He told the crowd, “She’s like my daughter.”
As a lawyer and former judge, Tommy Greer never said anything half-way. Always sincere and straightforward, the late Greer meant every word as he addressed the local Carroll County crowd about his strong support for Erica Tisinger who is running for state court judge in the upcoming election.
Greer, who died two weeks after his speech from a tragic automobile accident — and quite possibly had the largest attended funeral ever gathered in our community — recognized Erica’s talents as a young apprentice.
“She’s petite, but tough,” Greer said. “She argued a case in front of the Tennessee Court of Appeals on a Tuesday and gave birth to her son Harrison on that upcoming Saturday. She learned at an early age through adversity. And through adversity, you can grow character and she indeed is very rich in character.”
She grew up on the outer banks in North Carolina in a loving and faith-filled family. We never know what life will bring no matter what age. Unfortunately, Erica had a front row seat to struggle at age 7.
“My father was severely injured by a drunk driver, and that was my introduction into the legal world,” said Erica. “Since my parents had no one to watch my siblings and me at such a young age, we attended the attorney meetings. I watched my parents being lied to and taken advantage of. I watched my father’s reaction when he found out his attorney committed malpractice and he thought he had no other recourse and was devastated.”
Erica’s family lost every possession it had.
“I understand having to make choices on how to support your family’s needs and pay bills,” she continued. “Through my childhood years, I watched as we lost our house and the sheriff put the lock on the door; I watched as cars were towed out of our driveway by the repo man; I sat in the dark when our power was cut off; and I watched as my parents continued to make choices to pay for the necessities of life. Sometimes, that meant paying the power bill instead of paying a traffic ticket and knowing what the repercussions of failing to pay either meant. All of these challenges taught me to have compassion for others and to learn how to listen and attempt to solve problems.”
Her front row to struggle became her front row seat to perseverance.
“I paid attention as my parents prayed, worked hard, and continued to help others no matter how little we had,” said Erica. “My parents wanted more for me, and they wanted me to be able to respond when tragedy hit. Their answer was that a good education was the ticket to a better future.”
She became the first person in her family to attend college. It wouldn’t be easy as she balanced the rigorous academic environment at the University of North Carolina by supporting herself with various jobs that led to her strong, unwavering work ethic. After graduation, she took the next step to earn her law degree from Mercer University where she also met her future husband, Joel Tisinger.
At a very early age, Erica knew she wanted to be a judge.
“As I was interested in one day becoming a judge, I sought a judicial clerkship through which I could be exposed to civil and criminal law from the perspective of the judge,” said Erica. “I was successful in that search, and my first job out of law school was as a staff attorney for two state court judges. I attended all court hearings, researched motions, and drafted orders for the judges’ review. I am the only candidate with that firsthand experience and invaluable insight into the inner workings of state court.”
After her clerkship, she served as an administrative law judge hearing Medicaid appeals.
“I am the only candidate that has experience as a judge,” she said. “My next position was as in-house litigation counsel for an international insurance company. One of the main types of civil cases heard in state court are personal injury/insurance defense cases, the exact types of cases I handled. I represented thousands of clients as lead counsel, recommended settling valid claims at what they were worth, and obtained successful bench trial and jury trial verdicts.”
Upon moving to Carroll County, Tommy Greer offered Erica a job. Family law was the area where he needed help.
“When she first came to me, I told her we were full — her office would be a broom closet,” said Greer. “The very first thing she did for me was to write a 25-page brief in a very complex case. It’s the only brief in my 45 years in law written for me where I didn’t have to edit or change one word.”
She worked hard and through her strong work ethic soon became a partner at what is now the local law firm Greer Tisinger, LLC.
“Erica has worked hard and has given so much to our community,” said her pastor Dr. Steve Davis at First Baptist Church. “She and her family are active members in our church where she currently serves as a deacon. She’s also served on various committees and taught Sunday school for both adults and children.”
Furthermore, Erica has served on other local boards such as Circles of West Georgia, Tanner Medical Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes, The Community Foundation of West Georgia, The Boys & Girls Club and the Carrollton Rotary Club.
“My childhood hero was another lawyer who reached out to my parents to help after learning of their situation,” said Erica. “In my eyes, he made everything right and created a desire in me to become a lawyer and a judge so I could help people too.”
That is evident not only in the courtroom but also outside as she continues to serve on the board of Carroll County CASA, which she has chaired. CASA, according to Greer, “is the best thing to ever happen to juvenile court judges because its court appointed special advocates make sure these kids see that the plan works.”
“There’s an old song called ‘Show Me the Shape of Your Heart,’ and through the years I’ve worked with her enough to see the shape of her heart,” said Greer. “By that I mean she’s got enough tenacity, she’s got a great work ethic, great judgment and the ability to make tough decisions even if it hurts, and she’s got enough heart to give somebody a chance. And that’s what you want on the bench…and in the end—to do what’s right.”
Our world has changed since this election season began. There are thousands of people in our communities who are struggling with the loss of income and the rise in prices. Many have grown up without loving parents and a strong support group. Unfortunately, many will make the wrong decisions and one day face a judge.
Hopefully, they will face a judge who knows hardship and struggle, yet most of all possesses the grit to know there’s always a way out—a way out to a better, productive life. It’s not only about how hard one can hit. But as Rocky Balboa once said, “how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Don’t forget to vote.