News

Study: Court Fees Also Punish Families

A new report on the growth of court fines and fees that are charged to often-impoverished offenders finds that impoverished people who go through the criminal justice system almost always get cash from family and friends to help pay their court-ordered fines, even though those family and friends are often poor, too. Titled "When All Else Fails, Fining the Family," the study notes "the incarcerated individual's friends and family ... become, in effect, a parallel welfare state." NPR has the story.

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Legal Aid Adds Consumer, Housing Attorney

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands named Zachary Oswald as attorney for its consumer and housing section. Oswald has worked for Legal Aid  since July 2014 as a legal fellow through the University of Miami Legal Corps Program, specializing in family law and consumer law, the TNLedger reports.

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Legal Aid Director Selected for Medical-Legal Fellowship

Gary Housepian, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, is among 16 civil legal aid leaders selected for the second annual Where Health Meets Justice Fellowship. Hosted by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at the George Washington University and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, senior level staff from civil legal aid agencies in 13 states and the District of Columbia met recently in Washington, D.C., to kick off the 10-month program. Housepian is a member of the TBA's Access to Justice Committee and is currently serving on the TBA's Medical-Legal Partnership Working Group, which is working to support and promote these unique collaborations in Tennessee.

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Lawmakers Vote Down 'Insure Tennessee'

Gov. Bill Haslam's "Insure Tennessee" plan was effectively killed today after the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare voted 4-7 to defeat the proposal. Haslam spent nearly two years negotiating with federal officials to find an alternative for expanding Medicaid in the state. The plan would have used federal funds to expand coverage to about 280,000 additional Tennesseans and cover 100 percent of the program's cost for two years, after which federal support drops down to 90 percent.

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, made a final, personal plea to committee members, telling them that they should at least vote to let the full Senate get a chance to weigh in. “I did put my heart into it because I felt that strongly that it’s the right thing to do," Overbey told WPLN following the vote. Asked if he would try to push his plan during the regular session of the legislature, Haslam said that seemed "a little pointless." He also said it was unlikely that the federal government would agree to some of the changes legislators requested, though he said he was willing to try. With no prospects of passing the plan, both the House and Senate formally ended their respective special sessions this evening. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

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ABA Midyear Meeting Opens in Houston

Immigration, access to justice for persons of modest means and money’s influence on elections are just some of the issues that will be tackled by attendees in hearings and panel programs during the 2015 ABA Midyear Meeting. The meeting runs through Monday when the 560-member House of Delegates, which sets policy for the ABA, convenes. The Tennessee Bar Association with support from Tennessee law schools will host a reception in Houston Saturday for former TBA president Danny Van Horn. View the invitiation here

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Nonprofit's Role Unclear with New Chattanooga Family Justice Center

With the opening of the new Chattanooga Family Justice Center later this year, the role of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults is no longer clear, WDEF reports. Established 137 years ago, the Partnership is a non-profit group that deals with family violence, elder abuse and human trafficking. It already offers most of the same crisis one-stop services at its downtown location that the new Family Justice Center will offer. The city's goal with the new facility is to also offer those in crisis one-stop service, but the question arises: what role will Partnership will play?

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TBA Reiterates Opposition to Mandatory Pro Bono Service

The TBA today emphasized its strong opposition to mandatory pro bono service for lawyers in a comment about reporting of pro bono work done by lawyers. The comment was filed in response to a petition first reported in TBA Today on Nov. 10. In its filing, the TBA recommends the court require lawyers to respond with an estimate of the number of hours spent each year on pro bono services and include a provision allowing lawyers to indicate that they choose not to report. A voluntary donation to support access to justice work on the annual BPR statement also won support from the TBA. Read a copy of the comment.

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Upcoming Wills for Heroes Clinics (as of 1/30/15)

The YLD again this year is providing free wills and other end of life documents for first responders in Tennessee. Clinics have been scheduled across the state through this coming May. Please contact the event organizer for more details or to volunteer. The following clinics are scheduled in the next few months. See the list of all scheduled clinics.

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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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