In October 2019, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Angie Bergman completed her six-month Fellowship with Choosing Justice Initiative (CJI), where she advocated for bail reform in Nashville’s criminal courts, federal court, and alongside the Nashville Public Defender’s Office. The Fellowship is part of the firm’s Pro Bono Program which allows for associates and staff attorneys to spend six months serving full-time in a pro bono capacity within the community.
During the Fellowship with CJI, Angie worked with the organization’s founder and former public defender Dawn Deaner on three major initiatives to move the needle on ending wealth-based disparities in Nashville’s criminal legal system. The first involved federal pre-trial habeas litigation on behalf of an individual defendant. With Angie’s help, CJI is asking the court to decide the constitutionality of bail setting procedures in Davidson County for indigent defendants.
Secondly, Angie worked closely with Nashville Public Defender’s Office on developing a comprehensive bail litigation strategy for their office, which involved training each lawyer on bail litigation, drafting template motions, and assisting in pretrial motions and appeals relating to bail.
The final component of Angie’s work involved representing the Nashville Community Bail Fund (NCBF), which pays cash bail for economically disadvantaged individuals who would otherwise be incarcerated pretrial because they cannot afford their bail. She represents the NCBF in ongoing litigation in the Davidson County Criminal Courts. In September 2019, the criminal courts took action which threatens the NCBF’s existence by subjecting it to an unconstitutional local rule that seeks to exact revenue for the courts through payments of cash bail. Through Angie’s representation, CJI is able to support the NCBF and advocate for fair bail setting practices within the Nashville criminal courts as required by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.
Even though the official Fellowship ended in October, Angie will continue to work with CJI and the NCBF on a pro bono basis and encourage others to get involved in this important work.
About the Choosing Justice Initiative
CJI works to end wealth-based disparities in Nashville’s criminal legal system through education, advocacy, and direct legal representation. CJI was created to empower people without wealth to pursue and achieve the justice they seek in Nashville’s criminal legal system. Learn more about the organization on the CJI website.
About the Nashville Community Bail Fund
The Nashville Community Bail Fund (NCBF) exists to free people from jail who are presumed innocent and cannot afford to pay their bail. By working together, the NCBF and the people it frees create a self-sustaining tool that makes the court system fairer for everyone. Learn more about the NCBF, or make a donation, at the NCBF website.
About the Bass, Berry & Sims Pro Bono Program
In April 2019, Bass, Berry & Sims launched a comprehensive Pro Bono Program to provide opportunities and incentives for the firm’s attorneys to give back to the community. In addition to the Pro Bono Fellowship, the program allows for increased hours or credit for all attorneys to dedicate to pro bono activities. The Program also created a Pro Bono Member position – to which David Esquivel was appointed to dedicate half of his work to pro bono activities and administration of the firm’s program. Read more about the firm’s Pro Bono Program here.