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Martesha Johnson

Martesha Johnson Moore was sworn in as the Nashville Metropolitan Chief Public Defender in 2018. She has devoted her career to public defense work and knows people are worth more than the worst thing they have ever done. In her first term as Chief Public Defender, Martesha has increased the staff and budget of the Nashville Defender’s office, passionately advocated for bail reform in the local court system, and led the Nashville Bar Association through a time of post-pandemic transition. 

Martesha has been privileged to stand with thousands of low-income people accused of crimes. She has told their stories and relentlessly advocated for fairness and equality in the justice system while ensuring her clients are educated about their Constitutional rights and the criminal justice process. Martesha passionately believes that people should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or the nature of the charges against them. 

She is an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School, a past president of the Nashville Bar Association, and a member of the National Association of Public Defenders where she serves as a board member. Additionally, Martesha was a member of the inaugural class of Emerge Tennessee, the premier campaign training program for Democratic women. She was recognized as a 40 under 40 professional by the Nashville Business Journal, The University of Tennessee, Alpha Kappa Alpha Southeastern Region, and Tennessee State University. She was also recognized as a 2021 Woman of Influence and selected “Best of the Bar” 2021 and 2022 by the Nashville Business Journal. She was a 2023 recipient of The University of Tennessee Alumni Promise Award. 

In her spare time, Martesha loves spending time with her husband and their children, reading, and traveling.

Learn more about what Martesha has accomplished as Chief Public Defender and a Nashville Defender.

Worth More than Your Worst: Advocating for Fairness and Equality in the Justice System

When a low-income defendant is facing judicial action Martesha Johnson, Nashville’s Chief Public Defender, is ready to help. She has spent her career advocating for equal rights under the law for everyone she encounters., Martesha knows that her clients face a range of hurdles that they must clear even before they get to trial, including learning about and understanding their rights under the law. 

Through it all, Martesha believes that people are worth more than their worst act, and her passionate defense of underserved clients reflects that. Her experience has led her to eloquently share that she is privileged to stand with thousands of low-income people who are accused of crimes. Whether that’s at arrest or jury trial, Martesha sees the value in all people and will continue to advocate for fairness and equality in the justice system for all. 

Martesha knows that justice is a whole community responsibility. She will share ways that you can invest in justice-related causes and opportunities for you to be more active in its pursuit. 

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