News

East Tennessee Events

Sullivan County Courts Pro Se Day will be held in Kingsport and Bristol General Sessions Courts, starting at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Christy Harris.
read more »

Middle Tennessee Events

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands is hosting two legal clinics this week in Williamson County. On this and every Thursday, it will host the GraceWorks West Clinic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at GraceWorks West, 2382 Fairview Blvd., Franklin, TN  37062. It will also host the Mercy Clinic at St. Andrew Lutheran on this and the first Thursday of every month at 4:30 p.m., 908 Murfreesboro Road, Franklin, TN  37064 For more information or to volunteer, contact Lucinda Smith.
read more »

MALS to Hold 'Justice for All Ball' Benefit Oct. 15

Memphis Area Legal Services will hold the "Justice For All Ball," a superhero-themed benefit on Oct. 15. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Halloran Centre, located at 203 S. Main St. in downtown Memphis, and will feature live music, a silent auction, food and drinks. Tickets are $125.

read more »

October TBJ: Alimony, Pro Bono and Fred Gray

Even when income changes dramatically at retirement, alimony in futuro does not change without asking the court for a modification. This may be a shock to your clients, but Memphis lawyer Miles Mason Sr. explains it in this new Tennessee Bar Journal. October is “Celebrate Pro Bono Month” and Chattanooga lawyer Russell Fowler looks at President James A. Garfield’s good example as a lawyer doing pro bono. The Journal also highlights civil rights icon Fred D. Gray upon the opening of an institute named in his honor. TBA President Jason Long examines the core values and principles that define us as lawyers and the profession. Read the October issue.

read more »

Legal Aid Videos Available at Public Libraries

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has completed production and distribution of a video series called “The Anytime Attorney: Legal Information on Demand 24/7.” The series addresses civil legal issues in Tennessee law such as orders of protection, divorce, rental housing, foreclosure, bill collectors and how to represent yourself in general sessions court. DVD copies of videos are available for check-out at public libraries in the 26 East Tennessee counties LAET serves. The videos also are available on the LAET website, through links on selected public library websites and on LAET’s Anytime Attorney YouTube channel. Production of the video series was funded by a grant from the Legal Services Corporation.

read more »

Proclamation Ceremony Set for Tuesday

Memphis leaders will unveil a proclamation designating October as Pro Bono Month at a ceremony on Tuesday. Mayor Jim Strickland and Director of Legislative Affairs and Assistant Mayor David McKinney will present the proclamation at 10:30 a.m. at the Hall of Mayors in City Hall. Find other Celebrate Pro Bono events on the TBA website.

read more »

Volunteers Needed for Saturday Expungement Clinic

One of the first events of the 2016 Celebrate Pro Bono Month is an expungement clinic planned for Saturday at Watson Grove Baptist Church in Nashville. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., members of the TBA Young Lawyers Division will join with several community partners to offer legal advice to those seeking to expunge their records. For more information visit the event’s Facebook page or contact organizer and Memphis lawyer Amber Floyd.

read more »

Scott County Judge Ends Use of Electronic Monitoring

Scott County General Sessions Court Judge James L. Cotton Jr. has stopped using electronic monitoring devices in the wake of a newspaper investigation into the practice, Knoxnews reports. Cotton said he ended the program and terminated the services of Howard Barnett, who had been providing the electronic monitoring devices. He said he had no financial stake in Barnett’s firm and used the service as an alternative to bonds and jail for the poor. He expressed regret for any misuse and said he “self-reported” the newspaper's findings to the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct.

read more »

Ceremonial Swearing-in Thursday for Chief Justice Bivins

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins will have a ceremonial swearing in with Gov. Bill Haslam at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the historic Supreme Court chambers in the state Capitol. The event is open to the public. Bivins was unanimously elected chief by the other members of the court last month. He was officially sworn in by Justice Connie Clark during the Equal Justice University conference in August. Read more from the court.

read more »

Event Honors Domestic Violence Victims, Advocates

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence will hold the annual “Meet Us at the Bridge” event Saturday at 1 p.m. in Nashville to kick-off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event, held on the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, honors those who have lost their lives to domestic violence in the last year. Awards also will be presented to those who have done outstanding work in the fight to end domestic violence. The Waller law firm will be recognized for its work with the Civil-Legal Advocate Program (CLAP), a partnership between Legal Aid and the Metro Office of Family Safety that provides free legal representation to domestic violence victims.

read more »

Lawmaker May Seek to Amend Exoneration Law

Lawrence McKinney’s legal team is getting help from State Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, who has offered to meet with Gov. Bill Haslam about McKinney’s application of exoneration, the Tennessean reports. Pody also said he will consider asking Haslam to hold off on a decision about McKinney while he drafts legislation that addresses the exoneration process. Pody says he felt Tuesday’s Parole Board hearing was “looking to retry the case” rather than considering the exoneration request. McKinney’s 1978 rape and burglary conviction was overturned and his record was judicially expunged, but he needs an executive exoneration to be able to seek compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

read more »

Indigent Representation Task Force to Meet Friday

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force will meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in Room LP12 of Legislative Plaza in Nashville. The panel will hear presentations from Vince Dean, Hamilton County criminal court clerk and president of the Tennessee Clerks of Court Conference; Jerry N. Estes, executive director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference; Charme Allen, Knox County district attorney general; Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn; and Justyna Garbaczewska Scalpone with the Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender. Get details about the meeting.

read more »

Celebrate Pro Bono Month Kicks Off Saturday

Celebrate Pro Bono Month 2016 kicks off this weekend with more than 50 events planned across the state during the month of October. Tennessee lawyers help thousands of clients throughout the year by providing free legal advice, but this assistance is especially celebrated and emphasized during the month of October as part of a nationwide celebration. Now in its eighth year, the Tennessee initiative brings together bar associations, law schools, law firms, legal services providers and individual lawyers to offer free services to those unable to afford a lawyer, and to celebrate the good works of Tennessee lawyers. This year's celebration is expected to involve more than 300 volunteers -- including lawyers, law students, paralegals and language interpreters. A summary of events is posted online and will be updated throughout the month.

read more »

McVeagh Named to LAET Board

Alex McVeagh, an attorney with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, has been named the newest member of the Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) board of directors, Chattanoogan.com reports. McVeagh previously chaired the group’s annual Campaign for Justice Committee and has coordinated numerous pro bono clinics in East Tennessee. The LAET board is comprised of attorneys and client-eligible members from Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities areas that make up the organization’s 26-county service area.

read more »

New Online Legal Clinic Rolls Out Nationwide

The American Bar Association has rolled out the new ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org in eight states and plans to have it extended to the majority of states by year end. Modeled on Tennessee’s OnlineTNJustice.org, the new virtual legal advice clinic gives income-eligible users the ability to pose civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys. Joining Tennessee on the platform now are Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wyoming. Software developers at Baker Donelson in Memphis created the site, which also drew support from AT&T, FedEx, International Paper, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Pilot Travel Centers, Wal-Mart Stores, the ABA sections of Business Law and Litigation and others.

read more »

75-Year Old Law Grad Wants to Serve Others

Jim Edwards of Murfreesboro decided to go to law school with the mission to help others who could not afford legal representation. Many choose the profession for the same reason, but what makes Edwards unique is that he decided to do it as a 75-year-old. Edwards recently earned a degree from Nashville School of Law and is awaiting results from the state bar exam. He says he became intrigued by the law in college and remained so during his career in insurance sales. He finally decided to pursue his dream after retiring. Edwards volunteered with legal aid while in law school and is ready to start helping those in need, the Daily News Journal reports.

read more »

City Launches Website to Help with Expungement

The city of Chattanooga this week launched a website aimed at helping people with criminal histories regain the right to vote and expunge their records. The website, restoremyrights.com, provides information on the expungement and voting restoration processes. “This is a systemic issue that we can do something about,” said Chantelle Roberson, a local attorney who helped create the website. Mayor Andy Berke also pledged to help cover court costs for people who want to expunge their criminal records but cannot afford the $450 fee, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

read more »

Agency Seeks Spanish Speaking Attorney

The Memphis Public Interest Law Center (MPILC) is seeking a staff attorney to provide civil legal representation to Latino and Hispanic victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and related crimes in the Memphis area. The position is grant funded for three years and is currently funded at 70 percent time. Additional funding is being sought to fund the position at 100 percent time. Visit the TBA Joblink listing to learn more.

read more »

Knoxnews: Judge Jailing Poor Over Unpaid Fees

Knoxnews reports it has documented more than a half-dozen instances in the past few months in which Scott County General Sessions Judge James Cotton Jr. has sent poor people to jail because they fell behind in paying fees to a private electronic monitoring company. The investigation found that Cotton revoked defendants’ bonds after they showed up for court and then offered them freedom through use of the monitoring company; routinely placed poor and unemployed defendants on electronic monitoring without showing it was needed; and rejected plea agreements if the defendant owed outstanding fees.

read more »

Court: States Cannot Require Proof of Citizenship for Federal Elections

State laws that require voters to show proof of citizenship before voting in federal elections were knocked down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the ABA Journal reports. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court opinion nixed a similar Arizona law that required proof of citizenship for federal voter registration applicants. The latest suit was filed by voting rights groups after the U.S. Election Assistance Commission allowed states to request citizenship information for residents who used federal forms for mail-in voter registration. The ruling does not impact state laws that require applicants to swear they are U.S. citizens but do not require proof. It also does not prohibit states from asking for proof of citizenship in state and local elections.

read more »

Lawyers Observe Criminal Court with Eye to Reform

Earlier this week, lawyers who do not typically handle criminal defense work sat in Nashville courtrooms and watched how domestic violence and misdemeanor arrests were handled. The 15 lawyers fanned out among five courtrooms to observe whether defendants had lawyers and knew about their rights, and whether judges were asking about people’s financial status and ability to pay fines. The day was sponsored by ArchCity Defenders, a pro bono law firm in St. Louis. The Tennessean reports that the ABA is evaluating the program to see if it should be expanded to other cities.

read more »

New Justice Center to Include Mental Health Unit

With demolition work being done at the former Davidson County Criminal Justice Center, the county sheriff is sharing plans to include a mental health unit in the new jail. “You wouldn’t be booked, you wouldn’t be charged criminally,” Daron Hall said. Plans call for a 64-bed facility to house those arrested for misdemeanor charges and flagged during a mental health evaluation, News Channel 5 reports. About $10 million from the project’s overall $113 million budget was set aside for the mental health unit. The center is expected to open in 2019.

read more »

KBA Honors Supreme Court, Pro Bono Leaders

All five Tennessee Supreme Court justices were honored at the annual Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) Supreme Court Dinner last week. During the event, the court recognized 54 attorneys and 70 law students from the Knoxville area who provided at least 50 hours of pro bono service this past year. Guests also heard from G. Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney who led a team of prosecutors and investigators in the re-opened historic “cold case” of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Read more in a release from the AOC or see photos from the event.

read more »

Nashville Funds Legal Aid’s Work Against Domestic Violence

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will receive $186,500 from the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County for the current fiscal year. The grant will fund services to survivors of domestic violence, including legal representation, attendance at order of protection hearings, and community education. Last year, the group used similar funding to provide legal assistance to 279 domestic violence victims, attend 136 court dockets where order of protection petitions and related motions were heard, and publish more than 1,150 educational materials and self-help guides for domestic violence victims. The group announced the partnership in a recent newsletter to supporters.

read more »

Students Earn Courtroom Experience with Children’s Clinic

The University of Memphis School of Law’s Children’s Defense Clinic is giving law students a unique opportunity to represent children in juvenile court and obtain real-world experience. The new program started this year under the direction of Lisa Geis, who moved to Memphis from Washington, D.C., to run the clinic. Almost a month into the semester, clinic students are handling 10 cases ranging from theft to vandalism to cases of aggravated assault, the Commercial Appeal reports. Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush praised the program saying it would be “an important engine” for reform in Shelby County's juvenile defense system.

read more »