News

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 In Nebraska, voters restored the death penalty after lawmakers repealed it last year.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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3 Legal Clinics Scheduled for Saturday

Three legal advice clinics will take place tomorrow as Celebrate Pro Bono Month enters its last week of activities. The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will hold its standing McHugh Clinic in Nashville at 8:30 a.m. The group also will hold a clinic from 9 a.m. to noon at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. The TBA Young Lawyers Division will round out the day with a free Wills for Heroes clinic for first responders from 9 a.m. to noon in Lebanon. Get details on these and other remaining events on the Celebrate Pro Bono web page.

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Volunteers Needed for Veterans’ Clinic

Volunteers are needed for a Veterans’ Legal Advice Clinic scheduled for Nov. 2 from noon to 2 p.m. in Knoxville. The clinic is one of several planned by a group of legal organizations in the city, including the Knoxville Bar Association, the Knoxville Barristers, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Knox County Public Defender’s Office, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans's Affairs office. It will take place at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St.

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Debunking the ‘Solo, No Bono’ Myth

Big Law lawyer David Lash takes on the myths that solo practioners do not have the time, resources or experience to do pro bono work, arguing they are, and historically have been, critical to the delivery of legal services to the poor. In an article for Above the Law, he debunks each of these myths and concludes that solo practioners and small firm lawyers likely engage in pro bono service in the same numbers and percentages as other attorneys.

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Training Offered to Help Lawyers Help Veterans

The University of Tennessee College of Law will hold a two-hour training session on Nov. 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. EST for those interested in learning more about volunteering at a Project Salute event or assisting veterans with legal issues in any setting. A “meet and greet” will follow the program. Register online.

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Disability Rights Group Presents Freedom Awards

Disability Rights Tennessee awarded its 2016 Freedom Awards at the Third Annual Disability Employment Awareness Luncheon last week in Nashville. Joey Hassell, an assistant commissioner for special populations in the Tennessee Department of Education, was recognized for implementing a holistic approach to aligning services for all students. Martie Lafferty was honored for 13 years of service with DRT, including her work as the organization's legal director. During her time with the organization, Lafferty won cases that granted access to Tennessee courts and Medicaid waiver services for thousands and ensured equal access to health care for Tennesseans who are deaf and hard of hearing. Lafferty is now a litigator at the Washington, D.C., civil rights firm Stein & Vargas.

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Clinic Saturday to Help College Students

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will hold a free legal help clinic this Saturday on the Tennessee Tech campus in Cookeville. Volunteers are needed to help answer general civil legal questions from 9 a.m. to noon. The clinic will take place in the Roaden University Center, Room 101 at 1000 N. Dixie Ave. Contact Legal Aid at 931-528-7436 with questions or for more information. Access a flyer for the clinic.

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MALS to Hold Courthouse Clinic Thursday

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) will hold a Thursday afternoon Courthouse Advice & Counsel Clinic this week starting at 1:30 p.m. at the Shelby County Courthouse, 140 Adams St., Room 134. Volunteer lawyers are needed to help clients navigating the court system. For more information or to sign up call 901-523-8822 or visit www.malsi.org/volunteer.

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KBA Sections Holding Pro Bono Night

The Knoxville Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Section and Family Law Section are joining forces for a Pro Bono Night next Tuesday. Members of the sections will gather to answer civil legal questions posted to TN Free Legal Answers. Representatives from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services will be available during the event to answer questions and assist with technology issues. Other volunteers are invited to join the group from 5 to 7 p.m. EST at the Adams Law Firm, 8517 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919. Register online to participate.

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ATJ Commission Adopts New Strategic Plan

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has adopted its 2016 Strategic Plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee over the next two years. Specific initiatives include adding 10 new court kiosks across the state, developing a statewide communications plan in conjunction with legal aid and access to justice programs, and expanding the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance to include representatives from a variety of faiths. In announcing the plan, Access to Justice Commission Chair and past TBA President Marcy Eason said, “The commission appreciates the positive leadership of the Tennessee Supreme Court and is encouraged with our growing access to justice partnerships throughout the state.”

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