Former Tennessee Government Staffer and ‘Recovering Journalist’ Clint Brewer Explains the Role of State Attorneys General

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer in-studio to comment upon state attorneys generals and the nature of their appointment, role, and leadership.

Leahy: In-studio, all-star panelist Clint Brewer, recovering journalist, public affairs specialist, and very a native Tennessean who knows all about Tennessee politics. You worked in the Haslam administration.

Brewer: I did.

Leahy: You were the communications director for economic development. You got to tell me again, the name of this.

Brewer: Assistant commissioner for marketing and communications in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Leahy: Economic and Community Development. I always get that wrong. Economic and Community Development.

Brewer: I’ll keep working on it.

Leahy: Thanks. I’ll eventually get it.

Brewer: We’ll bring it up once a month until you get it.

Leahy: And so you worked there for Bill Hagerty.

Brewer: The current senator.

Leahy: And, so you know, Governor Haslam and, of course, here in Tennessee, this bizarre circumstance where the attorney general serves an eight-year term and is appointed by five members of the state Supreme Court.

Now the question that I have for you, reading about how these guys have been appointed: Slatery said he’s not running for another eight-year term. His term will expire on August 31st. So we’ve got three and a half months from now.

It’s a short time window, actually, for the state supreme court to review various candidates. My impression has been, Clint, that they kind of rubber-stamp who the governor wants, at least that appears how Haslam got the gig eight years ago. Am I wrong in that?

Brewer: I don’t know about a rubber stamp. I think the governor has a lot, any governor who has an appointment to make there has a lot to say.

Let’s be clear, the job of the attorney general, in Tennessee anyway, you are the head lawyer for state government, and there may be general counsels or other attorneys who function in state government.

But at the end of the day, they report up to the AG’s office. And if the legislature gets sued, if the governor gets sued, if a highway patrolman gets sued, if the state has to go to court to litigate against somebody else, if somebody needs a legal opinion on a matter, it all flows from the attorney general’s office. They’re essentially the general counsel for the entirety of state government.

Leahy: So you know Attorney General Slatery.

Brewer: I do.

Leahy: And you hold him in high regard?

Brewer: I do. Herbert Slatery is just a fine man. He is a very ethical man. He is a very moral man. He’s a very tough cookie when you deal with him one on one. He demands specificity from you. He demands real answers.

I’ve dealt with him one on one. He is a sort of consummate professional. I think a lot of him. I know that he has made some decisions that haven’t made every conservative in the state happy.

Leahy: This one included.

Brewer: You included. But making people happy is really not the attorney general’s job.

Leahy: It wouldn’t be if it wasn’t an elected position.

Brewer: And I think that therein lies the debate.

Leahy: We’ve talked about this before. I think it’s a bizarre method of appointing an attorney general for eight years. It’s inconsistent with constitutional principles of separation of power.

You have an executive officer of the state appointed by the judiciary branch. That’s crazy, in my view. But the establishment here in Tennessee doesn’t think that way at all. They seem to like it.

Brewer: There’s a longstanding culture in the state bar association that dates back over 100 years where there is a huge amount of deference given to the state supreme court and to the judiciary in general.

If you look at attorneys in the state, for example, they are governed by the rules of the Tennessee State Supreme Court. So all of the things that attorneys can and can’t do, both in practice and business and to even some extent in their personal lives, all flow from rules promulgated by the state supreme court.

Leahy: And let me just say this about the Tennessee state supreme court. I have watched and we’ve written about many issues that have gone up to the state supreme court. Frankly, I’ve been quite impressed by the reasoning of the state supreme court.

Particularly, we had a story back about the method by which the Davidson County Election Commission determined the timing of the special election when Megan Barry was disgraced and resigned.

And we actually argued that the Davidson County Election Commission got it wrong, and that’s basically very smart. Jamie Holland was the attorney. He was more affiliated on the Democratic side, but he made that argument very well, took it to the state supreme court, and they made very clear a unanimous decision.

But I think it was the right decision. I’ve been very impressed with the state supreme court as a court and their reasoning in most of their decisions personally.

Brewer: Yes. We’ve talked about this on the show before, and it’s odd as conservatives to express confidence in your government, but the Supreme Court hears kind of like what we’ve discussed before with the legislature, our constitutional officers like the Secretary of State and others, that we sometimes forget how good we have it in the state. Our government runs a lot better than many of our peer states.

Leahy: In my view, actually has been and if you are listening to the program, I think our judiciary has done well. I think our legislative branch actually did well, even though I’ve been critical of this and that on it.

But the process, I think and the leadership is pretty good. I’ve been most critical of the executive branch here, the governor and the attorney general because I would differ with you. I think that Attorney General Slatery has not been a leader in pushing back against the federal government.

A guy like Jeff Landry, out of Louisiana, Patrick Morris, out of West Virginia, Ken Paxton out of Texas, these are the guys that I think are leading the way. And as an example, there’s a left-wing group called the National Association of Attorneys General that recently the Attorney General of Alabama Republican withdrew from.

Montana, Arizona, Missouri, and Texas have all withdrawn from it. But Tennessee is still in that group. And it’s a left-wing group. It’s a very easy thing to do and yet they’re still in it. I’d like to see an aggressive attorney general …

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Tennessee State Office Building” by Tennessee Attorney General. 


































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One Thought to “Former Tennessee Government Staffer and ‘Recovering Journalist’ Clint Brewer Explains the Role of State Attorneys General”

  1. 83ragtop50

    “Herbert Slatery is just a fine man. He is a very ethical man. He is a very moral man. He’s a very tough cookie when you deal with him one on one. He demands specificity from you. He demands real answers.”

    I cannot dispute Mr. Brewer’s assessment of Mr. Slatery but I sure as heck DO question his actions as the AG. He is forever one of the last AG’s to join, if he does at all, in some very important actions against the extremely overreaching federal government. We need someone who protects our interests and not someone who sits on his hands.