TJC Staff

Michele Johnson

Executive Director

Michele Johnson, TJC Attorney- Photo by Jude Ferrera

Michele is co-founder and Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center. The focus of her nationally-recognized legal work has been children with special health care needs. In that role, she lobbied successfully to extend health care coverage to uninsured children in working families and participated in a landmark case establishing appeal rights for TennCare patients who are denied care by their HMO. As lead counsel, she negotiated a class action settlement requiring comprehensive reform of health care for 665,000 Tennessee children enrolled in TennCare.

Michele, a 4th generation Nashvillian, has been recognized by her alma mater, Father Ryan’s in their magazine, Irish Ayes, as one of five alumni “dedicated to improving life for the next generation of their family.”

She attended the University of Tennessee and graduated with Highest Honors 1990. Upon graduation from University of Tennessee College of Law, Michele received a grant from the Southern Community Partners, a project of the Lynhurst Foundation, to educate low income families about their children’s legal rights and to help them obtain the medical care the law and their doctors said they should have. In 1996, she left Legal Services to begin the Tennessee Justice Center with a grant from National Association of Public Interest Law (now Equal Justice Works). In 2014, Michele became Executive Director of TJC.

Michele is the winner of the 1999 Child Advocacy Award of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. She was the Lawyer’s Association for Women 2016 Nashville ATHENA Award nominee and Tennessee Alliance for Progress Long Haul award winner. Tennessee Voices for Children has also recognized her work by awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award for advocacy. In 2015, The Tennessee Bar Association recognized Michele as the Ashley Wiltshire Public Interest Attorney of the Year. Her work has been featured in Her magazine. Michele is a Nashville and Tennessee Bar Association Fellow. Nashville Medical News named Michele in their 2016 edition of InCharge HealthCare Middle Tennessee. The Tennessean named Michele a finalist for their Tennessean of the Year Recognition in 2015.

Michele serves on the Board of Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and is on the St. Thomas Mission and Advocacy Committee. She has previously served and led boards including Tennessee Voices for Children, Nashville Bar Association Board of Directors, Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Foundation.  She is also the past chair of the Christ the King School Board and served on the Parish Pastoral Council at Christ the King Church. Michele coaches the Mock Trial team at Father Ryan High School.

Michele is married to Jeff Hill, an Oak Ridge native. They are parents to three boys. She is an avid runner and spends her free time with her large extended family.

You can reach Michele at

Gordon Bonnyman, Jr.

Staff Attorney
Gordon low res“By making the plight of the least in society more visible, Bonnyman has raised the bar for all Tennesseans. The state is forced at least to look at how its fiscal and social actions affect the poorest among us before it makes a move.” – The Tennessean, naming Gordon Bonnyman Tennessean of the Year in 2003

Gordon Bonnyman grew up in a large Knoxville family. The family’s religious values and deep Tennessee roots have shaped his career.

Gordon has a BA from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Tennessee. Since his admission to the bar in 1972, his entire career has been devoted to serving low-income clients.

As a Legal Services attorney for 23 years, Gordon represented thousands of low-income clients in a wide variety of civil matters. He earned a national reputation for his expertise in health policy. His advocacy work in housing, consumer, public benefits, disability rights, nursing home reform, juvenile procedure, civil rights, constitutional rights and health law not only changed the law in significant ways, but also changed lives throughout the nation.

In 1996, when Congress restricted the ability of Legal Services to handle class actions and other cases for the poor, Gordon joined Michele Johnson in co-founding TJC. He served as the executive director until 2014, when he stepped down to return to the full time practice of law as a TJC staff attorney.  At present, his advocacy is focused primarily on achieving access to health care for the poor and uninsured.

Gordon has written and lectured extensively, particularly on matters of health law and policy. He has served on numerous state and national boards, including Families USA, the National Juvenile Law Center, National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, the Nashville Bar Association, and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. He has served on advisory commissions on Medicaid and public health under several Tennessee Governors and has consulted with governors and legislators in other states. He was a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Commission on the Future of the Tennessee Judicial System. He currently serves on the Federal Civil Procedure Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

A nationally-recognized advocate for social justice, Gordon has received awards for public service and advocacy from numerous organizations. These include the John Minor Wisdom Award from the American Bar Association, the Reginald Heber Smith Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the War Horse Award from the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, the Morris Dees Justice Award from the University of Alabama and Skadden, Arps, and the Economic Justice Award from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Gordon’s work has also been recognized by the American Cancer Society, the Tennessee Conference on Social Welfare, the ACLU of Tennessee, the Tennessee Primary Care Association, Families USA Foundation, Tennessee Bar Association, the Tennessee Women’s Political Collaborative, the Tennessee Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Nashville Bar Association and the Metropolitan Nashville Human Relations Commission.

In naming him the Tennessean of the Year in 2003, The Tennessean said of Gordon: “By making the plight of the least in society more visible, Bonnyman has raised the bar for all Tennesseans. The state now is forced at least to look at how its fiscal and social actions affect the poorest among us before it makes a move.”

During a 1978-1979 sabbatical, Gordon and his wife, Claudia, who is a state court judge, served as Volunteers in Mission for the United Presbyterian Church, working for a human rights organization in the Middle East. During a 1994 sabbatical, they worked under the auspices of the American Volunteers in Democracy program helping to staff a human rights organization that combats hate crimes and racial discrimination in Eastern Europe. They have one son, Houston, who is a family physician and palliative care specialist. Continuing a family tradition, Houston and Gordon get away whenever they can to hike the mountains of East Tennessee.

Gordon is thankful for his family, whose sacrifices and support have sustained him and his work. He is also grateful to his colleagues and to TJC’s inspiring clients. “I get to work each day with colleagues of exceptional compassion, dedication and skill,” Gordon says of his work. “We serve families who, in the midst of poverty, misfortune and injustice, inspire us with their courage and generosity of spirit. Working through the law, we have a chance to make a huge difference in their lives. And by ‘speaking truth to power’ on their behalf — compelling powerful government and corporate institutions to respect the legal rights of the powerless and the poor — TJC is working to fulfill our nation’s pledge of Equal Justice for All. To get to work for such people and ideals is a privilege.”

You can reach Gordon at

Chris Coleman

Staff Attorney
Chris low resChris graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1993. He then attended the University of Virginia where he received a master’s degree in English literature. In 1997-98, Chris served as a VISTA volunteer at the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center in Montgomery, where he conducted research on housing discrimination and organized community education programs on fair housing issues. This experience sparked Chris’s interest in the history of social justice movements in the South, a topic he went on to specialize in as a graduate student in history at Northwestern University. He received his master’s degree in history in 2000.

While attending law school at Northwestern, Chris worked in the Children and Family Justice Center and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic and was associate editor of the Northwestern University Law Review. He was awarded the John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship, the Leonard S. Rubinowitz Fellowship and the Joan Marie Corboy Scholarship. He also studied International Human Rights at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. He graduated cum laude and was inducted into the Order of the Coif. Following law school, Chris clerked for the Honorable Joan Humphrey Lefkow on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

After returning to Nashville, Chris joined the firm of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, where he represented plaintiffs in antitrust and mass torts litigation. He has participated in the Harry Phillips American Inn of Court and the Young Leaders’ Council and has served on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers’ Division of the Nashville Bar Association, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, and the Nashville Chapter of the American Constitution Society, for which he served as chapter President in 2008-09. He is co-author of “Social Movements and Social Change Litigation: Synergy in the Montgomery Bus Protest,” published in Law & Social Inquiry in 2005. He is also the author several publications on the Affordable Care Act, including “Ongoing Barriers to Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act,” published in Clearinghouse Review, and “NFIB v. Sebelius: An Uncertain Victory for the Affordable Care Act” and “The Affordable Care Act in 2014: Are You Ready?”, both published in the Nashville Bar Journal. Chris is an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School, where he teaches Poverty Law.

Chris is married to JuLeigh Petty, a Senior Lecturer at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health and Society. They have two children, Sam and Lucy.

You can reach Chris at

Rob Watkins

Staff Attorney
Rob low resRob was born and raised in central Illinois. He received his BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his JD from St. Louis University School of Law. He is currently licensed to practice law in Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee.

Rob began his legal career as a prosecutor in Decatur, Illinois prior to becoming Assistant Counsel to the Illinois Secretary of State. In addition to being an attorney, Rob has twenty years of business operations experience and has been actively involved in the entrepreneur community in Nashville.

After attending a TJC training on TennCare and the Affordable Care Act in 2013, Rob saw a need to automate the complicated eligibility screening process for the uninsured in Tennessee. After a year of hard work, Rob created AskJane! to fill in the gap. Named after long-time TJC paralegal, Jane Beasley, AskJane! makes navigating the maze of public health benefits more reliable. Utilizing a series of questions, the tool systematically categorizes applicants and identifies potential coverage and calculates eligibility. AskJane! screens not only for TennCare eligibility, but also Medicare savings plans, premium tax credits and cost sharing reductions.

At TJC, Rob is the staff attorney responsible for business development and technology initiatives. In addition to serving as the administrator of AskJane!, he actively promotes provider-focused services including eligibility screening process reviews, difficult case troubleshooting, education and trainings.

Rob is an active member of the Brentwood United Methodist Church. He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, Brandon and Brittney, and reside in Williamson County.

You can reach Rob at

John Orzechowski

Deputy Director
John low resAs a college student, John had the privilege of taking three trips to Swaziland to volunteer at an orphanage for AIDS-affected children. In Swaziland, John saw the tragic effects that poverty and the lack of access to medical care can have on people’s health, dignity, and quality of life. This experience led John to consider health care issues and the need to increase access to health care—not just in Swaziland.

In 2008, John graduated with honors and received a B.A. in English and Religion from Southeastern University. He received the Southeastern University Award for excellence in community service and scholarship. After graduation, John moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

John has worked at the Tennessee Justice Center since 2011, first as a Client Advocate, helping families navigate the public health insurance system to get health care for their loved ones. John has special experience with CHOICES, a program for the elderly and people with disabilities who need nursing home or home-based care. In 2015, John took on a new role as Deputy Director, handling grant applications and reporting, financials, and technology infrastructure. John is grateful to be part of the TJC team and to have a job that is both intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling.

Outside of work, John enjoys playing guitar and spending time with his wife and slightly neurotic beagle.

You can reach John at 

Jane Beasley

Supervising Client Advocate
Jane low resJane grew up in a farming community in Kansas. Her interest in social justice began when, as a teenager, she spent part of a summer studying social issues as part of a church youth project. She feels forever grateful for the summer evening she sat in Dr. Martin Luther King’s study listening to Dr. King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy discuss their desires for a peaceful movement to equality.

She graduated with a B.A. from Kansas Wesleyan University and did her graduate study at Sangamon State University (now named the University of Illinois at Springfield).

Every day, Jane answers the calls of clients who need help with Families First and TennCare. An expert in the complex rules of eligibility for public programs, she also counsels and advocates on behalf of those clients who have lost their benefits. Her compassion is equal to her expertise.

“It’s hard to maintain hope when people are suffering so badly,” said Jane. “But by telling our clients’ stories, maybe we can shame the people in power into doing the right thing.”

Prior to joining TJC in 1998, Jane worked for the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee as the coordinator of the Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program. She assisted clients on issues surrounding Medicare, TennCare, long term health insurance, and Medicare supplement policies.

Jane and her husband, Jim, have lived in Nashville since 1986. Prior to moving to Nashville, they lived in Knoxville with their two daughters. One of their adult daughters lives in Nashville, so Jane gets to spend special time with two grandchildren in Nashville. Two other grandchildren live in Pennsylvania, and Jane visits these youngest two whenever possible.

You can reach Jane at

Megan Metcalf

Warfield Legal Fellow
Megan low resMegan is the inaugural Charles Warfield Legal Fellow for 2015-16.  Megan is a 2015 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School where she was Vanderbilt’s nominee for the National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Law Student award.  During her time at Vanderbilt, Megan served as President for Law Students for Reproductive Justice, organizing several high-profile events on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Tennessee’s Pregnancy Criminalization law, and hosting national legal organizations including the National Women’s Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and National Advocates for Pregnant Women.  Megan also moderated a panel discussion, “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl and the Rule of Law” featuring the Supreme Court counsel for the Adoptive Couple on the conflicts of law issues raised by the Indian Child Welfare Act.  She also participated in Vanderbilt’s Appellate Litigation Clinic and worked as a weekend crisis counselor at the YWCA Nashville domestic violence shelter.

Megan worked as a legal intern at the Tennessee Justice Center in the summer of 2014 when she secured a victory in an administrative appeal for necessary adaptive medical equipment for child with severe disabilities. She also volunteered during the special legislative session for the Insure Tennessee efforts. Megan is a proud member of the steering committee for Advocates for Women and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE) TN that recently won passage of two important pieces of legislation protecting survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking.

Prior to law school, Megan received her B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh in Psychology and served as an emergency financial caseworker for military families at the American Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces Center.

Megan recently got married to her husband, Kevin Ward, in a surprise wedding at his parents’ 40th anniversary party!  They now live in Nashville with their rescue dog, Russ.

You can reach Megan at

Katie Alexander

Insure TN Field Director
Katie low resKatie is from a small town in the beautiful Hudson Valley in New York. She moved to Nashville from Washington, D.C., where she studied Literature and the African Diaspora at American University.

During her time in D.C., Katie had the chance to intern at various organizations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Earth Day Network, and the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Katie is thrilled to be a part of the TJC team, and to help Tennesseans receive the health care they need. In her free time, Katie likes to ride her bike around Nashville, read, make pottery, and cook.

You can reach Katie at

Rachel Clifton

Client Advocate/ Training Coordinator
Rachel low resRachel was born and raised in the Nashville area. In 2010, Rachel graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she majored in English Rhetoric & Composition and Spanish Hispanic Studies. After graduation, she joined the United States Peace Corps, where she was assigned to live and work for 27 months in the Central American republic of Panama.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, Rachel specialized as an English teaching consultant for the Panamanian Ministry of Education. She worked directly with the Ministry’s English teachers on student-centered lesson planning and classroom management, as well as co-planning seminars for English teachers in the region.

In addition, Rachel partnered with the Ministry of Health as a community health promoter. Together with government agencies, active community members, and youth, they hosted health seminars, organized a HIV/AIDS awareness march, and gathered resources lacking in the community health center. These experiences helped Rachel understand the importance of interpersonal relationships between parents, government officials, advocates, and community members.

Rachel joined TJC staff in 2013, after returning to Nashville.

You can reach Rachel at

Marysa LaRowe

Client Advocate/ Intake Coordinator
Marysa low resMarysa grew up in the Chicago suburbs and earned her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009. During her time there, she worked in the office of a public interest law firm specializing in health care advocacy, where she learned a great deal about Medicaid programs, Social Security disability programs, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act. After graduation, Marysa continued to live and work in Wisconsin, where she also taught writing classes in a men’s prison. She moved to Nashville in 2011 to pursue an MFA in fiction writing from Vanderbilt University, and graduated in 2014. She is thrilled to be continuing her work in health care advocacy, and enjoys helping TJC’s clients navigate complex bureaucratic and legal systems to secure often life-changing services.  When she’s not working at TJC, Marysa teaches writing classes for college students, K-12 students, and others in the Nashville community.  She is interested in the intersection of the arts and social justice.

When she’s not working, writing or teaching, Marysa enjoys running, hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends.

You can reach Marysa at

Emily Jones

Development Coordinator

Emily low resEmily was born in Highland Park, IL, a suburb just north of Chicago. Emily began as an intern at TJC prior to her graduation from Vanderbilt University in 2014. At Vanderbilt, Emily studied Anthropology, Spanish, and Human and Organizational Development with a focus on human rights. During her junior year, Emily studied abroad for a semester in Cape Town, South Africa volunteering with an HIV/AIDS outreach organization called Yabonga: Children, HIV and AIDS. She created and implemented a gender-based violence prevention program, which became the focus of her senior honors thesis. Emily graduated from Vanderbilt magna cum laude with honors in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as within the Anthropology Department.

Emily is delighted to be able to continue her work with TJC and help people across Tennessee obtain access to the health care they need. In her free time she loves to cook, hike, travel, and spend time with friends exploring Nashville.

You can reach Emily at

Emilie Fauchet

Client Advocate/ Volunteer and Internship Coordinator
Emilie low resEmilie was born and raised in Rochester, NY. She earned her B.A. from the University of Rochester in International Relations and Anthropology.

Upon graduating, Emilie moved to Nashville where she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA helping to create a wellness program at Park Center, a local non-profit for adults with mental illness. After her VISTA year, Emilie worked for the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee (CRIT) where she was a site coordinator for the RISE afterschool program. RISE is part of the Nashville After Zone Alliance, for which Emilie still volunteers as a Quality Consultant.

Emilie also serves as Secretary on the Board of Project Chacocente, an NGO that operates in Nicaragua.

In her free time Emilie enjoys spending time with her family and her friends, cooking, reading, playing volleyball, being outside, and travelling.

You can reach Emilie at

Michael McRay

Community Outreach Coordinator

McRay_MichaelMichael McRay was raised in the small town of Jellico, TN, where his father David, a family practice physician, directed a small, Federally-qualified, community health center providing quality care for the un- and under-insured. His family’s passion for working with the most vulnerable of society took root in him at an early age.

Michael is drawn to work that allows him to converse compassionately with people in crisis, conflict, or suffering, whether in maximum security prison as a volunteer chaplain, the West Bank with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an innkeeper at a homeless shelter, or washing dishes at Room in the Inn. In the Fall of 2015, Michael spent two-months abroad in Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa interviewing nearly fifty people about their stories of reconciliation and loss. He is also the author of two books: Letters from “Apartheid Street”: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine and Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners, with a foreword by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu.

Michael holds an M.Phil. (with Distinction) in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation from Trinity College Dublin at Belfast, as well as a BA in History from Lipscomb University. He also teaches as an adjunct instructor on forgiveness and reconciliation, Israel-Palestine, storytelling, and international conflict resolution at Lipscomb University. He is the co-founder of No Exceptions Prison Collective, and founded, organizes, and co-hosts Tenx9 Nashville, a Belfast-originated monthly event for the telling of true personal stories.

Michael has this to say about his new (December 2015) position at TJC: “Stories change people, and people change systems. TJC’s wisdom in valuing both stories and statistics is refreshing. I am convinced of the beauty and power of stories to move and motivate people. I am honored to be part of this noble work toward a more just world, ensuring that no one in our state gets left out.”

Michael especially loves American Folk and Celtic music, Les Misérables, monasteries, an engaging read, coffee shops, the smell of incense, Netflix and bowl of fresh pasta, and meaningful conversations among good company.

You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or his blog.

You can reach Michael at

Jana Hall

Senior Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator

janaheadshot#2Jana was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Kissimmee, Florida. Her parents are from the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and St. Vincent & The Grenadines. She earned her B.S. in Public Relations at the University of Florida in 2011 and relocated to Nashville a year later. She recently matriculated from Vanderbilt University Divinity School with a Master of Divinity.

During her time at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Jana’s passion for social justice flourished, particularly during a summer visit to South Africa in a course studying faith, politics and global collective violence. She began to learn American Sign Language and earned honors distinctions in her field work studying the impact of faith in the lives of people with disabilities at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She wrote her Master’s thesis on developing liberative theologies and inclusive practices in the Black Church for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Jana also received the distinction of serving as a life-long trainee for the country wide network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) founded by former president John F. Kennedy.  In 2014 she married Lee Perkins, an ordained elder in the Church of God in Christ. Together they enjoy preaching the Good News, spending time with family, traveling and sightseeing, watching movies and staying active in the community’s quest for social justice.

You can reach Jana at

Emily Quinlan

CHOICES Client Advocate

EQ headshot

Emily has lived in Nashville for two years. Prior to calling Tennessee home, Emily lived in New York, Vermont, Georgia, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Florida. Emily has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Georgia and a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and is a member of the Tennessee Bar. Emily has advocated for a variety of civil rights and social justice issues, including the use of class actions to vindicate civil rights in South Africa, public education in Tennessee, access to lead-free drinking water in environmental justice communities, and justice for the families of victims of racially-motivated homicides during the Civil Rights Era. Her legal practice focused primarily on LGBT family law.

Emily is a member of the Women’s Political Collaborative, American Constitution Society, and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. Emily spends almost all of her free time outdoors—either on her bike or in the woods—or printmaking.

You can reach Emily at

Photos courtesy of Mattie Callahan,