News

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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Free Seminars to Explain Disability Voting Rights

In partnership with the Tennessee Division of Elections, the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee is presenting "Vote TN!," a series of free voting conferences across the state to educate about disability voting rights. Topics will include disability-related barriers during the voting process, potential solutions to these barriers, and step-by-step instruction on training others about voting access. Pre-register and learn more about dates and locations.

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Clark: Translators for Crime Victims Important

Since July 1 all non-English-speaking crime victims are being provided state-funded translation services in Tennessee court proceedings. A federal mandate had ordered states to extend free translation services to all litigants or risk losing billions in federal aid. But Tennessee went a step further and included victims in the coverage. "It is important that not only those charged with a crime, but also crime victims, divorcing parents and all those who find themselves before the courts are able to communicate effectively," Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said in a statement Monday. Read more from WBIR

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Free Legal Clinic for Seniors Set for Tuesday

Attorneys from AutoZone Inc., Bass, Berry & Sims PLC and Memphis Area Legal Services will hold the fourth annual free legal clinic for Memphis-area seniors Tuesday, July 10, from 10 a.m. to noon at Orange Mound Senior Center, 2590 Park Ave. The pro bono clinic offers seniors essential legal advice and helps in the preparation of wills, advanced care plans and more. For more information, call Linda Warren Seely of MALS at 523-8822.

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Free Training on Mortgage Settlements July 16

Learn about the mortgage settlement process in Tennessee at a free, one-hour webcast July 16, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office. The seminar, produced by Matt Pulle and Jeffrey L. Hill, will provide an overview of the issues surrounding the settlement, information on the benefits of the settlement — including benefits to military personnel — what attorneys need to know about the settlement, and information about the resources available through the Attorney General’s office. Learn more or register for "Pro Bono: Mortgage Relief for Pro Bono Clients."

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Greer Elected West Tenn. TAJ VP

Memphis lawyer Thomas Greer, a partner in Bailey & Greer PLLC, has been elected vice president of the West Tennessee division of the Tennessee Association for Justice (TAJ). Greer practices in the areas of medical malpractice, personal injury, wrongful death, premises liability and police brutality. In an interview with the Memphis Daily News, Greer reflects on shifting trends in the legal profession and how TAJ is responding. “There’s a declining trend for the number of cases that go to trial," he says. "One of the missions of our association is to keep the courthouse open and level the playing field for the ordinary Tennessean. To try to make sure that future generations have the same constitutional rights that we grew up with and that we’ve had.”

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Opinion: 40 Years Later, Death Penalty Still Flawed

June 29 marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Furman vs. Georgia, which struck down the nation’s death penalty. It was reinstated four years later with new sentencing procedures to make the system fairer and less arbitrary. But in 2012, the Rev. Stacy Rector writes in an opinion piece, that the death penalty system is still flawed. "Random factors such as the race of the victim, the quality of defense counsel, and the jurisdiction in which the crime is committed continue to have a significant influence on whether a defendant will receive the death penalty," she writes, saying that 40 percent of the inmates on Tennessee’s death row come from Shelby county, while half of the state’s counties have never sentenced anyone to death.

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Chattanooga Honors Pro Bono Achievements

2012 Pro Bono Night -- co-hosted by Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the Pro Bono Committee and the Young Lawyers Division of the Chattanooga Bar Association -- recently honored the achievements of a law firm, a philanthropist, a hospital and an attorney. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee gave the keynote address, saying the United States was founded on the principle of equal justice under the law. The Firm of the Year Award was given to Chattanooga law firm Luther-Anderson. Corrine Allen, executive director of the Benwood Foundation, received the Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award. LAET also gave the inaugural Alexander Hamilton Award to Erlanger Heath System. Named after the first lawyer to devote nearly his entire practice to pro bono work, the award honored Erlanger for joining LAET in creating the first medical-legal partnership in Tennessee. Attorney Tiffany Campbell was awarded the Bruce C. Bailey Volunteer Attorney of the Year Award. The Hamilton County Herald has more

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Court Issues New Rules for Language Access Services

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued new rules to provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) Tennesseans with more meaningful access to court hearings. The new rules go into effect on July 1. According to the court, an additional $2 million in funding and new rules will help judges better communicate with parties in civil and criminal cases and will enable LEP persons to more fully participate in court proceedings and understand what is expected of them. Before the new funding, interpreter costs were paid for by the state only in certain cases where a person was entitled to but could not afford to pay for an attorney. The new rules will provide qualified interpreters for all hearings if an interpreter is needed. Learn more about the new rules or about interpreter services on the AOC website.

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Lawyers Reporting More Pro Bono Hours

More than 46 percent of Tennessee attorneys reported performing pro bono legal work in Tennessee, an increase of six percent from last year, according to data from the Board of Professional Responsibility. This is the highest percentage of pro bono reporting since attorneys began to voluntarily report in 2009 and more than twice the level of reporting during the initial year. So far, about 3,860 lawyers with Tennessee law licenses residing in Tennessee reported 329,285 hours of pro bono work. The law license renewal form includes a section where lawyers can voluntarily report their pro bono work done in the previous calendar year. 

Increasing pro bono participation is a priority of the Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission’s 2012 Strategic Plan. “The commission’s goal is to ensure all Tennesseans have access to justice by knowing their rights, having access to counsel and understanding the judicial system,” ATJ Chair George T. "Buck" Lewis said. “This is very encouraging news, and next year we hope to see that number over 50 percent.” Learn more from the Tennessee Supreme Court

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Budget Cuts Hit Legal Aid, Courts

Two news articles last week focused on the financial hardships hitting legal aid programs and courts around the country. The first, from WRCB-TV, looked at the impact of a $5 million cut expected to hit Puerto Rico's Legal Services offices -– a reduction officials say will force attorneys to drop at least 7,000 civil cases. The second, from News Channel 5, focused on widespread layoffs in the Los Angeles County court system. Officials there say the cutbacks will affect 431 employees and 56 courtrooms. The budget-cutting plan also ends the county's innovative juvenile traffic courts, removes court reporters from civil trials and consolidates restraining order processing. With alot unkown about the future, one court clerk lamented that while the "commitment of our judicial officers and staff to preserve access to justice is unwavering…our ability to follow through on that commitment may soon be exhausted."

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NPR Investigates Indigent Defense 'Crisis'

In the first of a two-part series, National Public Radio today looked at what the U.S. Justice Department is calling a “crisis” in the provision of legal assistance for the indigent. Today’s program focused on the situation in Michigan, where a patchwork of rules that vary among counties are confusing for defendants and appointed counsel, who often are young and inexperienced. Now, a lawsuit against the state and recent exonerations due to poor legal counsel are adding pressure to do something about the situation. Tomorrow, the station looks at a legal aid program in Baltimore that faces an uncertain future. Listen to today's story or read it here

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Free Immigration Clinic Happens Saturday

A free legal clinic for Nashville area residents who need advice on immigration issues will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Hillcrest United Methodist Church, 5112 Raywood Lane, The Tennessean reports. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Justice for Our Neighbors of Tennessee (JFON) and the MidSouth Chapter of AILA will host the event. Volunteer attorneys will be available for one-on-one meetings, to answer questions, make assessments and give recommendations. Languages spoken will include Chinese, Finnish, French, Hindi, Polish, Spanish, Telegu Urdu, and others. Cases will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis.

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State Weighs Details of Translation Mandate

About two years ago, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told state chief justices that their states must provide free translation services to parties in any court case or risk losing all federal funding. So Tennessee found the money and is set to expand translation services following a comment period on proposed new rules. But a new question has been raised about whether the state is doing enough to make sure non-English-speaking victims understand what is happening in the courtroom. While a translator is provided for victims during their testimony, once they leave the witness stand those services end. The Tennessean explores the issue

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Legal Aid Lawyer On the Job at Erlanger

Emily Lay has been Legal Aid of East Tennessee's full-time lawyer in Chattanooga's Erlanger Hospital for several months now, helping patients who may need legal assistance, such as a setting up a power of attorney, applying for social service benefits, working out child custody, writing living wills or obtaining protective orders for domestic violence victims. This is the first such health-law partnership at Erlanger, and Charlie McDaniel, pro bono project director for Legal Aid in Chattanooga, says the first hurdle to setting up the program was in persuading the hospital to bring in lawyers to the facility. Another challenge was to commit a full-time attorney, not just volunteers, to be in the hospital and available at a moment's notice. Read how Lay does her job, and what it takes for a partnership like this to work, in the Times Free Press.

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Dixon Takes Office; Lawyers Honored at Luncheon

Lawyers Luncheon Highlight of 131st Annual TBA Convention

Nashville lawyer Jacqueline B. Dixon took office as the Tennessee Bar Association's 130th president at the association's annual convention in Memphis today. After being sworn into office by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Connie Clark (above), Dixon laid out her vision for the year, which will include a focus on civics education, civility in the profession, pro bono efforts and working to preserve an impartial judiciary.

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Federal PD Sought for Memphis Office

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is soliciting applications from persons interested in appointment as federal public defender for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. This is a vacancy created by the retirement of the previous incumbent. Applications are due by June 15. Download information from the court

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Firm Honors More Lawyers For Pro Bono Service

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC has recognized more attorneys within the firm for their commitment to pro bono service. Tennessee lawyers honored are Marlene J. Bidelman, Chattanooga; Jennifer P. Keller, Johnson City and LeAnn Mynatt, Knoxville. Five in the Memphis office were honored earlier as the firm's Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year. Read more about each winner's work

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Morristown Lawyers Start Monthly Legal Clinic

Morristown attorneys will host a free legal clinic, called Hamblen Legal Link, on Thursday (June 7) from 5 to 7 p.m. This is the first in a series of clinics to be held on the first Thursday of each month. "The mission is to connect residents with local lawyers and social service organizations that are willing to provide free informatin and basic guidance to those who need it," Aaron Chapman says. Chapman and fellow Morristown attorney Dale Darby have organized the events, with the help of Beth Boniface who is providing her office for the clinics, at 1125 West First North Street. For more information visit facebook.com/HamblenLegalLink or email hamblenlegallink@yahoo.com

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Baker, Donelson Names 'Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year'

The Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC has named five lawyers as its Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year. They are Leo Bearman, Lori Patterson, Kate Bogard, Gabe McGaha and Ashley Satterfield. The team was recognized for its work helping a group of Memphis voters involved in ongoing voting rights litigation arising from the proposed consolidation of the Memphis and Shelby County governments. Baker Donelson pro bono shareholder Lisa W. Borden praised the team for standing up for “the right of every person to vote, and to have that vote count equally.” Learn more about the firm’s pro bono efforts

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Make Plans for Celebrate Pro Bono 2012

Bar associations and legal organizations across the country will hold pro bono clinics and events as part of the national Celebrate Pro Bono effort this fall. The official Celebrate Pro Bono week will be Oct. 21–27, but Tennessee lawyers will hold events all month long. If you are interested in organizing an event in your area contact TBA Access to Justice Coordinator Sarah Hayman or call (615) 383-7421.

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Spanish Language Clinic Planned in Knoxville

The McKellar Law Firm is hosting a Spanish-language pro bono legal clinic in Knoxville on June 6. The event will run from 5 to 9 p.m. at Holy Ghost Church, 1041 N. Central Street, Knoxville 37917. For more information call (865) 637-0484 ext. 1524, or visit the firm’s Facebook page or Twitter page for details.

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Honored Mothers Showed Strength, Perseverance

The Tennessee Justice Center recently named seven women as its 2012 Mothers of the Year. Two of those women reside in Rutherford County, and an article in The Tennessean looked at their lives this week. The first award recipient, Felicia Burk, is the adoptive mom of three children who all have been diagnosed with autism as well as developmental disabilities, ADHD, bipolar disorder and sleep disorder. The TJC says it honored her for fighting tirelessly to ensure those children have access to the services they need to grow and function to their fullest capacity. A second mom, Deborah Balthrop, was recognized for persevering through 20 denials of coverage for her own prenatal care.

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Court Explores Improvements to Interpreter Service

Court officials looked at how best to provide spoken language interpreter services for court hearings during an Interpreters Issues Summit hosted by the  Administrative Office of the Courts and the National Center for State Courts. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark opened the summit noting the importance of interpretive services to the judicial system and thanking the governor and legislature for recognizing that. Of particular focus was how best to spend an additional $2 million included in the state's 2012-2013 budget.

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KBA Seeking Auction Items for LAET Fundraiser

The Knoxville Bar Association is still collecting donations for the silent auction at its upcoming "Cheers for Charity" benefit for Legal Aid of East Tennessee. The wine tasting event has sold out, but the KBA is seeking items such as an elegant dinner hosted by a Tennessee attorney, an assortment of fine wines or a basket that includes donations from restaurants or liquor stores for the silent auction. All proceeds from the silent auction will be donated to LAET, and donors will be recognized during the event and in all follow-up publicity.  Contact KBA Executive Director Marsha Wilson at 865-522-6522 for more information.

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