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Supreme Court Names Long Next AOC Director

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced today that Deputy Director Michelle Long will become the next Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). Long was appointed Deputy Director in 2019 and has over 25 years of experience in private practice, government, and in-house counsel offices.  Current AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate announced earlier this month that she will be leaving the AOC in early 2022.

“Since she began at the AOC, Michelle has been impressive in every way,” Chief Justice Roger Page said. “Her calm and disciplined leadership style is a perfect fit for the judiciary and her vast knowledge of the workings of Tennessee state government was invaluable during the pandemic.  She has the perfect mix of skills to lead the AOC as the courts continue to modernize and evolve.”

The mission of the AOC is to promote the effective and efficient administration of justice in the state of Tennessee. Over the past several years, the court system has made substantial steps in modernizing by making investments in infrastructure and technology as well as new and expanded education programs and approaches to court services like court reporters, mediation, interpreters, and diversion programs.  The opioid epidemic and the Covid-19 pandemic, both of which have impacted every court in the state, pushed many courts to pivot and innovate further to effectively deliver needed services to their constituents. The expanded utilization of diversion programs, including the development of Safe Baby Courts and creation of alternatives to traditional drug recovery courts, the implementation of time and cost-saving virtual proceedings, and the expanded collection and dissemination of data has created a seismic shift in the administration of justice in the state.

“Each role Michelle has held — both in her public and private positions — prepared her to be the chief executive officer of the Tennessee judiciary at this moment in time” Director Tate said.  “She arrived just as Covid hit and was instrumental in working with the executive branch to enable a nimble and extraordinary response to this global pandemic. She also led the AOC through its first ever strategic planning initiative and now leads the ongoing systemic response to the impact of Covid upon our courts at every level. She has been an extraordinary partner — at the AOC and in many different roles throughout our professional careers — and is the perfect choice to lead the court system in these continued challenging times.”

Prior to joining the AOC, Long served as the Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Health Licensure and Regulation for the Tennessee Department of Health for seven years. She provided executive leadership in all aspects of licensure, discipline, and regulation of over 350,000 health care professionals in the state. She directed several critical information technology projects, including replacement of the licensure database and increased utilization of the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database to better track and monitor prescribing and dispensing in the state.

Previously, Long served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the Tennessee Hospital Association, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and Legal Counsel to former Governor Don Sundquist.

The AOC was not Long’s first interaction with the judiciary. In 2015, she was appointed by then Governor Bill Haslam to the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, which recommends candidates for the appellate courts, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board and the Tennessee Claims Commission.

“I have always believed it is a privilege to be entrusted to serve the citizens of Tennessee,” Long said. “But, as an attorney, it is an absolute honor to now serve the Tennessee Supreme Court and all courts across the state, as we serve hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who rely upon our courts to seek justice, have disputes resolved, and receive other assistance when in need.  Over the past two years, I have seen up close the innerworkings of the judicial system and I have the utmost respect for everyone involved. I look forward to working with great people to turn every challenge into an opportunity to improve and thrive.”

The AOC supports a state court system that has over 700 employees and a budget of over $170 million. Long will provide direct oversight to six divisions within the AOC, including Access, Innovation and Community Engagement; Communications and Judicial Resources; Fiscal Services; Information Technology Services; Intergovernmental Affairs; and Legal Services and Judicial Development as well as supporting multiple boards and commissions. The AOC provides essential education and resources to every judge, court employee, court clerk, and mediator in the state as well as attorneys and the general public.

Long earned her law degree from the University of Tennessee and her bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University. She will begin her new position on February 1, 2022.