I was fortunate to be raised in the Southeast, in both Harlan, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee. I graduated high school from the Webb School of Knoxville and went on to Arizona State University. After graduating, I spent a short period of time working for the IRS and for the Census Bureau and taught English for 6 months in South Korea, prior to continuing on to the University of Georgia School of Law.
While attending UGA School of Law, on full scholarship, I interned with University of Georgia Legal Aid, where I first worked with public defenders. Upon graduating from UGA School of Law, I moved back to Harlan, Kentucky, where I was hired by the Public Defender’s office as a defense attorney.
While working at the Harlan County and Bell County Public Defender’s office, I saw the importance of providing services and resources to my clients. I served my clients with professionalism and respect and spent many nights working, tirelessly ensuring not only that their rights were upheld, but that they received help finding sorely needed resources, such as rehabilitation for substance abuse, educational resources, housing, and mental health resources. I saw that giving my clients access to these resources not only helped them with their cases, but would help change their lives, sometimes removing them from the entanglements of an over flooded legal system.
Within two years of working as a public defender, I also saw the negative impact that a slow-moving legal system could have on both the defendants and the victims. The Harlan Commonwealth’s Attorney had seen the work I had done at the Public Defender’s office, providing services and decreasing delays, and wanted me to implement some of my strategies in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. He wanted me to develop a system that would more efficiently and effectively work through cases, while being fair and just to all parties. It was not an easy decision to leave the Public Defender’s office, but I did feel that I could make a positive impact for the people of Harlan County, and I could not pass it up.
At the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, I implemented, and administrated a special grand jury that reduced the lag time between a defendant’s arrest and indictment. A quicker resolution was a positive for all of those involved. It freed up the courts and decreased the taxpayers’ burden, and it provided resolution of cases in a meaningful time frame, allowing all parties justice and the ability to move forward. Throughout my time at the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, I worked with public defenders and with the Drug Court program to continue to provide opportunities to defendants. I kept my oath of providing justice to all parties. I also handled a vast majority of the office’s case development, motion hearings, and plea negotiations, tried most of its jury trials, and managed the majority of the office’s day-to-day operations.
In 2009, I married my long-time high school friend, Alexis Wade, and moved back to Knoxville to build our family and raise our children. I have worked as an attorney, in Knoxville, for nearly 10 years. I have represented clients in a variety of civil and criminal cases since beginning my law practice in Knoxville. I am currently a partner in the law firm of McGehee, Cole, Guindi & Walling, P.C. As a criminal defense attorney, my caseload has always included both retained clients and indigent clients who have been appointed to me by judges when the Public Defender’s office cannot represent them due to a conflict of interest. As a private defense attorney, one of my greatest challenges in representing my court-appointed indigent clients is the lack of resources available to provide them with the same services that the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office is able to provide its clients. I know how important these services are to give clients the ability to turn their lives around.
I have a variety of legal experience and have practiced in many Courts, including the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Supreme Court and the Kentucky Supreme Court. I have managed law offices and personnel in the Harlan Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, in a law office that I had in Harlan, and in my law office here in Knoxville. My greatest passion has always been representing my criminal defense clients. I want to ensure the protection of their constitutional rights, and when I can I want to help them find their way to a better life. As the Knox County Public Defender, I will uphold the Community Law Office’s mission of providing the highest level of legal advocacy, providing resources that will enable indigent clients to pull themselves up and out of the system.
It would be my great honor to serve the people of Knox County by working alongside the attorneys, social workers, and staff at the Community Law Office, improving Knox County through her most vulnerable men, women, and children.