By Rachel O’Brien
Deputy Policy Editor, OpenTheBooks.com
Would you want Nashville’s top public defender to represent you in court?
Nashville Chief Public Defender Martesha Johnson owes almost $825 in unpaid parking tickets, some written as long as three years ago. And she’s forcing the county into expensive, taxpayer-paid litigation as the county tries to collect her tickets.
The six parking tickets, details of which were provided to OpenTheBooks.com through a Tennessee Public Records Act request, will be reviewed on Sept. 29 in Davidson County traffic court, according to the Nashville Metro Traffic Violations Bureau.
As the Public Defender, Johnson makes $166,526 per year. In addition, her biography states that she is currently an adjunct professor at the Vanderbilt Law School. So, we conservatively estimate that she makes nearly $250,000 per year in salary, perks, and pension benefits from multiple income sources.
Johnson, 39, was re-elected on Aug. 4 to a second four-year term beginning on Sept. 1. Neither she nor her spokesperson replied to emails or returned phone calls requesting comment.
According to the traffic violations bureau records, Johnson, whose birthdate and home address were confirmed to match those on the tickets, received the six tickets for expired parking meters between Aug. 21, 2019, and March 5, 2021.
“We didn’t get a response on those tickets,” said Bill Cartwright, chief clerk of the traffic violations bureau. “After a certain period of time that we don’t get a response, we pursue a subpoena and try to obtain a judgement on the outstanding parking tickets.”
Johnson was served on June 16, according to the bureau, and given the option to pay or appear in court. She chose the latter, according to the bureau. On her Sept. 29 court date, Johnson will appear before a general sessions judge.
While the tickets were $26 when they were issued, fines have pushed them to $137.25 each, according to the bureau.
Johnson also received two speeding tickets, one on Feb. 3, 2013, for traveling 75 mph in a 55 speed zone, and one on Feb. 26, 2018, for traveling 71 mph in a 50 speed zone, according to the bureau.
She attended online driving classes for each, paying no fine, but paying $129 in administrative and school fees each time, the bureau stated.
A third resolved ticket was issued on Oct. 21, 2021, but the police officer didn’t mark what the violation was, so the ticket was dropped, according to records.
Also provided in the Tennessee Public Records Act request response was a resolved speeding ticket received by District Attorney General Glenn R. Funk on Aug 29, 2018, for driving 26 mph in 15 speed zone.
Asked whether the location was in a school speed zone, Cartwright noted the address was 700 Broadway, which is the location of Hume-Fogg Academic High School and indeed a school zone.
Like Johnson, Funk attended an online driving course and paid no fine but paid a $129 administrative and school fee.
Ken Whitehouse, a spokesman for Funk, acknowledged that the DA received the ticket and attended the online course.