News

Pro Bono Hotline Helps Hundreds of Tennesseans

The new toll free hotline for pro bono legal assistance 1-888 aLEGALz has received nearly 800 calls during the first three months of its opening, reports the Memphis Daily News. Funded by the International Paper Co. and the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, the hotline helps improve citizens' access to free legal assistance. Memphis attorney Tim Hughes, formerly of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., was hired to man the line on weekdays and make the arrangements for legal representation. In addition to the hotline, the Access to Justice Commission also operates an online pro bono website, making Tennessee the first state to offer both options.

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Wills for Heroes Clinic Planned for Saturday

The TBA Young Lawyers Division will hold a Wills for Heroes clinic in Franklin this Saturday and additional lawyer volunteers are needed to draft wills and other end-of-life documents for first responders and their families. The event, coordinated by Franklin City attorney Shauna Billingsley, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Franklin Police Department, 900 Columbia Ave. Contact Billingsley at shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov or (615) 550-6603 to get involved. Since 2008, the YLD has provided wills for more than 1,800 first responders in the state.

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Race Judicata Scheduled for April 6

The Student Bar Association at the University of Memphis School of Law is sponsoring its annual Race Judicata April 6 at 5 p.m. The race will take place at Mississippi River Park, located at 51 North Riverside Dr. The race is open to the public, and runners, walkers and strollers are welcome. There will be food and live music following the race, the proceeds from which benefit Memphis Area Legal Services. For more information, or to sign up as a sponsor visit the event webpage.

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Alternative Spring Break Activities Underway

Students from the University of Tennessee College of Law, Belmont University College of Law and University of Memphis School of Law are working throughout the month of March to help victims of domestic abuse as part of this year’s Alternative Spring Break (ASP). The students are working with immigrants who qualify for the U-visa program, which gives legal status to those who have been victims of violent crime and cooperate with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice. In addition to the official ASP program, a group of UT Law students is traveling to Fort Campbell as part of Vols for Vets, to offer legal assistance to service members and their families, while another group is teaching at-risk youth about the judicial system. Read more about these activities on the UT Law website.

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6th Circuit Clarifies Test for Ineffective Counsel Claims

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently clarified the requirements for a successful claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The decision in the case of Howell v. Hodge found that a claimant must show that the deficient performance resulted in prejudice, and that, but for the counsel’s ineffectiveness, he or she would not have pled guilty and instead would have gone to trial. Writing for Chattanoogan.com, commentator Lee Davis says the test is a “demanding one that requires claimants to prove that the likelihood of a different result is substantial, not just conceivable.”

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Study: Tennessee Indigent Defense Fees Among Lowest

A study released by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers found that Tennessee pays court-appointed attorneys one of the lowest rates in the country. The study suggests that states with low compensation and pay caps discourage experienced attorneys from taking court-appointed cases and create an incentive for quick plea deals. Tennessee pays court-appointed attorneys $50 an hour for in-court work and $40 for office work compared to a national average of $65 an hour. Also in Tennessee, rates are capped at $1,500 for felony cases and $1,000 for misdemeanor cases. Defense attorneys say these rates allow for about a week’s worth of work when such cases can easily take several weeks or even months. The Administrative Office of the Courts told The Tennessean that it has increased payments but is limited by budget constraints and that criminal defense expenditures now represent nearly half of the entire court system's budget.

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Volunteers Needed for New Veterans’ Clinic

The Memphis Bar Association Veterans’ Committee, in conjunction with Memphis Area Legal Services, is starting a new monthly legal clinic to assist veterans with civil legal needs, including child support and visitation, landlord/tenant, employment and debtor/creditor issues. The first clinic will be held March 26 from noon until 2 p.m. at 1407 Union Ave., Suite 815. Anyone interested in volunteering for the clinic or helping plan for a future event should contact Anne Fritz at (901) 527-3575 or afritz@memphisbar.org.

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County Settles Court Interpreter Suit

A lawsuit settled in federal court earlier this month means Bradley County must pay $10,000 to a man who says his civil rights were violated when he was forced to pay for an interpreter in Bradley County General Sessions Court. Though the decision to settle means the case cannot be used in the future as legal precedent, plaintiff attorneys maintain the decision still carries weight for similar cases throughout the country, the Times Free Press reports. Attorneys had argued that “the specter of paying interpreter costs creates leverage to discourage a…limited-English-proficiency defendant from having his or her day in court.” Groups supporting the suit applauded the decision saying interpreter costs should be viewed as an integral part of court management and be borne by the judicial system.

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TBA President, Others Reflect on Gideon Decision

Calling the U.S. Supreme Court's March 18, 1963, ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright "a massive unfunded mandate," the National Law Journal looks into what is holding back the promise of state-funded legal representation to criminal defendants who cannot afford it, as well as some "new ideas for ways to mend the system with minimal costs." Closer to home, The Contributor, which is sold by homeless vendors in Nashville, delves into the situation by interviewing people who have been served by public defenders, as well as TBA President Jackie Dixon and Metro Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner. Also quoting Knox County Public Defender Mark Stephens' recent Dicta article, the Contributor piece paints a picture of all sides not quite satisfied with the situation: clients feeling they were not represented well, and lawyers saying they do the best they can given time and financial constraints. The Contributor story is not available online but if you're in Nashville, buy the paper for $1 and read it.

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Belmont's Street Law Event This Saturday

Belmont University College of Law's Black Law Student Association will host a Street Law Symposium, March 23 at the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center on campus, from 10 a.m. to noon. The event, featuring four 30-minute sessions with presentations from the Metro Police Department and local attorneys, is free and open to the public. Download this flyer or contact blsa@pop.belmont.edu

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50 Years After 'Gideon,' Defense System for Poor in Crisis

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, but even with the help that brought for poor defendants, many lawyers say the system for providing defense attorneys is in crisis. University of Georgia law professor Erica Hashimoto, who studies state defense systems, points out that when the Supreme Court ruled for Gideon, it didn't say anything about who would pay for lawyers for the poor, and those programs usually are at the top of the list to cut during times of belt-tightening. She's also worried about defendants in rural areas. "We know that felony defendants in urban areas for the most part are represented by counsel. We don't know the same about felony defendants in rural areas." Nobody collects that information, so, Hashimoto says, nobody can say whether thousands of defendants are getting their rights under Gideon. NPR has more.

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Attorney’s Police Aspirations Evolved into Legal Career

Memphis native Shayla Purifoy had planned to become a police officer before deciding that the legal profession was the right fit for her. She began working on domestic violence cases through a general civil litigation clinic after taking a social welfare and policy course at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Now with Memphis Area Legal Services, Purifoy works with immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. “I just enjoy helping people,” she told the Memphis Daily News.

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McIver Ready For Challenges After 15 Years

With demand for services growing and money tight, Harrison McIver faces a tough challenge as he enters his 15th year as executive director of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. But the fire that drove him to public service remains strong, the Memphis Daily News reports. “My elevator pitch is that we help keep people from being homeless,” McIver says. “We help keep food on the table. We help extricate people from abusive situations. We help people who may be on their last leg and needing public benefits. This is our challenge.”

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Court Affirms End to 'John B.' TennCare Agreement

The 15-year-old legal agreement that mandated regular medical and dental care for some 750,000 of the state’s poorest children was thrown out today by a federal appeals court, the Tennessean reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld federal judge Thomas Wiseman Jr.'s decision that Tennessee is now meeting federal requirements, effectively terminating the “John B.” agreement that had mandated compliance. Attorneys from the Tennessee Justice Center, which filed the original suit, say there are still serious concerns over whether children are receiving the services to which they are entitled.

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Legal Clinic to Help Magdalene House Residents

Nashville area attorneys or law students interested in helping Magdalene House residents with legal issues can take part in an orientation session from 8 to 9 a.m. on Friday at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP. The volunteers will then work at a clinic from 4 to 7 p.m. on April 4 at Magdalene House, which is a residential program in Nashville for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. The clinic is sponsored by the Belmont College of Law Legal Aid Society and the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee. To learn more, contact Katie Blankenship or Emily Cole.

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Murfreesboro Attorney Recognized for Pro Bono Work

Barbara E. Futter was recently awarded the Rutherford and Cannon Counties Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award for her outstanding service to the community in 2012. Before entering private practice in 2011, Futter served for 10 years as the managing attorney of the Murfreesboro office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee. In 2005, she was awarded Public Service Attorney of the Year Award from the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee. That award recognized her for having gone above and beyond the call of duty in representing indigent clients.

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Corporate Counsel Gala Honors Pro Bono Work

Corporate counsel and private bar lawyers, along with a diverse group of sponsors, were honored at the Seventh Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala in Nashville this past Saturday. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary R. Wade gave the keynote address, praising the initiative’s emphasis on pro bono service and encouraging all lawyers to fulfill the ethical responsibility of providing legal assistance to those in need. TBA President Jackie Dixon presented this year’s awards to Memphis-based Burch, Porter & Johnson for its partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and to the corporate legal department of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in Chattanooga for its Street Law program and new Hamilton County Legal Clinic. See photos from the event or read more about the award recipients.

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Legal Aid Kicks off 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice

More than 150 lawyers gathered for the Kickoff Luncheon for the 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice benefiting the Legal Aid Society and the Nashville Pro Bono Program. Campaign Chair Thor Urness of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP announced that the campaign has already raised $440,000 towards its goal of $760,000. Featured speaker Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. emphasized the responsibility of every lawyer to provide pro bono assistance, especially given the significant cuts in legal aid funding in recent years.

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Campaign for Equal Justice Kicks off 2013 Campaign

More than 150 lawyers gathered today for a Kickoff Luncheon to the 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice benefiting the Legal Aid Society and the Nashville Pro Bono Program. Campaign Chair Thor Urness of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP announced that the campaign has already raised $440,000 towards its goal of $760,000. Featured speaker Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. emphasized the responsibility of every lawyer to provide pro bono assistance, especially given the significant cuts in legal aid funding in recent years. More than 30 law firms in Davidson and Williamson counties were recognized for their role in the Leadership Cabinet, contributing at least $400 per attorney to the campaign. Every year, the Legal Aid Society and its pro bono partners serve thousands of low-income individuals in 48 Tennessee counties. Pinnacle Financial Partners sponsored the event at the City Club. See photos from the event.

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Legal Aid Receives Medical-Legal Partnership Grant

The Legal Aid Society has received a $40,388 grant from Baptist Healing Trust to further the groups’ medical-legal partnership in Middle Tennessee. The funds will allow Legal Aid to provide free, direct legal service to low-income patients and their families receiving treatment at two Nashville clinics – the United Neighborhood Health Services Clinic and the Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. It also will fund training and education to help health care workers identify patients’ need for legal assistance related to their illnesses. The agency announced the news today.

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TBA to Recognize 2013 Corporate Pro Bono Honorees

The Memphis law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson and Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will be recognized for their commitment to providing free legal services at the 7th Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala Saturday in Nashville. The event will feature remarks by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Doug Blaze, dean of the University of Tennessee College of Law. The awards will be presented by TBA President Jackie Dixon along with Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Co-Chairs Jim Barry with International Paper and Andy Branham with Counsel On Call. The 2013 Law Firm Award will be presented to Burch, Porter & Johnson for a partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that helps low-income families establish conservatorships for children too neurologically impaired to consent to their own treatment. The Legal Department Award will be presented to BlueCross for its continuing partnership with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel to present the Street Law program at Brainerd High School, as well as for a new community legal clinic it organized last year with the support of Legal Aid of East Tennessee and Miller & Martin PLLC.

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Legal Aid Kicks Off Fundraising Campaign

The Legal Aid Society will launch its 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice at a March 5 luncheon at the Nashville City Club. The annual campaign raises money for the society, as well as the Nashville Pro Bono Program. The event, which will run from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., will feature a keynote address by Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. and an introduction of campaign leadership. To attend, please RSVP by Friday to Cindy Durham at the Legal Aid Society at (615) 780-7125 or at cdurham@las.org.

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Learn How to Start a Legal Clinic at Friday Event

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is hosting a seminar Friday for those interested in starting a legal clinic in their area. The presentation will cover issues such as recruiting attorney volunteers, publicizing a clinic, dealing with conflict checks and malpractice insurance. The event will run from 10:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. To learn more or to RSVP email Palmer Williams at the Administrative Office of the Courts or call (615) 741-2687 x 1414.

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Volunteers Needed for Saturday Events

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has two events taking place on Saturday that still need attorney volunteers. First, in Franklin, the Williamson County Mock Trial Competition begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs throughout the day. Attorneys are needed to serve as scorers while law students or legal staff are needed to serve as bailiffs. Please contact Shauna Billingsley at (615) 550-6603 or shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov for more information. On the western side of the state, the Memphis Wills for Heroes clinic is drawing record numbers of first responders. Approximately 10 attorneys are still needed for the afternoon shift at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Please contact Joann Coston-Holloway at (901) 577-8223 or jholloway@bakerdonelson.com for details.

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Knoxville Bar Foundation Accepting Grant Proposals

The Knoxville Bar Foundation (KBF) is accepting grant proposals to fund programs that improve the administration of justice, enhance the public's understanding of and confidence in the legal system, and serve the legal profession. The deadline for submitting applications is March 1. Download an application or contact KBF Chair J. Michael Haynes at (865) 292-2307 or mhaynes@hdclaw.com for more information.

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