Nashville, Tennessee: Indigent Defense


Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection 

In Nashville, Tennessee, people languish in jail every day because they cannot pay the money required for their release by local judges, and because the attorneys appointed by those judges to represent them do not fight for their release. These people are often trapped: unable to speak for themselves, and with no one to speak on their behalf. 

Dawn Deaner, our client, as part of a project with her non-profit the Choosing Justice Initiative, set out to help one person who was trapped in the jail. In 2019, he sent Dawn a letter asking for her help because his attorney was not living up to the standards required by the Constitution. After communicating with him, Dawn concluded that his rights were at risk, and offered to file a motion on his behalf to help him get a new lawyer who would fight for his rights. 

Instead of commending her for attempting to address a critical problem with the legal system in Nashville, local authorities sought to punish and silence her. She was ordered not to speak to people represented by attorneys and was told that doing so may result in discipline with the state bar. These actions violate her First Amendment rights.

We are representing her in federal court seeking an order that she may pursue her vital work. This federal lawsuit continues our challenge to the routine retaliation against court-appointed defenders that leaves poor people without adequate representation.

Filings: Complaint
Motion for Preliminary Injunction