News

'Dinner with the Tennessee Supreme Court' to Benefit LAET

Justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court will gather in Kingsport May 6 as guests of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) to honor attorneys who have donated hours of their time to those unable to afford civil legal counsel. Chief Justice Gary R. Wade is the keynote speaker, and is scheduled to be joined by justices Cornelia A. Clark, Janice M. Holder, William C. Koch and Sharon G. Lee for the dinner and silent auction that benefit LAET’s Pro Bono Project. The event is open to the public; tickets are $50. For reservations or more information, contact Christy Harris at (800) 821-1312 or at charris@laet.org.

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Tenn. Report Shows 42% of Attorneys Doing Pro Bono

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission has released the 2013 Pro Bono Report, which catalogs pro bono programs and initiatives taking place in the state. The report indicates that approximately 42 percent of attorneys licensed in Tennessee reported doing some pro bono work during 2012. These attorneys reported 672,976 total hours of pro bono service, an average of 73.8 hours per attorney reporting pro bono work, well above the national average. The report also describes the significant work being done by bar associations, law schools, legal aid organizations and faith-based communities across Tennessee and includes information from some of the nearly 70 legal organizations that have adopted pro bono policies. The report, along with the recently updated ATJ Commission Strategic Plan, provide a thorough overview of pro bono and related civil legal services access issues in Tennessee.

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ABA President Talks Pro Bono During Memphis Visit

ABA President James R. Silkenat was in Memphis today to speak with the Memphis Rotary and tour the city, including a visit with the editorial board of the Memphis Business Journal and a stop at Memphis Area Legal Services. According to the Business Journal, at each of his stops, Silkenat addressed one of the most pressing questions facing the legal profession: how to find jobs for all the new lawyers coming out of law school. Silkenat believes the answer may be to find ways to make pro bono work more attractive to new graduates. "We are working on ways to get young lawyers to engage in pro bono work. So many of our citizens have never even met a lawyer or can't afford a lawyer. It would seem natural to put those two together and find the funding to make that work."

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Lipscomb Hosts Community Clinic April 29

Lipscomb University will host a legal clinic April 29 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Swang 108 on its Nashville campus. The event is being held in response to the growing need for legal support in the community. Those who would like to volunteer also are invited to a meet and greet at 5:30 p.m. to discuss issues that may be brought up by clients. Email Randy Spivey, academic director of the university’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, by April 18. Or call him at (615) 966-2503 to get involved.

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Service Thursday for Pro Bono, Mediation Trailblazer

Knoxville lawyer Milli Cunningham, the first pro bono director for the Knoxville Legal Aid Society, died Saturday (April 12). Cunningham entered the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1973 after putting her husband through school, following him to three international assignments and raising two children, Knoxnews reports. Following graduation, she joined the school’s legal clinic and helped establish its first family law unit. At the Knoxville Legal Aid Society (now Legal Aid of East Tennessee), Cunningham was influential in recruiting private attorneys to provide pro bono services. She also was an early proponent of increased legal protections for domestic violence victims. After five years with Legal Aid, Cunningham opened her own family law practice with an emphasis on mediation and collaboration. A memorial service will take place at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church, 3700 Keowee Ave., Knoxville on Thursday at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the church, Erskine College, CONTACT Care Line or Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Grant to Fund New Legal Aid Resources

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has been awarded a grant from the West End Home Foundation to revise, translate and print two existing community education brochures -- one on nursing home or home and community-based care and a second on advance care planning (living wills) and health care agents (durable power of attorney for health care) -- and to produce and translate a new brochure on health care surrogates and conservatorships. Two Legal Aid Society attorneys will also make presentations and distribute the brochures in Davidson, Montgomery, Rutherford and Sumner counties.

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MALS to Relocate to Falls Building

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) has leased the long-vacant top floor of the 11-story Falls Building in downtown Memphis and will relocate to the space on July 1. The 13,473-square-foot space in the historic building was previously occupied by the law firm of Martin Tate Morrow & Marston, but has sat vacant since 2004, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Prior to moving into the new offices, MALS will do some construction, including redesigning the entrance, creating a separate entrance for its fair housing group and adjusting the sizes of some of the individual offices. The construction should take about 10 weeks, said MALS Executive Director and CEO Harrison McIver III.

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New ATJ Plan Focuses on Analysis, Rural Needs, Family Law

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission has released a new strategic plan that assesses legal needs across the state and analyzes how well those needs are being addressed by existing programs. Developed as a roadmap to guide the commission’s work through 2016, the plan also identifies two targets for increased services: rural areas and family law. One other goal is to launch 20 new faith-based initiatives in the next two years through the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance (TFJA). This week, TFJA brought more than 100 religious leaders and legal professionals from across the state to Nashville to explore new opportunities for collaboration in delivering much-needed civil legal assistance to underserved Tennesseans. See the full 2014 Strategic Plan or learn more about the TFJA Summit.

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Court's ATJ Commission Hosts Faith-Based Initiative Summit

Over 100 religious leaders and legal professionals gathered at Lipscomb University's Ezell Center on April 7 for the Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance Summit. The Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance (TFJA), an initiative of the Supreme Court's Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission, is an alliance of faith-based groups in Tennessee that commit to providing legal resources to their congregations and communities.

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Blaze, Eason Now Lead Access to Justice Commission

University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Douglas Blaze is the new chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, while Miller & Martin lawyer and former TBA President Marcy Eason is the new vice chair. Blaze replaces Memphis lawyer and former TBA President George T. “Buck” Lewis, a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. During his time as chair, Lewis implemented a number of initiatives, including programs that utilize technology to help bridge the geographic and logistic barriers that prevent Tennesseans in need from accessing pro bono services. The statewide toll-free line 888-aLEGALz and web-based service Online Tennessee Justice now provide legal information and advice to a greater extent than available in any other state. The court also named Ann Jarvis Pruitt, executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), as a new commission member. She fills the seat of Nashville business leader and human rights activist Francis Guess, who is rotating off the commission. See an updated roster of commission members.

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Belmont Hosts 1st Golf Fundraiser for Its Legal Aid Society

The Belmont Legal Aid Society (BLAS) is hosting its first annual charity golf tournament. All proceeds will benefit BLAS legal clinics and programs. Teams are needed to compete in the tournament, which is set for April 21 at 12:30 p.m. The event will be held at the Old Natchez Country Club. Entrance fees are $125 for individuals or $500 for a team of four. Gold sponsorships are available for $1,000. Hole sponsorships are $250. Learn more about the event or submit this registration form.

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Nashville AG, PD Plead for More Staff

Public Defender Dawn Deaner said her office is suffering from crushing caseloads and losing too many attorneys to higher-paying jobs during a budget pitch to Mayor Karl Dean Wednesday. Deaner asked for an additional $423,000 mostly to help bring salaries in line with state lawyers. Deaner’s counterpart, District Attorney Torry Johnson, asked for some $240,000 to increase attorney salaries, in addition to hiring a new social worker to help reach domestic violence victims within 48 hours of a crime. The Tennessean has more.

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LAET’s Autocross Event Happens May 3

Legal Aid of East Tennessee will host a fundraiser at Bristol Motor Speedway on May 3. The event, SOLO Autocross, allows drivers to tackle a precision course and compete against times posted by other participants, the Times News reports. The event is open to the public. A $35 fee will be charged for those who want to race. Other fees include $10 to ride along with drivers and $5 to get the whole family in to watch the races. Competitor check-in begins at 8 a.m. A drivers' meeting is at 10:30 a.m., with the first car to start at 11 a.m. The competitive portion of the event will conclude by 4 p.m., at which time others may take laps on the track. Proceeds from the event will be split between Legal Aid and Speedway Children's Charities.

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Legal Clinic Set for April 8 in Williamson County

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will host a free legal clinic on Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Williamson County Public Library. No appointment is required. Visit HobNob Franklin for more information.

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Faith and Justice Alliance Summit April 7

The Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance Summit will be held Monday at the Ezell Center of Lipscomb University in Nashville, hosted by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. After the summit, people are invited to advertise their pro-bono clinics and initiatives. For more information or to register, contact Pro Bono Coordinator Christina Magráns.

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Judicial College Recognizes Tennessee Judges, Lawyers

The National Judicial College presented “Advancement of Justice Awards” to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the court's Access to Justice Commission, the Frist Foundation, Senior Judge Don R. Ash and UT Law Professor Penny White during an event Monday in Nashville. The awards were presented following the “Access to Justice: Tearing Down the Barriers” program hosted by Baker Donelson. See photos from the event and learn more.

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Legal Aid Announces New Volunteer Lawyer Program

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has launched a program that will connect volunteer lawyers with clients in all 48 counties it serves. The new Volunteer Lawyers Program replaces the Nashville Pro Bono Program, which helped low income people in Davidson and Williamson counties. The new regional program will support the work of all eight Legal Aid Society offices. One component of the new program pairs Nashville law firms with Legal Aid’s rural offices. The first partnership to be formed is Bone McAllester Norton PLLC and Legal Aid’s Gallatin office.

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NJC Recognizes Tennessee Lawyers, Judges

NASHVILLE, March 31, 2014 -- The National Judicial College presented “Advancement of Justice Awards” to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the court’s Access to Justice Commission, the Frist Foundation, Senior Judge Don R. Ash and UT Law Professor Penny White during an event Monday in Nashville. The awards were presented following the “Access to Justice: Tearing Down the Barriers” program hosted by Baker Donelson.

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Reminder: Memphis Law Hosts ‘Race Judicata’ Saturday

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Student Bar Association will host the annual “Race Judicata” this Saturday. All proceeds benefit Memphis Area Legal Service, which provides free legal service to the elderly and low-income families. The race is open to the public. Runners and walkers are welcome.

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Nashville Bar Foundation Awards Nearly $25K in Grants

The Nashville Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Nashville Bar Association, has awarded $24,925 in grants to four area nonprofits to support their law-related educational and charitable initiatives. The recipients are: the Family Center was given $2,000 to develop a new child abuse prevention program that will help lawyers more effectively respond to abuse cases; the Legal Aid Society was given $10,000 to expand legal assistance for immigrant and refugee communities; Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee was given $1,500 to educate the legal profession on how to deal with clients who have personality disorders, high anxiety or mental illness; and Nashville Community Education was given $1,425 to expand The People’s Law School, a program that offers a series of free legal classes to the public about important legal issues.

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Program Explores How to Tear Down Barriers to Justice

A panel of attorneys and judges from across Tennessee addressed how to tear down some of the barriers blocking access to justice for many Americans during a program today at the Baker Donelson offices in Nashville. The panelists looked at the issues from various perspectives: Justice Connie Clark and Access to Justice Commission Chair Buck Lewis talked about rule changes and programs launched by the court to make justice more accessible in Tennessee; Judge Chad Schmucker, president of the National Judicial College, talked about how judges can be better trained and educated to work with self-represented litigants; and a number of judges, including Don Ash and Claudia Bonnyman, spoke about their day-to-day experiences on the bench. Justice Janice Holder, UT Law Professor Penny White, Judge Philip Smith and Judge Daniel Eisenstein, Martha Lafferty of the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee and Colin Calhoun of Sobel, Poss & Moore were also part of the program. Baker Donelson's Matt Sweeney moderated the discussion.

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JAS, Other Groups Urge Professional Diversity on Bench

Justice at Stake (JAS) is among more than 30 organizations urging U.S. senators to consider professional diversity when evaluating judicial candidates. “A truly diverse judiciary...not only reflects the gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, disability and racial diversity of the nation, but also includes judges who come from all corners of the legal profession — and particularly those who have worked in the public interest, representing those whose voices are otherwise rarely heard. This sort of professional diversity both enhances judicial decision-making and is essential to the public’s trust in our justice system,” the groups' letter states. Read more at GavelGrab.

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'Gideon's Army' Wins Film Prize, Showing Tonight in Nashville

The film Gideon's Army will receive the 2014 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize April 30 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., it was announced Wednesday. The film follows three public defenders as "they struggle with staggering caseloads, long hours and low pay, trying to balance their commitment to public service with a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point." The awards committee said the film "celebrates the legion of idealistic young public defenders who are fighting for equal justice for the disenfranchised within our broken and biased legal system, while struggling to stay one step ahead of poverty themselves.” Business & Heritage Clarksville has more. There is a showing of the film tonight in Nashville at the Carmike Bellevue 8 Cinema, hosted by the Nashville Public Defender’s Office. Tickets are still available online.

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Memphis Bar to Hold Veterans Legal Clinic March 25

The Memphis Bar Association will hold a pro bono legal clinic for veterans March 25 at the Veterans Administration Center from noon to 2 p.m., the Memphis Daily News reports. More attorneys are needed for the effort. Contact volunteer coordinator Jake Dickerson for more information.

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Court Conference Focuses on Building Pro Bono Efforts

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission today hosted the Second Annual Pro Bono Clinic Conference at the Downtown Nashville Public Library. The conference drew dozens of individuals representing current legal clinic providers and others interested in starting a legal clinic in their areas. The event included panel presentations and round-table discussions addressing topics such as recruiting attorney volunteers, publicizing clinics, reports from local clinics and other lessons learned. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder and ATJ Commissioner Tony Seaton were among the presenters.

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