Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 20, 2015

Federal Bar installs new officers, looks to the year ahead

U.S. Magistrate William B. Mitchell Carter will retire this year. - (Photo by David Laprad)

If the members of the Chattanooga Chapter of the Federal Bar took one thing away from their annual lunch meeting at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Wednesday, Feb. 11, it was a renewed commitment to the mission of the organization: to serve the practitioners in the Eastern District of Tennessee, the federal judiciary, and the public.

No single moment impressed the importance of this undertaking on the members of the Bar more than the keynote speech given by City of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. As he spoke earnestly about the importance of the federal judiciary in helping to reduce violence in the community, the approximately 65 members in attendance put down their forks and listened attentively.

Berke began by describing his administration’s efforts to target what he called the relatively small but active group of people who are the source of the majority of the violence in the city – gang members. When a murder occurs, the city no longer saturates the neighborhood in which the crime took place (which Berke said made law abiding citizens feel like criminals), but pursues the gang to which the alleged shooter belongs.

During call-ins – meetings between city officials and gang members – Berke tells gang members, “We will come after you with everything we have.”

“You’d be surprised how much that message resonates,” Berke said to a room that had fallen silent with the exception of his voice. “Last October, we had a week with tremendous violence. We had multiple murders and shootings. I woke up every day regretting looking at my phone. In the midst of that, the only thing that gave me heart was a meeting with some gang guys.

“I wasn’t in a good mood, and I let them know about it. One of them, a gangster disciple, said he was wearing an ankle bracelet because so-and-so killed so-and-so. So when someone in his gang says, ‘Let’s go shoot someone for disrespecting us,’ he’ll say, ‘I’m on probation. If you do that, they’re coming after me.’

“That’s a good testimonial. We’re creating peer pressure to change behavior. It won’t always work, but we want there to be a conversation instead of everyone jumping up and saying, ‘Let’s roll.’”

Berke said the city’s use of focused deterrence contributed to an 18 percent reduction in gang shootings in 2014 over 2013.

“The federal courts are critical for this because there have to be clear ramifications,” Berke said. “If we have someone who has a felony arrest and we catch them with a gun or bullets, they need to understand they’re going to jail for a long time.”

Berke closed by thanking the federal bar for the work it does to help reduce violence in the city. “We’re seeing tremendous progress in Chattanooga,” he said. “We’re at our lowest unemployment rates in ten years, and we’re at the lowest level of foreclosures in more than ten years, which means even the people at the lower end of the economic spectrum are doing better. So this is a really important issue.”

Earlier, 2014 President Gary Henry opened the meeting by asking U.S. District Judge Harry Mattice to deliver the State of the Judiciary address. Mattice made special note about a number of changes in judgeship, including the retirement in April of U.S. Magistrate Dennis Inman, the selection of Inman’s replacement, Clifton Corker, the retirement in July of U.S. Magistrate William B. Mitchell Carter, and the nomination by President Obama of Attorney Travis McDonough, who currently serves as Berke’s chief of staff, for the seat vacated last October by U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier.

Mattice said a court appointed merit selection panel chaired by attorney Sam Elliott is looking for a “successor” for Carter, as he “cannot be replaced.”

“Changes in judges happen fairy irregularly, with decade long intervals,” Mattice said. “Now, all of a sudden, we have several changes. As that’s happening, we’re processing cases the best we can. It’s not as quickly as many of you would like, but we hope it’s not too unsatisfactory. If it is, contact your congressman and senators.”

Mattice closed his comments by calling the state of the judiciary in Chattanooga “strong.”

Next, Henry announced the recipients of the two annual honors the Bar awards. Attorney Harry Cash received the Chapter Service Award for the work he did that resulted in the IRS reinstating the chapter’s tax exempt status.

Henry then presented the President’s Award to Katharine Gardner in honor of the assistance she provided 2014 President Gary Henry during what was for him a busy year both personally and professionally.

Henry then recapped the activities and accomplishments of the Bar in 2014, the capstone of which was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The multi-day event, which included a youth luncheon and a celebratory banquet, received recognition at the national level of the Bar.

“Every year, we put on programs designed to benefit not just the judiciary but also the profession,” Henry said. “Even though we’re small, we’re active.”

Henry then nominated and installed the 2015 officers and Board of Governors, which include: Donna Mikel, president; Lynzi Archibald, president-elect; Henry, immediate past president; Aaron Love, treasurer; Jeffrey Granillo, secretary; Craig Smith, Harry Cash, Michael Alston, and Sheri Fox, Board of Governors; Carter, judicial liaison; John Medearis, court liaison; Mitchell Carter, Jr., bankruptcy liaison; Lane Crowder, CLE committee; Eric Burnette, social committee; and Christian Lanier, membership committee.

As her first action as 2015 president, Mikel thanked Henry for his service and then announced some of the activities the Bar has planned for the year ahead, including contributing to the retirement celebration of the Hon. John C. Cook on March 20 at 3:30 at Lindsay Hall (no RSVP required), the Federal Practice seminar on April 13, and the Sixth Circuit Review Seminar on Sept. 18.

As the meeting adjourned, the judges, attorneys, and other members of the Federal Bar left with a renewed commitment to serve the judiciary and the public, and a desire to assist the City of Chattanooga in its mission to help reduce violence. As Berke said, the role of the federal judiciary in the latter is not small as the entire community comes together to tackle this considerable, but not insurmountable, problem. 

To see more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.