Martesha Johnson Moore (’08)

Category: Alumni Promise | Awards

2023 Alumni Promise Award Winner

Martesha Johnson Moore serves as the Nashville Metropolitan Chief Public Defender, the first African-American to be elected to the position. Passionate about serving others, Moore was determined to become a public defender since interning with the Nashville Public Defender’s office in 2007. She has devoted her career to public defense work, fueled by observing firsthand the many injustices experienced by poor and marginalized individuals in the criminal legal system. Moore is a skilled trial lawyer and proven leader; prior to her election, she served as training director and member of the special litigation unit, primarily focused on representing clients charged with serious felonies. She has served as team leader in two criminal courts, summer intern coordinator, and member of several committees related to recruitment, retention, and policy development in the Nashville Defender’s Office.

Moore is a proud Nashville native who received her education in Metro Nashville Public Schools and graduated with the highest honors from Tennessee State University, where she was a Sophisticated Lady in the Grammy award winning “Aristocrat of Bands.” She additionally graduated from UT’s College of Law, where she was recognized as the Julian Blackshear, Jr. outstanding student and honored for her public service work.

During her first term as Chief Public Defender, Moore increased the Nashville Defender’s office’s staff and budget, advocated for bail reform in the local court system, and led the Nashville Bar Association. She is an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School, the immediate past president of the Nashville Bar Association, and a board member for the National Association of Public Defenders. She is additionally a defender council member for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, a member of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Lawyer’s Association for Women, and a member of the Napier Looby Bar Association. Moore was nominated for and served as a member of the 2016-2017 Nashville Bar Foundation Leadership Forum Class and the 2019 Tennessee Bar Association Leadership Law Class. Additionally, Moore was a member of the inaugural class of Emerge Tennessee, the premier campaign training program for Democratic women, and a 2021 graduate of Leadership Nashville and Gideon’s Promise, a program designed to train and develop public defenders. She was recognized as a 40 under 40 professional by the Nashville Business Journal, UT, Alpha Kappa Alpha Southeastern Region, and Tennessee State University. In her spare time, Moore enjoys spending time with her husband Derrick and their children, reading, and traveling.