Controversial Democratic Party Chairman in Shelby County Retains His Position, Despite Effort to Oust Him


Members of the Shelby County Democratic Party have reportedly chosen to continue to retain Michael Harris as chairman, despite his reported sketchy history with the law.

This, after party members, met at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, according to The Daily Memphian. The website also reported Harris himself called for the meeting to settle once and for all the controversy over whether he should continue in that position.

The vote to retain Harris was 18-9.

“The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Harris’ law license in 2017 for five years retroactive to 2015,” according to The Daily Memphian.

“His law license was suspended after he agreed to ethics charges brought by the state’s Board of Professional Responsibility that included lack of diligence and communication, excessive fees, improper termination, failure to expedite litigation, failure to perform services he was paid for, unauthorized practice of law, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. Harris was also ordered to pay nine former clients a total of $22,975 in restitution.”

But, according to The Memphis Commercial Appeal, “the movement to oust Harris is still alive.”

This, according to Executive Committee member Julie Byrd Ashworth, who reportedly filed a grievance against Harris alongside two other people.

As The Tennessee Star reported, Harris won election as the new Shelby County Democratic Party chairman in April.

“Harris is the second chairman of the party, which recently re-formed,” The Star reported earlier this month.

“Many long-standing executive committee members left, and new people, including Harris, entered the party.”

State Rep. London Lamar (D-TN-91) and State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-TN-29) once thought of running for Harris’ position but backed out, letting him run unopposed. Lamar called for unity ahead of the 2020 elections.

The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee handles lawyer discipline. Its information on Harris is here.

As The Tennessee Star reported last year, Lamar has had her own controversies.

She generated international attention after she declared in November, shortly after her election to the Tennessee House of Representatives that “Tennessee is a racist state,” as The Star reported. Lamar live streamed a 15-minute rant on Facebook and said, among other things, Tennessee is a racist state and full of uneducated Republicans.

She also reprimanded white men for wanting to keep more of the money they earn and suggested allowing felons to vote will help elect more Democrats. Lamar later said she merely summed up the thoughts and feelings of her constituents when she scolded white Tennessee Republicans as supposedly racist and uneducated. She removed the video from Facebook a few days later after it got international media attention she apparently didn’t want.

In January, as reported, the state’s Registry of Election Finance fined Lamar for filing her disclosures late. Lamar was originally supposed to pay $8,175 in fines, as registry officials decreed in November. Lamar reportedly told registry officials this was her “first rodeo.” But, because of her inexperience with such matters, registry officials reduced her fine to $300.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Michael Harris” by Michael Harris. Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.




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