published Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Political Notebook: Bonnyman steps down at Tennessee Justice Center

Attorney Gordon Bonnyman has given fits to Tennessee's political ruling class for decades through his forceful legal advocacy in areas ranging from treatment of state prison inmates to health care access for the poor and disadvantaged.

But the executive director and co-founder of the Tennessee Justice Center will be stepping aside next year after 17 years. Taking the helm is the legal advocacy group's managing attorney and fellow co-founder, Michele Johnson.

Bonnyman, 65, will continue to serve clients as a staff attorney, Johnson said.

She said he "has demonstrated time and again a relentless passion for justice and unyielding support for those in need."

And Bonnyman said Johnson's "creative leadership will ensure that TJC continues to have an outsized influence in making this state we both love more just, humane and inclusive for all Tennesseans."

The TJC focuses on health care advocacy, including TennCare, and the attorney has built up a national reputation. Bonnyman masterminded several successful lawsuits that forced changes in the provision of state health care and services for children.

Prior to starting the center, Bonnyman was with the nonprofit Legal Services for 23 years, advocating for the poor in a number of areas.

In the 1980s, he was the lead attorney in a successful case for inmates that challenged then-Gov. Lamar Alexander over state prison overcrowding and inhumane conditions. That forced the state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp or add some 7,000 prison beds.

Compiled by staff writer Andy Sher. Contact him at or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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