1971 and began his legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In 1973, he moved to Memphis to begin private practice, and from 1979 to 2004, he was a partner with the law firm of Humphreys Dunlap Wellford Acuff & Stanton. After the firm merged with Farris Bobango, Acuff remained a partner and was working there at the time of his death. Acuff served as chair of the TBA Litigation Section and was a member of the TBA Board of Governors in the late 1990s. He also was active in the Memphis Bar Association, serving for seven years as board chair of Memphis Legal Placement. Memorials may be sent to Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1720 Peabody Ave., Memphis, TN 38104 or Wesley Senior Ministries Foundation, 1615 Appling Rd., Cordova, TN 38016.

Former Ashland City and General Sessions Judge WILLIAM R. “BILL” BAKER died Dec. 12, 2013, at the age of 81. Baker received his law degree from Vanderbilt University and spent three years in the Foreign Service in northern Brazil. After returning to Tennessee, he opened a private law practice, served as general sessions judge from 1966 to 1974 and served as municipal judge from 1981 to 1988. Among his many distinctions, Baker served as a delegate to the 1965 Tennessee Constitutional Convention, as a member and chair of the Tennessee Claims Commission and as secretary-treasurer of the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Aquinas College, 4210 Harding Rd., Nashville, TN 37205; University Catholic, 2004 Terrace Pl., Nashville, TN 37203; or St. Martha’s Catholic Church, 3331 Bell St., Ashland City, TN 37015.

Retired Loudon attorney WALTER FRANKLIN EMMONS III died Dec. 21, 2013, at the age of 85. Emmons earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1952 and worked in the financial field. He retired as senior vice president and general counsel at Mellon Financial Services. He was a TBA senior counselor and was living in the Tellico Village Community at the time of his death.

Retired Knoxville lawyer LOUIS EYSENBACH HOFFERBERT JR. died Jan. 2 at the age of 86. After serving in the Navy, Hofferbert began studying at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Following graduation, he entered private practice and worked as a lawyer until he retired in 2013. Hofferbert also served in the U.S. Naval Reserve for 38 years, retiring in 1984 as a captain. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to West Hills Presbyterian Church, 7600 Bennington Dr., Knoxville, TN 37909; or the American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231.

JAMES J. MCMAHON, former chair of the TBA Tax, Probate and Trust Section, died Dec. 17, 2013. He was 72. A 1972 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, McMahon practiced as an IRS estate and gift tax attorney for several years. He later entered private practice. During his career, McMahon served as president of the Memphis Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, chair of the Memphis Bar Association’s Economics of Law Practice Committee, member of the Tennessee Probate Study Committee and member of the Memphis Estate Planning Council. He also authored many articles on tax and estate planning and was a frequent speaker at seminars around the mid-south.

Memphis attorney CECIL DOUGLAS SMITH died Jan. 3 after a long illness. He was 74. A 1968 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law, Smith began his legal career as a federal estate tax examiner for the IRS in Knoxville. In 1974, he returned to Memphis and joined the law firm of Apperson Crump where he worked in the areas of estate planning and asset protection. He later was named a partner in the firm. Smith achieved national recognition for his expertise and spoke often at conferences around the country. He also co-founded Wealth Counsel and E. Planners, two national networks for estate planning attorneys. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made to Christ United Methodist Church, 4488 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38117 or to Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park Ave., Memphis, TN 38117.


Compiled by Linda Murphy and Stacey Shrader Joslin Tennessee Bar Association members may send information about job changes, awards and work-related news. Send it to PEOPLE, c/o The Journal at 221 Fourth Ave. N., Suite 400, Nashville, TN 37219-2198, or email to lmurphy@tnbar.org. Submissions are subject to editing. Pictures are used on a space-available basis and cannot be returned. Electronic photos must be saved as a tiff or jpeg (with no compression), minimum resolution 200 dpi, and at least 1"x1.5" or they will not be used.