News

Nashville Bar Foundation Awards Nearly $25K in Grants

The Nashville Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Nashville Bar Association, has awarded $24,925 in grants to four area nonprofits to support their law-related educational and charitable initiatives. The recipients are: the Family Center was given $2,000 to develop a new child abuse prevention program that will help lawyers more effectively respond to abuse cases; the Legal Aid Society was given $10,000 to expand legal assistance for immigrant and refugee communities; Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee was given $1,500 to educate the legal profession on how to deal with clients who have personality disorders, high anxiety or mental illness; and Nashville Community Education was given $1,425 to expand The People’s Law School, a program that offers a series of free legal classes to the public about important legal issues.

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Program Explores How to Tear Down Barriers to Justice

A panel of attorneys and judges from across Tennessee addressed how to tear down some of the barriers blocking access to justice for many Americans during a program today at the Baker Donelson offices in Nashville. The panelists looked at the issues from various perspectives: Justice Connie Clark and Access to Justice Commission Chair Buck Lewis talked about rule changes and programs launched by the court to make justice more accessible in Tennessee; Judge Chad Schmucker, president of the National Judicial College, talked about how judges can be better trained and educated to work with self-represented litigants; and a number of judges, including Don Ash and Claudia Bonnyman, spoke about their day-to-day experiences on the bench. Justice Janice Holder, UT Law Professor Penny White, Judge Philip Smith and Judge Daniel Eisenstein, Martha Lafferty of the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee and Colin Calhoun of Sobel, Poss & Moore were also part of the program. Baker Donelson's Matt Sweeney moderated the discussion.

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JAS, Other Groups Urge Professional Diversity on Bench

Justice at Stake (JAS) is among more than 30 organizations urging U.S. senators to consider professional diversity when evaluating judicial candidates. “A truly diverse judiciary...not only reflects the gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, disability and racial diversity of the nation, but also includes judges who come from all corners of the legal profession — and particularly those who have worked in the public interest, representing those whose voices are otherwise rarely heard. This sort of professional diversity both enhances judicial decision-making and is essential to the public’s trust in our justice system,” the groups' letter states. Read more at GavelGrab.

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'Gideon's Army' Wins Film Prize, Showing Tonight in Nashville

The film Gideon's Army will receive the 2014 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize April 30 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., it was announced Wednesday. The film follows three public defenders as "they struggle with staggering caseloads, long hours and low pay, trying to balance their commitment to public service with a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point." The awards committee said the film "celebrates the legion of idealistic young public defenders who are fighting for equal justice for the disenfranchised within our broken and biased legal system, while struggling to stay one step ahead of poverty themselves.” Business & Heritage Clarksville has more. There is a showing of the film tonight in Nashville at the Carmike Bellevue 8 Cinema, hosted by the Nashville Public Defender’s Office. Tickets are still available online.

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Memphis Bar to Hold Veterans Legal Clinic March 25

The Memphis Bar Association will hold a pro bono legal clinic for veterans March 25 at the Veterans Administration Center from noon to 2 p.m., the Memphis Daily News reports. More attorneys are needed for the effort. Contact volunteer coordinator Jake Dickerson for more information.

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Court Conference Focuses on Building Pro Bono Efforts

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission today hosted the Second Annual Pro Bono Clinic Conference at the Downtown Nashville Public Library. The conference drew dozens of individuals representing current legal clinic providers and others interested in starting a legal clinic in their areas. The event included panel presentations and round-table discussions addressing topics such as recruiting attorney volunteers, publicizing clinics, reports from local clinics and other lessons learned. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder and ATJ Commissioner Tony Seaton were among the presenters.

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Court Hosts Second Annual Pro Bono Clinic Conference

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission hosted the second Annual Pro Bono Clinic Conference at the Downtown Nashville Public Library on Monday (March 10). The Conference was attended by dozens of individuals representing current legal clinic providers and those interested in starting a legal clinic in their areas.

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CNN Series Explores 'Death Row Stories'

A new CNN Original series, Death Row Stories, will follow a different capital murder case each week and says it will "call into question the myriad of beliefs about the death penalty and the American justice system itself." The eight-week series is a collaboration with Academy Award-winning directors Alex Gibney and Robert Redford. Susan Sarandon, who portrayed Sister Helen Prejean in the movie Dead Man Walking, will narrate. The series debuts March 9. Watch this "Google Hangout" discussion about the show and the issue, hosted by CNN's Ashleigh Banfield and featuring lawyers and law professors on both sides of the issue.

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President’s Budget Adds $65 Million for LSC

President Barack Obama sent his fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress today, including a $65 million increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Total proposed spending for the agency is $430 million, up from the current level of $365 million, the American Bar Association reports. Many observers say the the proposal has almost no chance of passage in Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives, but it lays out Obama's policy priorities ahead of November congressional elections. Read more on the budget from Reuters.

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'Gideon's Army' Screening Reset for March 20

The screening of the award-winning HBO documentary Gideon's Army, which was cancelled Monday because of icy weather in Nashville, has been rescheduled to March 20 at 7:30 p.m. Hosted by the Nashville Public Defender’s Office, it will be at the Carmike Bellevue 8 Cinema. The film, which premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival, follows the stories of three young public defenders whose struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads causes them to challenge the assumptions of the current criminal justice system. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online.

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TBA Honors Nashville Company for Pro Bono Work

Caterpillar Financial received award at gala Saturday in Nashville

NASHVILLE, March 4, 2014 — Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation of Nashville was recognized for its commitment to providing free legal services at the Eighth Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala this past Saturday in Nashville.

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TBA Recognizes Baker Donelson for Pro Bono Work

Firm's Knoxville office receives award for partnership with Legal Aid of East Tennessee

NASHVILLE, March 4, 2014 — The Knoxville office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz was recognized for its commitment to providing free legal services at the Eighth Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala this past Saturday in Nashville.

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TBA Recognizes 2014 CCPBI Award Winners

Attorneys from Caterpillar Financial Services Corp. in Nashville and the Knoxville office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz were honored Saturday during the Eighth Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala in Nashville. Baker Donelson was recognized for two projects undertaken in partnership with Legal Aid of East Tennessee: serving as a Pillar Law Firm, representing people seeking to obtain a conservatorship over a disabled adult and working to bring “Project H.E.L.P.” – a program that provides legal assistance to homeless men, women and children – to the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission. CAT Financial was recognized for an ongoing partnership with Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), which offers immigration legal services, education and advocacy. In addition, the gala raised nearly $60,000 to support pro bono activities across the state. See photos from the event or learn more about the initiative.

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LAET Grant Serves More, Yields More than Anticipated

A one-year grant that was expected to provide $250,000 in local benefits instead has resulted in more than six times that amount in half the time, Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) reports. Last fall, the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga awarded LAET $20,000 to help low-income women and children escape abusive situations, rebuild their lives and achieve financial stability and security. The “Women in Crisis” program was expected to serve 50 women and their families over a 12-month period. In the first six months, however, LAET staff has served 28 victims and their families, and have identified $1.6 million in public benefits they qualified for but were not receiving.

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Court Names 3 to Full Terms on ATJ Commission

The Tennessee Supreme Court last week appointed Gail Vaughn Ashworth and Sharon R. Ryan to full three-year terms on the court’s Access to Justice Commission. They will serve through March 31, 2017. Ashworth was originally appointed to fill the unexpired seat of Bill Young, while Ryan was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Maura Abeln Smith. The court noted that both lawyers had made “valuable contributions” through “exemplary service to the commission” and should be appointed to full terms. The court also named Ann Jarvis Pruitt to the commission for a three-year term beginning April 1. She replaces Francis S. Guess, whose term expires on March 31. Download the court's order.

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New TBJ Explains Firms' HIPAA Obligations

Law firms acting as business associates to health care providers and other entities associated with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) must comply with large parts of the act. John V. Arnold's story in the April Tennessee Bar Journal outlines and explains what firms need to do. Also in this issue, Russell Fowler explores the history of lawyer Milton Brown, who in the 1830s took on an unpopular client because of his belief that everyone is entitled to legal representation. Also, Humor columnist Bill Haltom of Lewis Thomason shakes his head at the latest ranking of Top 100 Jobs from U.S. News & World Report -- and gives his thoughts on where "lawyer" comes in.

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KBA Community Law School Offers Free Legal Advice

In an interview with MetroPulse, Knoxville Bar Association Executive Director Marsha S. Wilson talks about the KBA’s Community Law School, a program that offers free legal assistance with topics like debt, mortgage foreclosures, and wills and advance directives. “The CLS is intended to provide unbiased information on the topics presented, and includes forms that can be utilized by the public. Volunteer local attorneys will be teaching the courses and will be available to answer questions from attendees,” Wilson said. For more information, visit the KBA wesbite or call (865) 522-6522.

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Faith-Based Pro Bono Conference a First for Tennessee

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission will hold the first-ever statewide gathering of faith-based organizations and pro bono lawyers on April 7 in Nashville. The Faith-Based Initiatives Summit is designed to bring together individuals and groups with a common interest in assisting Tennesseans with civil legal problems. The event will take place at Lipscomb University’s Ezell Center, and will highlight the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance (TFJA), which was launched by the court and the commission last year. For more information or to register, email Christina Magráns or call her at (615) 741-2687.

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LAET to Hold Senior Handbook Event Thursday

The first of many events featuring the TBA’s new Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors will take place Thursday in Knoxville when Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) holds a training session at the John T. O’Connor Senior Center. The event will begin at 2 p.m. TBA President Cindy Wyrick and Public Education Committee Co-Chair Angelia Nystrom will be joined by representatives from LAET and the Knoxville/Knox County Office on Aging to present the new resource and answer questions. For more information about the event, contact LAET’s Knoxville office at (865) 637-0484. For information on the Handbook, contact TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro, (615) 383-7421.

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ATJ Commission Holds Conference on Legal Clinic

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission is hosting a Pro Bono Legal Clinic Conference March 10 in Nashville. The conference will feature a variety of presentations and round-table discussions on topics such as recruiting attorney volunteers, publicizing clinics, reporting clinic result and assessing lessons learned. The event is open to any attorney who is interested in learning more about legal clinics. The conference will run from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library. A $20 registration fee also includes lunch. For more information contact Christina Magráns, (615) 741-2687. To register send a check made payable to the Administrative Office of the Courts to the attention of Christina Magráns, Nashville City Center, Suite 600, 511 Union St., Nashville, TN 37219.

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Gideon’s Army Screening Set for March 3

The Nashville Public Defender’s Office is hosting a screening of the award-winning HBO documentary Gideon’s Army. The showing will take place next Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Carmike Bellevue 8 Cinema. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online. The film, which premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival, follows the stories of three young public defenders whose struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads causes them to challenge the assumptions of the current criminal justice system. The Nashville Public Defender’s Office reports that, like the lawyers featured in the film, it has joined a nationwide movement to reform indigent defense. Download a flyer about the event.

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TBA Releases Senior Handbook for Lawyers, Public

The Tennessee Bar Association today released The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors to help Tennesseans better understand federal and state benefits, new health care laws and a wide range of other issues of importance to older citizens. It is available for download on the TBA website and will be the subject of presentations across the state starting this week and continuing during March. TBA members also may use the handbook in counseling their clients and may customize the front page to add their own firm’s logo and branding. In addition, the TBA will offer CLE sessions to equip members to make optimal use of the handbook in their practices.

The handbook, a project of TBA President Cindy Wyrick, was produced by the Public Education Committee and a host of volunteer lawyers under the leadership of Knoxville lawyer Angelia Nystrom. “As difficult as it is to fathom, an average of 7,000 Americans are becoming senior citizens each day,” Wyrick said in announcing release of the handbook. “This trend is expected to continue for years, so it is important that we do something meaningful to assist this rapidly growing, but typically underserved, segment of the population.”

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Court Seeks Pro Se/Death Penalty Law Clerk

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee is seeking a combined pro se/death penalty law clerk in Nashville. The closing date for applications is Feb. 26. The clerk will provide legal assistance to the court in connection with pro se/prisoner civil rights complaints, state habeas corpus petitions (including death penalty cases) and motions to vacate sentences in federal habeas corpus petitions. The clerk will perform substantive review of case records and filings, conduct legal research, draft proposed opinions and orders for each of the district judges, and provide information to chambers staff, court staff and pro se filers. Download the job description.

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Alternative Spring Break Volunteers Needed

This year’s Alternative Spring Break for law school students in Tennessee is shaping up to be the biggest yet with more than 75 students participating. In Memphis, lawyers are needed to supervise students March 11-13 as they prepare basic wills and advanced directives. Notaries also are needed. Morning and afternoon shifts are available. Contact Linda Warren Seely at Memphis Area Legal Services to volunteer.

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Legal Aid Society Adds Victims’ Advocate

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has hired Barbara Gunn Lartey as its new victims’ advocate. Prior to joining LAS, Gunn Lartey worked as a bilingual legal advocate at the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. She also has been a women’s education coordinator and bilingual medical case manager at Nashville Cares, a disability claims examiner at Social Security Disability Services, and an international development volunteer with the Peace Corps in Equatorial Guinea. She earned her law degree from Temple University School of Law.

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