News

Indigent Task Force Holds Final Hearing

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force held its final listening session today in Franklin, hearing from more than a dozen members of the private bar and parents of children in the child welfare system. The task force will meet in September to consider all comments and recommendations submitted during the tour and discuss the timing of presenting its own findings.

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Legal Aid Names Community Fundraising Chair

George Anderson, co-founder of the Nashville-based insurance agency Anderson Benson, has been named community chair for the Legal Aid Society’s 2016 fundraising campaign. In this role, Anderson will support the Campaign for Equal Justice by raising money from non-legal donors across Middle Tennessee. “The lack of support in the civil justice system is one of the most overlooked problems society has,” Anderson says. “I want to educate those in the Middle Tennessee area why having an organization that can provide this counsel and advocacy is important to them, their families and our community.”

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Nashville Expungement Clinic Attracts Hundreds

An expungement clinic in Davidson County last week attracted hundreds of people hoping to clear their criminal records, the AOC reports. People began lining up five hours in advance for the Community Court, which also featured shoe giveaways, free haircuts, health vendors and employment leads. All county general sessions judges were on hand as well as Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, Assistant District Attorney Katie Ladefoged and AOC Pro Bono Coordinator Patricia Mills. TBA YLD Diversity Committee Chair Amber Floyd also was in town from Memphis to help coordinate the event. For more information about the clinic, contact General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell, 615-862-8341, or learn more about the expungement process in Tennessee.

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LSC: Technology, Public Education Needed to Close Justice Gap

Legal Services Corporation Chair John G. Levi told attendees at the recent ABA Annual Meeting that technology and public education will be critical to closing the justice gap, and that the agency has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to develop online portals to direct those with legal needs to services. Levi also said the public at large needs to be aware of the country’s justice gap. To that end, the LSC has formed a leadership council with high-profile ambassadors such as baseball player Hank Aaron and author John Grisham to increase awareness.

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‘Plunge to Expunge’ Set for Friday in Memphis

Just City, an organization that provides financial, legal and administrative services to those seeking expungements, will host its first annual Plunge to Expunge dunk tank fundraiser tomorrow from 4-7 p.m. at Memphis Made Brewing Co., 768 South Cooper. This year’s dunk tank target is Just City board member and University of Memphis law professor Daniel Kiel, who teaches constitutional, civil rights and educational law. The group also announced that the brewery will debut its latest beer – Justice Will PrevALE – at the event. Read more from the law school.

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Lipscomb Legal Clinic Set for Aug. 16

Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society will hold its bi-monthly legal clinic next Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Lawyers are needed to volunteer for this advice-only clinic at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 600 28th Ave. North in Nashville. For more information contact Randy Spivey, 615-966-2503.

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New ABA President to Focus on Veterans, Election Issues

Atlanta lawyer Linda Klein, senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson, was sworn in as president of the ABA yesterday and outlined her goals for the year, which include a focus on veterans’ legal needs, promotion of voting in the upcoming election and support for quality education. A new ABA Commission on Veterans’ Legal Services will provide resources for local legal groups to serve veterans and their families, and explore ways to provide legal services at VA medical facilities. Tennessee will be represented on the commission by TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur. The voting initiative, ABA Votes 2016, will provide a state-by-state summary of voter laws as well as resources lawyers can use to encourage participation. Finally, a new education commission will study ways to address substandard education in rural and inner city communities and improve opportunities for children with disabilities.

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Reminder: Indigent Task Force Hearing Thursday

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force will hold the final session in its listening tour this week. The hearing will take place Thursday 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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NAACP Opposes County’s New Charge on Criminal Defendants

A new $45 fine on criminal defendants will have a disparate impact on the poor, African-Americans and other minority groups, according to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County chapter of the NAACP. The Chattanoogan reports that a resolution from the NAACP argues that the Hamilton County Commission was “ambivalent to the disparity rates, disproportionate ratios and disparate impact” such fees have on these populations. The group also maintains that the commission’s decision relies on a “narrow and stringent interpretation” of the applicable state law. Proceeds from the new fee would be divided three ways: $21 to the Partnership of Families, Children and Adults, $21 to the Children’s Advocacy Center and $3 to the county.

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Missouri Governor Conscripted into Serving as Public Defender

Michael Barrett, director of Missouri’s public defender system, utilized an obscure legal provision to order Gov. Jay Nixon, also a lawyer, to provide legal aid to the state’s poorest defendants, the Atlantic reports. In a letter to Nixon, Barrett said he ordered the assignment in response to Nixon cutting funding for indigent defense and vetoing a bill that would have provided caseload relief to Missouri’s public defender system, which currently ranks 49th in the U.S.
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Suit Alleges TennCare Wrongly Delayed Coverage

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday by the Tennessee Justice Center alleges that TennCare wrongly delayed coverage to a woman in a coma for two months, leaving her family with nearly $900,000 in medical debt. The suit also alleges that the state Medicaid program violated the 34-year-old woman’s right to apply for coverage and denied rights to appeal. The Tennessean reports on the story.

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UT Law Graduate Receives Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Kirsten Jacobson, a 2016 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, recently was awarded a competitive, two-year postgraduate fellowship by the nonprofit Equal Justice Works. Jacobson will work with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) in Nashville to expand access to justice in the state. Her work – which will focus on increasing use of TALS’ existing services, creating a legal wellness evaluation, establishing a forum for legal aid IT staff to share best practices and identifying new technology projects statewide – will be funded by Memphis-based International Paper Company.

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Lawyers Donate $76,000 to Access to Justice Efforts

More than $76,000 has been donated by Tennessee attorneys to organizations that serve low-income individuals in need of legal assistance, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The donations come as part of the annual licensing registration process. Starting in 2015, attorneys were given the option to donate to an Access to Justice Fund when renewing their licenses. Organizations receiving funds this year are the Community Legal Center, Disability Rights Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society, Memphis Area Legal Services, Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, Tennessee Justice Center, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts, and West Tennessee Legal Services.

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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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