News

Volunteers Needed for New Veterans’ Clinic

The Memphis Bar Association Veterans’ Committee, in conjunction with Memphis Area Legal Services, is starting a new monthly legal clinic to assist veterans with civil legal needs, including child support and visitation, landlord/tenant, employment and debtor/creditor issues. The first clinic will be held March 26 from noon until 2 p.m. at 1407 Union Ave., Suite 815. Anyone interested in volunteering for the clinic or helping plan for a future event should contact Anne Fritz at (901) 527-3575 or afritz@memphisbar.org.

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County Settles Court Interpreter Suit

A lawsuit settled in federal court earlier this month means Bradley County must pay $10,000 to a man who says his civil rights were violated when he was forced to pay for an interpreter in Bradley County General Sessions Court. Though the decision to settle means the case cannot be used in the future as legal precedent, plaintiff attorneys maintain the decision still carries weight for similar cases throughout the country, the Times Free Press reports. Attorneys had argued that “the specter of paying interpreter costs creates leverage to discourage a…limited-English-proficiency defendant from having his or her day in court.” Groups supporting the suit applauded the decision saying interpreter costs should be viewed as an integral part of court management and be borne by the judicial system.

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TBA President, Others Reflect on Gideon Decision

Calling the U.S. Supreme Court's March 18, 1963, ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright "a massive unfunded mandate," the National Law Journal looks into what is holding back the promise of state-funded legal representation to criminal defendants who cannot afford it, as well as some "new ideas for ways to mend the system with minimal costs." Closer to home, The Contributor, which is sold by homeless vendors in Nashville, delves into the situation by interviewing people who have been served by public defenders, as well as TBA President Jackie Dixon and Metro Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner. Also quoting Knox County Public Defender Mark Stephens' recent Dicta article, the Contributor piece paints a picture of all sides not quite satisfied with the situation: clients feeling they were not represented well, and lawyers saying they do the best they can given time and financial constraints. The Contributor story is not available online but if you're in Nashville, buy the paper for $1 and read it.

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Belmont's Street Law Event This Saturday

Belmont University College of Law's Black Law Student Association will host a Street Law Symposium, March 23 at the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center on campus, from 10 a.m. to noon. The event, featuring four 30-minute sessions with presentations from the Metro Police Department and local attorneys, is free and open to the public. Download this flyer or contact blsa@pop.belmont.edu

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50 Years After 'Gideon,' Defense System for Poor in Crisis

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, but even with the help that brought for poor defendants, many lawyers say the system for providing defense attorneys is in crisis. University of Georgia law professor Erica Hashimoto, who studies state defense systems, points out that when the Supreme Court ruled for Gideon, it didn't say anything about who would pay for lawyers for the poor, and those programs usually are at the top of the list to cut during times of belt-tightening. She's also worried about defendants in rural areas. "We know that felony defendants in urban areas for the most part are represented by counsel. We don't know the same about felony defendants in rural areas." Nobody collects that information, so, Hashimoto says, nobody can say whether thousands of defendants are getting their rights under Gideon. NPR has more.

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Attorney’s Police Aspirations Evolved into Legal Career

Memphis native Shayla Purifoy had planned to become a police officer before deciding that the legal profession was the right fit for her. She began working on domestic violence cases through a general civil litigation clinic after taking a social welfare and policy course at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Now with Memphis Area Legal Services, Purifoy works with immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. “I just enjoy helping people,” she told the Memphis Daily News.

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McIver Ready For Challenges After 15 Years

With demand for services growing and money tight, Harrison McIver faces a tough challenge as he enters his 15th year as executive director of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. But the fire that drove him to public service remains strong, the Memphis Daily News reports. “My elevator pitch is that we help keep people from being homeless,” McIver says. “We help keep food on the table. We help extricate people from abusive situations. We help people who may be on their last leg and needing public benefits. This is our challenge.”

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Court Affirms End to 'John B.' TennCare Agreement

The 15-year-old legal agreement that mandated regular medical and dental care for some 750,000 of the state’s poorest children was thrown out today by a federal appeals court, the Tennessean reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld federal judge Thomas Wiseman Jr.'s decision that Tennessee is now meeting federal requirements, effectively terminating the “John B.” agreement that had mandated compliance. Attorneys from the Tennessee Justice Center, which filed the original suit, say there are still serious concerns over whether children are receiving the services to which they are entitled.

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Legal Clinic to Help Magdalene House Residents

Nashville area attorneys or law students interested in helping Magdalene House residents with legal issues can take part in an orientation session from 8 to 9 a.m. on Friday at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP. The volunteers will then work at a clinic from 4 to 7 p.m. on April 4 at Magdalene House, which is a residential program in Nashville for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. The clinic is sponsored by the Belmont College of Law Legal Aid Society and the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee. To learn more, contact Katie Blankenship or Emily Cole.

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Murfreesboro Attorney Recognized for Pro Bono Work

Barbara E. Futter was recently awarded the Rutherford and Cannon Counties Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award for her outstanding service to the community in 2012. Before entering private practice in 2011, Futter served for 10 years as the managing attorney of the Murfreesboro office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee. In 2005, she was awarded Public Service Attorney of the Year Award from the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee. That award recognized her for having gone above and beyond the call of duty in representing indigent clients.

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Corporate Counsel Gala Honors Pro Bono Work

Corporate counsel and private bar lawyers, along with a diverse group of sponsors, were honored at the Seventh Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala in Nashville this past Saturday. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary R. Wade gave the keynote address, praising the initiative’s emphasis on pro bono service and encouraging all lawyers to fulfill the ethical responsibility of providing legal assistance to those in need. TBA President Jackie Dixon presented this year’s awards to Memphis-based Burch, Porter & Johnson for its partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and to the corporate legal department of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in Chattanooga for its Street Law program and new Hamilton County Legal Clinic. See photos from the event or read more about the award recipients.

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Legal Aid Kicks off 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice

More than 150 lawyers gathered for the Kickoff Luncheon for the 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice benefiting the Legal Aid Society and the Nashville Pro Bono Program. Campaign Chair Thor Urness of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP announced that the campaign has already raised $440,000 towards its goal of $760,000. Featured speaker Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. emphasized the responsibility of every lawyer to provide pro bono assistance, especially given the significant cuts in legal aid funding in recent years.

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Campaign for Equal Justice Kicks off 2013 Campaign

More than 150 lawyers gathered today for a Kickoff Luncheon to the 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice benefiting the Legal Aid Society and the Nashville Pro Bono Program. Campaign Chair Thor Urness of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP announced that the campaign has already raised $440,000 towards its goal of $760,000. Featured speaker Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. emphasized the responsibility of every lawyer to provide pro bono assistance, especially given the significant cuts in legal aid funding in recent years. More than 30 law firms in Davidson and Williamson counties were recognized for their role in the Leadership Cabinet, contributing at least $400 per attorney to the campaign. Every year, the Legal Aid Society and its pro bono partners serve thousands of low-income individuals in 48 Tennessee counties. Pinnacle Financial Partners sponsored the event at the City Club. See photos from the event.

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Legal Aid Receives Medical-Legal Partnership Grant

The Legal Aid Society has received a $40,388 grant from Baptist Healing Trust to further the groups’ medical-legal partnership in Middle Tennessee. The funds will allow Legal Aid to provide free, direct legal service to low-income patients and their families receiving treatment at two Nashville clinics – the United Neighborhood Health Services Clinic and the Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. It also will fund training and education to help health care workers identify patients’ need for legal assistance related to their illnesses. The agency announced the news today.

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TBA to Recognize 2013 Corporate Pro Bono Honorees

The Memphis law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson and Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will be recognized for their commitment to providing free legal services at the 7th Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala Saturday in Nashville. The event will feature remarks by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Doug Blaze, dean of the University of Tennessee College of Law. The awards will be presented by TBA President Jackie Dixon along with Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Co-Chairs Jim Barry with International Paper and Andy Branham with Counsel On Call. The 2013 Law Firm Award will be presented to Burch, Porter & Johnson for a partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that helps low-income families establish conservatorships for children too neurologically impaired to consent to their own treatment. The Legal Department Award will be presented to BlueCross for its continuing partnership with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel to present the Street Law program at Brainerd High School, as well as for a new community legal clinic it organized last year with the support of Legal Aid of East Tennessee and Miller & Martin PLLC.

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Legal Aid Kicks Off Fundraising Campaign

The Legal Aid Society will launch its 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice at a March 5 luncheon at the Nashville City Club. The annual campaign raises money for the society, as well as the Nashville Pro Bono Program. The event, which will run from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., will feature a keynote address by Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. and an introduction of campaign leadership. To attend, please RSVP by Friday to Cindy Durham at the Legal Aid Society at (615) 780-7125 or at cdurham@las.org.

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Learn How to Start a Legal Clinic at Friday Event

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is hosting a seminar Friday for those interested in starting a legal clinic in their area. The presentation will cover issues such as recruiting attorney volunteers, publicizing a clinic, dealing with conflict checks and malpractice insurance. The event will run from 10:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. To learn more or to RSVP email Palmer Williams at the Administrative Office of the Courts or call (615) 741-2687 x 1414.

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Volunteers Needed for Saturday Events

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has two events taking place on Saturday that still need attorney volunteers. First, in Franklin, the Williamson County Mock Trial Competition begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs throughout the day. Attorneys are needed to serve as scorers while law students or legal staff are needed to serve as bailiffs. Please contact Shauna Billingsley at (615) 550-6603 or shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov for more information. On the western side of the state, the Memphis Wills for Heroes clinic is drawing record numbers of first responders. Approximately 10 attorneys are still needed for the afternoon shift at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Please contact Joann Coston-Holloway at (901) 577-8223 or jholloway@bakerdonelson.com for details.

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Knoxville Bar Foundation Accepting Grant Proposals

The Knoxville Bar Foundation (KBF) is accepting grant proposals to fund programs that improve the administration of justice, enhance the public's understanding of and confidence in the legal system, and serve the legal profession. The deadline for submitting applications is March 1. Download an application or contact KBF Chair J. Michael Haynes at (865) 292-2307 or mhaynes@hdclaw.com for more information.

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ABA House Adopts Range of Resolutions

The ABA House of Delegates approved a range of resolutions today at its winter meeting in Dallas, the ABA Journal reports. Proposals garnering support included those urging lawmakers to provide adequate funding for federal courts and the Legal Services Corp.; creating a new national entity to help public defenders dealing with excessive caseloads; providing guidance for an amicus brief in a case on the patenting of isolated human genes; giving foreign lawyers limited authority to serve as in-house counsel in the United States; encouraging lawyers to provide unbundled legal services; clarifying a model rule dealing with conflicts of interest in multi jurisdictional cases; and urging federal courts to instruct grand jury members that they are not bound to indict just because a conviction can be obtained. The body also approved a series of resolutions addressing human trafficking, a key issue for ABA President Laurel G. Bellows.

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Court Launches Pro Bono Recognition Program

The Tennessee Supreme Court is launching a volunteer recognition program to honor lawyers who provide at least 50 hours of pro bono service annually. The program is entirely voluntary and based on self-reporting. Attorneys are encouraged to begin tracking their work this year. Those who meet the goal will be named “Attorneys for Justice” by the court and will be honored at regional events across the state. Those meeting the criteria also will receive a certificate signed by the justices, be listed in an Honor Roll published by the court, and be authorized to use a seal of their accomplishment on websites and marketing materials. The program was recommended by the court’s Access to Justice Commission.

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Gov. Haslam, 2 Former Governors Headline Civility Forum

Gov. Bill Haslam will be joined by former governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist to headline a public forum on civility and effective governance sponsored by the TBA on Feb. 21, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Knoxville. The event, the third in a series of forums held across the state, will explore how issues of civility play out in the political and public policy arena by focusing on the service of former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom, who is writing a book about Baker, will moderate the discussion. The forum will take place in the Toyota Auditorium of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee. The Baker Center, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the First Amendment Center are co-sponsors of the program, which is made possible by a grant from the American Bar Association Division for Public Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Pro Bono Groups, Public Defender to Help Homeless

On Feb. 13, the Legal Aid Society, Nashville Pro Bono Program and Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender’s Office will organize more than 40 legal professionals and volunteers to provide free legal help to those who attend Project Homeless Connect – a one-day event that brings together more than 70 agencies to serve approximately 1,500 individuals and families struggling with homelessness, housing issues and unemployment. It is the first time the pro bono groups have joined the public defender in providing services to this group. The event takes place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, 300 Wedgewood Ave., Nashville.

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Farewell Reception for Cole Next Tuesday

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) invites friends and colleagues to a farewell reception honoring departing Executive Director Erik Cole next Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the law firm of Dodson, Parker Behm & Capparella, 1310 6th Ave. North, Nashville. Remarks will begin at 5 p.m. Cole has served as TALS’ executive director since 2005. He is departing to take a position with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, where he will oversee the Financial Empowerment Center hosted by the mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development. Cole will work on creating new programs to bring financial stability and empowerment to low-income Nashvillians. Download the invitation.

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Durand Remembered as Kind, Giving Advocate

Memphis lawyer Kemper Durand, who died last Saturday, is remembered by friend and law partner Bill Haltom in this tribute out today. Among Durand's notable accomplishments was his pro bono work that secured freedom for an innocent man who had been in jail 22 years. Read that inspiring story in a 2002 Tennessee Bar Journal article. A crime victim himself, Durand once testified, Haltom writes, for one of his kidnappers to recieve the most lenient sentence possible because he felt the man was an unwilling accomplice. Details for a memorial service, set for next month, are incomplete.

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