William H. Farmer

Bill Farmer, a native Nashvillian, has been a trial lawyer practicing in Middle Tennessee since 1974. He was a founding partner of Farmer Purcell White & Lassiter, PLLC, and now serves Belcher Sykes Harrington in an Of Counsel capacity.  He has extensive experience in civil and criminal cases, bench and jury trials and appellate practice before all Tennessee and federal tribunals in the state. His practice places emphasis on commercial, tort, probate and criminal litigation, land condemnation matters and attorney discipline matters.

From 1974 to 1978, Mr. Farmer served as an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Representing the Government in 32 mid-state counties, Mr. Farmer successfully prosecuted to verdict over 60 federal jury trials. He also handled numerous land condemnation cases dealing with lake impoundments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1978, he was appointed the first Federal Public Defender for the Middle District of Tennessee by the Judicial Council of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a post he held until 1984. Mr. Farmer was selected by his peers across the country to be the representative of the Federal Defender program in testimony before Congress related to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. His office handled over 2,000 criminal cases during this period.

From 1984 until 1986, Mr. Farmer served as Advocate General for the State of Tennessee. As the chief litigator in the Attorney General’s Office, Mr. Farmer handled a wide variety of cases, representing the State of Tennessee before all tribunals.

Mr. Farmer has been actively engaged in the private practice of law in Nashville since 1986 and continues to handle a wide variety of matters, including a focus on land condemnation. He has vast experience in the area of eminent domain as an advocate for businesses and individuals whose property is being taken through condemnation, as an attorney for taking authorities, and as a hearing officer deciding condemnation cases. Mr. Farmer began his experience in this area representing the Corps of Engineers on lake impoundments at Percy Priest, Dale Hollow, Old Hickory and Center Hill Dams in 1974 and, later in his career, has represented various oil and gas pipeline companies in resolving issues with landowners concerning easements across private property. Mr. Farmer has successfully represented numerous landowners in disputes with the Tennessee Department of Transportation concerning the taking of their property for State highway projects, as well as the taking of easements by the Piedmont Natural Gas Company.  He has also represented landowners in matters against the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority  (MDHA) involving the relocation of businesses due to the Tennessee Titans (NFL football team) move to Nashville. From 1986 until 2012, Mr. Farmer served as Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Land Commission. In this role, Mr. Farmer conducted hundreds of hearings involving disputes between landowners and the TVA concerning power line and pipeline easements. These disputes universally involved the amount of just compensation due the landowners and required assessment of real estate appraisers’ opinions of the fair market value of the property in question. His Commission’s reports to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee over the course of his tenure as Chairman were rarely appealed and even more rarely modified.

From 1984 through 1987, and again from 2000 through 2003, Mr. Farmer served as a director of the Nashville Bar Association; he also was President of the Federal Bar Association in 1981 and 1982, and the National Chairman of the Federal Defender Advisory Committee in 1983 and 1984. He served as a hearing officer for the Board of Professional Responsibility from 1985 to 1992.  Mr. Farmer is a master emeritus of the Harry Phillips Chapter of the American Inns of Court.  He is a fellow of both the Nashville and Tennessee Bar Foundations. He is also a member of the Nashville and Tennessee Bar Associations.

Mr. Farmer was a charter member of the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission and has served as its Chairman. During the fifteen years of his service on this Commission Mr. Farmer participated in the process of filling vacancies on the Tennessee Judiciary. As a Commissioner, he interviewed and recommended candidates for all trial and appellate courts, including the Tennessee Supreme Court. Mr. Farmer served in this post during the administrations of three Governors.

Mr. Farmer is recognized in The Best Lawyers in America, a national peer-review survey, and is listed in that publication’s 2002 through current editions.

From 1999 to the present, Mr. Farmer has served as the Chairman of the Metropolitan Nashville Civil Service Commission, spanning the administrations of four Mayors of the City.

Mr. Farmer received his Bachelor of Science degree from Austin Peay State University in 1971. In 1974, he received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Tennessee. He is certified by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy to be a trial advocacy instructor, completing his training at Harvard Law School in 1985. He has continually taught trial advocacy as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University Law School since 1985.

Community activities include service as chairman of the Board of Trust of Father Ryan High School, Christ the King school board chairman and member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Justice Center. Mr. Farmer also serves on the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities of Tennessee.

William H. Farmer


Bar Admissions

Practice Areas
Condemnation and Eminent Domain, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death and Tort, Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Criminal Defense, Estate Planning and Probate