News

TBA Activates Disaster Legal Assistance for Wildfires

In response to the wildfire disasters in Gatlinburg and Sevier County, the TBA is partnering with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and the Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission to help those affected with their legal needs. Attorneys who want to help can access training resources and other materials on the TBA's Disaster Legal Assistance page. Legal clinics and outreach related to losses from the fires are anticipated and volunteers will be needed. For more information or to volunteer in the area, contact Kathryn Ellis at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Those who are not in the area but still want to help can volunteer to answer online questions at TN Free Legal Answers or respond to calls on the HELP4TN helpline. The TBA's Young Lawyers Division Disaster Relief Committee has also been activated and will be assisting with volunteer recruitment and coordination efforts. To volunteer, complete the Disaster Legal Assistance Volunteer Form. If you know someone in need of legal assistance, please have them call the legal helpline at 844-HELP4TN, or visit help4tn.org.

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Chattanooga Hosts Drug Court Conference

The city of Chattanooga will host the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals conference Dec. 7-9 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. A highlight of this year’s conference will be an art exhibit featuring works by recovering addicts and staff members, according to Kevin Batts, president of the association. The keynote address will be given by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark, a strong supporter of the Drug Court model. The new commissioner of mental health also will speak at the event, Chattanoogan.com reports.

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Group Seeks Immigration Lawyer in Memphis

The Community Legal Center (CLC) in Memphis is seeking a Joint Immigration Pro Bono Coordinator with at least three years of experience as a practicing attorney and at least two years working in the field of immigration. The attorney will work with Memphis-area nonprofit immigration legal service providers (including the CLC, Latino Memphis and Mid-South Immigration Advocates) in recruiting, training, mentoring and supervising volunteer attorneys handling immigration cases in Tennessee, Arkansas and North Mississippi. For additional details and information on applying see the group's JobLink listing.

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AOC Seeks Pro Bono Coordinator

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is seeking a pro bono coordinator to work with its Access to Justice Commission. The coordinator’s main job will be to cultivate and monitor new pro bono initiatives, especially in parts of the state where specific segments of the population have legal needs that are not being met. The position is funded by a grant through June 30, 2018. Applicants should have a law degree or be in their final semester of law school and be able to pass a criminal background check. To apply, submit a resume and three professional references in PDF format to human.resources@tncourts.gov by Nov. 28.

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Saturday Bar Scheduled for 1st Apostolic Church

An upcoming item in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today contained incorrect information about the location of Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s Saturday Bar on Dec. 3. The clinic will be held at First Apostolic Church, 5020 Pleasant Ridge Rd. in Knoxville in conjunction with a Faith & Justice Legal Advice Clinic.

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Faith & Justice Clinic Coming Next Month

A Faith & Justice Legal Advice Clinic will be held Dec. 3 at First Apostolic Church, 5020 Pleasant Ridge Rd. in Knoxville, in conjunction with Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s regular Saturday Bar Clinic. As part of the initiative, the Saturday Bar will move to First Apostolic Church that day. The goal of the Faith & Justice Clinic is to provide community-based locations that are not as intimidating as law firms or other corporate settings for people who need the services of an attorney. For more information or to volunteer contact Kathryn Ellis, 865-637-0484; Bill Coley, 865-292-2307; or Ian Hennessey, 865-637-0203.

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Lipscomb Renames Institute to Honor Fred Gray

Lipscomb University celebrated the renaming of its Institute for Law, Justice & Society in honor of civil rights attorney Fred Gray at a gala dinner Saturday in Nashville. Gray argued and won landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court four times before he was 30 and represented clients like Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr. and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Among those reflecting on Gray's legacy at the event were Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins, Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, Meharry Medical College President James E.K. Hildreth and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. See photos from the event.

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Opinion: Time to Shed Light on Elder Abuse

It is time to address issues of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation that have largely gone unnoticed and unaddressed, writes Matthew H. Schwimmer in the Jackson Sun. A 2016 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law and an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Elder Justice Fellow with West Tennessee Legal Services, Schwimmer calls on Tennesseans to educate themselves, get involved in older Americans’ lives and, if they become aware of abuse, contact their local legal services organization.

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Nashville Expungement Clinic Scheduled for Saturday

The Music City Community Court Expungement Clinic and Indigency Docket has seen a tremendous community response in Nashville as hundreds of people have obtained non-conviction expungements and important information regarding conviction expungements. The next clinic is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club, 916 16th Ave. S. Those interested in volunteering should contact Amber Floyd, 901-537-1054.

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Opinion: Homeless Vets Lack Access to Justice

Gary Housepian with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands writes in today’s Tennessean that there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in America and another 1.4 million at risk of homelessness. This fact, he suggests, complicates efforts to provide legal services to veterans, who often need help with eviction and foreclosure, outstanding warrants and fines and child support issues. Housepian calls on his fellow lawyers to provide critical civil legal services and urges veterans to reach out for help.

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Voters in 3 States Back Capital Punishment

Voters in three states on Tuesday passed ballot initiatives supporting capital punishment. In California, voters rejected a measure to repeal the death penalty and passed a measure that seeks to speed up the appeal process. In Nebraska, voters restored the death penalty after lawmakers repealed it last year. And in Oklahoma, voters passed a constitutional amendment stating that the death penalty does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Link to news stories about each of these measures from the ABA Journal.

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Hawkins Judge Honors Veterans Mentor

Hawkins County’s first nationally certified “Justice for Vets” mentor, Ron W. Light, was honored by General Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross during a ceremony Wednesday, the Times News reports. Light, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, has a long history of assisting veterans with service-related issues. Most recently he helped implement a Veterans Mentor Program in Hawkins County Sessions Court, and as a volunteer with the program he will help veterans get needed treatment and benefits and coordinate with other judicial entities such as the Community Justice Program and probation services on their behalf.

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Thank Veterans by Helping Them Access Needed Services

"We are allowed to stand on the shoulders of others who gave their time, effort and often their lives to ensure our democracy and the Rule of Law," writes Tennessee Bar Association President Jason Long about veterans. On this Veterans Day, Long urges lawyers to give back to those who have served our country but are unable to access help. "From obtaining needed benefits, to housing, to health care, to a whole host of other issues, veterans need guidance and sometimes patience in navigating what can be a complex administrative and legal system to get the services they need and to which they are entitled. This is where lawyers can begin to repay." He encourages lawyers to help with legal clinics, especially those specifically for veterans, to say thank you by using "skills and talents as lawyers to assist those who have done the heavy lifting for us." Legal organizations in Knox County have partnered on a standing Veterans Legal Advice Clinic. The next clinic is set for Nov. 30 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, 1101 Liberty St., Knoxville 37912. Volunteers are always needed. Read Long's column in the Tennessee Bar Journal.

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Veterans Treatment Court Hosts Fall Festival

Veterans and their families celebrated the fall season with the Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court at the end of October. The event was designed to forge positive relationships between program participants and their families, alumni of the program, mentors and court staff. “We get to know our participants that we see regularly, sadly we don’t build the same connection with their families,” Judge Kenneth Goble told the Leaf Chronicle. The group’s next event will be a graduation ceremony Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. at the county courthouse.

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Court Honors Middle Tennessee Attorneys, Law Students

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently recognized Middle Tennessee attorneys who performed more than 50 hours of pro bono service in 2015, earning each the designation “Attorney for Justice.” The court also recognized recent law graduates who performed 50 or more hours of service during their law school career as “Law Students for Justice.” One area firm, Dodson, Parker, Behm & Capparella, was honored for performing an average of 50 or more hours of pro bono service per attorney in 2015. Finally, the court presented certificates of appreciation to the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization for their support of access to justice initiatives. Honors were presented by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins and Justice Cornelia Clark. See photos from the event, which took place at the Belmont University College of Law.

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KBA Offers LawTalk Events This Weekend

The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) will offer its annual LawTalk sessions tomorrow and Saturday at two locations in Knoxville. On Friday, the sessions will be held at the O’Connor Senior Center, 611 Winona St. On Saturday, the presentations will take place at Fellowship Church, 8000 Middlebrook Pike. From 9 to 10:45 a.m. each day, lawyers will focus on wills and trusts, probate options and the importance of living wills and powers of attorney. Then from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., lawyers will discuss legal protections for the elderly, the disabled and their caregivers. The seminars are free and open to the public but registration is encouraged. Attendees can register for their preferred location at the links above. For more information call 865-522-6522.

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Memphis Law Names Public Interest Counselor

The University of Memphis School of Law has named alumna Josie Holland as its new public interest counselor. Holland, who earned her law degree and masters of business administration degree from the school in 2014, will work with students and area lawyers to create public interest opportunities for the law school. Her office hours will be Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Nashville Community Court Serving Hundreds

Davidson County General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell has taken the lead on the General Sessions Music City Community Court, which is focused on working on preventive and diversionary justice. The concept of the program is to offer court services in various locations around Nashville and Davidson County. In October, the court held two Saturday sessions. Offerings included a Community Service Docket; Pro Se Indigency Docket, which served more than 100; and an Expungement Clinic, which reviewed 500 criminal records, Nashville Pride reports. The next Indigency Docket and Expungement Clinic will be held Nov. 19 at the Boys & Girls Club on 16th Avenue. Registration starts at 8 a.m. and will be limited to the first 100 persons to register. The clinic will begin at 10 a.m.

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Mental Health Court Forum Set for Thursday

A public forum is scheduled for Thursday to continue planning for the 10th Judicial District Mental Health Court, which was announced earlier this fall. The court will serve Bradley, Polk, Monroe and McMinn counties. The forum will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Bradley County Courthouse. Circuit Court Judge Andrew Freiberg said the court’s mission is “to recognize the existence of mental illness and provide sentencing alternatives to those individuals in the criminal justice system who may be rehabilitated through appropriate mental health treatment.” He posted a reminder of the event on Facebook. The court is scheduled to open in January.

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Reminder: Thursday’s STRUT 2016 Benefits CLC

The Community Legal Center (CLC) will host its primary fundraiser of the year Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz of Memphis. STRUT! 2016 will feature a fashion show, food, drinks and a live band. Proceeds raised through a wine pull, giving wall and silent and live auction will benefit the work of the CLC. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online. Law students can buy discounted tickets for $25 each.

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Community Caretaking Rule Examined in New TBJ

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently changed its thinking on the Community Caretaking Rule -- Emily Harvey and David Hudson explain in the new issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. Scott Weiss writes about the ins and outs of community associations: are they the new protectors of civil rights? TBA President Jason Long reflects on and thanks veterans for their sacrifices. He encourages lawyers to help with legal clinics, especially those specifically for veterans. Read these stories and more in the November issue.

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Info Session Friday for Patent Pro Bono Program

The TBA will host an information session and happy hour this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. for those interested in learning more about Legal Assistance Volunteers for Patent Applicants (LAVPA), a program that helps under-resourced inventors and small businesses with their patent legal needs. The event is part of the TIPLA CLE and is sponsored by Patterson Intellectual Property. It will be held at Patterson’s office at 1600 Division St. # 500 in Nashville. For more information about the program, contact LAVPA Coordinator J. Scott “Skip” Rudsenske, 615-277-3207.

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Court OKs Forms for Uncontested Divorce with Children

The Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a set of plain-language forms and instructions for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children. The forms were developed by the Access to Justice Commission as part of an effort to simplify court proceedings, reduce barriers to access to justice and meet the legal needs of vulnerable Tennessean who do not qualify for legal aid programs. To use the forms, both parties must have minor children together and agree on all aspects of the divorce, including child support. They also cannot own real property or have retirement accounts. The new forms will be universally accepted in Tennessee courts as of Jan. 1. Read the court's order.

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Lipscomb Legal Clinic, Dinner to Honor Gray

The Institute for Law, Justice & Society at Lipscomb University will be renamed in honor of civil rights lawyer Fred D. Gray next month. As part of the renaming celebration, the institute will hold a free legal clinic Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schrader Lane Church of Christ in Nashville. Volunteers are needed to provide advice on civil, criminal, domestic and probate issues. That evening, the school will host Gray for a dinner and keynote address at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Tickets are $200 per person. RSVP by Nov. 2 . Contact institute director Randy Spivey, 615-966-2503, for more information about any of these events. Read more about Gray and the institute in the October issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal or in this press release from the school.

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Tennessee Hosting 4 Equal Justice Works Fellows

Tennessee is benefiting from the services of four Equal Justice Works fellows. It is the first time in more than 10 years that the state has had any fellows, according to the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS). That group is hosting Kirsten Jacobson in its office. Elder Justice Fellow Matt Schwimmer is serving with West Tennessee Legal Services in Jackson. Elder Justice Fellow Sara Dodson is serving with the Tennessee Justice Center in Nashville. And Immigrant Defense Fellow Valeria Gomez is working with Justice AmeriCorps and VIDA in Knoxville. TALS credits the work of the state Supreme Court, which has made pro bono a strategic priority, and the support of the state’s legal aid providers in making these fellowships a reality.

Photo from left: Jacobson, Gomez, Schwimmer, Dodson

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