Haslam Appoints Gardner Public Defender in 15th Judicial District

To fill vacancy of retiring Comer Donnell
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 03:12pm

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Shelley Thompson Gardner of Lebanon as public defender for the 15th Judicial District, which serves Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson counties.

She replaces Comer Donnell, whose retirement is effective November 1. Gardner, a lifelong resident of Wilson County, has served as assistant public defender in the 15th Judicial District since 2002.

“We are fortunate to have someone with Shelley Gardner’s experience to serve in this position,” Haslam said. “This appointment will ensure a smooth transition for the office and will serve the citizens of the 15th Judicial District well.”

Gardner has practiced before criminal, general sessions and juvenile courts in all five of the counties in the district. She has been supervisor over all Wilson County courts for the office for the last 14 years and has been part of the 15th Judicial District Drug Court program for the last 16 years.

“I want to thank Governor Haslam for having the confidence in my abilities for the appointment as the next public defender of the 15th Judicial District,” Gardner said. “I’ve worked with some amazing people, and I know I will have big shoes to fill. Comer Donnell has been public defender for the 15th Judicial District since 1989 and has taught me well.”

Gardner received her law degree from the Nashville School of Law in 2001. She received a bachelor’s degree from Cumberland University in 1997.

Gardner has been on the board of directors for the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), the Wilson County Fair, Cumberland University Alumni and the Lebanon First United Methodist Church. She was president for two years of Wilson ONE, a nonprofit organization in Wilson County.

She and her husband, Joe, have two sons, Jace and Jonah.