Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 26, 2022

‘Retired’ Mattice returns to private practice

Building own firm after 15 years on the federal bench

Sandy Mattice has opened The Mattice Group in Chattanooga after 20 years of service in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. - Photograph provided

Sandy Mattice hasn’t carried the title “United States judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee” since Sept. 30 when he stepped down from the bench after 15 years of service.

But that doesn’t mean Mattice, 67, has been basking in the ease of retirement.

Following the unveiling of his portrait at the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Aug. 5, the former U.S. attorney and federal judge announced the opening of The Mattice Group in Chattanooga.

The launch marks Mattice’s return to the private practice of law after 20 years of service in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.

“Serving as a judge has been a privilege, but it was time for me to move on and let someone new do the job,” Mattice explains. “Some people might argue with me, but if I have some life left in me, then let me do something else.”

Mattice’s firm will concentrate on six areas of practice: white collar criminal defense; commercial litigation; mediation; governmental affairs advocacy; crisis management; and investigations.

As someone who’s both led investigations and defended clients against an investigation, Mattice believes he’s well-suited to serve clients in those kinds of cases, whether they involve defending against a government investigation or conducting an internal corporate investigation.

“I’ve seen these cases from all sides,” Mattice notes. “When the government comes knocking, I’ll be available.”

Although it’s been more than 20 years since Mattice has been in private practice, longtime friends, former clients and lawyers with whom he’s worked have sent work and referred potential clients to him. So, he says, he’s busy.

“Having clients is always good for a lawyer, but I feel like I’m building this thing as I’m flying it. So far, so good, though.”

Rather than work from home, Mattice has claimed space on the eighth floor of Republic Centre in downtown Chattanooga. Containing sparse furnishings, it, too, is a work in progress, although his desk is already piled high with papers.

He says he hopes to expand The Mattice Group in the near future with administrative staff and additional attorneys.

“Among the 10,000 things on my mind is hiring an office manager. I hope to also be in a position to hire a lawyer or two to help with the work. But as we sit here today, I’m The Mattice Group.”

With this in mind, Mattice says he’s going to choose cases carefully and avoid taking on more work than he can effectively do.

“I want to be able to devote the necessary time, attention and resources to the work my clients need me to do. The key will be having the right clients and the right work, and doing it effectively and efficiently.”

President George W. Bush appointed Mattice to the bench Nov. 18, 2005. Before his appointment to the judiciary, Mattice served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee from October 2001 to November 2005.

Before assuming office as U.S. attorney, Mattice was a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell in Chattanooga and, before that, a partner with Miller & Martin, also in Chattanooga.

He was engaged in the general practice of law, with an emphasis in business investigations and litigation, securities, tax and regulatory law compliance and white-collar criminal defense.

In 1997, at the request of Sen. Fred Thompson, Judge Mattice served as senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs’ Special Investigation and conducted nationally-televised hearings on alleged illegal and improper activities in connection with the 1996 federal election campaigns.

Despite Mattice’s long history with the law and his return to private practice, colleagues still refer to him as “judge.”

“Appellations stick with you,” he says. “I received a lot of publicity when I worked with Sen. Thompson, and even after I’d been back in Chattanooga for four years, people were still asking if I was in Washington, D.C. It takes a while for folks to adjust.”

Mattice says he’s looking forward to occasionally returning to the courthouse, as he misses the people with whom he worked. Many of them were present during the portrait unveiling, as were dozens of family members, friends and fellow jurists.

As Mattice stood in the courtroom over which he’d presided and saw his portrait alongside those of his predecessors – including the Hons. Leslie Darr, Frank Wilson, Ted Milburn, Allan Edgar and Curtis Collier – he felt humbled.

But he quickly moved on to the reception – and to the next chapter in his life.

“I’m having a great time. Even in my ripe old age, I feel 20 years younger and I’m excited. It’s a challenging but also rewarding time in my life.”