Posted by: Journal News on Jul 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: July/August 2021

Journal Name: Vol. 56 No. 4

Like last year’s virtual convention, this year’s hybrid convention, held June 14-19, was another exercise in creativity.  The Association juggled its first in-person event in over a year while also offering a virtual component as COVID-19 restrictions began to ease.

The annual event was spread out over six days — four days of that in person — with programming including the Lawyers Luncheon, continuing legal education, meetings of the House of Delegates, Board of Governors, Sections, Committees, Leadership Law (TBALL), Law School Alumni mixers, Young Lawyers Division and more.

Officers of the Tennessee Bar Association were installed June 18 during the annual convention in Memphis and online. From left, Vice President Jim Barry, Immediate Past President Michelle Greenway Sellers, President-elect Tasha Blakney, President Sherie Edwards, Assistant Treasurer Mary Beth Maddox and Secretary Terica Smith. Treasurer Mary Dohner-Smith is not pictured.

This year’s CLE lineup, offering more than eight hours of credit, brought together speakers to cover a variety of timely, essential legal topics including neurodiversity in the courtroom, implicit bias, mental health implications of trauma and PTSD, attorney well-
being for lawyers in today’s evolving legal field, and a legislative update recapping the most recent updates from the legislative session.

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins gave the oath of office to incoming President Sherie L. Edwards at the Lawyers Luncheon. Edwards took the helm of the association, passed on from Michelle Greenway Sellers. Tasha Blakney is now president-elect, and Jim Barry is vice president.

Sellers recognized those who are leaving the Board of Governors, acknowledging how much this year has required from the board, including special meetings, policy revisions, proposed changes to the bylaws, important legislative and public policy decisions and budgeting during a pandemic. Those leaving the board are Mason Wilson, Mark Davidson, Judge Roy Morgan, Craig Fickling, David McDowell and Immediate Past President Sarah Sheppeard.

Johnson appointed to TBJ Editorial Board

Memphis lawyer Tiffany G. Johnson has been appointed to a three-year term on the Tennessee Bar Journal Editorial Board. She replaces Costin Shamble of Nashville, whose term ended this year.

Johnson is the Reaves Law Firm’s director of litigation support and attorney development. After studying at Oxford University in England, she attended the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., where she taught seminars on basic legal rights and practical life skills to felony inmates.

Johnson then returned home to Memphis and began practicing personal injury law at a large firm before founding her own freelance legal research and writing business. In that capacity, she wrote research memoranda, dispositive motions, and appellate briefs for attorneys across the southeast. She oversaw the Legal Studies Program at the University of Memphis and taught legal studies courses.

She also teaches continuing legal education seminars for the Tennessee Bar Association, the Center for Creative Management, Law Practice CLE, the Tennessee Alliance for Black Lawyers, and other organizations.

She is admitted to practice law in all state and federal courts of Tennessee and Mississippi, the federal courts of Arkansas, and the United States Supreme Court. 


The late Chief District Judge Pamela L. Reeves was honored posthumously with the TBA’s Justice Frank F. Drowota III Award. The Drowota Award is given to a judge or judicial branch official of a federal, state or local court in Tennessee who has demonstrated extraordinary devotion and dedication to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice as exemplified by the career of former Supreme Court Justice Frank F. Drowota III, who was the award’s first recipient.

Reeves was chosen for her decades of service to the legal profession in Tennessee, her leadership, and her dedication to the judiciary.  Reeves served as a pioneer for so many in the profession, breaking barriers including a number of “firsts” — first female partner in the prominent Knoxville law firm where she practiced for many years, first female president of the Tennessee Bar Association, first female district court judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and ultimately the first female chief district judge. In 2020, Reeves became the first recipient of the Tennessee Professionalism Award given jointly by the TBA and the Tennessee American Inns of Court. The 2021 award has been renamed in her honor.

“The impact that Judge Reeves had on our profession and our community is invaluable. Her resilience and leadership still live on in the many lawyers and judges that she mentored,” Sellers said. “She was simply a force of nature.  We are proud to honor and acknowledge her many accomplishments.”

A resident of Knoxville, Reeves earned her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Tennessee, and her law degree from the UT College of Law. In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Reeves to serve as a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. She received her judicial commission in 2014 and became chief judge in 2019.

Named in honor of former Tennessee Chief Justice Frank Drowota, the award is the TBA’s highest honor for service to the judiciary and has been given annually for more than a decade. Her daughter Amanda Swanson accepted the award in her honor during the Lawyers Luncheon.

Past TBA President Charles Swanson presented Al Harvey with the Judge Pamela L. Reeves Tennessee Professionalism Award,  and his daughter Amanda Swanson accepted the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Award on behalf of her mother, the Hon. Pam Reeves.

Nashville lawyer Todd Pinckley was presented with the Justice Joseph W. Henry Award for Outstanding Legal Writing. The award was established nearly 40 years ago and is given each year to the lawyer “who writes the most outstanding article that is published in the Tennessee Bar Journal for the preceding year.” Named for Henry, a former chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court known for his forthright and clear writing, the purpose of the award is to encourage lawyers to write scholarly yet practical articles that will be of maximum benefit to the members of our bar.

This year’s winning article is “The Right to Remain Silent: Law Enforcement and the Duty to Intervene,” which was published in the November/December 2020 issue. The Joe Henry Award is chosen by a committee made up of the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court or his designee, deans of some of the state’s law schools or their designees — on a rotating basis — and the president of the Tennessee Bar Association. This year the judges were Katharine Traylor Schaffzin, dean of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law; Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Neal McBrayer, who was the designee of Chief Bivins; and TBA President Sellers.

Pinckley is an in-house counsel for the National Association of State Boards of Accounting (NASBA) in Nashville, where he focuses on regulatory and administrative law. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, he relocated to Nashville after graduating from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. Since law school, he has held positions with multiple agencies in state and local government across Tennessee, including serving as a prosecutor for the Tennessee Department of Health and as an administrative judge with the Division of TennCare. He also served as the first attorney-advisor for the Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board, which investigates allegations of police misconduct.

Major General Albert Harvey was honored with the Judge Pamela L. Reeves Tennessee Professionalism Award from the TBA and Tennessee’s American Inns of Court. The award was recently renamed in honor of the late Judge Reeves, who was also the first recipient of the award in 2020. The award is given each year to a lawyer or judge whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the rule of law and the highest standards of the legal profession in Tennessee. The award is presented to a lawyer or judge residing in the Grand Division of Tennessee where the TBA’s Annual Convention is held.

In presenting the award, Charles Swanson, said that Harvey set the example for all, showing “what it looks like to get it right.”

Harvey was chosen for his decades of leadership and service to the legal profession. He is a past president of both the Tennessee and Memphis Bar associations and is the immediate past chair of the American Bar Association’s Senior Lawyers Division. Prior to his legal career, Harvey was on active duty in the U.S. Marines. He recently retired from the Marine Corps Reserve with the rank of major general. He is respected by his peers at the local, state and national levels and unquestionably displays the character and integrity required for this award.

Harvey was selected by a committee of TBA President Sellers, President-elect Edwards, President of the Tennessee Judicial Conference Judge Roy B. Morgan Jr., and the presidents of the West Tennessee American Inns of Court, Justice Janice M. Holder, Judge Valerie L. Smith and J. Alan Rheney. William C. Koch Jr., dean of the Nashville School of Law and former president of the American Inns of Court, chaired the selection committee.

Former TBA President Buck Lewis presented Hamblen County Assistant Public Defender Willie Santana with the Claudia Jack Award for his work promoting criminal justice reform.

After joining the public defender’s office, Santana grew concerned with the overcrowding in the county’s jail and began looking at state bail laws and pretrial detention as contributors to this problem. He also authored “Cash on the Barrelhead” in the July/August 2020 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, which brought further awareness to the issue. His work led to coverage of the crisis in The New York Times and Knoxville News Sentinel, and eventually to a federal district court decision that found the county’s bail practices illegal on three constitutional grounds.

“This case and the attendant publicity have sent ripples throughout the criminal justice community in Tennessee,” Lewis wrote in his nomination of Santana. “Judges are beginning to focus upon whether their practices are legal and whether the system of cash bail, even legally imposed, makes sense for the taxpayers, the courts, and the accused.”

The award is named after the late Claudia Jack, a long-time champion of the poor and underprivileged, and is presented annually to an outstanding a public defender or court-appointed private practitioner who has served the legal community and their clients in an exemplary fashion.


Paul McAdoo, who is immediate past chair of the Communication Law Section, presented the Fourth Estate Award to Marc Perrusquia for his reporting on complaints of excessive use of force by the Memphis Police Department. A long-time reporter at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Perrusquia is currently the director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis. His reporting on this issue in The Daily Memphian resulted in policy changes at the MPD and greater transparency in its reporting on complaints of excessive use of force.



Memphis attorneys AC and Ruby Wharton were presented the TBA YLD Fellows William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award by Past President of the TBA and President of the YLD Fellows Danny Van Horn.

“AC and Ruby Wharton are the embodiment of excellence in service to the profession, the legal system and our community,” Van Horn said. “Each has contributed in their own way to the life of our profession, our community and the people we serve.”

AC Wharton built a distinguished career in public service and education, moving to Memphis to serve as executive director of Memphis Area Legal Services before later being appointed Shelby County’s chief public defender. During that time, he also served as a law professor at the University of Mississippi, the first time an African American had held that post.

His career in public service continued in 2002, when he was elected as the first African American mayor of Shelby County, and in 2009, when he was elected mayor of Memphis, a position he held until 2015.

Ruby Wharton has had an equally impressive impact on the communities she has served. After beginning her career as an attorney at the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C., she went on to serve as a public defender before going into private practice. At the Wharton firm, she has produced a 40-year track record of excellence in representing individuals in wills and estates, personal injury, medical malpractice, conservatorships, guardianships and powers of attorney.

Sellers presented five President’s Awards, which each year are given to those individuals who have gone above and beyond in their service to the association this year:

• Mary Beard for her outstanding service as chief diversity officer. In addition to advising on several issues, public statements, comments, Supreme Court Rules and amendments to TBA’s nondiscrimination language in our bylaws, Beard led TBA’s newly formed Diversity Task Force.

• Members of the TBA’s Diversity Task Force. “Under the leadership of Mary Beard, the task force reviewed current and future diversity initiatives within the bar association, opportunities for statewide collaboration and the creation of strategic objectives related to promoting diversity, inclusion and equity in the legal profession,” Sellers said, in presenting the award.

Berkley Schwarz and Brad Lampley, for doing an exceptional job this year navigating the government affairs work of the association. “In addition to advocating TBA-sponsored bills, Berkley and Brad are working around the clock during legislative session responding to other legislation, drafting proposed amendments, advising our board on consequences of legislation and ways TBA can serve as effective advocates for our profession,” Sellers said.

• TBA Past President Jonathan Steen, for service as chair. of an ad hoc committee created to work with and support the Administrative Office of the Courts with its collection of data, review, and recommendations, related to the pro se divorce forms.  “He and his committee have diligently worked with the AOC to survey the courts and lawyers on use of these surveys and future recommendations,” Sellers said. “He has done an incredible job working through very important issues.”

• Members of the TBA staff were also honored for the hard work and dedication each person showed during the past year, keeping the association running, producing quality programs and delivering member services.



“Better Right Now” was a CLE session about the psychological and other effects of stereotyping, discrimination, marginalization, microaggressions and other racial injustices, as well as therapeutic approaches to helping those who have survived this trauma. Moderated by Luther Wright Jr. (above), the panel featured Carmen Foster and Jamila Walker from the University of Tennessee, and Curtis Davis from the University of Alabama..

Leadership Law

Thirty-three attorneys from across the state graduated from the TBA Leadership Law (TBALL) program during the annual convention. TBALL, a leadership training program for rising stars in the Tennessee legal community, normally runs for six months, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s graduating class began programming in January 2020. More than one year later, the Class of 2020 is now officially graduated from the program.

Those in the group are Stephen Adams, AJ Bahou, Matt Brock, LaTonnsya Burney, Sarah Campbell, David Chapman, Diana Comes, Jade Dodds, Ronald Dowdy, Michael Dumitru, Akram Faizer, Alex Fisher, Charles Frazier, Charles Higgins, Booke Hyman, Troy Jones, Cornell Kennedy, Gabrielle Lewis, Geoff Lewis, Samantha Lunn, Christina Magrans-Tillery, Charlotte Mattingly, Yasmin Mohammad, Stacie Odeneal, Willie Santana, Caroline Sapp, Kortney Simmons Casey, Austin Stokes, Russell Taber, Elizabeth Taylor, Samuel Wantland, Tiffany Webber and John Wilks.

Young Lawyers Divison

Members of the TBA Young Lawyers Division also held their annual meeting during the convention, with Billy Leslie installed as president; Brittany Faith, president-elect; Quinton Thompson, vice president; Jahn Carreras, secretary; and Justin Faith, treasurer. Jackson lawyer Terica Smith is the immediate past president. The YLD Board and key committees also met to plan for the new bar year.

Those participating in the Diversity Leadership Institute this year were Grace Benitone, Emily Benoit, Stefanie Bowen, Sarah Cameron, Daniel Chung, Briana DSouza and Colleen Ryan.

Past, present and future TBA presidents gathered during the annual convention. Front row from left: Jim Barry, Tasha Blakey, Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson, Jackie Dixon, Sarah Sheppeard, Sherie Edwards, Michelle Greenway Sellers, Cindy Wyrick, Bill Haltom and John Tarpley. Back row: Charles Swanson, Al Harvey, Jason Long, Jonathan Steen, Danny Van Horn and Bill Harbison.