TALS Accepting 2012 Award Nominations

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) is accepting nominations for two access to justice awards now through Sept. 7. The first, the Riney Green Award, recognizes those who promote inter-program cooperation and statewide collaboration to strengthen access to justice in Tennessee. The second, the New Advocate of the Year, recognizes attorneys or paralegals that have been employed by their local legal aid program less than five years and have a track record of affirmative, creative and effective advocacy on behalf of clients. Nominations for both awards should be submitted to TALS Executive Director Erik Cole by e-mail to or by fax to (615) 627-0964. Learn more online

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Immigrants Line Up for Permits; Tenn. Training Set

Immigration attorneys across the country and in Nashville say their offices are overflowing with young undocumented residents, who, starting today can apply for a two year work permit. According to WPLN, immigrants who were brought across the border by their parents can apply for temporary legal status if they can show they have stayed out of legal trouble, lived in the U.S. continuously and earned a high school diploma or GED.

TRAINING FOR LAWYERS: Attorneys in Tennessee who would like to help these individuals apply for relief can take advantage of two upcoming training sessions. Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors (JFON), in cooperation with Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, will offer training on Aug. 22 and 23. At the urging of its Immigration Law Section, the TBA is hosting the Aug. 23 session and will videotape the program for JFON to use in future training. For more information about the training or subsequent clinics contact Adrienne Kittos at or (615) 788-0774. Download a brochure to learn more

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Training Offered for Immigration Clinic Volunteers

Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors (JFON), in cooperation with Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, will offer training for volunteers who would like to help young immigrants apply for relief under the so-called “deferred action” program implemented by the Obama Administration. The program offers two years of protection for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and who meet specific requirements. Training will be held Aug. 22 and 23. At the urging of its Immigration Law Section, the TBA is hosting the Aug. 23 session and will videotape the program for JFON to use in future training. For more information about the training or subsequent clinics contact Adrienne Kittos at or (615) 788-0774. Download a brochure

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LSC: Funding Cuts Mean 750 Fewer Staff

Legal aid programs will have to cut nearly 750 employees, including 350 attorneys, this year because of funding cuts, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) reports, The reduction represents an 8 percent reduction in staffing from last year. A survey completed by all but one of the nation's local legal aid programs found that 29 percent expect to cut back on services to victims of domestic violence and those dealing with foreclosure issues, while 16 percent expect to close offices before the end of the year. Read more from the LSC

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Man Sues County After Death Sentence Set Aside

A McMinn County man who was on death row for 19 years and scheduled to die in the electric chair on five dates before being granted a new trial, has filed a $20 million lawsuit against McMinn County government. Senior Judge Donald Harris in 2009 set aside Gussie Willie Vann's conviction and death penalty sentence based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The Chattanoogan has more

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MALS Capital Drive Under Way

This summer, Memphis Area Legal Services launched a capital drive under the tagline “We’re All In.” The campaign is part of a multi-pronged strategy that will blanket the city’s lawyers and other legal professionals this year before broadening the message for the public portion of the fundraising effort in 2013. MALS Executive Director Harrison McIver talks to the Memphis Daily News about the campaign.

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Legal Aid Lawyer to Help Domestic Violence Victims

Norman Feaster, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, will be at the Lincoln County Courthouse on Monday morning to meet with victims of domestic violence and other low-income individuals in need of free advice. According to the Elk Valley Times, individuals interested in additional details may contact the Tullahoma office of the Legal Aid Society at (931) 455-7000 or (866) 898-0171.

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Survey: Public Does Not Recognize Plight of Courts

The ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System wrapped up two years of work this week with a presentation of its findings. A survey conducted by the group shows that lawyers face serious challenges in educating the public about the dangers of the current court funding crisis. The survey found that the public does not fully recognize the financial plight facing state courts and does not have great confidence in their state court systems. Pollsters involved with the survey suggested that court supporters focus on messages involving the financial stewardship of the courts, the importance of preserving access to justice and how delayed justice costs victims and taxpayers alike. Read more from the ABA

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Website, Hotline Explain Mortgage Settlement

With 49 state attorneys general and the feds reaching an agreement with the nation's largest loan servicers, as much as $25 billion in relief will be available to distressed borrowers and government agencies. Homeowners also have a new online resource to help them determine eligibility for relief under the settlement. General information for those struggling to keep their homes is available here or from a new hotline, which can be reached at (855) 876-7283.

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Legal Aid Gives Pro Bono Honors

Legal Aid of East Tennessee recently honored lawyers who donate services to low-income clients at its Pro Bono Celebration. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee presented the Law Firm of the Year Award to Paine, Tarwater & Bickers, the Lawyer of the Year Award to Rachel P. Hurt of Arnett, Draper & Hagood, and the Law Student of the Year Award to Crista M. Cuccaro, a student at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Knoxville Bar Association President J. William Coley gave awards to 21 lawyers who donated at least 25 hours of service through Legal Aid's Pro Bono Project. In the past year, more than 750 lawyers and 120 law students contributed their services through the project. Download more from LAET

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Memphis PDs Rethink Handling of Indigent Cases

Public defenders in Memphis are joining a movement to reform how indigent defendants are treated in and out of the courthouse. The approach is based on the idea that public defenders may be able to help curb recidivism by helping clients address underlying problems such as mental illness, unemployment and drug or alcohol addiction. The cutting-edge initiative earned the city a spot in the national Public Defenders Corp. program. More than 450 law school graduates from across the country applied to participate, with just 19 making the final cut. After intensive training, the group is now a week into their new assignments. The Commercial Appeal has more

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AOC Announces Grants to Help Pro Se Litigants

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) announced today that it has approximately $200,000 in grant funding available for the development or continuation of initiatives that aid self-represented litigants with child support issues. The funding is made possible through the Access and Visitation Grant. To receive funding, programs must address the needs of divorced or never-married parents and focus on cases involving child support, parenting or visitation issues. Proposals must be received by Sept. 14. Learn more or download an application

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Firm Honored for Death Penalty Representation

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP will be among those honored by the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project for its commitment to prisoners on death row, with the Exceptional Service Award. The firm, with offices in Nashville and six other Southeastern cities, has provided pro bono legal assistance for inmates on death row since 1988. In total, Bradley Arant lawyers have helped provide representation for 22 prisoners, nearly all of them from the extremely active death penalty jurisdiction of Alabama. The awards will be presented at the Project’s 2012 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Event this Friday during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

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Clark in Michigan for LSC Board Meeting

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia Clark joined three other state chief justices yesterday on a panel at the University of Michigan Law School to discuss the role legal aid plays in safeguarding the fair administration of justice. The event was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors. The meeting continues through the week with sessions on innovative solutions to domestic violence and a keynote address by former ABA President Dennis W. Archer. Read more from the LSC

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Providing Legal Services to Persons with Disabilities? New Video Can Help

A short video is now available to help lawyers when they provide pro bono legal services to persons with disabilities. The project from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission --  Providing Legal Services to Persons with Disabilities -- raises awareness and reduces the barriers that persons with disabilities face when seeking legal services. The 12-minute video provides general etiquette tips on interacting with individuals with disabilities and highlights specific examples of common scenarios that people with disabilities encounter when seeking legal services. The Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee developed the video with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Learn more from the AOC

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TJC Awarded Grant to Expand Partnerships

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the American Bar Association (ABA) to expand its efforts to engage and partner with Tennessee lawyers and law firms. Michele Johnson, TJC managing attorney said the ABA Section of Litigation Justice Assistance Fund Grant will "help us take our partnership with Tennessee’s legal community to the next level." Learn more from the TJC

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Pro Bono Celebration This Thursday

Knoxville lawyers will gather Thursday, July 26, at the Square Room on Market Square for Celebrate Pro Bono! The festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a dinner buffet. Tickets are $25 per person ($15 for law students) and may be ordered online, by fax to (865) 525-1162 or by mail to Legal Aid of East Tennessee, 502 S. Gay Street, Suite 404, Knoxville 37902. Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Sharon G. Lee and Gary R. Wade will serve as the masters of ceremonies. The evening also will feature a silent auction, and will wrap up with a presentation of the Knoxville Bar Association's Pro Bono Awards and awards for those who have performed extraordinary service to low-income clients through the Pro Bono Project. Learn more about the event

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Opinion: Modest Means Initiative Needs Cash

In one of several stories about the increased need for pro bono services, the Nashville Ledger argues that one particular program in the state needs immediate attention. That program is the Modest Means Initiative, funded largely by the Nashville Bar Association during its pilot phase. Now that the program is fully established, the association is looking for a new sponsoring agency and/or funding of $10,000 to $15,000 to continue the service. The program, designed to serve the working poor, charges a fee of $25 for a legal referral and caps lawyers’ fees at $75 per hour. Program founder and Nashville lawyer Jonathan Cole says there has been a “huge uptick in requests for these kind of services” but that the association cannot continue to fund it alone.

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Deadline Near on Public Service Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the Tennessee Bar Association's annual Public Service Awards. Lawyers may be nominated for any of three awards: the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year, the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award and the Law Student Volunteer Award. Nominations are due by Sept. 4. Award winners will be honored at the TBA's Public Service Luncheon Jan. 19 in Nashville.

Equal Justice University on Tap for September

Mark your calendar for this year's Equal Justice University – the annual conference that provides training and networking opportunities for members of the state’s access to justice community. The event will take place Sept. 26 – 28 at Paris Landing State Park. For more information contact Samantha Sanchez with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, (615) 627-0956 ext. 21.

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Story Highlights Legal Assistance for Artists

A recent story in the Nashville Ledger highlights the work of Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts – a Nashville-based organization that provides pro bono legal services to artists and emerging arts nonprofits. All services are offered free to qualified low-income artists and emerging nonprofit arts organizations with annual operating budgets of $1 million or less. More than 250 lawyers and 30 business professionals (accountants, marketers, and public relations and human resources managers) are volunteering with the program, which has served more than 1,000 artists and 300 arts nonprofits, and provided more than $1 million in free services.

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Lawyer Finds Volunteering at P.A.T.H. Rewarding

Chattanooga lawyer Bo Hixson talks about his 25 years of commercial litigation practice -- and his involvement with P.A.T.H. (Partnering With Attorneys to Help) to General Sessions Court. Through this program, individuals with a case on the Monday docket can receive basic information about Sessions Court rules and procedures from volunteer attorneys. Although Hixson is on the board of the Chattanooga Bar Association, which launched the program, he was not an immediate believer in P.A.T.H. “I was skeptical about it at first because of my concern about an attorney crossing the line from giving general guidance to giving legal advice,” he says. Then he volunteered one Monday morning, and the experience changed his opinion. Read more from the Hamilton County Herald

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Pro Se Clients Increase Use of Forms, Services

With unprecedented numbers of distressed litigants applying for free legal services, reaching out to lawyers for reduced fees, or representing themselves, the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission continues to work to help people who can't afford a lawyer. The Nashville Ledger explores the progress, including the recent data showing an increase of Tennessee attorneys doing free legal work, and the publication of the court's eight plain-language divorce forms. Anne-Louise Wirthlin, the court's Access to Justice Coordinator, says judges and court clerks are reporting an increase in people using the forms, and the ATJ Commission is in the process of developing plain-language forms for other situations.

The Nashville Pro Bono Program and attorneys from Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP are also involved in this effort, hosting monthly programs to explain self representation. The first is Aug. 7, from 5-7 p.m., at the Legal Aid Society’s downtown headquarters.

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Pro Bono Events Planned Across State

Legal aid groups and bar associations have a number of pro bono activities planned across the state over the next several weeks. Memphis Area Legal Services launched its second of three Justice for All Online Auctions this week to raise money for its pro bono programs. The site will stay online through July 31. Contact Mary Lynes at (901) 271-0660 or for more information or to donate auction items. 

On Saturday, the Memphis Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee will host a free legal clinic from 10 a.m. to noon at the city’s main library. To get involved contact Linda Warren Seely at (901) 523-8822 or

Next Wednesday, the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands will work with the Nashville Public Defender's Office to staff a free legal clinic for veterans at Operation Stand Down of Nashville. Any veteran can attend the clinic but should call (615) 248-1981 to make an appointment.

Finally, on July 26, Legal Aid of East Tennessee will hold its annual Pro Bono Celebration and Silent Auction at The Square Room, 4 Market Square. The event will be emceed by Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Sharon G. Lee and Gary R. Wade. A reception and silent auction will begin at 5:30 p.m. Awards will be presented at 6:30 p.m.

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Memphis Pro Bono Events in the News

Lawyers from AutoZone, Bass, Berry & Sims and Memphis Area Legal Services on Tuesday donated their time to help seniors and low-income residents draft wills, powers of attorney and other legal documents. It was the fourth year the groups have joined efforts to serve Memphis-area senior citizens. Read about it in the Commercial Appeal. Today, the Memphis Bar Association’s (MBA) Access to Justice Committee provided legal advice at the Project Homeless Connect event at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. The event was organized by Linda Warren Seely with Memphis Area Legal Services and MBA Executive Director Anne Fritz.

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