News

2013 Equal Justice University Set for October

Registration for the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services’ 2013 Equal Justice University is now open. The conference, scheduled for Oct. 8-11, is the annual gathering of lawyers, advocates, social workers and pro bono attorneys involved in providing civil legal assistance in Tennessee. EJU, which is cosponsored by the TBA, offers a unique opportunity to earn up to 15 hours of CLE credit and network with colleagues from across the state. See a tentative schedule and learn more about the event or register now. The first 30 registrants will receive a free 30-minute massage during the conference!

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Volunteers Needed for Memphis Homeless Clinic

Volunteer lawyers are needed to help with two initiatives at the next Project Homeless Connect in Memphis. The event, which brings together a variety of resources and services in one place for the day, will include a “street clinic” offered by the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office to help those with unpaid court costs and fines, and a civil legal clinic to help those with child support, collections and landlord/tenant issues. The event takes place Aug. 22 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. For more information or to volunteer contact the Memphis Bar Association at (901) 527-3575 or afritz@memphisbar.org.

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Washington County Pro Bono Praised by National Group

Pro bono and access to justice initiatives sponsored by lawyers in Washington County recently were featured in an article by the national group Trial Lawyers Care. The county’s Saturday Clinic, General Sessions Court project and Pro Se Domestic Project were praised for their unique approach to meeting real needs and for their ongoing impact. The group called the projects a “model” for other communities and highlighted the work of three area lawyers – Tony Seaton, Matt Bolton and McKenna Cox – who were instrumental in launching the programs. Read more on the group’s website.

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New Veterans Legal Corps Sends Lawyers, Students to Legal Aid

Low-income and homeless veterans will be getting legal help from a new program that deploys lawyers and law students to legal aid groups and courts across the country. Equal Justice Works recently announced the new Veterans Legal Corps, which is funded with money from AmeriCorps. The three-year program will dispatch 36 lawyers and 200 law students to groups across the country. The lawyers and law students will help veterans with disability benefits, barriers to housing and employment, debt and family law problems. The first class of Veterans Legal Corps members will begin work in September and will serve for two years. The ABA Journal has the story.

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5th Annual Seniors Clinic on Tap Tomorrow in Memphis

Memphis Area Legal Services, AutoZone and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC will hold the fifth annual pro bono legal clinic for Memphis-area seniors tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon at Orange Mound Senior Center, 2590 Park Ave. The free clinic offers seniors legal advice and helps in the preparation of wills, advanced care plans and more. Contact Linda Warren Seely at (901) 523-8822 for more information.

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LAET Honors Pro Bono Stars at Event

Legal Aid of East Tennessee tonight is honoring attorneys and firms who donated their time serving pro bono clients over the past year. U.S. Rep Chuck Fleischmann will be receiving the Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award for his lifelong commitment to access to justice. Also being honored is Chattanooga attorney Max Bahner of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel P.C., who is receiving the Bruce C. Bailey Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award for his work on two challenging, litigation-heavy and compelling cases. A third award will be presented to Miller & Martin PLLC, which is being named the Pro Bono Firm of the Year for its strong support for Legal Aid of East Tennessee.

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TJC Celebrates Supporting Law Firms, Mother of the Year

The Tennessee Justice Center honored clients and recognized the support of the private bar during a recent reception in Nashville. More than 150 lawyers, judges, clients and others heard the moving story of Jessica Hacker, a TJC client and Mother of the Year who grew up in foster care and has chosen to adopt children out of foster care in hopes that they might have a better childhood than her own. TJC also recognized the 15 firms who have participated in the organization’s Raising the Bar Campaign: Bass Berry & Sims; Bradley Arant Boult Cummings; Waller; Bone McAllester Norton; Burr & Forman; Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella; Frost Brown Todd; H3GM; Law Offices of John Day; Lewis King Krieg & Waldrop; Norris & Norris; Ogle Gass & Richardson; Sherrard & Roe; Stites & Harbison; and Wyatt Tarrant & Combs.

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LAET Races for a Cause

Sports car enthusiasts from across the region gathered Sunday for “SOLO TIME AT BRISTOL,” an event put on by East Tennessee Region Sports Car Club of America to benefit Speedway Children’s Charities and Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET). “We are extremely grateful to Bristol Motor Speedway for hosting this event each year,” said David R. Yoder, LAET executive director. “Not only do they allow the Club to race at this unique venue, but all proceeds of the day benefit two great charities. And we couldn’t hold this event without the support of our sponsors: Pilot Flying J, WBIR-TV, and WIVK-FM.”

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Faith-Based Initiative Offers Legal Aid Services

A Tennessee faith-based initiative is now providing attorneys at no cost to needy members of houses of worship, an unusual approach compared to most legal aid programs across the country. "People show up every day at churches and synagogues and mosques, and they may not ask for legal help," Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark said about the program. "They may need food assistance. But often there is an underlying legal problem." Clark, who helped the faith-based initiative get off the ground, told the Nashville City Paper that, "We realized we can help more people by going to where they are already going for help."

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Chattanooga Lawyer McDowell Takes Office as YLD President

Chattanooga lawyer David McDowell took office as president of the TBA’s Young Lawyers Division during last week's convention and announced a new pro bono public service project to educate librarians across the state about OnlineTNJustice and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Service’s new legal information website LIFT. The goal of the project is to empower librarians with the knowledge they need to help local residents seeking legal assistance. Also taking office at the division’s annual meeting were President-Elect Stacie Winkler of Memphis, Vice President Rachel Moses of Cookeville, Secretary Troy Weston of Knoxville and Treasurer Steven King of Memphis. McDowell succeeds David Veile of Franklin.

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TJC Welcomes New Executive Director

The Tennessee Justice Center has announced that managing attorney Michele Johnson will succeed Gordon Bonnyman as executive director at the end of 2013. Bonnyman and Johnson co-founded the organization 17 years ago to advocate for Tennessee’s vulnerable populations, particularly those struggling to find access to healthcare. “I am excited that Michele will assume full leadership of the organization that she has already helped make an effective voice for Tennesseans in need,” said Bonnyman, who will continue to serve clients as a TJC staff attorney. The TJC will host a reception Friday at Waller Law at 5 p.m. to welcome Johnson, and to celebrate the courage of TJC’s clients and generosity of law firms throughout Tennessee.

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AOC Seeks Proposals for Analyzing Indigent Claims Payment System

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is seeking proposals from firms to analyze the indigent claims payment process and make recommendations that may lead to re-engineering the system. Proposals also should include the development and validation of requirements of any revised payment system.

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Free Legal Clinics Held in Murfreesboro

The Rutherford/Cannon County Bar Association hosts a free legal clinic at Greenhouse Ministries in Murfreesboro every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The clinic is open to the public. The Legal Aid Society, in partnership with Higher Ground Worship Center, also offers clinics on every third Saturday of the month (excluding July and December). For more information about these clinics, contact Andrae Crismon at (615) 890-0905 acrismon@las.org.

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Free Legal Clinic in Memphis June 8

A free legal clinic will be held June 8 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library, 3030 Poplar Ave., in Memphis. This month’s clinic is sponsored by the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association and is open to all members of the public in need of legal advice. Initiated in October 2007, the Saturday Legal Clinic is sponsored by the Memphis Bar Association and Memphis Area Legal Services and is a project of the Access to Justice Committee, a collaborative effort of local bar associations and non-profit organizations to provide legal services to those in need. Volunteer attorneys provide free legal assistance to those in need on a first come, first served basis. For more information about the clinic or to volunteer, click here.

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Federal Public Defenders Facing More Furlough Days

The Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference announced in mid-April that federal defenders wouldn’t face more than 15 furlough days under mandatory budget cuts. Now, less than one month later, public defenders have been notified that the maximum furlough time has increased to 20 days. According to a May 10 memorandum sent by Chief Judge William Traxler Jr., chairman of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the committee reconsidered its April decision after getting new information on how defender offices were coping with the cuts, also known as sequestration. The Blog of the Legal Times has the story. 

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UT Law Students Spend Summer Helping Others

Five University of Tennessee College of Law students will spend their summer interning as law clerks at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. They will hone their legal skills while serving people who, without LAET, could not afford legal assistance. Student law clerks will work under the supervision of Legal Aid staff, and also provide support for volunteer attorneys participating in LAET’s Pro Bono Project. The internship is part of a long-running partnership between Legal Aid and the UT College of Law. Download the press release. 

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Justice Clark Praises Legal Aid

Justice Cornelia Clark addressed the Legal Aid Society staff at their bi-annual meeting last Thursday, calling the employees the “unsung and ‘unplayed’ heroes of the ongoing efforts to improve access to justice in Tennessee.” She compared the employees to members of a marching band, the real virtuosos, saying "whatever part in the band you play - answering phones, filing papers, preparing legal documents, etc. - your work keeps the music playing: your work matters." The Administrative Office of the Courts has the story.

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LSC Seeks Comments on Private Attorney Regulations

The Legal Services Corporation is seeking comments on whether it should revise its regulations covering private attorney involvement in legal services. Current rules require LSC grantees to expend an amount equivalent to 12.5 percent of their grant to encourage the involvement of private attorneys in the delivery of legal assistance. Some have suggested that this requirement poses a number of challenges to grantees as they seek to expand pro bono resources and assistance. The agency is accepting written comments from those interested in contributing to the discussion. Comments should be submitted by Oct. 17.

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DOJ Offers 2 Victim Assistance Fellowships

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) is seeking applicants for two fellowship programs. The first is open to lawyers who have experience working on legal or policy issues related to pro bono legal assistance, crime victim legal issues or victims’ legal rights. The candidate selected will assist OVC build capacity for the provision of free legal assistance to victims of crime. The second fellowship will focus on developing communication strategies to reach victims, service providers and other professionals, and proposing ways to better leverage OVC’s existing resources for victims. Each fellowship is designed to span a four-year period with funding of $135,000 provided in the first year. Applications must be submitted by June 10.

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Justice Holder Featured in ABA Blog

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder is featured in a recent post on Exchange, the blog of the ABA Center for Pro Bono. Holder shares her insights about the role of the judiciary in promoting pro bono service and reflects on Tennessee’s access to justice initiatives. When asked about the challenges of promoting pro bono service, Holder acknowledged the volume of cases as well as the need to help employers create an environment and culture that encourages pro bono work. And for those who think they are too busy to volunteer, Holder has this advice: “The response that you get from someone who truly needs legal services … is something you cannot replicate in any other aspect of your professional life. So once you do it, even though you think you don’t have the time, you tend to get pretty hooked. That’s when you start to remember why you went to law school — to help other people.”

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LSC Seeks $16 Million Budget Hike

The Legal Services Corporation has submitted to Congress a 2014 budget request for $486 million, saying the increase is essential to meeting the overwhelming need for legal services and to fulfill the nation’s promise of “justice for all.” The request, which is $16 million more than requested last year, includes $5 million for a new grant program to encourage innovations in pro bono legal services. Read a summary of the budget request or download the full submission on the LSC's website.

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Presenters Sought for 2013 Equal Justice University

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) is currently seeking presenters for its 2013 Equal Justice University, scheduled for Oct. 9-11 at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. Areas of interest include health, benefits, employment, family, housing, consumer, immigration, special education and juvenile law. The group also is interested in ethics and professionalism sessions. Perspective speakers should submit proposals by June 30 to afox@tals.org.

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Tennessee Access to Justice Innovations Featured at National Conference

Attorneys from across the counry learned about Tennessee's access to justice initiatives and how to implement them during a series of sessions at the national Equal Justice Conference, sponsored last week in St. Louis by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid & Defender’s Association. Justice Janice Holder and Access to Justice Commission Chair Buck Lewis led an in-depth meeting for representatives from 10 organizations interested in implementing versions of OnlineTNJustice.org in their communities. Joining them in the presentation were TBA Access to Justice Coordinator Liz Todaro and representatives from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS). TBA Vice President Jonathan Steen was also part of the delegation of more than 20 Tennessee attorneys attending the conference. In all, Tennessee’s access to justice initiatives were featured in four panel presentations and workshops, reaching an audience of more than 100. See photos from the conference.

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Legal Aid Names New Managing Attorney, Staff

The Legal Aid Society has named Iska Hoole as managing attorney of its Tullahoma office. Prior to joining the agency, Hoole was a solo law practitioner. She also previously worked for legal aid from 1998 to 2003, served as a human rights representative for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and as an attorney for the Tennessee General Assembly. The agency also recently announced that Joshua Thomas joined its Columbia office as a staff attorney. Thomas previously was an assistant district attorney in Gulfport, Miss., worked for the general counsel at The University of Southern Mississippi; and was a summer associate at Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada and a law clerk at Barrett Johnston.

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Richard III Was Unlikely Champion of Equal Access to Justice

King Richard III had a soft side? Well, maybe not exactly, but Russell Fowler explains in this issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal how Richard's actions were among the first to acknowledge a need for equal access to justice.

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