News

8 Tennesseans Among Obama’s 214 Commutations

Eight Tennesseans are among 214 drug offenders whose prison sentences were shortened today by President Barack Obama in the largest single-day grant of commutations in the nation’s history, the Tennessean reports. Deborah Lucille Blue of Alcoa, Debra Brown of Nashville, Thomas Duncan of Columbia, Steve Gillespie of Greeneville, Robert L. Matthews of Memphis, Kenneth Smith of Nashville, Jimmy Walden Jr. of Morristown and Byron Willis of Knoxville will see their sentences shortened as a result of Obama’s actions. All sentences will expire Dec. 1, except for Gillespie and Walden, whose sentences will expire Aug. 3, 2018, if they enroll in a drug treatment program.

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2 Attorneys Join Legal Aid Society Team

Two new attorneys have been hired at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Shaina Thompson joins in the family law section,after volunteering and working as a contract attorney with the Nashville office of the Legal Aid Society since October 2015. Allison Jones join as the Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership attorney, following her work as a law clerk for Senior Judge John T. Nixon of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
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Volunteer Meeting Tomorrow for Expungement Clinic

The Davidson County General Sessions Court will hold its annual expungement clinic Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Covenant Christian Church, 2201 Osage St., Nashville 37208. Attorney volunteers are needed and a meeting for prospective volunteers is set for tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the General Sessions Judges Library on the fourth floor of the Justice A. A. Birch Building. Judge Rachel Bell, presiding judge of the court, is organizing the meeting and the clinic. Bell reports that more than 300 people usually attend the clinic.

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TBA Director to Speak on Indigent Pay Issues

TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur is among those who will address the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force when it meets Friday in Nashville for the next stop on its listening tour. The hearing will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville School of Law, Room 200, 4013 Armory Oaks Dr., Nashville 37204. The TBA has long supported an increase in the compensation rate for those who handle court-appointed cases. After Friday's session, the task force will hold one last hearing in Franklin on Aug.11.

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LAET Presents 2016 Pro Bono Awards

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) presented four awards and heard from Justice Roger Page during its Annual Pro Bono Night in Chattanooga. The Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award went to Chattanooga attorney William A. “Trey” Harris III for his service to the LAET Board. The Bruce C. Bailey Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award went to Susan R. Gruber, who kept regular office hours at LAET. The Pro Bono Firm of the Year Award went to the Law Offices of David Coates, and the Alexander Hamilton Award, which recognizes a non-legal entity, went to Habitat for Humanity for presenting an estate planning clinic where more than 40 Habitat families were served. Read more about the award recipients.

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TBA President Long Among TALS EJU Speakers

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) has announced the lineup of speakers for its 2016 Equal Justice University (EJU) conference. Among those speaking is TBA President Jason Long, who will address the group during the Leadership Lunch on Sept. 1. Registration for the conference closes Aug. 19.

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New Treasurer Named for Washington County Bar

The Washington County Bar Association reports that it has a new treasurer following John Jolley’s move to Chattanooga to work with Legal Aid of East Tennessee. The association’s executive board has appointed Brian Puster, an attorney in the Johnson City office of Legal Aid of East Tennessee, to take over the post. Puster relocated to the area from Knoxville.

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Survey Ranks Tennessee in Top 10 for Court Access

The state of Tennessee ranks ninth in the United States and first in the southeast for providing access to its courts according to the 2016 Justice Index, a nationwide study published by the National Center for Access to Justice. The center ranks states on their ability to provide access to the civil legal system regardless of the ability to afford a lawyer, speak and understand English, or navigate the legal system without an accommodation. The Tennessee Supreme Court credits the formation of an Access to Justice Commission, launch of the JusticeforallTN.com website, development of plain language forms for self-represented litigants and increased court interpreter availability. The study did note a need to increase the number of civil legal aid attorneys. In Tennessee, there are 27 legal aid attorneys per 10,000 people compared to the national average of 40.

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Reminder: Volunteer Lawyers Needed for Women’s Conference

Volunteer lawyers are needed for an upcoming Women’s Empowerment Conference organized by Women Overcoming Many Battles Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that seeks to help women overcome life’s challenges. The conference will take place this coming Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. Attorneys are needed to lead 15-minute presentations on child support enforcement and wrongful eviction and participate in a general question and answer session. Lawyers also are needed to provide brief legal advice in one-on-one meetings with the women. Those interested in helping should contact AOC Pro Bono Coordinator Patricia Mills, 615-741-2687.

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Washington County Family Justice Center Opens

Thursday marked the grand opening of the Family Justice Center in Johnson City, News Channel 11 reports. The center serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse, bringing victims’ services together under one roof, site coordinator Heather Brack said. Agencies with representatives at the center include the Johnson City Police, Washington County Sheriff, Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter, Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the First Judicial District Attorney General’s office.

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Legal Aid Names New Officers

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has announced new officers, who will each serve a two-year term on the board of directors. Robert “Bob” J. Martineau Jr., commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, is the new president. Nashville lawyers Charles K. Grant, J. Andrew Goddard and Susan L. Kay are first, second and third vice presidents; Nashville lawyer Charles H. Warfield is member at large; Gallatin lawyer Walter H. Stubbs is treasurer; and Murfreesboro lawyer John T. Blankenship is past president. Read more about each of these officers in a release from the agency.

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Inaugural Veterans Legal Clinic Set for Knoxville

Legal organizations in Knoxville have teamed up to hold a monthly legal advice clinic for veterans, service members and military families. The inaugural two-hour clinic will be held Sept. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St. The clinic then will be held each month on the Wednesday preceding the Pro Bono Project’s Saturday Bar. Partners include the Knoxville Bar Association and its Barristers’ Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans’ Affairs office. Contact Spencer Fair for more information or to volunteer.

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Haslam Aide Joins TennCare Bureau

Will Cromer, who has been serving as Gov. Bill Haslam’s policy director and special assistant for strategy, will join the Bureau of TennCare as deputy director and chief of staff on Sept. 6. Haslam announced the move today saying, “Will is incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he has been at the heart of every major policy decision and initiative we’ve launched in our office. I’m excited to see him apply his knowledge and experience in helping manage this $11 billion agency.” Cromer has been with Haslam since 2010. Prior to that he worked for State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), an education initiative founded by Bill Frist.

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Indigent Representation Task Force Adds Williamson Date

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force was scheduled to wrap up its listening tour in Nashville next week but has added an additional session in Franklin on Aug. 11. While speaking slots for the Nashville session are full, area lawyers are invited to attend the Williamson County hearing, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Williamson County Administrative Complex, 1320 West Main St., Franklin, TN 37064. Sign up here to speak.

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TALS Names 2016 Access to Justice Award Recipients

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) today named its 2016 Access to Justice Award honorees. The Janice M. Holder Award will go to Jim Barry and Sharon Ryan of International Paper in Memphis. The B. Riney Green Award will go to Craig Barnes of Memphis Area Legal Services and Russell Fowler of Legal Aid of East Tennessee in Chattanooga. And the New Advocate of the Year Award will go to Zachary Oswald with the Nashville office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Learn more about the award recipients and make plans to join colleagues at the Equal Justice Conference on Aug. 31 for the award ceremony.

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LAET Names New Pro Bono Director

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has named Kathryn Ellis as the new director of its Knoxville Pro Bono Project. She replaces Terry J. Woods, who has retired. Ellis joined LAET as a staff attorney in 2012. For the past year, she has been the primary attorney serving domestic violence and stalking victims in Blount, Loudon and Sevier Counties. The agency also announced that George C. Shields II will replace Deborah J. Herzel as its elder and senior adult lawyer. Herzel retired July 1 after serving the organization for 28 years. Read more in this release from the LAET.

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Learn More, Speak Up About Indigent Defense Rates

Lawyers interested in learning more about the work of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force, which has been conducting listening tours across the state, are invited to join a conference call with TBA Public Policy Coordinator Brenda Gadd this Friday at noon Central Daylight Time. To join the call dial 855-795-9620 and enter passcode 5582234161.

A week later, on July 29, the task force will be at the Nashville School of Law, 4013 Armory Oaks Dr., Nashville 37204 for its final forum. The event will take place in Room 200 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Sign up here to share your experience with indigent representation and why an increase in the compensation rate is needed.

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Grants Available for Pro Se Litigant Initiatives

The AOC is seeking proposals for the development or continuation of initiatives that help divorcing, divorced or never married self-represented litigants resolve parenting and visitation issues in child support cases. The AOC reports it has approximately $200,000 in grant funding available for such efforts, which may include self-help centers, pro se clinics, unbundled legal services and mediation programs. To be considered, proposals must be received by the AOC by 4:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Aug. 12. Learn more or download the application.

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Lawyers Sought for Women’s Empowerment Conference

Volunteer lawyers are needed for an upcoming Women’s Empowerment Conference organized by Women Overcoming Many Battles Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that seeks to help women overcome life’s challenges. The conference will take place July 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. Attorneys are needed to lead 15-minute presentations on child support enforcement and wrongful eviction and participate in a general question and answer session. Lawyers also are needed to provide brief legal advice in one-on-one meetings with the women. Those interested in helping should contact AOC Pro Bono Coordinator Patricia Mills, 615-741-2687.

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3 Attorneys Earn Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award

The National Civil Rights Museum will presents its Freedom Award to five recipients who have worked to improve human rights in the United States and around the world, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Lawyers among the group are Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who takes on high profile cases pro bono; Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor at the New York University School of Law; and Damon Jerome Keith, the longest serving judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The awards event, set for Oct. 20, also will feature a tribute to “the Memphis 13” – a group of first graders who desegregated four elementary schools in the city.

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New Managing Attorney to Lead Legal Aid’s Gallatin Office

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has promoted family law attorney Allison Cooley to managing attorney of its Gallatin office. Cooley has been serving in the organization’s Nashville office since 2011. She earned her law degree from the Charlotte School of Law. In her new role, she will manage a staff of four, including two other attorneys, and oversee services to low-income individuals in Macon, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale and Wilson counties. Read more about Cooley in this release.

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Save the Date for MALS Fall Fundraiser

The Justice for All Ball will be held Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Halloran Centre for Performing Arts and Education, 203 South Main St. in Memphis. The event benefits Memphis Area Legal Services.

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EJU Registration Open, Speakers Named

Martha Bergmark with Voices for Civil Justice, John Pollock with the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins and TBA President Jason Long top the list of speakers for the 2016 Equal Justice University. Registration for the conference, which is co-sponsored by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Service and the TBA, is open until Aug. 19. The annual event also features presentation of the Access to Justice Awards and many networking opportunities.

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Bar Foundation to Get $8.5M from Mortgage Settlement

The Tennessee Bar Foundation is slated to receive $8.5 million as part of the settlement between Bank of America and the U.S. Department of Justice, WMC-TV reports. The funds are to be used to provide legal assistance in foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment. Eric D. Green, the independent monitor of the settlement, announced the news today. The foundation is one of 56 state-based legal-assistance organizations receiving funds under the deal, which settled legal claims arising from mortgage-related activities by Bank of America and its subsidiaries. Learn more about the settlement.

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Legal Aid Society Forms Gilbert Family Fellowship

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands announced this week that it has established the Gilbert Family Fellowship with a $100,000 gift from legal aid co-founder Harris A. Gilbert and his children. The fellowship will fund staff efforts to identify and resolve legal issues facing children and young adults in all 48 counties served. Attorneys to be designated as fellows are Paige Barbeauld, Clarksville; Sonya Bellafant, Columbia; Rachel Moses, Cookeville; Cherrelle Hooper, Gallatin; Aimee Luna, Murfreesboro; Kimberly deMent and Emma Sholl, Nashville; Theresa-Vay Smith, Oak Ridge; and Rae Anne Seay, Tullahoma. Vidhi Joshi, who focuses on helping low-income individuals with criminal records, will provide assistance to the fellows.

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