News

Services Set for LAET Attorney

Laura Rule, who managed the Blount County office of Legal Aid of East Tennessee, died this morning (Aug. 31). She was 65. Ms. Rule was a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she was a member of the nationally ranked Labor Law Moot Court Team. After completing a judicial clerkship for the Hon. Samuel L. Lewis on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, she became an associate at Reid & Priest in Manhattan. In 1993, she returned to Tennessee to work with the Blount County Public Defender. She joined Legal Aid in 2001. The family will receive friends from 3 to 5 p.m. on Monday at McCammon-Ammons-Click Funeral Home, 220 W. Broadway Ave. in Maryville. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, 858 Louisville Road in Alcoa. Burial will follow at Grandview Cemetary, 2304 Tuckaleechee Pike in Maryville. LAET’s Knoxville and Maryville offices will be closed on Tuesday. Memorial donations may be made to the LAET Blount County Office, 307 Ellis Ave., Maryville, TN 37801.

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Memphis Law Launches Curriculum Changes

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law has been making changes to its curriculum that it hopes will better prepare students for the changing nature of the legal profession. One such change is a new pro bono requirement that will require students entering the school this fall to complete 40 hours of supervised pro bono work before they graduate. Also starting this fall, students will have more flexibility in classes they take earlier in their education. The Memphis Daily News has more

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Todaro Joins TBA Staff, Will Handle Public Ed, Access to Justice

Elizabeth “Liz” Slagle Todaro joined the TBA staff this week to begin training as the new Access to Justice and Public Education Coordinator. She will take over later this fall when Sarah Hayman, who currently fills those roles, departs to have her first child. Todaro, a graduate of the City University of New York Law School, most recently led Nashville Debate – a comprehensive debate program for high school students. She also has served in a consulting role with the YWCA as a community educator and outreach coordinator for the agency’s Domestic Violence Center, and as program director for the Family and Children’s Service Crisis Center. A native of Nashville, Todaro graduated from Hume-Fogg High School. She earned her undergraduate degree from Emory University and worked in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., prior to attending law school.

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Lawyers Take Cases Pro Bono To Keep Steelman's Court Moving

A group of Chattanooga attorneys volunteered to take cases pro bono today in Judge Barry Steelman's Criminal Courtroom so that a backlog would not increase further until multiple recusal motions by Public Defender Ardena Garth are dealt with. Garth was in the courtroom continuing to step aside on all new cases, saying in an earlier motion that Judge Steelman has been "venomous" toward her office. Steelman has set a hearing for Monday afternoon on the recusal motions. The Chattanoogan has the update

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Legal Clinic Partnership Set in Chattanooga

Legal Aid of East Tennessee has partnered with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and the law firm Miller & Martin to offer a free legal advice clinic on Sept.13, at 2 p.m., at the downtown office of BlueCross Blueshield, 1 Cameron Hill Circle, Chattanooga 37402. Individuals interested in meeting with a lawyer for free legal advice at this clinic should call Legal Aid of East Tennessee at 423 756-4013.

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2012 EJU Speakers Named

The 2012 Equal Justice University will feature a host of stellar speakers and more than 40 educational sessions Sept. 26-29 at Paris Landing State Park. Judge Bernice Donald, recently appointed to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, will give the keynote speech at the welcome lunch on Sept. 26. That evening, former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell will speak at the annual Awards Dinner, and on Thursday, the Leadership Luncheon will feature Memphis lawyer Buck Lewis, chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission and former TBA president. In all, attendees can earn 15 hours of CLE.

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Equal Justice University 2012: Enjoy Beautiful Tennessee While Earning CLE

Equal Justice University is truly a “destination education” opportunity taking place September 26-28.  The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association invite you to join us at the breathtaking Paris Landing State Park for two and a half days of CLE programs in a relaxing environment. This is a unique opportunity to earn all 15 hours of CLE (including DUAL offerings) in a short period of time at a beautiful location. Bring your family and enjoy the state park between your training sessions! This conference facility is just 90 miles northwest of Nashville.  The hotel is on the lake; all rooms will have great views of the lake and the autumn leaves. The conference prices are very reasonable, as are the overnight stays at the park. There will be a variety of programming for most areas of substantive law and other advocacy techniques. Keynote speakers include:  Bill Purcell, former Nashville mayor; Buck Lewis, chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission; and Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Below you will find just half of the 40 sessions that will be offered at the conference:

  • Evidentiary Issues: Social Media and Family Law
  • The Affordable Healthcare Act
  • Loss Mitigation for Clients and the AG Mortgage Settlement
  • Immigration 101 and VAWA
  • Pitfalls and Potholes of Buying a Used Car
  • Social Security Disability for Low Income Clients with No Health Insurance
  • Introduction to Criminal Injuries Compensation
  • TennCare Basics and Advanced
  • Introduction to WestLaw Next
  • Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline
  • Compassion, Mission, and the Calling of Service
  • Employment Law Basics
  • Understanding and Analyzing Financial Statements of Nonprofits
  • Supervision of New Attorneys, Law Students, and Advocates
  • Maximizing Microsoft Office
  • Civil and Criminal Contempt as a Remedy in Family Law Cases
  • Bankruptcy and Consumer Issues
  • Introduction to Veterans Benefits-Cindy Gardner
  • Fee Generating Cases and Collecting Attorneys Fees
  • Landlord/Tenant Current Issues

For more information visit http://www.tals.org/equal-justice-university

See a list of conference sponsors

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What DOJ Report Tells Us About Indigent Criminal Defense in Tennessee

The Sixth Amendment Center takes a look at the recent Department of Justice investigation of the Memphis Juvenile Court, examining what it also tells us about indigent criminal defense throughout Tennessee. The center’s blog notes that Tennessee had been in the forefront in providing state funding for indigent criminal defense, but suggests that there should be greater emphasis placed on structural standards and the guarantee of sufficient resources to meet those standards.

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Cases Backing Up With 50+ Recusal Requests from PD

Claiming that Judge Barry Steelman is biased against her office, Public Defender Ardena Garth filed more motions today asking the judge to recuse himself from cases in which her office is involved. So far, she has filed for recusals in more than 50 cases, beginning last week. Cases are backing up in Steelman's division of Hamilton County Criminal Court, the Chattanoogan reports.

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Pro Se Litigants More Likely to Lose, Survey Says

The need for lawyers to provide pro bono services continues. Judges say self-represented people are slowing down court dockets because they typically don’t know what legal points to argue or what motions to file.  And an American Bar Association survey last year said 75 percent of lawyers believe that people who represent themselves are more likely to lose their cases. “Courthouses are being filled with people just showing up, trying to figure out what their rights are," said Legal Services Corp. Chair John Levi. "If you're a low-income person and you have a legal need, it is not easy to get it addressed.” Legal Services funds 135 legal aid groups across the country and serves about 900,000 clients a year, but it has to turn away about the same number of people because of too few staff. The Leaf Chronicle has this AP story

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PD Requests Blanket Recusal from Judge

Hamilton County Public Defender Ardena Garth has asked Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman to recuse himself or reassign her office's cases to another judge. That followed a Tuesday hearing in which a public defender said the judge was biased against her and other public defenders. Garth filed recusal motions for 11 cases scheduled in Steelman's courtroom Wednesday, the day after the hearing. Transcripts of Tuesday's hearing are being prepared to determine exactly what was said, according to court records. The hearing was continued to Aug. 27 and the recusal/reassignment motions will be addressed that day, after the hearing. Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Casey Mahoney said Thursday that staff could not recall a recent situation in which a public defender's office sought blanket recusal of a judge on multiple cases. The Times Free Press has more

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Lawyers Needed to Work Anti-Bullying Legal Clinics

Volunteer at one of three legal clinics -- "The Puck Stops Here" -- to help stop bullying in schools. The events are sponsored by the Nashville Predators and the Disability Law Advocacy Center (DLAC) to help students and their families identify, prevent, and legally respond to bullying in schools. Volunteer attorneys are needed at the clinics for brief client consultations and to assist clients in drafting key points in notification letters to schools and/or an OCR complaints. Learn more here. DLAC will provide training for all volunteer attorneys on bullying legal issues on Aug. 24. The clinics will be in Clarksville, Sept. 15; Nashville, Oct. 6; and Lebanon, Nov. 10. For more information, contact Sherry Wilds at DLAC at (615) 298-­‐1080, ext. 141 or at sherryw@dlactn.org

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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 ecole@tals.org 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 adrienne-tnjfon@gmail.com 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 adrienne-tnjfon@gmail.com 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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