Elected to the American Law Institute, a prestigious research and advocacy group of only 3,000 judges, lawyers, and legal scholars from around the country.

An unusually diverse practice experience, including a wide variety of civil rights work for DOJ, and experience both as a federal prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer, on top of over 20 years as a law professor, including several years as Associate Dean of his law school,  experience as an administrative hearing judge under the Tennessee APA, and 8 years as an elected County Commissioner.

A wide breadth and depth of scholarship, striking out national recognition in the areas of both election law and criminal law/procedure, as well as scholarly publications in a variety of constitutional law topics.

A high national media profile.

  • He has been interviewed on legal topics scores of times on national networks like Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Fox Business Channel, CNN, and Court TV.
  • He has published dozens number of op-eds in national journals like Newsweek, U.S. News, Slate, The New Republic, etc.
  • He has been quoted in such national media outlets as the Washington Post, USA Today, AP, Washington Times, Dallas Morning News, others

 A deep commitment to public service

  • Involved in an intense pro bono litigation every year during his two decades as a law prof, with many of the cases establishing “firsts” (establishing standard in TN for coram nobis claims of newly discovered exculpatory evidence; 1st capital commutation in 40 years; 1st court-ordered imposition of cumulative voting as a Voting Rights Act remedy; first federal court intervention in a state legislative internal election contest proceeding; a rare 6th Circuit-ordered vacating of a death sentence; others)
  • Steady record of pro bono research being converted into much-cited law review scholarship
  • Served 8 years as an elected County Commissioner, pioneering many legislative ‘firsts’ as well (authored 1st LGBTQ legislation in TN; county’s 1st ethics and animal welfare ordinances; ended the county and city’s constitutionally dubious practice of “48-hour hold” detentions without charge of suspects on less than probable cause; led historic conversion of incumbent-friendly multimember election districts to smaller, competitive, single-member districts).
  • As local activist, led many significant and successful efforts, including two high-profile historic preservation efforts, and three successful referendum campaigns to support Ranked Choice Voting


Criminal:  Worked as a federal prosecutor. As a law prof., he has also served as criminal defense counsel, mostly pro bono but a few as paid consulting attorney, participating both at the trial level and also doing appellate oral argument, including argument before the Tennessee Court of Appeals and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Civil rights:  For DOJ, he litigated race, ethnicity, disability, and sexual harassment discrimination cases in the areas of voting, housing, lending, and public accommodations, including multimillion dollar insurance discrimination and redlining cases, and several statewide redistricting cases which went to the U.S. Supreme Court.  As a law prof., he has done numerous pro bono election and voting rights cases, and served as an expert witness in such a case.

Public Service:  Served as elected County Commissioner 8 years; led local referendum campaigns; served as administrative hearing officer in state APA proceedings



  • One book and over 30 law review articles in a wide variety of topics;  heavy emphasis on election law and criminal law and procedure, but also on a variety of topics in constitutional law
  • Over two dozen op-ed placements in national journals like Slate, The New Republic, U.S. News & World Report, and others;  over 100 such op-ed placements in local newspapers in Memphis
  • His scholarship has earned him a Democracy Innovator Award from the national election reform organization Farivote; the Memphis law school’s Farris-Bobango annual award for outstanding scholarship; and an endowed professorship, as the Bredesen Professor of Law.
  • His scholarship has been cited numerous times by federal and state courts, treatises, leading scholars in the field
  • Invited to present a paper on First Amendment issues at the Sorbonne in Paris, and published a paper through that institution
  • He has been quoted as a legal commentator by such media outlets as the AP, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Nashville Tennessean, People Magazine, and the Daily Caller
  • He has been interviewed as a legal expert scores of times on Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Fox Business  Channel, Court TV, and CNN
  • This also extends to international media: He has been interviewed several times each by Canadian Broadcast Channel, Canadian radio, SkyNews Arabia, the Voice Of America, and once each by a German newspaper and Dutch public television.
  • A nationally recognized expert in the voting rights and election law field.
  • His election reform book, Rethinking U.S. Election Law: Unskewing The System, fhas been avorably reviewed by Prof. Richard Hasen of UC-Irvine; American Political Science Review and London School of Economics Book Review.  It led to  a series of  posts by invitation on the influential Election Law Blog.
  • His work in this field has been cited numerous times by the 5th Circuit, 6th Circuit, federal district courts, as well as many state courts, including state supreme courts, as well as by practitioners in briefs filed around the country, including many U.S. Supreme Court Briefs
  • His work in this field has also been cited in many treatises and scholarly articles, including by national election law expert Richard Hasen of UC Irvince lLaw in the Stanford Law Review , Harvard’s Heather Gerken in the Columbia Law Review,  Nicholas Stephanopoulos oF ___ in the U Chicago L Review , Prof. (now Rep. ) Jamin raskin in the  Yale L & Policy Review
  • Because he was so recognized, he has been hired as consulting attorney in a federal 2008 Voting Rights Act case in New York, and as an expert witness on behalf of the New York State Board of Elections in a more recent federal lawsuit.
  • The national election reform org Fairvote awarded him the 2009 Democracy Innovator Award for his scholarship and advocacy in the area of Ranked Choice Voting.
  • He has been invited to speak on voting and election topics in law school symposia around the country, including at Georgetown Law, the University of Mississippi, Chapman Law School, and many others.
  • He has been interviewed as an election law expert numerous times on Fox News Channel , Fox Business Channel, MSNBC, and Court TV, as well as once on CNN and Public Radio International.
  • This recognition has gone international; he’s been interviewed as an election expert by  the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and SkyNews Arabia, , as well as public television in the Netherlands, German print media, and many Canadian radio stations.
  • He has published op-eds on election law topics in such national journals as Salon, The Conversation, The Hill, U.S. News & World Report,  The New Republic.
  • He has also achieved national recognition for his work in the field of criminal justice.
  • He has published numerous scholarly articles in this area, and has participated in the past in the crimlaw prof listserv.
  • He has been invited to speak at law school symposia around the country on
  • criminal justice topics.
  • He has been invited to speak as a legal commentator on such topics for Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Fox Business Channel, and Court TV.
  • He has published op-eds on criminal justice topics in such national journals as The Hill, Slate, others
  • His work in this area has been cited by 6th Circuit, federal district courts, as well as many state courts, including state supreme courts, as well as by practitioners in briefs filed around the country, including many U.S. Supreme Court Briefs
  • His work in this area has been cited in treatises and scholarly articles numerous times, including Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice & Procedure
  • His Case Western Reserve L Rev article on “48-hour holds” was cited in the DOJ report on police practices in Ferguson, MO as well as a later similar DOJ report re: Ville Platte, LA.


  • Chaired AALS Program Committee 2016
  • In 2014, he did an altruistic kidney donation, donating his kidney to a stranger.  His donation enabled and started a “donor chain” resulting in 28 different persons receiving a kidney across the country over the next six weeks, an event which broke records for this kind of donation chain. The event received press attention across the country.
  • In 2005, he led a grassroots effort to save a local amusement park which inspired a documentary featuring his effort which debuted at the Indie Memphis Film Festival.  The effort resulted in the saving of two historically prized rides, both on the National Historic Register:  the  Grand Carousel, a  “Dentzel” carousel dating to the early 1900s; and the “Zippin Pippin” rollercoaster, the oldest working rollercoaster in the U.S, Elvis Presley’s favorite ride and the site of his last public appearance before his death.
  • He has been quoted as a legal commentator by such media outlets as the AP, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Nashville Tennessean, People Magazine, and the Daily Caller
  • As last legislative act, got the County Commission to declare his birthday Star Trek Day in Shelby County, now the only local entity in the U.S. with an official Star Trek Day; and founded a regular annual mini-Star Trek convention to celebrate it


Elected member of the Shelby County Comm’n, 2006-2014.  Managed $1billion budget for county of 900,000 people.

  • Authored 1st LGBTQ nondiscrim legislationin TN;
  • Authored 1st ethics ordinance in the county;
  • Authored 1st animal welfare ordinance  in the county.
  • Led and initiated first county funding of pre-K; 1st county funding for permanent supportive housing and wraparound services for homeless.
  • During contentious, litigation-filled 2-year redistricting process, single-handedly led eventually successful effort to move from incumbent-friendly multimember districts (with winner-take-all plurality elections from numbered posts) to smaller, more competitive, neighborhood-based single-member districts for the first time in the county’s history.
  • Led oversight/advocacy effort resulting in local law enforcement abolition of constitutionally dubious “48-hour-hold” detention practice (detaining suspects without charge or probable cause for 48 hours)

In addition, as a local activist, he:

  • Led referendum campaign to adopt IRV in Memphis in 2008, and then again in 2018 to defeat repeal referenda.
  • Led two different historic preservation grassroots campaigns. One tried to save a historic local amusement park, and succeeded in saving two historic rides which were on the National Historic Register.  The other involved pro bono litigation as well as public advocacy and succeeded in saving a historic building which was also on the National Historic Register.
  • Created  and served as officer on three different nonprofit organizations re: RCV in TN—a TNnonprofit corp.  to do public education in the run up to the referendum campaign; a 501©(4) to do the referendum campaign; and then, later, a public education/advocacy 501©(3) where I served on the board.
  • Led years-long public advocacy effort for a hand-marked paper ballot “paper trail” system for local voting machines, including public speaking events, lobbying Election Commission, County Commission, County Mayor, penning op-eds in local newspapers, etc.

Pro Bono Litigation

Steve has been involved in one pro bono case or another during every year he has been a law professor.  Below is a non-exhaustive list focusing on the most significant such cases:

2002—Workman v State – a death penalty appeal. Briefed and argued before Tenn. Ct. Crim. Appeals.  His advocacy led to the establishment of the legal standard in TN (still used today) for “coram nobis” post-conviction claims raising newly discovered exculpatory evidence.  Led to a  much-cited law review article on coram  nobis.

2003—Austin v. Tennessee—death penalty appeal.  Amicus brief for NACDL. Led to law review article in Tulane Law Review.

2004-2005US v Terrance Johnson—felony murder case.  Amicus brief on behalf of TACDL. Argued before 6th Circuit.  Led to much-cited law review article on the duress defense

2007—assisted chief defense counsel with advocacy before District Attorney and Governor’s office in death penalty case, resulting in the first death penalty commutation in TN in 40 years

2012-2014—Van Tran v Colson—amicus brief on behalf of national  mental health organizations in a death penalty case. Resulted in court vacating the death sentence.

2019-Present—Sugarmon v Tenn. Coordinator of Elections—challenge to state election official determination that Memphis Ranked Choice Voting referendum was illegal under state law.  Still pending.  Recently won appeal, obtaining ruling that our candidate clients did indeed have standing.