TJC could not exist without the support of volunteers and interns. From our founding days under the leadership of Nashville attorney Riney Green to our ongoing partnerships with nationwide private and public interest law firms, we have come to realize that TJC’s mission relies on the work of countless people beyond our staff. We are inspired daily by the generosity of individuals and companies who have come to the aid of our clients. To recognize the tremendous amount of support that TJC has received over the years, we have begun an annual award for the lawyer and law firm that have carried the torch for our clients.
Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison
The Tennessee Justice Center is pleased to award its 2022 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year to Chris Sabis with the Nashville firm of Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison. Chris and his team advocated successfully on behalf of TJC’s ten-year-old client Ava Gray Whitacre, enabling her to continue receiving the skilled nursing care that she needs.
Ava Gray has multiple chronic medical conditions that have required the constant care of family and professional nurses ever since she was born. The Medicaid benefits she receives through TennCare are critically necessary for her to live at home with her family in a safe and nurturing environment.
Last year, TennCare cut her nursing care, ignoring her doctors’ warning that doing so would endanger the little girl’s safety. Her devoted mother, Julie Whitacre, sought TJC’s help. At TJC’s request, Chris Sabis, who is a respected expert in health law, volunteered his time and his firm’s resources to pursue Ava Gray’s appeal. At the appeal hearing, Chris and his team presented compelling testimony demonstrating how urgently necessary the contested nursing hours are for Ava Gray. In November, after months of anxiety, an administrative law judge granted Ava Gray’s appeal and ordered TennCare to provide all of the care her doctors had ordered.
Chris’s skilled advocacy on behalf of Ava Gray and her family embodies our profession’s best traditions of public service. TJC gratefully recognizes his generous service to this family, and his contribution to TJC’s efforts to make Equal Justice under Law a reality for all Tennesseans.
Keane A. Barger
Riley Warnock & Jacobson, PLC
Keane Barger has a broad-based practice with an emphasis on commercial and intellectual property litigation. Prior to joining Riley Warnock & Jacobson, PLC, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Susan H. Black on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Keane graduated from Vanderbilt Law School, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, Articles Editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review, and the Executive Problem Editor of the Vanderbilt Moot Court Board. Keane is honored for his work litigating on behalf of disabled Tennessee citizens who have been denied home-based care by the State’s Medicaid program.
Sue Dyer is senior litigation counsel for HCA and is an active pro bono volunteer with the Tennessee Justice Center. She is also an adjunct instructor in the health care MBA program at Belmont University’s business school. Prior to HCA, Sue practiced with Bass, Berry & Sims and before beginning her career in law, she practiced nursing in the neurosurgical intensive care unit at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Sue attended the University of Kentucky College of Nursing where she earned her B.S.N. and later returned to her alma mater to attend the University of Kentucky College of Law. Sue also serves on the board of One Generation Away, a non-profit that works to bring fresh, healthy food right to people in need. Jason Ehrlinspiel and Sue Dyer provided pro bono representation to Ava Gray Whitacre, an 8-year old girl with developmental disabilities who is facing cuts to her home nursing hours.
Jason Ehrlinspiel serves as senior litigation counsel at HCA in Nashville and volunteers with the Tennessee Justice Center’s TennCare appeals program. Before attending law school at the University of Mississippi, Jason spent a year teaching kindergarten and coaching college football. He has practiced law since graduating in 1995, including in Mississippi and California before returning home to Tennessee, where he obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of the South. Before joining HCA, Jason worked with the Affirmative Civil Enforcement unit in United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee where his responsibilities included health care fraud investigations. Jason Ehrlinspiel and Sue Dyer provided pro bono representation to Ava Gray Whitacre, an 8-year old girl with developmental disabilities who is facing cuts to her home nursing hours.
University of Tennessee College of Law, Legal Clinic
For years, the UT Legal Clinic has provided pro bono representation to Tennessee children and families. The result of their work has made a tremendous difference in the lives of numerous Tennessee children and families in need of vital health care services.
Under the supervision of Professors Lucy Jewel and Wade Davies, students in the Legal Clinic’s Appellate Litigation Clinic hone their practice skills and develop persuasive case theory through writing and oral advocacy. The students handle all aspects of the TennCare appeals including the initial hearing, pre-hearing motions, discovery, and post-hearing briefs.
“Through the representation, students make a huge difference for these highly vulnerable clients, who are faced with losing vital healthcare services,” Jewel said.
This year, the clinic helped a disabled man keep the treatment services he required to maintain a good standard of living; resolved a billing dispute and obtained reimbursement for medical services for a client with a high-risk pregnancy; and represented a child appealing a reduction in in-home healthcare services.
Through this work, “students experience the unique power that lawyers have to resolve cases. They then take this spirit of service with them into their own legal career.” Jewel said. “Being able to use their legal skills to give the client a real voice is one of the most rewarding aspects of taking on these kinds of cases.”
Legal Clinic Director Joy Radice said she’s proud of the students and faculty who were recognized for their excellence.
“It is amazing to receive this recognition for our advocacy and service in Tennessee, and it reflects so well on the determination and commitment of our students,” Radice said.
U.S. Specialist Prosecutor
TJC client Ava Gray Whitacre is a six-year-old girl who lives in Madison, Tennessee. Ava Gray was born with multiple severe physical and intellectual disabilities. Since her birth, TennCare had provided Ava Gray with nurses to allow her to live at home with her family. But last year, Ava Gray’s mother, Julie, was informed that TennCare was going to cut Ava Gray’s nursing hours below what she needed to stay safe at home.
Julie turned to TJC for help. TJC reached out to our network of pro bono lawyers to find representation for Ava Gray in her appeal of the cut to her nursing hours. Jack Smith, a former U.S. Attorney and Vice President for Litigation at HCA, answered the call and represented Ava Gray at her hearing. Thanks to Jack’s skill and determination, Ava Gray won her TennCare appeal and is able to keep her home nursing hours.
Jack was so inspired by his pro bono work with Ava Gray that he wanted to offer other HCA attorneys the opportunity to enrich their professional lives by representing other TJC clients in need of pro bono representation. He invited TJC to come to HCA and present a CLE on handling TennCare medical service appeals. On March 19, 2018, TJC presented training on handling TennCare appeals to ten HCA lawyers at HCA’s Nashville office. These lawyers were very excited about the opportunity to provide pro bono representation to TJC’s clients, and we are very excited about the opportunity to partner with HCA to ensure that our clients do not lose needed medical care simply because they lack legal representation.
Bass, Berry & Sims
Bass, Berry & Sims received the law firm award for its ongoing pro bono work supporting the Tennessee Justice Center. Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys John Greer, Meg Casey, Alison Grippo, David Esquivel and Taylor Sample accepted the award on behalf of the firm.
Bass, Berry & Sims
Jeff is recognized for his pro bono work on behalf of TJC clients who were denied TennCare coverage for various medical conditions. Jeff helped establish a program at Bass, Berry & Sims to provide pro bono assistance to TJC clients, and through this program, Jeff and several other Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys have helped clients receive much-needed reimbursement for their medical care.
Pam Ford Wright
The Wright Law Firm PLLC
A lifelong resident of Tennessee, Pam earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and her law degree at Duke University. She has extensive experience in working with clients of all ages who have special needs or are facing the challenges of long term care.
Pam is certified as a specialist in Elder Law by the Board of Certification of the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF). NELF’s Elder Law Certification Program is the only elder law program accredited by the American Bar Association.
Pam is a member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is past Chair of the Elder Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association, a member of the section’s Executive Committee and chaired the T.B.A. Special Committee on Conservatorship Practice and Procedure.
University of Tennessee College of Law, Legal Clinic
Brad Morgan is coordinator for UT Law’s pro bono and mentoring programs. He received the honor for his representation of a mother in regaining TennCare coverage for the behavioral therapy of her son, who is diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism.
2013 Raising the Bar Founding Firms
We recognize these law firms across the state that have made a three-year financial commitment to helping ensure that Tennessee’s vulnerable populations have assistance accessing the courts to get the care they need: Bass Berry & Sims, Bone McAllester Norton PLLC, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, Burr & Forman LLP, Law Offices of John Day, Harwell Howard Hyne Gabbert & Manner PC, Sherrard & Roe PLC, Stites & Harbison PLLC, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP.
Jeffrey C. Smith
Adams and Reese, LLP
Jeff Smith is being honored for his work handling pro bono TennCare cases and setting up a partnership between his firm, TJC, and the UT-Memphis School of Law to serve the needs of low income families on TennCare. The partnership will allow many families each year, who would otherwise go unrepresented at their TennCare hearings, to have capable legal counsel. It will provide law clinic students at UT Memphis with courtroom experience. Adams and Reese has agreed to oversee the project, with technical assistance from the Tennessee Justice Center.
Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, PLLC
Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis is being honored for the firm’s efforts in representing needy families in their TennCare appeals. In 2010, attorneys at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis were intensely involved in two cases in which they contributed hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services to clients of the Tennessee Justice Center. Through Waller Lansden lawyers Christopher Dunn, John Tishler, Michael Yopp, and Jason Shields’s efforts, the Worsham family home of more than 20 years was saved from foreclosure. Through Christopher Dunn and Michael Gardner’s work, Julie Williamson, a quadrepelegic TennCare enrollee in west Tennessee, stayed on the program, receiving lifesaving nursing care, when the state threatened to cut her off. A mother of three, she was able to stay at home with her family instead of facing institutionalization. Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis’s pro bono representation of these individuals during their hearings allowed low-income Tennesseans to retain the basic necessities of life.
Kirkland and Ellis LLP
K&E has been involved in the John B. case since 2006. During this time, more than 48 of the firm’s attorneys have worked with TJC to represent the children enrolled in TennCare.
Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP
SNR also joined the John B. case in 2006. Attorneys at the firm have provided more than 6,000 hours of pro bono service to TennCare children over the past two years alone.
Attorneys at K&E and SNR have collectively donated over $9.5 million in pro bono services since partnering with TJC. Their work has been extraordinary.
Sherrard & Roe, PLC
Michael Abelow was the lead attorney on Crabtree v. Goetz, which was filed in the fall of 2008. This case sought to prevent TennCare from restricting home health care benefits on adult enrollees. These cuts affected nearly 900 of the most medically fragile adults across the state. Mr. Abelow partnered with attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and the National Health Law Program. He won a preliminary injunction for named plaintiffs that helped them keep their care until new programs began that allowed patients with extraordinary needs to access higher levels of home health care.
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP
In 2008, 15 attorneys at BABC took referrals from TJC, logging almost 500 hours of pro bono services. These were attorneys from various backgrounds and legal areas of focus who dedicated themselves to ensuring that Tennessee families got the services they needed. This firm continues to lead our state in pro bono services to TennCare families.
PRO BONO HEROES
The above honorees are only a small sample of the lawyers who help our clients. Most of our referrals are to lawyers who agree to represent a patient who has been denied services by his or her health insurance company. These attorneys have won wheelchairs, home health nurses, residential treatment, and behavioral therapies when families desperately needed them. The lack of these services can easily lead to family breakups and death. These cases aren’t flashy, but they have a profound impact on people’s lives. To say that we are grateful to the following attorneys would be an understatement:
- William Farmer
- Robert Harris
- Edmund Sauer
- William West
- James W. White
- Jeffery Smith
- Robert Joseph
- Mary Anderson
- Cantrell Jones
- Gregory Naron
- Andrew Dunlap
- Terence Leong
- Katherine McDaniel
- William Pratt
- Michael Reed
- Vickie Reznik
- Jennifer Selendy
- Joshua Simon
- Leanna Anderson
- Tony Richardson
- Barry Weissman
- Haavi Morreim
- Michael A. Gardner
- Christopher S. Dunn
- Thor Y. Urness
- Peter C. Sales
- David K. Taylor
- Jay Hardcastle
- Phillis Rambsy
- Bill Farmer
- Tera Hambrick
- Amelia Crotwell
- Wendy Bach
- Christina Zawisza
- John Tishler
- Jason Shields
- Michael Yopp
- Timothy Takacs
- James B. Johnson
- Paula Flowers
- Leslie Muse
- Paul Drozdowski
- Linda Casals
- Don Donati
- David P. Cañas
- Jim Bilbo
- Lara Flatau
- Jon Rose
- Frankie Spero
- Jessica Patrick