News

Legal Aid Awarded $50,000 Grant for Volunteer Lawyers Program

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has received a $50,000 AmeriCorps Planning grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. According to a press release, Legal Aid will use the award to plan a capacity building program using AmeriCorps service members as liaisons for its Volunteer Lawyers Program, which engages the private bar to provide pro bono legal services across 48 counties in Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau.

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People’s Law School Summer Schedule Announced

The Legal Aid Society today announced its summer schedule for the People’s Law School, a free program that provides an overview of legal issues that a typical person might face. Taught by Legal Aid Society attorneys and volunteer attorneys in Nashville, the weekly, one-hour classes will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays at Cohn Learning Center, 4805 Park Ave. and at Wright Middle School, 180 Mccall St. For more information, visit the Nashville Community Education Commission website.

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Legal Aid Takes Initiative to Protect At-Risk Veterans

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, has partnered with Operation Stand Down Nashville (OSDN) and drawn on its Volunteer Lawyer Program to ensure at-risk veterans are receiving the resources they need. The program staffs monthly clinics at OSDN that provide general advice and legal counsel to veterans on a wide range of topics, including custody, drivers’ licenses, divorce and landlord-tenant issues. The Murfreesboro Post has more.

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House Rejects Effort to Defund LSC

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday defeated an amendment to zero out the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) by a vote of 116 to 290. Three of Tennessee's representatives – Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn and Scott DesJarlais – voted for the amendment. When the amendment was last offered in 2012, there were 122 votes in favor of zeroing out. The House bill contains $350 million for the agency. The Senate takes up its appropriations bill next week, and then the two chambers will have to conference on final legislation. View the transcript of the House's consideration.

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Nominations Accepted for Access to Justice Awards

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) is accepting nominations for the B. Riney Green Award and the New Advocate of the Year Award. The awards will be presented at the group's Access to Justice Dinner Sept. 10 during the Equal Justice University conference. Submit nominations to TALS Operating Director Samantha Sanchez by June 27.

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Lawyers Unite for Public Defense Reform Tonight

Gideon’s Promise is hosting an event from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on the Square Gastropub in Memphis tonight (Thursday) to advocate for public defense reform. The organization states it is “setting out to ensure the 12 million citizens who move through America’s criminal justice system each year receive a fair and zealous defense.” Tennessee public defender Keeda Haynes is slated to provide remarks, as well as photography and B-roll of Gideon’s Promise Founder and President Jonathan Rapping delivering remarks to an assembled crowd.

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LAET Project Brings Millions to Chattanooga Economy

Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s (LAET) Family Stabilization Project continues to reap great benefit for the local community. The project focuses on the recently unemployed in the Chattanooga area to identify those who lost a job through no fault of their own, and yet were denied unemployment benefits. Funded by an anonymous $34,000 grant, the program provides legal services to help low-income residents appeal wrongful denials by the Tennessee Department of Employment Security. In its four-year history, the project has appealed and won 744 cases, bringing $2,465,471 into the Chattanooga economy. For more information on this program, contact LAET’s Chattanooga office at (423) 756-4013.

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Enjoy a Night of Baseball with the TJC June 2

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) will be recognized as the Nashville Sounds' Charity of the Night on June 2 at 7 p.m. TJC Executive Director Michele Johnson and her nine-year-old son Henry will be throwing the first pitch. Buy your tickets (and t-shirts) on the TJC website.

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Veteran Gets Help from Legal Aid

A Murfreesboro veteran received much needed help from the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands after his adopted daughter, who suffers from severe mental health problems, was denied a subsidy to assist with her care and the family’s debt began spiraling out of control. The daughter, who has since turned 18, required professional, residential care in a state facility. Read how Legal Aid was able to help the Hicks family get back on their feet in a piece printed on Memorial Day in the Murfreesboro Post.

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LAET Chattanooga Office Earns Red Cross Award

Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s (LAET) Chattanooga office was recently presented with the American Red Cross’ Hometown Heroes Community Partner Award, presented by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. This award was given to LAET for their response to the Patten Towers fire, which occurred last year in downtown Chattanooga leaving over 240 people homeless.

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TBA Earns National Award for Public Service

The Tennessee Bar Association has been awarded the LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award for production and distribution of the 2014 Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors. Written and edited by volunteers working with the TBA Public Education Committee, the handbook contains practical information on topics ranging from Social Security benefits to long-term care considerations and estate planning, as well as sections addressing online security and new health care legislation. The handbook has been distributed to several thousand Tennesseans through live presentations and requests on the TBA.org website since its launch in February. Members of the National Association of Bar Executives who reviewed entries for the award praised the breadth of information in the handbook and the volunteer involvement with its preparation and outreach. Formal presentation of the award will take place during the NABE's annual meeting this August in Boston.

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Baker Donelson Among Beacon of Justice Award Winners

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) yesterday announced that Memphis-based Baker Donelson is among its 2014 Beacon of Justice Award winners. The 25 firms were recognized for devoting significant time and resources to creating and implementing innovative strategies to improve life outcomes for low-income individuals. Award winners will be formally honored at the NLADA Exemplar Award Dinner this June in Washington D.C.

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LSC, White House Host ATJ Forum

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and ABA President James Silkenat were among those gathering recently for the third annual White House Forum on Increasing Access to Justice. Others addressing the group included Associate Attorney General Tony West, who announced the launch of the "Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Toolkit" – an online guide on how civil legal services can enhance other government efforts to serve vulnerable populations.

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House Panel Approves $350 Million for LSC

A House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has approved $350 million for the agency in fiscal year 2015. Of that amount, $319.6 million is for basic field programs, while the rest funds technology grants and student loan repayment assistance for legal aid lawyers. The subcommittee funding represents an increase of $50 million over what it approved last year, though it is short of the $430 million requested by the president.

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Gideon's Promise Tour Stops in Memphis May 29-30

Gideon’s Promise, a program that trains young public defenders working in the South, will stop in Memphis later this month as part a four-city tour. On May 29, the founder of Gideon’s Promise, Jon Rapping, will host a social event at Local Gastropub from 6 to 8:30 pm. The event, “Burgers & Brews,” is free and open to the public but reservations are required. On May 30 from 2:30 to 6 p.m., the group’s award-winning documentary, "Gideon’s Army" will be shown in the Wade Auditorium at the University of Memphis School of Law. The screening will be preceded by a panel discussion including Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush and representatives from Gideon’s Promise. Learn more here.

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Lawyers Recognized at LAET Pro Bono Event

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade on Tuesday praised Northeast Tennessee attorneys who have given free legal services to low-income and elderly residents, and victims of domestic violence, the Times News reports. Wade hailed attorneys' pro bono work during a "Dinner with the Tennessee Supreme Court" event to benefit Legal Aid of East Tennessee's (LAET) Pro Bono Project. LAET recognized Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz; Herndon, Coleman, Brading and McKee; Fowler and Fowler; Smith, Booksh and Farrell; and Hunter, Smith and Davis with Commitment Awards. Attorneys Tony Seaton, Suzanne Queen and Mike Forrester were recognized with Access to Justice Awards. Outstanding Service Awards went to Art Fowler III, James Janaitis, Randy Kennedy, Andrew Hutchinson, Lindsey Lane, Karen Boyd and Brandee Riddle. The Above and Beyond Award went to Aleania Smith.

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O’Connor Pushes Civics Education at Nashville Event

More than 100 lawyers and judges from across the southeast today heard about the “appalling level of public ignorance” about our democratic system from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The lawyers were in Nashville attending SEABOTA, the regional gathering of members of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Among the solutions offered to what was described as a “crisis” in civics education was the iCivics program, which now numbers more than 65,000 registered teachers; the new civics education and engagement and assessment requirement for Tennessee schools sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Memphis; and respect for jurors and effective access to justice programs. Also at the event, Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade moderated a panel of judges from 10 southern states who highlighted the importance of fair and impartial state courts. Learn more about ways to assist civics education efforts in Tennessee.

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'Dinner with the Tennessee Supreme Court' to Benefit LAET

Justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court will gather in Kingsport May 6 as guests of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) to honor attorneys who have donated hours of their time to those unable to afford civil legal counsel. Chief Justice Gary R. Wade is the keynote speaker, and is scheduled to be joined by justices Cornelia A. Clark, Janice M. Holder, William C. Koch and Sharon G. Lee for the dinner and silent auction that benefit LAET’s Pro Bono Project. The event is open to the public; tickets are $50. For reservations or more information, contact Christy Harris at (800) 821-1312 or at charris@laet.org.

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Tenn. Report Shows 42% of Attorneys Doing Pro Bono

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission has released the 2013 Pro Bono Report, which catalogs pro bono programs and initiatives taking place in the state. The report indicates that approximately 42 percent of attorneys licensed in Tennessee reported doing some pro bono work during 2012. These attorneys reported 672,976 total hours of pro bono service, an average of 73.8 hours per attorney reporting pro bono work, well above the national average. The report also describes the significant work being done by bar associations, law schools, legal aid organizations and faith-based communities across Tennessee and includes information from some of the nearly 70 legal organizations that have adopted pro bono policies. The report, along with the recently updated ATJ Commission Strategic Plan, provide a thorough overview of pro bono and related civil legal services access issues in Tennessee.

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ABA President Talks Pro Bono During Memphis Visit

ABA President James R. Silkenat was in Memphis today to speak with the Memphis Rotary and tour the city, including a visit with the editorial board of the Memphis Business Journal and a stop at Memphis Area Legal Services. According to the Business Journal, at each of his stops, Silkenat addressed one of the most pressing questions facing the legal profession: how to find jobs for all the new lawyers coming out of law school. Silkenat believes the answer may be to find ways to make pro bono work more attractive to new graduates. "We are working on ways to get young lawyers to engage in pro bono work. So many of our citizens have never even met a lawyer or can't afford a lawyer. It would seem natural to put those two together and find the funding to make that work."

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Lipscomb Hosts Community Clinic April 29

Lipscomb University will host a legal clinic April 29 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Swang 108 on its Nashville campus. The event is being held in response to the growing need for legal support in the community. Those who would like to volunteer also are invited to a meet and greet at 5:30 p.m. to discuss issues that may be brought up by clients. Email Randy Spivey, academic director of the university’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, by April 18. Or call him at (615) 966-2503 to get involved.

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Service Thursday for Pro Bono, Mediation Trailblazer

Knoxville lawyer Milli Cunningham, the first pro bono director for the Knoxville Legal Aid Society, died Saturday (April 12). Cunningham entered the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1973 after putting her husband through school, following him to three international assignments and raising two children, Knoxnews reports. Following graduation, she joined the school’s legal clinic and helped establish its first family law unit. At the Knoxville Legal Aid Society (now Legal Aid of East Tennessee), Cunningham was influential in recruiting private attorneys to provide pro bono services. She also was an early proponent of increased legal protections for domestic violence victims. After five years with Legal Aid, Cunningham opened her own family law practice with an emphasis on mediation and collaboration. A memorial service will take place at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church, 3700 Keowee Ave., Knoxville on Thursday at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the church, Erskine College, CONTACT Care Line or Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Grant to Fund New Legal Aid Resources

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has been awarded a grant from the West End Home Foundation to revise, translate and print two existing community education brochures -- one on nursing home or home and community-based care and a second on advance care planning (living wills) and health care agents (durable power of attorney for health care) -- and to produce and translate a new brochure on health care surrogates and conservatorships. Two Legal Aid Society attorneys will also make presentations and distribute the brochures in Davidson, Montgomery, Rutherford and Sumner counties.

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MALS to Relocate to Falls Building

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) has leased the long-vacant top floor of the 11-story Falls Building in downtown Memphis and will relocate to the space on July 1. The 13,473-square-foot space in the historic building was previously occupied by the law firm of Martin Tate Morrow & Marston, but has sat vacant since 2004, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Prior to moving into the new offices, MALS will do some construction, including redesigning the entrance, creating a separate entrance for its fair housing group and adjusting the sizes of some of the individual offices. The construction should take about 10 weeks, said MALS Executive Director and CEO Harrison McIver III.

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New ATJ Plan Focuses on Analysis, Rural Needs, Family Law

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission has released a new strategic plan that assesses legal needs across the state and analyzes how well those needs are being addressed by existing programs. Developed as a roadmap to guide the commission’s work through 2016, the plan also identifies two targets for increased services: rural areas and family law. One other goal is to launch 20 new faith-based initiatives in the next two years through the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance (TFJA). This week, TFJA brought more than 100 religious leaders and legal professionals from across the state to Nashville to explore new opportunities for collaboration in delivering much-needed civil legal assistance to underserved Tennesseans. See the full 2014 Strategic Plan or learn more about the TFJA Summit.

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