News

Court Seeks Comments on Proposed Amendments

The Tennessee Supreme Court has issued two orders soliciting comments on proposed amendments to its rules. The first order seeks comments now through July 25 on amendments to Rule 8.3(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rule 10, RJC 2.15 and 2.16(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which deal with the disclosure of information about a judge's conduct. The second order seeks comments now through Sept. 1 on Rule 10B of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules, which deals with disqualification or recusal of a judge.

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New Jersey Attorneys Given Direction on Accolade Advertising

The New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Lawyer Advertising has reminded state attorneys to check the credibility of awards like “Super Lawyers” and “Rising Stars” before referring to them in advertisements. The committee said lawyers may mention the awards in their advertising “only when the basis for comparison can be verified” and the group bestowing the accolade “has made adequate inquiry into the fitness of the individual lawyer.” Read more from the ABA Journal.

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ABA Opinion Addresses Referral Fees, Conflict of Interest

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued a formal ethics opinion this week that addresses the propriety of referral fees and explains that clients must consent to such arrangements. The opinion also provides examples of when a lawyer does or does not have a conflict of interest, according to the ABA Journal

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Lawyer Suspended for Using Email Information Client Obtained by Hacking

A Missouri lawyer was suspended from the practice of law this week for using information obtained by his divorce client by guessing his wife’s email password, the ABA Journal reports. The client obtained his wife’s payroll documents and a list of direct examination questions prepared by the wife’s lawyer for an upcoming divorce trial. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled the attorney, 70-year-old Joel B. Eisenstein, can apply for reinstatement in six months. 

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Rules Unclear for Firms Disclosing Data Breaches

It is unclear when law firms are legally required to reveal data breaches to the public or law enforcement. The Wall Street Journal explores guidelines outlined by 47 states, the American Bar Association and state bar associations following recent data breaches at several prestigious law firms. 

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Vogel Suspension Complicates Child Torture Case

Jessica Ann Cox, a stepmom accused of tortuous abuse of her stepsons, has requested new legal counsel be provided by the state following the Tennessee Supreme Court’s suspension of her former counsel, Robert Vogel. Cox says she cannot afford to hire new counsel. Vogel was suspended earlier this month for having sex with a client in a court-appointed case and the incident has repeatedly delayed Cox’s case. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Ethics Programs Planned Across Tennessee

Live programs in The Business of Lawyering Series and other ethics credits programs are planned this month in Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville. The programs offer three hours of dual credit. Sessions include managing yourself and your support staff, engaging clients, ending the client relationship ethically and using social media to advertise. Online courses are also available on accounting basics, the state Department of Revenue and popular financial issues.

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Preventing Legal Malpractice Webcasts, 3 Hours of CLE

Protect yourself from malpractice by learning more about the impact of our changing legal world in these two online video courses. Preventing Legal Malpractice Part 1 and Part 2 address recent trends in legal ethics and malpractice and each is approved for 1.5 hours of dual credit.

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Last Meeting of House Ethics Committee Was in 2010

The House Ethics Committee has not met since the 106th General Assembly, which convened in 2009 and 2010, according to committee attorney Doug Himes. Its meetings are driven by when there is a complaint, and he says since it hasn't received a complaint in at least five years that's why it hasn't met. "There haven't been regular meetings, because of the fact that we haven't had any complaints," Himes told The Tennessean. He said there have been less than 10 complaints since 2003 and none have been deemed credible or substantiated by the committee.

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Ethical Campaign Courses Online

Ethical campaign courses are now available online from the Tennessee Bar Association. The TBA CLE programs offer guidance for state and local lawmakers, judges, candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions, and campaign chairs and their counsel. Topics include finance compliance, election law and ethics.

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Court Adopts Updates to Rule Governing Licensing of Attorneys

Out-of-state lawyers received an early Christmas present from the Tennessee Supreme Court when the Court today adopted new rules allowing practice pending admission for lawyers who are seeking Tennessee admission and are licensed in other jurisdictions. The new provisions, part of an over-all rewrite of the admissions rules in Tennessee, were largely backed by the TBA and Tennessee Board of Law Examiners.

The spouses of active-duty service members stationed in Tennessee also have a new pathway to a temporary license while their spouses are based in Tennessee. The two-year temporary military spouse license is subject to revocation if the military spouse relocates.

The rule change on practice pending admission is by far the most sweeping of the changes and could effect hundreds of lawyers who are licensed in other jurisdictions and have practiced for at least five years and seek a “comity” admission. Interpretations of a 2011 change in the rule had severely restricted practice pending admission. Such admissions will still require that the lawyer “associate” with a lawyer admitted in Tennessee during the one-year permission to provide legal services.  

The revised rule also:
• Clarifies various ways in which legal services can be provided including by fully licensed lawyers, by lawyers granted permission to engage in special or limited practice and through temporary practice.
• Permits for the first time the TBLE to permit lawyers with degrees from schools not accredited with the ABA in other U.S. jurisdictions and who have five years in practice to sit for the bar exam.
• Establishes a single deadline for future applications to sit for the exam of May 20 and Dec. 20.
• Eliminates negotiable instruments and bulk transfers from required exam topics.
• Establishes a new amnesty period for in-house counsel registration through July 1, 2016.
• Requires that applicants who attended law schools in foreign countries obtain an onsite LLM taught in English at an ABA accredited or Tennessee approved law school.

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Improving the Attorney-Client Relationship, 1 Hour of CLE

Improve business relationships with your clients with the Content, Clients and Counsel: Improving the Attorney-Client Relationship webcast. Topics include how to engage new clients, do’s and don’ts for engagement letters and navigating declination or termination of representation. The webcast is available now on-demand or on Dec. 30 from 3-4 p.m. CT. The course is approved for one CLE credit.

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BPR Issues Ethics Opinion Regarding Client Files

The Tennessee Supreme Court Board of Professional Responsibility issued a formal opinion Friday stating that lawyers have an ethical obligation to preserve client files and return them or permit access to them if requested by the client. The opinion notes there is no Rule of Professional Conduct in Tennessee that requires a lawyer to retain client files for more than five years following the end of representation. Read the opinion here.

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The Ethical Campaign, 3 Hours of CLE

The Ethical Campaign on Dec. 15 at the Tennessee Bar Center is an advanced level program for state and local lawmakers, judges and candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions. The program will include ethical issues involved in compliance with election law provisions required by the ethics rules, compliance with campaign finance practices and conformity with the “Comprehensive Governmental Ethics Reform Act.” The course, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. – noon, is approved for three CLE credits.

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Last Minute Ethics CLE Available at 6 Convenient Locations

Visit one of our six locations across the state for your 2015 ethics CLE requirement. The annual Ethics Roadshow will be held in Memphis on Dec. 9, Nashville on Dec. 10, Johnson City on Dec. 15, Chattanooga on Dec. 16, and Knoxville and Cookeville on Dec. 17. Get more information or register at the links above.

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ABA Issues Ethics Opinion on Limited-Scope Legal Services

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility today issued ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 472, "Communication with Person Receiving Limited-Scope Legal Services." In this opinion the committee addresses the obligations of a lawyer under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2, "Communication with Person Represented by Counsel," commonly called the “no contact” rule, and ABA Model Rule 4.3, "Dealing with Unrepresented Person," when communicating with a person who is receiving or has received limited-scope representation under ABA Model Rule 1.2, "Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer." The opinion also provides recommendations for lawyers providing limited-scope representation.

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Annual Ethics Roadshow Coming to 6 Cities

Visit one of six locations across the state – Memphis, Nashville, Johnson City, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Cookeville – for the annual Ethics Roadshow to help you complete your 2015 CLE requirements. Courses start Dec. 9. See details on all dates and locations here.

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Judges’ Extramarital Affair Draws Ethics Charges

A pair of Illinois judges are awaiting a ruling on whether their extramarital affair and actions violated judicial ethics rules, the ABA Journal reports. Circuit judges Scott Drazewski and Rebecca Foley have been charged with engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that brought the judicial office into disrepute. Drazewski was also cited with failing to recuse himself from cases involving Foley’s husband, attorney Joseph Foley.

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Hooker Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in 'Aid-in-Dying' Case

John Jay Hooker is appealing to the state's highest court to allow his doctors to prescribe him life-ending medication without facing criminal consequences, the Tennessean reports. Hooker, who has said he is dying of cancer, says he does not have time to wait for the normal appeals process and wants the Tennessee Supreme Court to step in and take the case from the intermediate court, the Tennessee Court of Appeals. "This case involves the imminent death of a party (Hooker)," the appeal, filed Tuesday by Nashville attorneys Hal Hardin and Cynthia Chappell, reads. "A terminally ill Tennessee citizen's interest in his or her own manner of death is of utmost personal and public importance." 

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Governor Names Members to Law-Related Bodies

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced a series of appointments to state boards and commissions, including several law-related bodies, WRCBTV.com reports. Among the appointments are Chris Hodges of Nashville and Ward Phillips of Knoxville to the Board of Judicial Conduct; Niesha Wolfe of Clarksville and Mary Wagner of Memphis to the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission; and Jason Denton of Lebanon, Lynn Lawyer of Nashville and Jerry Mayo of Brentwood to the Advisory Council on Workers' Compensation.

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Supreme Court Adopts Changes to Confidentiality of Ethics Opinions

In response to a BPR Petition, the Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a revision to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, Section 5.4(c) that is intended to confirm that communications between lawyers and disciplinary counsel related to obtaining informal ethics opinions are confidential and not public records. On behalf of the bar, the TBA had offered even stronger protections for those seeking guidance. Read a copy of the order here.

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TBA: Revision Needed to Guide Lawyer's Ethical Inquiries

In a comment filed today, the Tennessee Bar Association suggested clearer language could be used to revise Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 5.4, involving confidentiality guidelines for lawyers receiving ethical advice. The Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition on June 18 citing concern that there may not be sufficient confidentiality protection under the existing rules. In its comment, the TBA recommended a revision of the BPR’s petition so that the rule will still permit lawyers receiving ethical advice to disclose information while maintaining confidential treatment of inquiries.

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Lawyers, Judges Named to Judicial Boards

The Administrative Office of the Courts has released updated rosters for three boards and commissions. On the Tennessee Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission, William Wray was appointed to serve the remainder of James Lauderback’s term. On the Judicial Ethics Committee, Judges Timothy Irwin, Alan Glenn and Betty Thomas Moore were reappointed to an additional term. And on the Board of Judicial Conduct, all members were reappointed with the exception of David Wedekind, who was replaced by Edward Phillips. In addition, Judges Kenny Armstrong, Norma McGee Ogle and Dee Gay were appointed to fill vacancies created by the appointment of Justices Jeffrey Bivins and Holly Kirby to the Supreme Court and the appointment of Judge Timothy Easter to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

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Group Calls for Action Against General Sessions Judge

The Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has filed a complaint with the Board of Judicial Conduct seeking sanctions against Nashville General Sessions Judge Allegra Walker, News Channel 5 reports. The issue arises from an e-mail Walker sent in June in which she told prosecutors what she won’t accept in her court pertaining to plea negotiations, such as agreed orders on domestics or multiple probation offers. TACDL argues the email reflects Walker’s bias against certain defendants, claiming the judge's actions could amount to "judicial interference."

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ABA Releases Ethics Opinion on Client File Materials

The American Bar Association today issued a new Formal Ethics Opinion addressing what file materials belong to client under the ABA Model Rules. The scenario examined for context details a client teminating sevices of a long-time lawyer. The opinion addresses the ethical duties of a lawyer when responding to a former client’s request for papers and property in the lawyer’s possession that are related to the representation. Read the opinion here.

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