Award presented to Dawn Deaner at luncheon ceremony
NASHVILLE, Jan. 24, 2012 — Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner was honored as the state's top public service attorney by the Tennessee Bar Association at its recent public service luncheon. Held each year as part of the association's Leadership Conference, the luncheon featured award winners in several categories and a keynote address by Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin S. Huffman.
Deaner received the 2012 Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award for her career-long commitment to providing legal representation to the least fortunate in Davidson County. For more than 10 years, Deaner served as an assistant public defender, going to court, talking to clients and working out plea deals. In 2008, following the tragic death of Metro Nashville Public Defender Ross Alderman, Deaner applied for the position and was selected by the Metro Council. She later was elected to a full term without opposition in 2010.
Deaner credits those who served before her -- Alderman and Mayor Karl Dean (who hired her for her first job out of law school) -- for demonstrating how to effectively represent clients and be an active player in the legal community and community at large. She has taken their example to heart. Deaner teaches a trial advocacy course at Vanderbilt University, and serves on the Nashville Bar Association's Board of Directors, the Henry Phillips American Inn of Court, the Mayor's Criminal Justice Steering Committee and the Tennessee Supreme Court Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection. She also recently served on the city's Police/Homeless Issues Committee. Erik Cole, executive director of Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, served with her on the panel and said she provided a valuable service "driving the discussion toward real, hard data and an outcome-based approach."
Deaner, the first woman to hold the post of public defender, also has used the position to advocate for her staff, her office and the indigent legal services system. She works to keep the lines of communication open with the local community, endeavors to find creative solutions to budgetary challenges, and whenever she can, praises the work of her team. "The lawyers, the staff -- all the way to the secretaries and receptionists -- do really important work," she says. "They uphold the constitution. They do for people who don't have anyone else."
The Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award is given annually to an attorney who has committed to a career in public service, and over the course of that career, has gone above and beyond the call of duty in representing indigent clients. The award is named for Ashley Wiltshire, the former executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, who faithfully served the agency in various roles for 37 years.
Wiltshire was on hand to present the award.