herbert slatery

Skrmetti sworn in as Tennessee attorney general

Jonathan Skrmetti has been sworn is Tennessee attorney. He succeeds Herbert Slatery, who didn’t seek a second term.

Here’s the release from the AG’s office:

Nashville, TN – Jonathan Skrmetti was sworn in as Tennessee’s 28th Attorney General this morning at a private ceremony attended by his immediate family.  

“It is the honor of a lifetime to serve the people of Tennessee as their Attorney General and Reporter,” said General Skrmetti.  “I look forward to promoting the rule of law and advocating for the rights and freedoms of all Tennesseans.”

Attorney General Skrmetti was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve an eight-year term on August 10, 2022. Tennessee is the only state where the Supreme Court selects the Attorney General.

Prior to his appointment, Attorney General Skrmetti served as Chief Counsel to Governor Bill Lee and as Chief Deputy Attorney General. Before his work on behalf of the State of Tennessee, General Skrmetti was a partner at Butler Snow LLP in Memphis and served as a federal prosecutor for almost a decade, first at the Civil Rights Division and then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Memphis. He also taught cyberlaw as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis.

Attorney General Skrmetti earned honors degrees from George Washington University, the University of Oxford, and Harvard Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.  Following law school, he clerked for Judge Steven Colloton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  He and his wife and four children currently reside in Franklin and attend Harpeth Hills Church of Christ.

Supreme Court picks Skrmetti for AG

The Tennessee Supreme Court building is seen in Nashville on Dec.8, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Supreme Court has chosen Jonathan Skrmetti to succeed Herbert Slatery as attorney general.

UPDATE: The vote was 4-1, with Justice Sharon Lee dissenting. The order did not include an explanation by Lee, the only justice appointed by a Democrat, about why she disagreed with her colleagues Jeff Bivins, Sarah Campbell, Holly Kirby, and Roger Page.

Here’s the release from the high court:

Nashville – The Tennessee Supreme Court has selected Jonathan Skrmetti to serve as the state’s next Attorney General and Reporter.

From 2018 to late 2021, Skrmetti was the Chief Deputy Attorney General in the Attorney General’s Office, where he managed approximately 160 attorneys in 15 litigating divisions and served as a negotiator in the $26 billion multistate opioid settlement. Since December 2021, he has served as chief counsel to Governor Bill Lee.

“Mr. Skrmetti has dedicated the majority of his career to public service and has the breadth of experience and vision necessary to lead the Attorney General’s office for the next eight years,” Chief Justice Roger A. Page said. “He is an accomplished attorney with a deep understanding of Tennessee government and our judicial system.”

Over his career, Skrmetti has worked extensively with the three branches of Tennessee state government, appearing before all levels of the judiciary, drafting language and advocating in support of legislation, and providing counsel to leadership throughout the executive branch.

“It will be a privilege to continue serving the people of Tennessee as their Attorney General and Reporter,” Skrmetti said. “I look forward to working with the dedicated public servants at the Attorney General’s office to represent all three branches of Tennessee’s government. I thank the Supreme Court for entrusting me with this responsibility and General Herbert Slatery for his eight years of distinguished leadership.”

The Supreme Court formally interviewed six candidates during a public hearing earlier this week.

Prior to joining the Attorney General’s office, Skrmetti was a partner at Butler Snow LLP in Memphis. From 2011 to 2014, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee, where he prosecuted federal crimes with an emphasis on human trafficking, official misconduct and hate crimes. Skrmetti also spent five years as an Honors Program Trial Attorney in the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division/Criminal Section. During this time, he spent the vast majority of his time in West and Middle Tennessee and handled all phases of litigation. Skrmetti also served as a law clerk for Judge Steven M. Colloton on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Skrmetti is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. He earned undergraduate degrees from both the University of Oxford (England) and George Washington University.  He is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy, and the Memphis Bar Foundation. He was a part of Leadership Tennessee Signature Program Class VIII.

Skrmetti will be the 28th Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter. He lives in Franklin with his wife and four children. His family attends Harpeth Hills Church of Christ in Brentwood.

Want to know who’s applied for AG? No dice.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Thinking about throwing in your application to become Tennessee’s attorney general for the next eight years but want to know who’s in the running before making up your mind? Think again.

The state Supreme Court’s deadline for applications is noon on Friday. But the high court won’t be releasing any names of hopefuls until afterward. That means filling out extensive paperwork that will be made public upon its submission even if someone seen as a prohibitive favorite has already thrown their hat in the ring (for example, someone like Gov. Bill Lee’s chief operating office Brandon Gibson or former legal counsel Lang Wiseman — neither of whom has publicly said whether they will make a bid).

Other names of potential applicants include former U.S. attorneys Donald Cochran, Mike Dunavant, and Doug Overbey and Registry of Election Finance director Bill Young. Tennessee is the only state where the Supreme Court appoints the attorney general.

Current AG Herbert Slatery isn’t seeking a second term.

6th Circuit clears way for ‘Heartbeat Bill’ to take effect in Tennessee

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has vacated a district judge’s injunction of Tennessee’s “Heartbeat Bill” enacted in 2020.

Here’s the release from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office:

Nashville- Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III issued the following statement after the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously vacated the district court’s injunction of the timing provisions in the Tennessee “Heartbeat Bill” in Memphis Center for Reproductive Health v. Slatery.

“Tennesseans, through their elected representatives, passed the “Heartbeat Bill” in 2020,” said General Slatery. “With today’s unanimous decision from the full Sixth Circuit, the timing provisions prohibiting most abortions are now enforceable.” 

It is now illegal in Tennessee to abort an unborn child who has a heartbeat.  Specifically, the Heartbeat Bill protects unborn children at 6 weeks gestational age who have a heartbeat, and it also protects unborn children at 8 weeks gestational age or older.  These provisions in the Heartbeat Bill have an affirmative defense for medical emergencies.

Additionally, and in connection with a separate statute (Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act, generally known as the Trigger Act), General Slatery will notify the Tennessee Code Commission that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe and Casey decisions in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He will do this when the Supreme Court issues its judgment in Dobbs, which should occur no later than mid-July. Thirty days after that, Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act will come into effect and take precedence over the Heartbeat Bill. Thus, around mid‑August, Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act will prohibit the abortion of unborn children after fertilization. This law has an affirmative defense when necessary to save the mother’s life or to prevent irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

To read the Order along with this Office’s Emergency Motion and Reply, click here: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2022/pr22-21-motion-reply-order.pdf

New TNJ edition alert: The Cameron Sexton interview

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), left, and Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) await the begin of the State of the State address on Jan 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— TNJ Interview: House Speaker Cameron Sexton reflects on recovering from ‘trauma’ of scandals in House, building trust with Senate, and his expectations about future relations with Gov. Bill Lee.

— No cakewalk for Joe Carr in Rutherford County?

— Federal judge shoots down Starbuck’s effort to be restored to GOP ballot in 5th District.

— AG’s office confirms 5th District ballots could be changed until next month, raising questions about why redistricting fixes couldn’t have been made in time.

Also: Speculation about attorney general successor kicks into overdrive, Brian Kelsey gets another delay for his federal campaign finance case, and Memphis’ Democratic mayor backs “truth in sentencing” law.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Slatery tells colleagues he won’t seek another term as Tennessee Attorney General

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has informed his staff he won’t seek a second eight-year term this fall, The Tennessee Journal has learned.

Slatery was the chief legal counsel to then-Gov. Bill Haslam when he was named attorney general in 2014. Tennessee is the only state where the state’s top lawyer is appointed by Supreme Court.

Slatery surprised observers last year by taking a vocal stand against a legislative effort to to insert state lawmakers into the selection process by giving them power to approve or reject the high court’s nominees. The constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston), the General Assembly cleared all but the final hurdle to making it onto the ballot this year. But the measure failed in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in March.

Speaking at Nashville Rotary in October, Slatery said the change would contribute to the attorney general becoming a “political office.” Lawmakers already have the power to turn back executive decisions via the simple majority needed to override gubernatorial vetoes, Slatery said, and now “they want to control this, too.”

UPDATE: Slatery spokeswoman Samantha Fisher confirms Slatery informed colleagues of plans to retire.

UPDATE 2: Here’s the note Slatery wrote to staff:

Hello Everybody,  I want you to know that after much thought, discussion, prayer and seeking of advice, I sent a letter to the Supreme Court today advising them that I do not plan on applying to be re-appointed.  I wish I could tell all of you in person, but there will be a better time for that and communicating my gratitude to you for helping us continue to build a fine AG Office.  You are a very special group of people.  It has been an honor to be the Attorney General and Reporter, one I could never fully describe.  Words just would not do it justice.  Some of you have seen a number of AG transitions (and I may need your coaching 😊) but I can assure you that come September 1 someone of the highest caliber will step into this role.  Our Court knows how to do this.  Until then let’s keep a steady hand on the wheel.  With great respect, Herbert

Celebration for ex-Haslam adviser hosted by Haslam at Haslam Center

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Bill Haslam is hosting a reception for state Attorney General Herbert Slatery, the former governor’s onetime legal adviser, at the Tennessee State Museum on Wednesday. The event celebrates an award Slatery has received from the National Association of Attorneys General. The museum building, incidentally, was recently named the Haslam Center.

Cohosting the event is Gif Thornton, a lobbyist and managing partner of the Adams & Reese law firm. He also chairs the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, which recently submitted a slate of three state Supreme Court finalists for Gov. Bill Lee to choose from.

Tennessee is the country’s only state where the attorney general is chosen by the Supreme Court. Slatery’s eight-year term is up this fall, but he has declined to say whether he will seek another appointment to the job.

Here’s the invite to the reception:

National attorneys general group names Slatery top AG

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The National Association of Attorneys General has presented Tennessee’s Herbert Slatery with its top award.

Here’s the release from the AG’s office:

NASHVILLE — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the nonpartisan national forum for America’s state and territory attorneys general, presented Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III with the Kelley-Wyman Award Tuesday, December 7th, 2021 in Washington, DC.

The Kelley-Wyman Award is NAAG’s most prestigious honor given annually to the attorney general who has done the most to advance the objectives of the Association. A bipartisan panel of attorneys general selects the recipient of the award annually.

In 2021, General Slatery led nationwide, bipartisan coalitions of attorneys general resulting in an historic $26 billion opioids settlement announced in July 2021, and is one of several attorneys general leading actions against tech platforms like Google and Facebook.

He also serves as Treasurer for the NAAG Mission Foundation and co-chair of NAAG’s Consumer Protection Committee with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. General Slatery previously served as chair of the Southern Region of Attorneys General, which stretches from Texas to Virginia.

“I’m honored to receive this award from my colleagues, and it was a complete surprise,” said General Slatery. “If you’re looking for bipartisan, effective cooperation on issues that affect Americans across the country, it’s happening at the state level among attorneys general. I’m proud of that.  We work together to solve problems common to our states, ‘together’ being the key word.  It is no secret an award at this level is a way of recognizing not just one person but a team of dedicated, hardworking attorneys and staff.  We have that in Tennessee, and it is my honor to work with them.  They make me look a lot better than I really deserve.”

Originally called the Wyman Memorial Award, it was renamed the Kelley-Wyman Award in recognition of the outstanding service and contributions of Frank Kelley, who served as attorney general of Michigan from January 1962 to January 1999. The award was instituted as a gift, made by former New Hampshire Attorney General Louis Wyman, in memory of his father. 

The only other Tennessee Attorney General to receive this award is Charles W. Burson in 1993.

6th Circuit restores Tennessee’s waiting period for abortions

Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions has been reinstated in an en banc decision by the 6th Circuit.

See a release from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office below:

Nashville- Today the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions is constitutional. The Court’s ruling reverses the district court’s decision in Bristol Regional Women’s Center v. Slatery.

In its opinion, the Court recognized that, “before making life’s big decisions, it is often wise to take time to reflect. The people of Tennessee believed that having an abortion was one of those decisions. So they passed a law requiring a waiting period of 48 hours.”

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision is gratifying for several reasons,” said Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III. “First, the result: a law passed by our representative lawmakers and signed by the Governor five years ago—yes, five years ago—is constitutional. It has been on the books a long time. The Court concluded that, during this time, the 48-hour waiting period has not been a substantial obstacle to getting an abortion in Tennessee. Second, the opinion was a reasoned analysis of the law and the lack of proof offered by the plaintiffs, rather than a decision based on policy. Also, this ruling comes after the full Court reconsidered an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same Court.”

To read the ruling, click here:https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2021/pr21-26-opinion.pdf

Hargett signs letter opposing federal voting bill

Secretary of State Tre Hargett speaks with Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee’s Tre Hargett has signed onto a letter from from Republican secretaries of state opposing legislation in congress aiming to set national voting guidelines. The letter is written by John Merrill of Alabama and signed by 15 other top state election officials.

The letter comes as Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery has also joined Republican colleagues from other states in opposing the legislation.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and House Minority Leader McCarthy:

We are writing you today to urge you to reject the “For the People Act” otherwise known as H.R. 1 or S. 1, which is a dangerous overreach by the federal government into the administration of elections.

Each state legislature should have the freedom and flexibility to determine practices that best meet the needs of their respective states. A one-size-fits-all approach mandated by Congress is not the solution to any of our problems.

These bills intrude upon our constitutional rights, and further sacrifice the security and integrity of the elections process. We firmly believe the authority to legislate and regulate these changes should be left with the states.

H.R. 1 and S. 1 blatantly undermine the extensive work we, as election officials, have completed in order to provide safe, accessible voting options for our constituencies. Many of the proposed practices would reverse the years of progress that has been made. We are strongly opposed to these bills and hope you will dismiss efforts to advance this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter.

/SIGNED/

John H. Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State

Kevin Meyer
Alaska Lieutenant Governor

Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State

Connie Lawson
Indiana Secretary of State

Scott Schwab
Kansas Secretary of State

Michael Adams
Kentucky Secretary of State

Kyle Ardoin
Louisiana Secretary of State

Bob Evnen
Nebraska Secretary of State

Alvin A. Jaeger
North Dakota Secretary of State

Steve Barnett
South Dakota Secretary of State

Tre Hargett
Tennessee Secretary of State

Mac Warner
West Virginia Secretary of State

Ed Buchanan
Wyoming Secretary of State