Court Upholds Sentencing Review Standards for Capital Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, has upheld a death sentence for a Memphis-area man who was convicted of first-degree felony murder. While the entire court agreed that Corinio Pruitt was guilty, the dissenting justices would have modified the sentence to life without parole. The majority concluded that the sentence of death was not imposed arbitrarily, that the evidence supported the jury’s finding of guilt, and that the sentence was not excessive or disproportionate. In their separate opinion, Justice William C. Koch Jr. and Justice Sharon G. Lee wrote that comparing all first-degree murder cases would be more consistent with the Tennessee law that requires proportionality review and with the rule that capital punishment is not appropriate for all murders but is reserved for only the most heinous murders and the most dangerous murderers. The two dissenting justices also pointed to a 2007 American Bar Association study of Tennessee’s death penalty, which said that the limited pool of cases the court adopted in 1997 undercut the purpose of proportionality review.

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Report: Lawyer Assistance Programs Expand Scope

Despite budget reductions in some jurisdictions, lawyer assistance programs in 48 states have reported a continued commitment to maintaining the number of clients served and offering a diversity of services, the ABA reports. According to a 2012 report from the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, while all programs continued to offer services related to alcoholism and drug addiction, more programs in 2012 than in 2010 provided services for other problems, such as cognitive impairment and mental health issues.

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Memphis Judge, Nashville Lawyer Receive TLAP Awards

Memphis Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft has been given the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program’s (TLAP) first Judicial Volunteer of the Year Award. He was recognized for his participation in the Judicial Assistance Group (JAG) – a network of Tennessee judges who volunteer their time to make sure TLAP’s consultation, intervention, expertise and assistance is available to other judges and lawyers. The group also named Nashville lawyer Becky Freeman its attorney volunteer of the year and presented her with the Stephenson Todd Award. Freeman is an attorney with Metro Nashville’s General Sessions Court Probation Department. Read more about the winners in this press release from the program.

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Better Next Year: Program Helps Lawyers Thrive

The Better Next Year program offered a range of opportunities to explore a healthier life, build better relationships, manage stress, and use relaxation techniques to find the balance we need at home and at the office.

This program included short rotating presentations, exhibits, and demonstrations, all designed to help lawyers increase their energy and engagement.

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Survey Finds Weight Gain a Job Hazard for Lawyers

Lawyers, judges and other legal professionals work in one of the top professions for weight gain, the ABA Journal reports. According to a Career Builder survey of nearly 3700 full time workers, 48 percent of legal professionals reported weight gain in their current jobs.

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Better Next Year

You. Are. Stressed.

Everyone and everything are telling you to get healthy. But they don’t understand the pressures you are under as a lawyer. Your job is hard and the stakes are high. There is no time. You are s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d. You think it’s just the way it has to be — and there’s research to back you up:

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Better Next Year Extras

Contributing Authors

Read personal stories from these lawyers, with tips about what has helped them.

Thanks to the Tennessee Bar Association’s Attorney Well-Being Committee, Kay Caudle, chair.

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Put Yourself on Your Own Priority List

When I entered the University of Tennessee College of Law in May 1990, my physical well-being was the last thing on my mind. The institution where I studied law is not the opulent building of today. Most of my exercise in law school consisted of climbing the submarine-like steps in the library. But 22 years have passed, and focus on my physical well-being has shifted to front and center.

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Adventures in Eating Clean

Age is not kind.

I can remember a time, not that long ago, when I could eat anything (in just about any quantity) and not gain an ounce. Or if I did gain weight, all I needed to do was watch what I ate and I could drop the extra weight with no problem. I gained 60 pounds when I was pregnant with my first child and dropped it within 12 months. Losing weight was a piece of cake (chocolate, if you please).

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Random Acts of Kindness

Last August, in the middle of a surgery I was having, I woke up. I was at an outpatient surgery center, under anesthesia when I opened my eyes and saw blurry blue lights and faces leaning over me. “Hey, everybody! What’s going on?” I said in my perkiest voice. Then I heard someone say an expletive, followed by, “She’s awake!” and I was out again. Fade to black.

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Hopefully every lawyer will recognize the words from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence credited as being penned by the esteemed Thomas Jefferson along with help from other founding fathers as our country was on the verge of breaking free of the motherland. 

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The Pursuit of Happiness Has Many Avenues

Our founding fathers stated in the Declaration of Independence that one of our unalienable rights is the pursuit of happiness. Fast forward to the present time and happiness is a hot topic with books such as former lawyer Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project becoming best sellers. In a recent ABA Journal article, “Hunting Happy,” the authors note that happiness has become hip in our profession, which once earned a reputation for almost pathological misery.

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Why Thriving Is Hard for Lawyers

Thriving — achieving personally meaningful goals in multiple areas of life despite significant challenges — is tough for lawyers because we face a uniquely tough set of challenges. Everyone faces challenges, but lawyers face a unique configuration of five challenges and, unfortunately, law school not only did not prepare us for these challenges, it tipped us into some adaptations for them that get us by but inhibit thriving.

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Nine Pathways to Lawyering (and Living) in the Thriving Zone

Thriving, both in the law and in other areas of our lives, requires commitment, energy, and engagement. As the flowchart shows, failure is part of thriving.

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Opinion: Gender Gap Continues to be Problem

Despite a substantial growth in the number of female attorneys, a gender gap continues to exist in the legal profession, Nashville attorney Ann Peldo Cargile of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings writes in today’s Tennessean. Not only are fewer female attorneys reaching partner status, many are leaving the profession entirely, she writes. These trends and ways that firms can develop better practices for hiring, developing and retaining diverse legal talent will be the topic of a program at this year’s Tennessee Bar Association Annual Convention in Nashville. Presented jointly by the TBA and Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women, the session will be part of the CLE lineup during the June 12-15 event.

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Vandy Law Professor Teaches Judges to Channel Emotions on the Bench

In the wake of the viral video of a Florida judge’s harsh reaction to a disrespectful teenage defendant, Vanderbilt law professor Terry Maroney held a session for roughly 40 judges in Washington about how to channel a range of feelings on the bench in an appropriate manner. “We tell judges, 'If you ever detect an emotion, squelch it.' That's an extremely bad idea," she told the Newstimes. "You're going to have emotions as a judge, no matter how many people tell you you won't or aren't supposed to."

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Magazine Names Tenn. Firms Among Top for Working Mothers

Working Mother magazine recently named three law firms with Tennessee offices among the best in the country for working mothers. Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Nashville, Husch Blackwell in Chattanooga and Memphis, and Littler Mendelson in Memphis and Nashville all were noted for leading the way in attracting, retaining, and promoting women lawyers.

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Former Lawyer Opens Gluten-Free Restaurant

Former Chattanooga lawyer Karen Wilson is bringing her vision for a gluten-free restaurant in Chattanooga to life. Crave Café & Bakery will open in Warehouse Row's food court in January. While putting herself through college and law school, Wilson worked in the restaurant industry. After discovering her intolerance to gluten, she started baking, cooking and experimenting more. has the story

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Judge Childers Honored with Leadership Award

The Hazelden Legal Professionals Program awarded its first "Excellence in Legal Community Leadership Award" to Memphis Judge Robert L. Childers, immediate past chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, at a retreat last week. Hazelden employee Link Christin presented the award to Childers saying, "I am honored to present this first annual leadership award to a true giant in the field, a person who has literally dedicated his professional life to helping others triumph over addiction in our legal profession.” Read more and see a photo on the AOC website.

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Childers' Daughter Dies, Court Closed This Week

Division IX of Shelby County Circuit Court will be closed this week, after the sudden death of Judge Robert L. Childers' daughter, Lisa Kay Childers Dickerson. She died Friday from complications of leukemia. Arrangements are incomplete at this time. For more information, contact court clerk Carlyse Nevels.

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Memphis Lawyer Changes to Healthy Lifestyle

Memphis lawyer Larry Rice talks about his decision to lose weight and lead a healthier life in a the Commercial Appeal article. "When they tell you you shouldn't eat sweets and you should exercise or your toes are going to rot off and you'll go blind, diet and exercise suddenly goes from being a good idea to a well-motivated part of your life," Rice says.

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Americans Are Living Longer Than Ever Before; Here's Help Planning for It

A new, discounted, long-term care plan is now available to Tennessee Bar Association members and their families. Long-term care services help you maximize your independence and protect your nest egg. Call Graham Swafford at the Tennessee Bar Center for details at 615-383-7421.

Veterans Court Opens in Clarksville

A court aimed at helping veterans who come to the criminal justice system as a result of drug addictions, homelessness and other situations brought on by the ravages of untreated wartime stress held its first session this week in Clarksville. General Sessions Judge Ken Goble brought the court to order on Tuesday, telling one early participant, “This is for those who have sacrificed and are now in a bad place. This is a chance to get you off the road you’re on.” Learn more about the court from the AOC.

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Memphis Attorney Brings Faith, Fight to Battle With Cancer

Memphis attorney Elizabeth Collins has taken the drive and competitive nature from the courtroom to her battle with cancer. That, plus a strong faith and treatment from the MD Anderson Cancer Center, have kept her in practice now eight years following an initial diagnosis that said she only had three to six months to live. The Commercial Appeal tells us more of her inspiring story.

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Lawyers, Judges Among Most Likely to Gain Weight

A recent survey of more than 5,700 workers found that lawyers and judges are among those most likely to report a weight gain at their current job. Among all workers who added pounds, 54 percent said it was because of sitting at their desk most of the day; 56 percent said they also ate their lunch at their desk. Other reasons included eating because of stress (reported by 37 percent) and eating out regularly (reported by 23 percent). connects you to the survey

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