News

ABA President to Visit Memphis Next Week

American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard will be in Memphis next week to address the Downtown Rotary Club and stop by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) to speak with staff members and express the ABA’s appreciation for their service. MALS Executive Director Harrison McIver said the visit recognizes the “important and essential work our staff plays in providing legal assistance to those in need.” Read more from the group.

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Baker Donelson Sponsors Legal Clinic Saturday

The Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz will sponsor the monthly Saturday legal clinic at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library this Saturday in Memphis. The library is located at 3030 Poplar Ave. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon. It is open and free to the public. The Saturday clinics operate on a first come, first serve basis and are held the second Saturday of every month at the library. MALS has more in this media release.

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ABA Highlights Online TN Justice

Tennessee's innovative Online TN Justice pro bono platform is featured in the ABA Pro Bono Year in Review. A joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association, the system allows qualified clients to post a legal question and get it answered by private attorneys volunteering their time. The ABA Center for Pro Bono’s tech guru Bill Jones highlighted how the technology platform from, fittingly, the Volunteer State, was being replicated elsewhere. Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota and South Carolina have adopted it to their own needs, while several more states are exploring the idea.

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Program Allows Indigent Defendants to Pick Own Lawyer

A pilot program in Texas is evaluating what happens when indigent defendants are given the ability to choose their own attorneys at government expense. The issue of trust has long been part of a larger discussion about the quality of indigent defense in the United States, the Associated Press writes. Without enough money to hire their own lawyer, defendants may be suspicious that court-appointed attorneys provide a poor defense or try to coerce a quick guilty plea. The experimental program will test whether defendants have a better experience, whether lawyers are more engaged with clients, whether any constitutional issues arise and whether the concept can be adapted to other jurisdictions. The Greeneville Sun has the AP story.

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Lawyer Develops Crowdfunding Site for Legal Costs

Chicago attorney Michael Helfand considered himself an entrepreneur, but as part of his "Find Great Lawyers" online legal referral service, he spent a lot of time “explaining to nice people with otherwise promising cases that they needed to come up with money they didn’t have to hire the right attorney.” After reading an article about crowdfunding, he launched Funded Justice – a site that allows individuals to raise funds to cover their legal costs through donations or loans. Hefland writes about his effort in Chicago’s Real Law Blog.

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Final Lipscomb Clinic of 2014 Set for Next Tuesday

The next, and final Lipscomb University legal clinic of the year will take place Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at St. James Missionary Baptist Church. The church is located at 600 28th Ave. N., Nashville 37209. To volunteer contact Randy Spivey, academic director for the school’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, at (615) 966-2503 or randy.spivey@lipscomb.edu.

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VA Training, Advocacy Session Set for Next Tuesday

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) will sponsor a training and advocacy seminar on Dec. 16 for lawyers who want to handle pro bono cases for veterans. The session will take place at the University of Memphis School of Law from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following the training, a panel discussion will explore the legal problems that veterans and their families face, and look at practices that have been utilized by MALS’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program. RSVP to Cuba Westbrooks, (901) 432-7524 by Friday. The event is also open and free to the public.

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Volunteer Lawyers Program Presents 2014 Pro Bono Leadership Award

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands’ Volunteer Lawyers Program presented its annual Pro Bono Leadership Award to the Nashville Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (NBA/YLD) last night at the NBA’s Annual Banquet. The award recognizes the NBA/YLD’s ongoing support of a legal clinic at Casa Azafrán, which provides free legal assistance every month to Nashville’s immigrant and refugee communities. Twenty lawyers from the NBA/YLD have worked with the Volunteer Lawyers Program since the first clinic was held at Casa Azafrán in May.

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Clark, Blaze Praise Legal Aid Work

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark yesterday honored the work of Legal Aid of East Tennessee at a Johnson City event. She was joined by legislators, local attorneys and Access to Justice Commission Chair Douglas Blaze in thanking the staff for the civil legal services they provide to low-income citizens, the Johnson City Press reports. In addressing the group, Clark said pro bono work has been a fulfilling part of her life so she is quick to recognize when others make the same effort. Blaze, who also serves as dean of the University of Tennessee law school, praised the work of legal aid and the private bar, though he said some 1.5 million Tennesseans still go without legal assistance each year.

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State Spends Millions to Save Emails for Lawsuits

Tennessee state agencies are spending millions of dollars on email storage, in many cases because court orders direct them to preserve evidence, Nashville Public Radio reports. The Department of Children’s Services, for example, spends at least $865,000 a year to store email records, while TennCare spends more than $1 million a year to transfer and store emails connected to a number of lawsuits. Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center – which has sued the state on behalf of TennCare patients – defended the costs saying the protection is necessary to ensure state agencies do not destroy potential evidence.

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Holder to Chair MALS Fundraising Campaign

Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder will serve as chair of Memphis Area Legal Services’ (MALS) 2015 Campaign for Equal Justice, the agency announced today. MALS Executive Director/CEO Harrison D. McIver III said Holder was selected to lead the group’s annual fundraising effort given her longtime commitment to access to justice issues and the prominent role she played in making those issues a priority for the court. Read more in a press release issued today.

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LAS Gets Videoconference Grant

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has received a $78,862 Technology Initiative Grant from Legal Services Corporation. The grant money will support videoconferencing technology, which will allow staff to connect with volunteer attorneys and clients across the agency’s 48-county service area. Gary Housepian, executive director of LAS, says the technology will help the agency overcome geographical challenges to serve clients “just as privately and securely as if they were in the same conference room.”

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NBA Seeking Lawyers to Represent Protestors

The National Bar Association (NBA) is seeking attorneys who are licensed to practice in Missouri or are willing to be admitted on a Pro Hac Vice basis to assist those arrested during protests related to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. Services include conducting jail visits or providing legal advice and/or representation. To learn more about ways to help contact Aramis Donell Ayala, chair of the NBA Pro Bono Committee.

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Study: 60% of Needy Tennesseans Face Legal Problems

Sixty percent of vulnerable Tennesseans face a significant civil legal need, though only 25 percent are aware of resources to help find a lawyer, and even fewer know where to find free services.Those are some of the findings from a new study commissioned by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, with the support of the Tennessee Bar Association, The analysis also found that less than 40 percent of respondents sought any help pursuing legal recourse for their issues, and a third of those decided to navigate the system on their own. The study is the first analysis of legal needs in the state since 2003 and shows that roughly the same number of low-income Tennesseans continue to experience civil legal issues. “We have many ways of providing services to those in need,” Commission Chair Douglas Blaze said. “We hope this study will help lead us to the most effective way to make those services available.” Read more from the court, access the full study or read a summary of the report.

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Legal Aid Names New Medical-Legal Director

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has named Audrey Dorrough Seamon as director of the Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership. Seamon has worked at LAS since January 2013, primarily representing domestic violence victims in areas of family, juvenile and elder law. In her new job, she will oversee program operations and support partnerships, which include United Neighborhood Health Services (UNHS) and Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. Read more in this release from the group.

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CLE Commission Awards $100,000 for Access to Justice Initiatives

The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to support Access to Justice initiatives in the state, the AOC announced Wednesday. The grants will extend by one year each the pro bono coordinator position and the aLEGALz project. The grants come from the CLE Commission’s reserves, funded from fees paid by attorneys who do not meet CLE requirements. “Encouraging lawyers to give back to their communities is a priority for the Court,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee. “These programs play a significant role in identifying opportunities and aligning the appropriate resources, and we are grateful that the funding to continue them was possible.”

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Williamson County Lawyer Honored as Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year

Stacey Smith has been selected to receive the annual Williamson County Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award by the Volunteer Lawyers Program of Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm. Smith, a computer programmer for Aspect in Brentwood and a licensed attorney, provides pro bono legal representation to domestic violence victims in Williamson County. The award was presented at a meeting of the Williamson County Bar Association. 

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Tennessee Ranks 10th in State Court Study

The nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice in New York City has released new rankings on how well state court systems serve poor and disabled people and other members of the public. Tennessee comes in at number 10 with a score of 64. It trails Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Delaware, Washington, Colorado and Wisconsin. WKRN News 2 reported the news.

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Pro Bono Honor Roll Submission Deadline Extended

The TBA is preparing its annual Pro Bono Honor Roll and is seeking names of lawyers and law students who volunteered with legal service organizations over the past year, anytime between Nov. 1, 2013, through Oct. 31, 2014. Please complete this form with the name and county of attorney and law student volunteers who gave time during the last year. The deadline for submission of information has been extended to next Friday, Nov. 21. Email completed forms to Access to Justice Coordinator  Liz Todaro.

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Lipscomb Clinic Set for Next Tuesday

The next Lipscomb University legal clinic at St. James Missionary Baptist Church will be held next Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The church is located at 600 28th Ave. N., Nashville 37209. To volunteer contact Randy Spivey, academic director for the school’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, at (615) 966-2503 or randy.spivey@lipscomb.edu.

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Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award Nominations Due Friday

Nominations for 2015 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Awards are due by Friday. The awards, which recognize the Tennessee law firm and corporate legal department that best exemplify a commitment to access to justice, will be presented at the Ninth Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala, March 7, at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. The event is hosted by the TBA Access to Justice Committee, in partnership with the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

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MALS to Hold Veterans Legal Clinic Nov. 10

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) will host a free Veterans Legal Clinic Monday at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central in Memphis. The clinic is designed to assist veterans with civil legal issues such as consumer debt, child support, housing and other non-criminal matters. Attorneys will be on site to offer free legal help from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about the clinic call (901) 432-7524.

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Wine & Cheese Event Raises Funds for MALS

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) will hold its next fundraiser “Wine & Cheese for Legal Fees” Nov. 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event, hosted by Weetie Whittemore and Gigi McGown, will take place at 162 South Goodlett, Memphis, 38117. RSVP to Elizabeth Roane, MALS chief donor relations officer.

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Operation Stand Down Holds Fall Service Day

Operation Stand Down will hold its Fall 2014 event on Nov. 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Greater Bethel AME Church in Nashville. Volunteers will be on hand to provide assistance with veterans’ benefits, housing, employment, health care, food stamps, legal needs, haircutting, clothing and other services. Veterans may pre-register at the Operation Stand Down office or the Nashville VA Homeless Program before Nov. 14. Transportation will be provided from several pick up points. For more information call (615) 248-1981 or visit the event website.

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TBA Announces 2015 Pro Bono Award Recipients

Two Nashville lawyers and a recent University of Memphis School of Law graduate will be honored with the state’s top pro bono and public service awards at a Nashville ceremony in January, the TBA has announced. Nashville lawyer Rebecca McKelvey Castañeda of Stites & Harbison will receive the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award for handling a number of time-intensive pro bono cases this past year, as well as her service on the board of the Tennessee Justice Center. Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, will receive the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award in recognition of nearly 20 years of service with the center, which she co-founded in 1996. And Jennifer Mayham, a 2014 graduate from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, will be recognized as the Law Student Volunteer of the Year for her work with the Memphis Area Legal Services. Read more about the honorees.

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