News

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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 mlynes@memphisbar.org 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 lseely@malsi.org.

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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."

read more »

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.”

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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."

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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

read more »

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

read more »