News

Tennessee Equal Justice Works Fellow Advocates for Student Loan Forgiveness

Kirsten Jacobson, a staff attorney at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and an Equal Justice Works fellow, wrote a piece in The Tennessean this week advocating for continuing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The program, which she utilized after graduating from the University of Tennessee College of Law, offers student loan forgiveness to those who perform qualified public service work, including legal aid. Currently Congress is considering eliminating this program, with the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce having already approved the change. 
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Texas Legal Aid Org Seeks Candidate for Nashville-based Legal Fellowship

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid is seeking a fellow as part of the Equal Justice Works Crime Victims Justice Corps. The two-year fellowship would begin this spring if the fellow is already licensed. The Equal Justice Works Crime Victims Justice Corps is a legal fellowship program designed to increase capacity and access to civil legal help for low-income crime victims. The fellow will be supervised by TRLA and based in TRLA’s Nashville office. Please send a cover letter, resume and two references to employment@trla.org. The deadline to apply is May 1.
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TBA Public Service Awards Luncheon This Saturday

The TBA's annual Public Service Luncheon will be held this Saturday at the downtown Nashville DoubleTree Hotel. The luncheon will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m. and will end before 2 p.m. This year's honorees are Daniel Horwitz, who receives the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award, Mary Michelle Gillum, who was named the Ashley Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year, and Alexa Spata, the Law Student Volunteer of the Year. A special award, the Access to Justice Champion Award, will be presented to TBA Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur, in acknowledgement of his accomplishments as a bar leader and as a leader in the access to justice community. The luncheon was originally scheduled for January, but was rescheduled due to bad weather.

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Volunteers Needed for Monroe County Expungement Clinic

Vet to Vet Tennessee and the University of Tennessee College of Law will host a free expungement clinic in Madisonville on April 21 and are seeking attorney volunteers to help out. The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the First Baptist Church of Madisonville and aims to help residents in Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. To sign up to volunteer or ask a question, contact Troy Weston.
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State Remembers King on 50th Anniversary of Death

Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically killed in Memphis, events in commemoration are going on all day and all week in Memphis. Follow events on The Commercial Appeal’s live blog. TBA President Lucian Pera tweeted a call for all Tennessee lawyers to pause at 6:01 p.m., the time Dr. King was shot. Pera's challenge asked attorneys to respond to @TennessseeBar with "one thing you can personally do to help the cause of justice."
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Waller Named New Director at Legal Aid Society

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has named attorney DarKenya W. Waller as its new executive director. Waller, who previously served as managing attorney of the firm’s Nashville office, replaces Gary Housepian, who served as executive director for the last decade. Waller joined Legal Aid Society in 2008 as a staff attorney and was named managing attorney of the Nashville office in 2010. “We conducted a nationwide search for the right person to replace Gary, and in the end, discovered that the best candidate was already with us," said Bob Martineau, president of Legal Aid Society’s Board of Directors. "We’re excited for Legal Aid Society to continue its mission of providing free legal assistance to low-income individuals in our community under DarKenya’s leadership."
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TJC Hosting Mother’s Day Hall of Fame Luncheon

The Tennessee Justice Center has announced a new event honoring mothers and fathers who advocate on behalf of the rights of children, especially those with special needs. The TJC will host its first annual Mother’s Day Luncheon on May 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. Single tickets are $125 and tables are $1,000. To RSVP or for more information, visit the TJC website.
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LSC Gains Funding in Latest Budget Proposal

The proposed FY 2018 omnibus appropriations legislation includes $410 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), an increase of $25 million over the past two fiscal years and the highest appropriation since 2010. LSC provides the central foundation for the civil legal aid and pro bono system in the U.S. The funding increase in the omnibus legislation comes after President Trump’s earlier proposal to eliminate the LSC was abandoned following bipartisan outcry from business and politicians.

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ABA President Asks AG Sessions to Keep ATJ Office Open

American Bar Association president Hilarie Bass sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Department of Justice to keep the doors open at the Office for Access to Justice. “We urge you to make reorganization decisions that assign responsibility and provide adequate funding for the critical programs that preserve access to justice for all Americans – both rich and poor – and demonstrate the Department’s unwavering commitment to this core value and the rule of law,” Bass wrote.
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Corporate Counsel Gather to Support Pro Bono Efforts

Tennessee lawyers gathered at the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala Saturday in Nashville. Over the past 12 years, the event has raised more than half a million dollars in support of pro bono efforts that engage in-house and corporate counsel with legal aid programs across the state. The program featured remarks from past TBA President Buck Lewis and Ann Pruitt, executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, as well as TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson and leaders from the TBA Access to Justice Committee. This year’s event was hosted by Bass, Berry & Sims and honored outstanding law firm and legal departments. This year, Eastman Chemical Company and Bass, Berry & Sims were honored for their pro bono efforts. See photos from the event or learn more about the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative.

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Legal Aid Society to Kickoff 2018 Campaign for Equal Justice

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will host a luncheon to kickoff its annual Campaign for Equal Justice, chaired by Scott Hickman of Sherrard Roe Voigt and Harbison. The event will feature keynote speaker William C. Koch Jr., dean of the Nashville School of Law. The campaign, now in its 31st year, has a fundraising goal of $826,000 for 2018. The luncheon will be held on March 7 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Nashville City Club, 201 4th Ave N in Nashville. Those who wish to attend should RSVP to Jonathan Houghton by Monday, March 5.
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Community Legal Center to Host Memphis Fundraiser

The Community Legal Center (CLC) in Memphis will host a bar trivia night in support of its organization March 28. Called “Quiz for a Cause,” the event will be held at Ghost River Brewing Co. from 7 to 9 p.m. The cost is $5 per person. All proceeds will benefit the CLC.
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Volunteers Needed for Wills for Heroes Clinic in Marshall County

The TBA's Young Lawyers Division is seeking volunteers for a Wills for Heroes Clinic scheduled for March 3 in Lewisburg. The clinic, which will provide wills and other end-of-life documents to first responders, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Law Office of David McKenzie, 205 West Commerce Street. Volunteers should contact Debbie Zimmerle Boudreaux at (931) 359-7305 or debbie@davidmckenzielaw.com if interested.

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Bradley Announces New Firm-Wide Pro Bono Position

Tiffany M. Graves will serve as Bradley’s pro bono counsel, overseeing the development and administration of the law firm’s pro bono programs. Graves will be the first person to serve in this newly created firm-wide position designed to develop and grow outreach to the communities across the states in which the firm operates. Graves is based in the firm’s Jackson, Mississippi, office and most recently served as the head of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. 
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Putnam County Approves New Service for Domestic Violence Victims

The Putnam County Commission yesterday approved a request from General Sessions Court judges to appoint Candie Cooper, a youth services officer in the juvenile court system, as a judicial commissioner and have her serve at the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center, the Herald-Citizen reports. It will simply the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain orders of protection. The Family Justice Center provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.
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CCPBI Gala to Honor Eastman and Bass, Berry & Sims

The TBA Access to Justice Committee, in partnership with the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Association of Corporate Counsel, is hosting the 12th annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala on March 3 in Nashville. The gala, which will be held at the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, will feature remarks from Eve Runyon, president and CEO of the Pro Bono Institute, and the CCPBI awards presentation. Attorneys from Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport will be honored as outstanding legal department for their work with Legal Aid of East Tennessee and Bass, Berry & Sims will receive the law firm award for its ongoing work supporting the Tennessee Justice Center. The deadline to become an event sponsor or purchase tickets is Friday. Contact Liz Todaro, TBA Access to Justice Director, for more information.

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Volunteers Needed for Wills for Heroes Clinic in Dyersburg

The TBA's Young Lawyers Division is seeking volunteers for a Wills for Heroes Clinic scheduled for March 10 in Dyersburg. The clinic, which aims to provide wills and other end-of-life documents to first responders, will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the McIver’s Grant Public Library, 410 W. Court St. Volunteers should contact Megan Warden, (901) 821-0044 if interested.

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ABA President: Proposal to Defund LSC 'Unwarranted'

American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass released a statement today in response to proposed cuts to the Legal Services Corporation. “In the face of strong bipartisan agreement over the value of LSC’s important work, the administration’s second budget proposal to defund such services is unwarranted and should be dead on arrival.” Bass said “Studies show that every federal dollar spent on legal aid returns to communities more than three times as much in benefits such as social services.” Law.com reports that President Donald Trump's proposed 2019 budget would eliminate the Legal Services Corp., a move that the administration attempted in last year's budget proposal but abandoned after outcry from businesses and politicians.
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Volunteers Needed for Memphis Expungement Clinic

Volunteers are needed for an expungement clinic in Memphis Saturday at St. Andrew AME Community Life Center and Gymnasium, 1472 Mississippi Blvd. Those interested should let Amber Floyd or Brittany Williams know their availability. Training will be provided at 9 a.m., while the clinic starts at 10 a.m. The clinic is sponsored by the TBA's Young Lawyers Division, the Memphis Bar Association, the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association, the Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance and the Shelby County General Sessions Clerk’s Office.

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Lipscomb Hosting Legal Clinic on Feb. 20

The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society will host another legal advice clinic on Feb. 20 at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 600 28th Avenue North in Nashville. Attorney volunteers are needed to assist from 5:30 to 8 p.m. It will be an advice-only clinic with no expectation to take on continuing representation. Contact Randy Spivey for more information.
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DOJ Closes Obama-Era Access to Justice Office

The U.S. Department of Justice has shuttered the Office for Access to Justice, which began in 2010 with the goal of making legal aid accessible to all citizens, The New York Times reports. While Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot close the office without notifying Congress, he can effectively close it by reallocating its resources. The offices are now dark and no longer staffed. The DOJ has not commented on the move.
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Budget Includes $10M Indigent Representation Increase, TBA to Press for More

Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2018-2019 budget submitted yesterday includes $9,880,000 “to provide recurring funding for the Indigent Representation Task Force initiatives to raise hourly rates and case caps.” The Tennessee Bar Association termed it “gratifying" that the administration acknowledged the dedication and hard work by the lawyers who accept appointments to represent the indigent and vowed to press for more money in the appropriations process.
 
The Supreme Court’s task force, headed by former justice and now Nashville School of Law Dean Bill Koch, spent two years studying all facets of indigent representation. Among the recommendations of the group are elimination of the per case cap on amounts of compensation for appointed counsel and guardians ad litem, an increase in the rate to $75 to $125 per hour and creation of a commission to oversee and administer the program. The first task of the TBA will be to learn the exact contours of the administration recommendation, which funds only part of the task force plan. The TBA will then quickly pivot to equipping and mobilizing members to advocate for a more substantial increase. TBA policy calls for elimination of the caps and at least a $100 per hour rate. The TBA also supports establishment of the commission. 
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Access to Justice Commission Seeking Feedback

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is seeking input from the legal community to help in planning efforts as it develops a new strategic plan in March. A brief survey is available for all who wish to share thoughts and feedback. The survey will remain open through Feb. 7. Please contact Anne-Louise Wirthlin at the Administrative Office of the Courts with questions or for more information. 

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LAET, Hospital Form Children's Health Law Partnership

Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have partnered to create the Children’s Health Law Partnership (CHLP), the first program of its kind in the Knoxville area. The new program places a civil legal aid attorney on the care team with the doctors, nurses and social workers at the hospital. The attorney works to address non-medical issues that impact positive medical outcomes. The Children’s Health Law Partnership is funded through a 2017 grant from Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee. For more information on this program, contact the Knoxville office of Legal Aid at (865) 637-0484.
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LSC in Tennessee Examines ATJ Issues, Honors Volunteers

Tennessee's Access to Justice community was in the spotlight this past week when the Board of the Legal Services Corporation held three days of meetings and events in Nashville. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Janice Holder and William Koch, Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins and former TBA Presidents Marcy Eason and Buck Lewis were among those addressing the participants. TBA President-elect also Jason Pannu took part in the pro bono awards program, where the Waller firm and volunteers from across the state were recognized for their work.

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