Election Commission, which challenged the
constitutionality of aggregate limits under the
bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Fortunately,
the Supreme Court this year ruled in our favor
and found that the aggregate limits do violate
First Amendment rights of citizens and struck
Much of the work is involved in dealing with
rules issues within the Republican National
Committee. Those are rules that the RNC
operates under, but also the 50 state parties
operate under. We field a lot of questions from
the state parties on how they can be sure they
are in compliance with the rules. Then there are
a variety of contract matters that come up. There
are trademark matters; choosing the site for the
next national convention. We’ve completed that
process and we chose Cleveland.
Q: Do you supervise internal lawyers?
A: Yes. The way that works is that this is a
volunteer position. We have a full-time legal staff
in Washington. I go up once or twice a month to
meet with them.
Q: Have you ever thought about running for
A: I did that once [for Shelby County
Commission in 2002], and discovered that I'm
better as the lawyer for the candidate than
being the candidate.
Q: Any thoughts on who looks good as a
Republican presidential candidate for 2016?
A: That will sort itself out after the November
mid-term election this year. A lot of what the
party does is in a more technical area in terms of
developing a platform on which the candidate,
whoever it is, can run. The Republican National
Committee is focused on building the campaign
infrastructure for the ultimate nominee to utilize
in order to win.
Q: What do you do outside of work?
A: I enjoy reading, classical music, opera and
hunting. This is a good area of the country in
which to enjoy those things. We have a great
opera company, we have a good symphony and
we have great duck hunting around here.
Q: With all of your jobs, do you have much time
A: No, not nearly enough. The ducks are not in
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Law school can be kind of dry—intellectually
stimulating, but it doesn't grab you. It’s an
academic exercise. When you get into practice,
there are real people with real problems and you
have an opportunity to work with those people
and help them address the problems that they
are faced with. That’s very rewarding. I still think
that’s exciting 40 years later.
Q: How did the recent recession affect your
A: At this point, I've been through several
economic cycles, and this was typical. The
bankruptcy business flourishes during a recession
and during an economic crisis. In the business
bankruptcy area, what it’s about is trying to
preserve as much value as possible through the
Chapter 11 process. You start with the recognition
that there probably isn’t enough to go around,
so how are we going to allocate what is there?
How are we going to restructure this business so
that there is some chance that the creditors can
recover as much as possible under the economic
realities of the situation?
Q: Are there any particular cases you worked on
that really stand out?
A: I think most of the bankruptcy lawyers
who went through it would say that the Julien
Company case here, which was [a cotton broker]
and the largest bankruptcy ever in Memphis.
It was probably the most interesting and had
the most interesting cast of characters and a
significant number of interesting legal problems.
[Their owner], Julien Hohenberg, stood
out. Anybody who knew Julien Hohenberg
knew Julien Hohenberg was a character with a
capital C. For instance, one of the assets in the
bankruptcy estate was a series of videotapes of
Mr. Hohenberg. He had hired a videographer to
follow him around 24/7 and document his life.
Yeah, no ego there.
Q: What issues came up in that case?
A: You had a lot of banks, both U.S. and foreign
banks, that had taken security interests in cotton
in its various forms. You had security interests
in cotton futures, in physical cotton and in
all shades of potential ownership interest in
between. It was a case in which we got to get
seriously into the Uniform Commercial Code and
all of its implications.
Q: Were you representing the Julien Company
or one of the creditors?
A: I represented a couple of Dutch banks.
Q: What case are you proudest of working on?
A: There are several. I represented the Memphis-
Shelby County Airport Authority in the bankruptcy
of Braniff Airways. We had a very good result in that
case. Ultimately, it went before the 5th Circuit.
I represented the Senate Republican Caucus
in the case of Ophelia Ford versus the state of
Tennessee. This involved an election contest
filed by Terry Roland—who is now a county
commissioner—who had run against Ophelia
Ford for the state Senate and lost by 13 votes. He
filed a contest with the state Senate challenging
her election. The state Senate ultimately threw
her election out, but she filed an action in district
court seeking to have the district court stay the
state Senate from taking certain actions.
I was receiver for the Beale Street Historic
District for several years. That came out of a case
where the city and the developer for Beale Street
were locked in some pretty difficult litigation. The
judge suggested the appointment of a receiver.
Q: How have you seen your practice areas
change over time?
A: In the bankruptcy area, I would say there is
less litigation now than there was 40 or 35 years
ago. Simply because a lot of the issues that were
unsettled when the law was adopted in 1978 have
been resolved. It took a lot of time and a lot of
litigation for some of those unsettled questions of
the law to be resolved by the courts.
In the election law area, particularly since
the election of 2000, the amount of litigation
has exploded exponentially now that election
lawyers talk about winning beyond the margin
of litigation. If the margin of victory is not great
enough, then somebody is liable to file a lawsuit.
I think Bush v. Gore specifically set a precedent
that, “OK, we can all go to court over this.” Prior
to that, there was a reluctance of candidates to
go to court to challenge election results.
Q: You’re the general counsel of the Republican
National Committee. How did you first get
interested in politics?
A: I volunteered for Barry Goldwater when I was
in junior high school. Just stuffing envelopes,
doing the usual volunteer thing.
As a lawyer involved in politics, I got called on,
as lawyers do in either party, to deal with rules
and bylaws, matters to deal with when there is
litigation. One thing led to another, and I found
myself as general counsel of the Republican
Q: What does that role entail?
A: There is a certain amount of litigation
that we're involved in. Last year, we were
involved in a case called McCutcheon v. Federal