Kelly served two back-to-back terms as president of the Dyer County Bar Association. It was then, six years ago, that he spearheaded the project to move Dyer County out of the western section of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. After six long years, his determination finally paid off.
"A lot of people can drive to Jackson easier than Memphis, it's that simple," said Kelly. "When I started practicing law here, the Federal District Court held Federal Court in Dyersburg, but it was later moved."
The western division of United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee encompasses Lauderdale, Tipton, Shelby and Fayette counties. The eastern division is made up of all the remaining counties in West Tennessee and residents there must report to federal court in Jackson.
Residents of the western section of the district have to go to federal court in Memphis. This meant that Dyer County residents had to drive two hours to Memphis to serve on federal jury duty, rather than drive one hour to the federal court in Jackson. To prove the point of how far Memphis is, Dyer County residents were the only residents that were offered hotel rooms when they served on a federal jury.
The feat of moving Dyer County out of the western section took an actual "act of congress" to come to fruition. Congressman John Tanner was indispensable in helping the measure pass. Also, the move would not have been possible if not for the cooperation of Federal Judge James Todd (now senior status), Judge Breen, other federal judges, the United States Attorney's Office, magistrates and employees of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, both in Memphis and Jackson.
"Now if the federal grand jury indicts you or you initiate a lawsuit or serve on a federal jury you only have to drive to Jackson," said Kelly.
Though Kelly initially believed Dyer County's move would be rather quick and easy, he soon learned that not all institutions move speedily in the right direction. He saw something that defied common sense and wanted it rectified simply for the good of the residents of Dyer County. This is exactly the characteristic that should embody all attorneys.