Marlinee Clark Iverson ’93, was recently named County Attorney by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. Iverson received her BA from Rhodes College and a JD, cum laude, from the University of Memphis School of Law. Iverson began as an associate at Young & Perl, PLC, before becoming Special Assistant United States Attorney, Assistant District Attorney for the Shelby County District Attorney General, Assistant County Attorney for Shelby County Government, and most recently, Magistrate for Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County. She began her post as the County Attorney September 12, 2018.
Alumni Relations: How did you end up attending Rhodes College?
Marlinee Clark Iverson: I’m from Mobile, Alabama, and there’s always been a pipeline of Mobilians matriculating at Rhodes, Rebecca Miller Rice ’93, Jennifer Hawkins Jameson ’93, Heather Lindsey Hettinger ’91 … so many that I think we have a national chapter. I wanted a small school / big city option, and Rhodes was (is!) perfect. All of us from Mobile were able to hang out with each other but also develop other friendships. Some of us shared rides home on break or helped transport much needed school and dorm supplies from parents.
AR: Was being a lawyer always a part of your plans while you were here?
MCI: It was always something at the top of my list, but my internship at the CASA Office (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and subsequent year-long employment there after I graduated, solidified my plans to practice law. I fell in love with Memphis from the moment I arrived and want nothing more than to commit myself to this community personally and in the work that I do.
AR: Do you have any advice for current and future students who are thinking about going into law as well?
MCI: For LSAT preparation, take logic AND pay attention. For the practice of law, take some courses in all of the social sciences, psychology, sociology, anthropology as well as philosophy and religion… because in your practice, you will go back to what you learned in these areas again and again.
AR: Can you talk about your new role as County Attorney? What type of work will you be doing and how this is different from your previous positions?
MCI: It’s a ton of work, but it’s very rewarding to develop an understanding of how this county runs. We are the largest county in Tennessee. My office represents all county-elected officials (e.g., the Mayor, the commissioners, some judges, clerks, trustee, assessor, and so on). We also represent all boards and commissions (e.g., the beer board, the board of equalization, air pollution control and so on). When I say “represent,” I mean that we usually handle all litigation matters (unless there is a conflict of interest or specialized legal expertise is required), and we assist them in the formation and approval process for contracts, and generally, we make ourselves available to answer legal questions. The Chief Ethics Officer for the County is also an attorney in my office. Previous County Attorneys have remarked that their real master is the Shelby County Charter, which was adopted by Shelby County citizens because they sought home rule in lieu of relying on the state legislature in Nashville. The County Attorney is charged with advising the Mayor and the County Commission about the separation of their powers under the Charter.
AR: How was it being asked by the newly elected Mayor, Lee Harris, to accept the role? Was there any hesitation on your part?
MCI: It was an honor. The process leading up to his phone call is all a blur. I was nervous, excited, anxious, nauseous, and exhilarated. It was so nice to have friends and family (close and distant) reach out and support me, both privately and publicly. If I had any hesitation it was about leaving my job as a magistrate judge at juvenile court because I was doing such good work there helping children.
AR: In your time as an attorney, what has been your proudest accomplishment?
MCI: I have to say that the work I’ve done as a magistrate judge is the work I am most proud of thus far in my legal career. So much goes on at juvenile court. I’ve often explained it as: “Take all the bad things that can happen to a child; those are the cases that we hear at juvenile court. For example, I’ve seen kids enter the system in a custody dispute, and I’ve converted their cases to dependency and neglect cases due to life traumas that they were experiencing (such as hunger, educational neglect, abandonment, torture, and drug exposure to name a few). I’ve seen some of the finest attorneys in this County practice law before me as guardian ad litems for these children and court appointed counsel for their parents. Everyone is drawn to find the best path forward for the child and the family.”
AR: What sort of things do you like to do when not practicing law?
MCI: I’m easy. I like to eat, drink some wine on occasion, hang out with friends and family, and travel. I love hanging out with my husband, Max, and all four of our kids. My favorite place in the whole world is my side of the bed and a good book after a long day.