McGuireWoods’ Tennille Checkovich Joins Smithfield Foods as Deputy GC

October 6, 2020

McGuireWoods Richmond partner Tennille Checkovich joined firm client Smithfield Foods as deputy general counsel for litigation, effective Oct. 1, 2020.

In Checkovich, Smithfield gains an accomplished attorney familiar with the company’s litigation portfolio. She has been part of the McGuireWoods teams representing Smithfield since 2007, when the firm was hired to defend the company in nuisance litigation in Missouri.

Checkovich has since handled a variety of matters for the company, including coordinating and litigating the defense of more than 500 agricultural nuisance claims pending in 26 cases in federal court in North Carolina. She recently led a McGuireWoods team that won dismissal of a nuisance suit against Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and she has been instrumental in the company’s efforts to pass new legislation protecting farmers around the country from destructive nuisance litigation.

Smithfield is expanding and restructuring its law department and Checkovich said she is excited to be part of that process as the company’s deputy general counsel.

“This is an opportunity to work for a client with whom I’ve had a strong and positive relationship for over a decade,” she said.

Checkovich joined McGuireWoods in 2004 and was a member of the firm’s Business & Securities Litigation Department and its appellate and class action practices. She also chaired the firm’s Richmond pro bono committee. Last year, the Bar Association of the City of Richmond recognized her with the John C. Kenny Pro Bono Award for representing incarcerated youth in serious-offender review hearings and for work on the Stinnie v. Holcomb appeal challenging Virginia’s practice of suspending driver’s licenses of individuals who cannot pay court fees and fines.

Checkovich argued the Stinnie case at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Virginia General Assembly later passed a measure to end the automatic license suspensions. Checkovich said the victory on behalf of indigent plaintiffs was “transformational” and a highlight of her McGuireWoods career.

“Tennille’s dedication to the firm and her clients — be they Fortune 500 companies or vulnerable citizens — makes us all immensely proud,” said partner Jonathan Blank, chair of McGuireWoods’ Business & Securities Litigation Department and a driving force behind the legal challenge to Virginia’s license suspension policy. “We know she will thrive at Smithfield Foods and look forward to working with her in her new role.”

“Tennille’s tenure at McGuireWoods is defined by excellence and we can’t thank her enough for her contributions to the firm and our clients,” said managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV. “We wish her great success as she begins a new chapter in her career.”

Checkovich said she is grateful for the support and mentorship of firm leaders including Walker, who helped her develop her appellate practice; Blank; Dion Hayes, deputy managing partner for litigation; partner Samuel Tarry, former chair of the Products, Environmental & Mass Tort Litigation Department; partner Matt Mathews; and partner Joe Reid, who tried the firm’s first Smithfield nuisance case with Checkovich in 2007.

“I have been fortunate at the firm to have numerous sponsors who have supported me throughout my career,” she said, adding that she would advise younger lawyers to “make sure you seek out mentors and sponsors with different personalities and backgrounds so you have the benefit of their varied perspectives.”