News

Legal Aid Hires 2 for Immigrant and Refugee Outreach

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has hired two people to work with immigrant and refugee outreach. Jarod Word joins Legal Aid Society's Volunteer Lawyers Program, where he will be tasked with building new community partnerships to expand the program’s immigrant and refugee outreach. Guadalupe Betanzos comes to Legal Aid Society's Nashville office as a bilingual victim advocate. Fluent in both English and Spanish, she will work with victims of domestic violence in a two-county territory with a focus on immigrant populations.

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Legal Aid Gets $55,000 Grant for Medical-Legal Partnership

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has received a $55,000 grant from Baptist Healing Trust to support its Medical-Legal Partnership program, a collaboration with United Neighborhood Health Services and Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. Medical-legal partnerships bring civil legal aid to health care locations and train medical staff to recognize legal issues that can adversely impact patients’ health. Increasing awareness about the success of these partnerships is one of TBA President Jonathan Steen’s goals for the year. This month's issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal looks at how these partnerships work.

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Learn About Immigration Executive Actions at Pro Bono CLE

Lawyers interested in learning more about President Obama’s recent immigration executive actions should plan to attend a free CLE this Thursday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center. The session is sponsored by Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the TBA and its Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative. Those in attendance will receive an overview of new and expanded administrative relief available to undocumented immigrants. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean also will be on hand to speak about how the program is impacting Nashville communities. Register by email or contact Bethany Jackson with any questions.

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Online Legal Advice Site Marks New Use Record

Tennessee’s innovative “Online TN Justice” website reached a significant milestone this week, with 8,000 questions posted by clients since launch of the service in 2011. This accomplishment more than doubles the original goal, which was to field 1,000 questions per year, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) reports. In addition to helping thousands of Tennesseans, OTJ’s impact also is being felt around the country. Five states have launched similar services while four others are preparing to implement the program. OTJ is a project of TALS, the TBA, the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and Baker Donelson. More than 400 Tennessee lawyers have volunteered to provide pro bono legal assistance through the website.

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Rep. Johnson to Address Veterans’ Court

Montgomery County General Sessions Court Judge Kenneth R. Goble Jr. and the Veterans Treatment Court he oversees will hold a graduation ceremony for those completing the program, Business & Heritage Clarksville reports. The event will take place Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. at the Montgomery County Court Complex in Clarksville. State Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, will be the guest speaker.

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Memphis Law Recognized for Innovative Clinic

The University of Memphis School of Law’s Housing Adjudication Clinic has been recognized as one of the most innovative student clinics around the country by the National Jurist. The January issue of the magazine highlights 15 clinics, including the Memphis program, which offers students the opportunity to conduct investigations and draft written opinions on administrative appeals from the Memphis Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. As part of the clinic, students also presented workshops and training sessions to Section 8 participants. The clinic exposed students to complex administrative regulations and procedures while helping them develop client rapport, the magazine states.

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Lipscomb Clinic Set for Jan. 20

The Lipscomb Legal Clinic will hold its first advice clinic of 2015 on Jan. 20 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church. Volunteers are needed. Contact Randy Spivey, academic director for the school’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, at (615) 966-2503 for more information or download this flyer.

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350 Issues Later, 'Journal' Looks Back Over 50 Years

The Tennessee Bar Journal celebrates the Big Five-Oh this year, publishing its 350th issue this month. Each issue of 2015 will feature a stroll down memory lane -- in January, in conjunction with the magazine's Access to Justice emphasis, it looks at how the bar's view of pro bono has changed over the years. Also, columnist Marlene Eskind Moses looks at criminal contempt in family law asking "Can criminal contempt create compliance?"

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West Tennessee Legal Aid Group Seeks Director

West Tennessee Legal Services (WTLS) is seeking an executive director to oversee its operations serving low-income residents in 17 rural counties. The position, located in the Jackson office, is open due to the retirement of WTLS’ long serving executive director. Applicants should possess a law degree, Tennessee law license and a passion for serving vulnerable populations. Interested candidates should submit the following by Feb. 15: a cover letter addressing why they are interested in the position and how they would contribute to the future of WTLS, a current resume and three professional references. Questions about the position should be directed to H2 Consultants, (859) 494-4760.

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ABA President to Visit Memphis Next Week

American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard will be in Memphis next week to address the Downtown Rotary Club and stop by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) to speak with staff members and express the ABA’s appreciation for their service. MALS Executive Director Harrison McIver said the visit recognizes the “important and essential work our staff plays in providing legal assistance to those in need.” Read more from the group.

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Baker Donelson Sponsors Legal Clinic Saturday

The Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz will sponsor the monthly Saturday legal clinic at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library this Saturday in Memphis. The library is located at 3030 Poplar Ave. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon. It is open and free to the public. The Saturday clinics operate on a first come, first serve basis and are held the second Saturday of every month at the library. MALS has more in this media release.

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ABA Highlights Online TN Justice

Tennessee's innovative Online TN Justice pro bono platform is featured in the ABA Pro Bono Year in Review. A joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association, the system allows qualified clients to post a legal question and get it answered by private attorneys volunteering their time. The ABA Center for Pro Bono’s tech guru Bill Jones highlighted how the technology platform from, fittingly, the Volunteer State, was being replicated elsewhere. Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota and South Carolina have adopted it to their own needs, while several more states are exploring the idea.

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Program Allows Indigent Defendants to Pick Own Lawyer

A pilot program in Texas is evaluating what happens when indigent defendants are given the ability to choose their own attorneys at government expense. The issue of trust has long been part of a larger discussion about the quality of indigent defense in the United States, the Associated Press writes. Without enough money to hire their own lawyer, defendants may be suspicious that court-appointed attorneys provide a poor defense or try to coerce a quick guilty plea. The experimental program will test whether defendants have a better experience, whether lawyers are more engaged with clients, whether any constitutional issues arise and whether the concept can be adapted to other jurisdictions. The Greeneville Sun has the AP story.

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Lawyer Develops Crowdfunding Site for Legal Costs

Chicago attorney Michael Helfand considered himself an entrepreneur, but as part of his "Find Great Lawyers" online legal referral service, he spent a lot of time “explaining to nice people with otherwise promising cases that they needed to come up with money they didn’t have to hire the right attorney.” After reading an article about crowdfunding, he launched Funded Justice – a site that allows individuals to raise funds to cover their legal costs through donations or loans. Hefland writes about his effort in Chicago’s Real Law Blog.

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Final Lipscomb Clinic of 2014 Set for Next Tuesday

The next, and final Lipscomb University legal clinic of the year will take place Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at St. James Missionary Baptist Church. The church is located at 600 28th Ave. N., Nashville 37209. To volunteer contact Randy Spivey, academic director for the school’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, at (615) 966-2503 or randy.spivey@lipscomb.edu.

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VA Training, Advocacy Session Set for Next Tuesday

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) will sponsor a training and advocacy seminar on Dec. 16 for lawyers who want to handle pro bono cases for veterans. The session will take place at the University of Memphis School of Law from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following the training, a panel discussion will explore the legal problems that veterans and their families face, and look at practices that have been utilized by MALS’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program. RSVP to Cuba Westbrooks, (901) 432-7524 by Friday. The event is also open and free to the public.

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Volunteer Lawyers Program Presents 2014 Pro Bono Leadership Award

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands’ Volunteer Lawyers Program presented its annual Pro Bono Leadership Award to the Nashville Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (NBA/YLD) last night at the NBA’s Annual Banquet. The award recognizes the NBA/YLD’s ongoing support of a legal clinic at Casa Azafrán, which provides free legal assistance every month to Nashville’s immigrant and refugee communities. Twenty lawyers from the NBA/YLD have worked with the Volunteer Lawyers Program since the first clinic was held at Casa Azafrán in May.

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Clark, Blaze Praise Legal Aid Work

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark yesterday honored the work of Legal Aid of East Tennessee at a Johnson City event. She was joined by legislators, local attorneys and Access to Justice Commission Chair Douglas Blaze in thanking the staff for the civil legal services they provide to low-income citizens, the Johnson City Press reports. In addressing the group, Clark said pro bono work has been a fulfilling part of her life so she is quick to recognize when others make the same effort. Blaze, who also serves as dean of the University of Tennessee law school, praised the work of legal aid and the private bar, though he said some 1.5 million Tennesseans still go without legal assistance each year.

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State Spends Millions to Save Emails for Lawsuits

Tennessee state agencies are spending millions of dollars on email storage, in many cases because court orders direct them to preserve evidence, Nashville Public Radio reports. The Department of Children’s Services, for example, spends at least $865,000 a year to store email records, while TennCare spends more than $1 million a year to transfer and store emails connected to a number of lawsuits. Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center – which has sued the state on behalf of TennCare patients – defended the costs saying the protection is necessary to ensure state agencies do not destroy potential evidence.

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Holder to Chair MALS Fundraising Campaign

Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder will serve as chair of Memphis Area Legal Services’ (MALS) 2015 Campaign for Equal Justice, the agency announced today. MALS Executive Director/CEO Harrison D. McIver III said Holder was selected to lead the group’s annual fundraising effort given her longtime commitment to access to justice issues and the prominent role she played in making those issues a priority for the court. Read more in a press release issued today.

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LAS Gets Videoconference Grant

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has received a $78,862 Technology Initiative Grant from Legal Services Corporation. The grant money will support videoconferencing technology, which will allow staff to connect with volunteer attorneys and clients across the agency’s 48-county service area. Gary Housepian, executive director of LAS, says the technology will help the agency overcome geographical challenges to serve clients “just as privately and securely as if they were in the same conference room.”

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NBA Seeking Lawyers to Represent Protestors

The National Bar Association (NBA) is seeking attorneys who are licensed to practice in Missouri or are willing to be admitted on a Pro Hac Vice basis to assist those arrested during protests related to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. Services include conducting jail visits or providing legal advice and/or representation. To learn more about ways to help contact Aramis Donell Ayala, chair of the NBA Pro Bono Committee.

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Study: 60% of Needy Tennesseans Face Legal Problems

Sixty percent of vulnerable Tennesseans face a significant civil legal need, though only 25 percent are aware of resources to help find a lawyer, and even fewer know where to find free services.Those are some of the findings from a new study commissioned by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, with the support of the Tennessee Bar Association, The analysis also found that less than 40 percent of respondents sought any help pursuing legal recourse for their issues, and a third of those decided to navigate the system on their own. The study is the first analysis of legal needs in the state since 2003 and shows that roughly the same number of low-income Tennesseans continue to experience civil legal issues. “We have many ways of providing services to those in need,” Commission Chair Douglas Blaze said. “We hope this study will help lead us to the most effective way to make those services available.” Read more from the court, access the full study or read a summary of the report.

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Legal Aid Names New Medical-Legal Director

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has named Audrey Dorrough Seamon as director of the Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership. Seamon has worked at LAS since January 2013, primarily representing domestic violence victims in areas of family, juvenile and elder law. In her new job, she will oversee program operations and support partnerships, which include United Neighborhood Health Services (UNHS) and Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. Read more in this release from the group.

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