A new law spearheaded by Portland’s William Lamberth allows crime victims in Tennessee to ask for a lifetime order of protection from the court system.
Lamberth, who serves as House Majority Leader in the Tennessee House of Representatives, carried House Bill 0434, which was signed into law and became effective on July 1. The bill received unanimous support in both the House (88-0) and Senate (32-0).
Lamberth was inspired to propose the bill by the example of Nikki Goeser, whose husband was murdered at a Nashville restaurant in April of 2009.
“I’m just helping her through the process,” Lamberth said. “She reached out to my office because she used to work at the legislature. She knows that I work on a lot of criminal justice issues and am constantly looking at ways to support victims and survivors of violent crime.”
The killer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Since going to prison though, he has attempted to send unwanted love letters to Goeser.
“She was very concerned about the fact she was getting letters from the man who killed her husband, right in front of her,” Lamberth said. “They went to her former attorney’s office, but he was trying to send them to her. Thankfully, he doesn’t have her address.”
Lamberth also has been guiding Goeser through the process of obtaining a lifetime protection order in a private capacity as an attorney.
“If I get an order of protection, I have to renew it every year,” Lamberth said. “That planted a seed in my mind of, ‘Why should a victim have to do that?’ So I filed a bill to create a lifetime order of protection, and it received unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats at the legislature.”
Goeser testified before legislators in favor of the bill, which was approved and signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee in March. She has already applied for what would be Tennessee’s first lifetime order of protection through the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk’s office, and that request is scheduled to be heard by a judge later this month.
“This is something she’s very passionate about, and I’m helping her as an attorney, pro bono,” Lamberth said. “Just to make sure it’s properly filed with the court system, but the clerks have been very helpful to make sure that happens. As an attorney, I want to make sure it’s handled properly as well.”
In addition to HB 0434, Lamberth sponsored other bills related to crime that were adopted by the state legislature in the 2021 session. HB0555, the Spencer Bristol Act, increases the penalty for evading arrest to a Class C felony if a law-enforcement officer is injured and to a Class A felony if an officer is killed. That bill is named for a Hendersonville officer killed in 2019 while pursuing a suspect.
Lamberth also sponsored HB 0430, which requires those convicted of aggravated child rape to serve 100% of their sentence before being released, along with lifetime supervision after release.
“I’ve spent nine years serving as a state legislator,” Lamberth said. “I’ve tried to improve laws that ensure criminals are held accountable for their actions and victims are protected. When someone is victimized by crime, that lasts with them forever. They need to know that our system has their back.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.