News

TBJ: Learn the Details Behind Rule 6.1

Why should you do at least 50 hours of pro bono every year? In the current Tennessee Bar Journal, John T. Blankenship and Alexandra T. MacKay explore the origins and evolution of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule. 6.1. Also, this month marks the 148th anniversary of the explosion of the steamboat "Sultana," which caused more deaths than the Titanic. Jerry O. Potter and Donald F. Paine look into the legal aftermath.

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Legal Aid Lawyer to Receive Duncan Award

Deborah Herzel, a staff attorney with Legal Aid of East Tennessee, has earned this year’s Duncan Award for embodying the legacy of the late U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Sr., in the “professional” category. The award will be presented by Senior Citizens Information and Referral Service May 2. In this interview with the Metro Pulse, Herzel talks about her work at legal aid.

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Medical-Legal Partnership Marks First Anniversary

A medical-legal partnership between Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga recently marked its one-year anniversary. LAET reports that the program has served 100 low-income patients and provided $660,855 worth of legal services since its inception. Lawyers have helped clients with conservatorships, foreclosures, landlord/tenant issues and insurance benefits. Medical-legal partnerships focus on improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable patients by addressing their unmet legal needs and removing legal barriers that impede health. For more information on the program, contact LAET’s Chattanooga office at (423) 756-4013.

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Gideon’s Promise Holds Nashville Event May 1

Atlanta-based Gideon’s Promise will host a “Law Day Soiree” May 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Nashville offices of Frost Brown Todd. During the event, the group's president will discuss the state of the nation’s public defense system and share about the mission of the organization. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean also will be honored and select outtakes from an upcoming HBO documentary, Gideon’s Army, will be shown. The event is sponsored by Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Bell Tennent & Frogge; Bone McAllester Norton; Dodson, Parker, Behm & Capparella; and Frost Brown Todd, located in the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 3rd Ave. S., Suite 1900, Nashville 37201. RSVP for the event by April 24 to Roshonda Carter. Learn more about Gideon’s Promise, formerly known as the Southern Public Defender Training Center, by watching this recent New York Times video about a young prosecutor who graduated from its program.

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Philyaw Named Juvenile Court Judge

The Hamilton County Commission this morning selected Robert D. Philyaw as the county’s new juvenile judge. The Chattanoogan reports that he was one of 10 applicants seeking to replace retiring Judge Suzanne Bailey. Philyaw, a solo practioner and municipal judge in Graysville, will serve until the next general election set for August 2014. A 2001 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law, Philyaw has focused his practice on estate and probate cases, litigation and criminal defense. He is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee and co-chair of its Hometown Support Subcommittee.

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Free Legal Advice Clinic Saturday in Memphis

Memphis lawyers will be hosting a free legal advice clinic on Saturday at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library, 3030 Poplar Avenue. Organized by Memphis Area Legal Services and the Memphis Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, the clinic will run from 10 a.m. to noon, with attorneys and staff of Burch Porter & Johnson and the MBA Bankruptcy Section sponsoring the event.

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Committee Plans Activities to Aid in Access to Judicial System

More outreach to law schools and an increase in efforts to support and promote pro bono clinics were some of the projects members of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee considered at a retreat this past weekend in Gatlinburg. The committee also talked about promoting the civil right to counsel, countering human trafficking and providing legal support for veterans and individuals serving in the military. All could be a part of the work plan for 2013-2014. The committee, which assists lawyers and legal organizations in providing access to justice system to the poor and marginalized, is led by Nashville attorney Alexandra MacKay.

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Proposal Would Move Civil Indigent Counsel Funding to PDs

Senate Finance Committee Chair Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has proposed to roll civil legal representation funding in with the indigent counsel programs, strip Tennessee courts of funding for indigent representation and place the administration of both the civil and criminal indigent representation in the state district public defender’s office. The programs would then be funded with $3.3 million less for next year. The proposal comes by the way of a budget amendment that just surfaced. The proposal has already drawn wide interest. Advocates have already identified a number of "weaknesses" in the proposal:

Administration of the civil indigents representation fund, which provides $3.3 million to the state's four legal aid offices, would be transferred as part of the plan. Funding for the civil fund would be optional after the constitutionally mandated counsel for indigents, guardians ad litem and experts had been paid.

• Statutes and court rules, which are not amended by the proposal, place responsibility for administering these programs and allocations in the courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

• The state public defenders office has no expertise in several of the appointed matters which are civil - mental health commitments, appointments of guardians ad litem and counsel in parental termination cases and child support contempt matter or counsel in dependency and neglect and unruly matters.

• Counsel for criminally accused indigents are often appointed because of conflicts with public defenders, creating a dilemma when paired with public defender administration.

• The proposal transfers the responsibility for paying appointed counsel, but makes no provision for transferring the administrative costs associated with administering the funds, perhaps meaning program funds would be further eaten up by administrative costs.

The proposal could first be heard by the Senate Finance Committee Budget Subcommittee as early as Monday afternoon. The subcommittee members are senators "Bo” Watson, Chair; Mark Norris, R-Germantown; and Jim Kyle, D- Memphis.

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Pro Bono Hotline Helps Hundreds of Tennesseans

The new toll free hotline for pro bono legal assistance 1-888 aLEGALz has received nearly 800 calls during the first three months of its opening, reports the Memphis Daily News. Funded by the International Paper Co. and the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, the hotline helps improve citizens' access to free legal assistance. Memphis attorney Tim Hughes, formerly of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., was hired to man the line on weekdays and make the arrangements for legal representation. In addition to the hotline, the Access to Justice Commission also operates an online pro bono website, making Tennessee the first state to offer both options.

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Wills for Heroes Clinic Planned for Saturday

The TBA Young Lawyers Division will hold a Wills for Heroes clinic in Franklin this Saturday and additional lawyer volunteers are needed to draft wills and other end-of-life documents for first responders and their families. The event, coordinated by Franklin City attorney Shauna Billingsley, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Franklin Police Department, 900 Columbia Ave. Contact Billingsley at shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov or (615) 550-6603 to get involved. Since 2008, the YLD has provided wills for more than 1,800 first responders in the state.

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Race Judicata Scheduled for April 6

The Student Bar Association at the University of Memphis School of Law is sponsoring its annual Race Judicata April 6 at 5 p.m. The race will take place at Mississippi River Park, located at 51 North Riverside Dr. The race is open to the public, and runners, walkers and strollers are welcome. There will be food and live music following the race, the proceeds from which benefit Memphis Area Legal Services. For more information, or to sign up as a sponsor visit the event webpage.

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Alternative Spring Break Activities Underway

Students from the University of Tennessee College of Law, Belmont University College of Law and University of Memphis School of Law are working throughout the month of March to help victims of domestic abuse as part of this year’s Alternative Spring Break (ASP). The students are working with immigrants who qualify for the U-visa program, which gives legal status to those who have been victims of violent crime and cooperate with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice. In addition to the official ASP program, a group of UT Law students is traveling to Fort Campbell as part of Vols for Vets, to offer legal assistance to service members and their families, while another group is teaching at-risk youth about the judicial system. Read more about these activities on the UT Law website.

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6th Circuit Clarifies Test for Ineffective Counsel Claims

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently clarified the requirements for a successful claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The decision in the case of Howell v. Hodge found that a claimant must show that the deficient performance resulted in prejudice, and that, but for the counsel’s ineffectiveness, he or she would not have pled guilty and instead would have gone to trial. Writing for Chattanoogan.com, commentator Lee Davis says the test is a “demanding one that requires claimants to prove that the likelihood of a different result is substantial, not just conceivable.”

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Study: Tennessee Indigent Defense Fees Among Lowest

A study released by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers found that Tennessee pays court-appointed attorneys one of the lowest rates in the country. The study suggests that states with low compensation and pay caps discourage experienced attorneys from taking court-appointed cases and create an incentive for quick plea deals. Tennessee pays court-appointed attorneys $50 an hour for in-court work and $40 for office work compared to a national average of $65 an hour. Also in Tennessee, rates are capped at $1,500 for felony cases and $1,000 for misdemeanor cases. Defense attorneys say these rates allow for about a week’s worth of work when such cases can easily take several weeks or even months. The Administrative Office of the Courts told The Tennessean that it has increased payments but is limited by budget constraints and that criminal defense expenditures now represent nearly half of the entire court system's budget.

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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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