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Law Alum Part of Pro Bono Honor

Brant Phillips, a 1997 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law, was part of a small team of lawyers from his Nashville firm, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, that spent more than two-and-a-half years and invested more than 2,500 hours in a clemency petition effort on behalf of Edward Jerome Harbison, a Tennessee death row inmate.

A month before Harbison’s scheduled execution, in January 2011, Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen commuted Harbison’s sentence to life without parole. Earlier this year Brant and the law firm were honored with the Tennessee Bar Association’s 2011 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Award for work on the case.

Harbison was sentenced to death by a Tennessee court in 1983, and, for nearly 27 years, he had attempted to get his sentence overturned through state and federal legislation. Through their work, Brant and his team showed that Harbison’s death sentence was the result of ineffective counsel and that the sentence was disproportionate to the punishment given to others who committed similar crimes in the state.

In nominating the firm for the Tennessee Bar Association honor, Nashville lawyer David Garrison with the law firm of Barrett Johnston wrote, “Few firms in Tennessee could have (or would have) brought to bear the resources that were necessary to make this outcome for Mr. Harbison possible. Bass Berry’s willingness to do so sets an example for other large law firms in our state and shows an ongoing commitment to justice for the indigent and underserved that deserves to be recognized.”

Brant is a member of Bass, Berry & Sims’ litigation and government advocacy practice areas. He handles complex business litigation, recently serving as lead counsel for King Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its board in shareholder class actions relating to $3.6 billion buyout of King by Pfizer Inc., as well as securities and shareholder class action defense, derivative actions and business fraud. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America® for administrative law and the Nashville Business Journal’s Best of the Bar (2008). He joined the Nashville firm in 1998 after serving as a law clerk to Judge William M. Acker Jr., on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.