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Friday, June 7, 2019

Contact: Sunny M. Eaton, Esq. 731 Porter Road Nashville, TN 37206

The Honorable Jerry Estes, Executive Director Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference 226 Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard Suite 800 Nashville, TN 37219

RE:

District Attorney General, Craig Northcott Coffee County, Tennessee

Director Estes,

We, the undersigned members and future-members of the Tennessee Bar, write to express our outrage and disappointment at Coffee County District Attorney General, Craig Northcott’s failure to uphold his oath of office, to maintain the ethical standards for licensed attorneys in this state or to protect the very citizens he is mandated to serve.

On June 3, 2019, several media outlets, local and national, reported on statements made last year (March, 2018) by the elected District Attorney General for Coffee County, Tennessee, Craig Northcott, while addressing the Chafer Theological Seminary Pastors’ Conference.

Mr. Northcott was giving a speech titled “The Role of the Local Church in Government.” At every turn, the speech, captured on video, demonstrated that Mr. Northcott does not have the moral authority or ethical judgment expected of any licensed attorney in the State of Tennessee much less that of an elected District Attorney General.

Responding to a question from an audience member about gay marriage and its status under the law, Mr. Northcott bragged that a District Attorney has unfettered discretion in whom to prosecute or not prosecute.

Using criminal domestic violence charges as a particularly disturbing example of the power wielded by his office, Northcott commented:

"So the social engineers on the Supreme Court decided that we now have homosexual marriage. I disagree with them.

"What do I do with domestic assaults? On one hand I don't prosecute them because I don't recognize it as marriage. On the other hand, if I don't prosecute them then the sinnerthe immoral guygets less punishment. What do you do?

"Well the reason where I came down in my evaluation was the reason that there's extra punishment on domestic violence is to recognize and protect the sanctity of marriage. And I said there's no marriage to protect. So I don't prosecute them as domestics."

Mr. Northcott stated that he does not recognize gay marriage and therefore, would not bring domestic violence charges against gay individuals.

We find this disturbing and unacceptable on multiple levels, the least of which being Mr. Northcott’s misunderstanding of domestic violence law in the State of Tennessee where marriage or even romantic status is not an essential element for a charge of domestic assault.

T.C.A. Code 39-13-111

(a) As used in this section, "domestic abuse victim" means any person who falls within the

following categories:

(1)

Adults or minors who are current or former spouses;

(2)

Adults or minors who live together or who have lived together;

(3)

Adults or minors who are dating or who have dated or who have or had a sexual relationship,

but does not include fraternization between two (2) individuals in a business or social context;

(4)

Adults or minors related by blood or adoption;

(5)

Adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or

(6)

Adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described in subdivisions (a)(1)-

(5).

But far beyond the issue of the marital status of gay individuals (though, gay marriage is the law of the land) are the ethical implications of a District Attorney who will not serve nor protect the constitutional rights of citizens without first subjecting them to a test of sexuality or religious- beliefs.

This is the highest level of prosecutorial misconduct and abuse of discretion. He goes further and appears to encourage other elected officials such as clerks to act in a lawless manner with the confidence that “good, Christian, men,” when elected, will protect them from criminal prosecution.

Gay citizens are not the only group at which Mr. Northcott has taken aim when it comes to rejecting his ethical obligations. He has previously made statements on social media that Americans of Islamic faith or any faith that does not believe in “one true God” do not have the same constitutional rights as their Christian counterparts. The implications and effects on the day-to- day practice of law are far reaching and erode public-trust in our criminal system.

For example, the standard for recusal requires only the appearance of bias. State v. Cannon, 254 S.W.3d 287, 307 (Tenn. 2008) (quoting Davis v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 38 S.W.3d 560, 564 (Tenn. 2001)). “[T]he test for recusal is an objective one because the appearance of bias is just as injurious to the integrity of the courts as actual bias.” Id. at 307.

By specifically singling out two groups on different occasions and expressly rejecting equal protection for these groups, there is more than merely an “appearance” of bias against them. Additionally, every other minority or protected group he may not deem worthy is at risk.

Every defense attorney having a client that does not meet whatever arbitrary standards Mr. Northcott has set for morality, race, sexuality or religion must file a motion to recuse the Coffee County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Northcott’s statements have the direct result of requiring that a disqualification motion be filed in order for defense attorneys to render the constitutionally required effective assistance of Counsel. Considering the totality of these facts, the role of his office, and the legal standard for disqualification, this is not hyperbole. Mr. Northcott has gone

far beyond appearing to have bias, he has doubled-down and boasted about his applications of that bias.

Rule 3.8 [Comment 1] of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct mandates that prosecutors are expected ‘to be impartial in the sense that charging decisions should be based upon the evidence, without discrimination or bias for or against any groups or individuals. Yet, at the same time, they are expected to prosecute criminal offenses with zeal and vigor within the bounds of the law and professional conduct.” State v. Culbreath, 30 S.W.3d 309, 314 (Tenn. 2000).

Mr. Northcott’s own statements regarding the power of his office and his insistence that his personal religious beliefs override the constitutional rights of the citizens in his county violate both the spirit and plain language of Rule 3.8.

A knowing disregard of obligations or a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion constitutes a

violation of Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4. Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 §§ (c) states that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation and (d) specifically addresses conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. When Mr. Northcott swore an oath to become an attorney and represented intentions to uphold the constitution and laws of this country, he was acting dishonestly. During his speech, Mr. Northcott plainly stated his practice and intentions to act outside those very laws and instead set office policies based upon his personal beliefs.

We watch with deep distress as the actions of Mr. Northcott cast a cloud over the Bar’s reputation

in the national spotlight. We call upon the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference to

reject the hateful idea that religious minorities and gay people are not entitled full protection of the laws of Tennessee and to stand up for our highest ideals as members of the Tennessee Bar.

Sincerely Yours,

Sunny M. Eaton, TN BPR #025364 Martesha Johnson, TN BPR #027331 Alysse Gregory, TN BPR #036306 Kimberly Thomas Messmore, TN BPR #024749 Amy Goodwin, TN BPR #022811 Willow Fort, TN BPR #022483 (federal exempt) Jeremy Parham, TN BPR #022222 Chelsea Nicholson, TN BPR #028882 Dustin Faeder, TN BPR #032581 Marie Stacey, TN BPR #028747 Bailey Harned, TN BPR #027280 Milca Castillo, TN BPR #036693 Joe Byrd, TN BPR #009915 Michelle Marshall, 3L Marjorie Kaup Haines, TN BPR #026345 David King, TN BPR #07311 Karen Henson, TN BPR #031668 Bill Edwards, TN BPR #026284 Jessica Taylor, TN BPR #031696 Mary Bristow, TN BPR #005660 Kevin Teets, TN BPR #029981

Robbie Hancock Bell, TN BPR #010900 Sonia Jennings Boss, TN BPR #033827 Lisa A. White, TN BPR #026658 Jennifer Moore Porth, TN BPR #026537 Rebecca Montgomery, TN BPR #013913 Whitney Frazier Earnest, TN BPR #027237 Elizabeth Logsdon, TN BPR #032066 Tasha Blakney, TN BPR #019971 Brittany Bane, TN BPR #037103 Elizabeth Spurbeck, 3L Anne Hunter, TN BPR #022407 Genna M. Lutz, TN BPR #028338

Julie Grace Hamner, TN BPR #022408 Brandy Davis, TN BPR #034723 Sandy Jones Phillips, TN BPR #026891 David Baker, TN BPR #14238 Whitney Harrington, TN BPR #021365 Julia Spannaus, TN BPR #027802 Audrey Grossman, TN BPR #023399 Lauren Davis, TN BPR #035980 Hannah Dokkestul, 2L Kimberly Foxall Williams, TN BPR #035899 Robin Givens Moore, TN BPR #032995 Denise F. Sandifar, TN BPR #034827 Jenney Springer Keatey, TN BPR #027554 Crystal Wilkerson, TN BPR #031823 Stephanie J. Pirera, TN BPR #032503 Elizabeth Taylor, TN BPR #028111 Tiffany Hagar, TN BPR #029190 Jeff Levine, TN BPR #015532 Kristi Bernard Bennett, TN BPR #020633 Catherine Post, TN BPR #036537 Monica J. Franklin, TN BPR #015461 Brandy Arena, TN BPR #035031 M. Elizabeth Yarbrough, TN BPR #022597 Michael R. Working, TN BPR #025118 Leigh Taylor-White, TN BPR #025108 Sarah Larkin, TN BPR #027632 Bethany Peery Glandorf, TN BPR #027459 Joy Watson Nguyen, TN BPR #036887 Taryn Anderson, 3L Amanda Busch, TN BPR #035064 Jennifer Cameron Kellett, TN BPR #020675 Chris Dummer-Sutherland, TN BPR #017956 Sally Ramsey, TN BPR #018859 Jay Moreland, TN BPR #033764 Eugenia Grayer, TN BPR #023276 Loren Sanderson, TN BPR #031688 Joshua Brand, TN BPR #027990

Amber Lee, TN BPR #028497 Elaine Wiltermood, TN BPR #036262 Megan Smith Zarling, TN BPR #036577 Sandra Jones, TN BPR #007082 Victoria Herman, TN BPR #033339 Katie Wise, TN BPR #033633 Amy Campbell Blackwell, TN BPR #020654 Christina Zettersten, TN BPR #032986 Ashby Scott, TN BPR #023007 Julie Riggs, TN BPR #035679 Andrea Hayduk, TN BPR #026777 Sara Compher-Rice, TN BPR #022050 Amanda J. Gentry, TN BPR #32498 Ben Raybin, TN BPR # 29350 Keith Lowe, TN BPR #026446 Thomas Maynard, TN BPR #024586 Blake Taylor, 3L Luke Hammond, TN BPR #030015 Kyle Vaughan, TN BPR #032416 Laurent Wills, TN BPR #033628 Bryan Stephenson, TN BPR #023908 Brandi Murrell, TN BPR #030277 Caleb Cassell, TN BPR #036311 Douglas Trant, TN BPR #006871 John Webb, TN BPR #027738 Collier Goodlett, TN BPR #006338 Jason Chaffin, TN BPR # 027140 Jack Byrd, TN BPR #024091 Lawrence Ballew, TN BPR #, 025252 Suzanne Westerman Landers, TN BPR #011425 Elizabeth Woodard, TN BPR #037196 Laura Dykes, TN BPR #012061 Bernie McEvoy, TN BPR #014405 Courtney Teasley, TN BPR #031754 Sabrina Ball, TN BPR #014239 Jessica Doyle, TN BPR #025465 David Baker, TN BPR #14238 Eddie Herbert, TN BPR #033337 Meggan Bass Sullivan, TN BPR #03367 Colby Block, TN BPR #031799 Amanda Dunavant, TN BPR #033274 Katie Hagan, TN BPR #22122 Amanda Jelks, TN BPR #029566 Sidney Bennett, TN BPR #010371 Erin Coleman, TN BPR # 034887 Andreas Deason Pierpoint, TN BPR #037214 Susan Mackenzie, TN BPR #012162 Allen Slater, 2L Richard Strong, TN BPR # 023049 Carolina Martin, TN BPR #033425

Elizabeth R. McClellan, TN BPR #031498 Eric Larsen, TN BPR #29853 Lisa Webb, TN BPR #33047 Julia Price, TN BPR #029250 Teresa Morgan, TN BPPR #033448 Jennifer Vessels, TN BPR #023942 Stacie Odeneal, TN BPR #25988 Cheryl Cheffins, TN BPR #32032 Sarah Croghan King, TN BPR #025505 Jason Gichner, TN BPR #22100 Lori R. Holyfield, TN BPR #31369 Jackon Fenner, TN BPR #030459 Atina Rizk Stavropoulos, TN BPR #031686 Brigid Mahoney Caldwell, TN BPR #35068 Brandy N. Davis, TN BPR # 034723 Marie Drake, TN BPR #30754 Cynthia Pensoneau, TN BPR #022230 Michelle Handelsman, TN BPR #33328 Amy Sosinski, TN BPR #034452 Betsy Prendergast, TN BPR #025641 Tarsila Reybitz Crawford, TN BPR #027170 Rachel Welty, TN BPR #026031 Tina Perrusquia, TN BPR #019484 Greg Atwood, TN BPR #024296 LaTasha Thomas, TN BPR #027583 Marjorie Bristol, TN BPR #019988 Daniel Ayoade Yoon, TN BPR #028798 John Winston Heacock, TN BPR #17400 Lisa Stanley, TN BPR #024725 Melissa Bourn, TN BPR #033663 Melissa Plass Jewell, T BPR # 12459 Mickie Smith Daugherty, TN BPR #022746 Susan Hinsley, TN BPR #020127

Jon Seaborg, TN BPR #5055 Adrianne G. Thompson, TN BPR #031836

Susan Hinsley, TN BPR #020127 C. Dawn Deaner, TN BPR #017948 Gordon Byars, TN BPR #032604 Autum Witt-Boyd, TN BPR #23972 Meredith Silva, TN BPR #035568 Brad Frakes, TN BPR #027234 Robb Bigelow, TN BPR #022022 Brittany Dinaso, TN BPR #035986 Katie Onks Stone, TN BPR #023812 Stef Brake, 3L Rachel Lambert, TN BPR #031200 Lynn Newcomb, TN BPR #030280 Lauren Biloski, TN BPR #025269 Courtney Meghan Kelly, TN BPR #035477 Logan Elliott, 3L

Sarah M. Turner, TN BPR #29432 Mickie Smith Daugherty, TN BPR #022746 Eleanor Wetzel, TN BPR #022338 Stephenie Booher, TN BPR #021397 Whitney Raque, TN BPR #031781 Bo Taylor, TN BPR #13974 George Waggoner, TN BPR #028755 Julia Trant, TN BPR #035925 Kathryn Smith King, TN BPR #025080 Michelle Caggiano, TN BPR #031054 Tessa March, TN BPR #036297 John Romero, 3L Jennifer Dilley, TN BPR #037066 Lindsey Shepard, TN BPR #34444 Kaleigh Rose Thacker, TN BPR #033578 Paige Lyle, TN BPR #032959 Houston Lyle, TN BPR #031838 Cristy C. Cooper, TN BPR #023570 Sarah Martin, Student TN BPR #858230 Monica Timmerman, TN BPR #31536 Sherry Goodwin, TN BPR #16115 Claiborne Ferguson, TN BPR #20457 Philip N. Clark, TN BPR #034182 Amanda Moore, TN BPR #027804 Betsy Hardin Stibler, TN BPR #035340 Sarah M. Turner, TN BPR #29432 William Leslie, TN BPR #036098 Melissa Hunter Smith, TN BPR #26387 Heather Grewe, Student TN BPR #858526 James M. Allen, TN BPR #015968 Nicole M. Arsenault, TN BPR #030739 Brittany Gates, TN BPR #030936 Kyonzte Hughes-Toombs, TN BPR #023702 Kristi Murray, TN BPR #026496 Meghan Cox, TN BPR #33028 Karen Morris, 3L C. Nicole Benjamin, TN BPR #031851 John H. Morris, TN BPR #35789 Carole Marisa Lee Combs, TN BPR #024369 Tara N. Gess, TN BPR #033849 David Kieley, TN BPR #031188 Janeita Lentz, TN BPR #028558 Kyle Morris, TN BPR #037274 Emma Rae Tennent, TN BPR #017406 Emily Herbert, TN BPR #030179 Rachel S. Upshaw, TN BPR #025683 John Murphy, 3L James McNamara, TN BPR #18127 Ryan C. Davis, TN BPR #34588 Karla Cauthen Miller, TN BPR #018037

Amy Johnson, TN BPR #031349 Caroline LaBrec, TN BPR #26865 Julia Tate-Keith, TN BPR #013973 Ronald Vrablik, TN BPR #028570 Anna Phillips, TN BPR #30646 Elizabeth W. Fyke, TN BPR #032118

Whitney Standefer-Smith, TN BPR #033559 Sharon Ruiz, TN BPR #22266 Blair Chilton, TN BPR #034179

C. Mark Donahoe, TN BPR #014049

Joe Ozment, TN BPR #15601

C. Ann Tipton, TN BPR #016317

Marcus Shute, TN BPR #34032 Amanda McCullough, TN BPR #030606 Nicole Uribe, TN BPR #030919 Amber Floyd, TN BPR #29160 Caitlyn Elledge, TN BPR #033653 Jessica Taylor Levine, TN BPR #033065 Carmen Lisette Tant, TN BPR #021027 Wendy Tucker, TN BPR #015703 Jamie Johnson, TN BPR #029427 Jeffrey A.Vanderburg, TN BPR #030935 Lisa A. Harris, TN BPR #27286 Ryan Terrell, 3L Mitzi Hall, TN BPR #029948 David Von Wiegandt, TN BPR #031324 Samuel Anthony Silva, TN BPR #027538 Rosemary Sprague, TN BPR #025098 Sarah Digby, TN BPR #032332 Anne Berry, TN BPR #034145 Julie Randall Pablo, TN BPR #021628 Jessica Dragonetti, TN BPR #034215 Jason Fisher, TN BPR #030553 Rick Dumas, TN BPR #020454 Erin A. Stubbs, TN BPR #032556 Kimberly Cooper, TN BPR #020030 Emily O. Roberts, TN BPR #26555 Zachary A. Beard, 3L Leah Loyd Hillis, TN BPR # 024573 Joseph Kwon, TN BPR #036694 Dumaka Shabazz, TN BPR #022278 Rachelle Windrow Ayers, TN BPR #021093 Anne T. McKnight, TN BPR #02476 Jess L. Morgan, TN BPR #036131 Jennifer M Eberle, TN BPR #021454 Catherine J. Phan, TN BPR #028005 Rebecca L. McFadden, 2L Joanie Stallard Stewart, TN BPR #022300 Keith D. Stewart, TN BPR #17574 Derric Jonathan Augusta, TN BPR #025880

Rose Mary Drake, TN BPR #10947 Christopher Wood, TN BPR #032977 Stacy Sisco, TN BPR #019177 Wes Oliver, TN BPR #18165 Lindsay N. Graham, TN BPR #031440 George J. Duzane, TN BPR #6461 Wencke West, TN BPR #032568 Patricia Woods, TN BPR #19202 Brandi L. Heiden, TN BPR #034088 Jennifer Sloan White, TN BPR #022291 Kevin Kelly, TN BPR #027345 Derek K. Burks, TN BPR #022705 Stella Yarbrough, TN BPR #033637 James Dallas, (TN License Pending) Brittania Poon, TN BPR #035289 Andrew Sullivan, TN BPR #035348 Zachary Carden, TN BPR #036752 Jessica Gichner, TN BPR #22105 Kristin Neff, TN BPR#024634 Anne Protano-Biggs, TN BPR#026895 Kyle Mothershead, TN BPR #022953 Tiffany Hagar, TN BPR#029190 Cynthia Bohn, TN BPR #016592 Mary Littleton, TN BPR #020180 William Conway, TN BPR #026808 Laura Rogers, TN BPR #20985 Rebecca Garland, TN BPR #020774 Kenneth Merriweather, TN BPR #034358 Lesli Oliver Wright, TN BPR #033147 Loy Carney, TN BPR #029984 Sheree Hoffman, TN BPR #10241 Melissa Morris, TN BPR #035018 Alison Helen Lorna McKenzie, TN BPR #028725 Claire Gold, TN BPR #027353 Laura Tek, TN BPR # 016523 Jane Ellen Cassell, TN BPR #036079 Sheree L. Hoffman, TN BPR #10241 Pamela Fleming, TN BPR #021869 John Spragens, TN BPR #031445 Derek Scott, Recent Graduate Ashley Preston, TN BPR #025624 Georgia Sims, TN BPR #028185 Jesse Lee Ford, TN BPR #032105 Jenna D’Agostino Wingo, TN BPR #035468 Joyce Grimes Safley, TN BPR #013809 Karen Hall, TN BPR #19095 Gina Helou Allen, TN BPR #028710 Andy Rowlett, TN BPR #016277 Britanny M. Bartkowiak, TN BPR #031637 Patrick Denton, TN BPR #023594

Anne T. McKnight, TN BPR #026476 Elizabeth Russell, TN BPR #32468 Cynthia Chappell, TN BPR #016028 Patrick Denton, TN BPR #023594 Anne T. McKnight, TN BPR #026476 Elizabeth Russell, TN BPR #32468 Cynthia Chappell, TN BPR #016028 Michael Craig, TN BPR #33835 Paige Waldrop Mills, TN BPR #016218 Kate Redding Armes, TN BPR #025650 Trudy Bloodworth, TN BPR #20431 Simone Marshall, TN BPR #037046 Gere Beason, TN BPR #028439 Ben Houston, TN BPR #02365 Kevin Alonso, TN BPR #027065 Joshua Spickler, TN BPR#21019 Anna Vasquez, TN BPR #030435 Megan Duthie, TN BPR #035699 Mary Miller, TN BPR #013209 Sean Martin, TN BPR #020196 Todd Covert, TN BPR #020696