News

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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Map Illustrates Potential Risk of Judicial Corruption

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, upholding a Florida law that bans judges and judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign donations. At issue was public confidence in the judiciary, given that lawyers and potential litigants are more likely than average citizens to donate to judges' campaigns. The Institute for Southern Studies created a map showing whether each U.S. state holds judicial elections and, if so, whether the state bans solicitation of campaign contributions by judges and to what degree.

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Outside Money Making Impact in Tennessee Policy, Politics

In a series on outside money in Tennessee politics, the Tennessee News Network reports focuses on the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Nearly two years ago the group, associated with conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, planted roots in the Volunteer State and hired what is now a staff of six. While Gov. Haslam says its influence is exaggerated when it comes to Insure Tennessee and other legislation, others, like political consultant Tom Ingram, disagree, and say the threat of such spending is especially problematic for Republican legislators, who dominate the General Assembly. Last year, the group reported spending $1.1 million in "lobby-related" expenses in Tennessee, including money used to try to defeat three state Supreme Court justices, then-Rep. Dennis Roach, R-Rutledge, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Common Core education standards.

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Rutherford DA to Investigate Alleged Misconduct in Sheriff's Office

The Rutherford County Ethics Committee has asked the District Attorney General's Office to launch an investigation into potential conflicts of interest and misconduct by Sheriff Robert Arnold, involving questionable contracts, purchases and vendor services at the county jail, the Murfreesboro Post reports. Committee members also asked the DA to determine possible conflicts of interest regarding Chief Deputy Administrator Joe Russell and Detective Maj. Bill Sharp.

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NCSC Relaunches Judicial Ethics Clearinghouse

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has taken over the Center for Judicial Ethics (CJE) following the dissolution of the American Judicature Society. The CJE, a national clearinghouse for information on judicial ethics and discipline, has a new online presence at ncsc.org/cje. NCSC also will take over the hosting of the National College on Judicial Conduct and Ethics. This year's event will take place Oct. 28-30 in Chicago.

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Court Adopts 30 Day Solicitation Ban in Divorce Matters

The Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted an amendment to the ethics rules that will ban written solicitation of potential divorce clients within 30 days of the filing of a divorce. Rule 8, the amendment to RPC 7.3, is effective May 1. The TBA filed a comment voicing strong objections to the proposal. The comment also cited serious reservations about the constitutionality of the ban.

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Webinar Looks at Florida Case Involving Judicial Fundraising

Justice at Stake will host an educational webinar on Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on the case of Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, which looks at whether states may place restrictions on how judges and judicial candidates raise money. The case will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 20. Register online for the presentation “Judging Under the Influence: Will the Supreme Court Protect Fair Courts?”

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