News

TBA Promotes Civics Across the State

The TBA and its Young Lawyers Division have been involved in a number of activities over the last month promoting civics and law-related education. On March 8, the YLD hosted a table at the Tennessee Conference for Social Studies. Thanks to YLD President David Veile; Shauna Billingsley, YLD District 11 Representative and chair of the TBA Public Education Committee’s Children’s Subcommittee; TBA Public Education Committee member Claudia Jack; and YLD Mock Trial Committee member Kristen Corn for taking time out of their busy schedules to staff the table and encourage elementary, high school and college instructors to include civics education in their lesson plans. In addition, during the State High School Mock Trial Competition, March 15-16, the YLD hosted a table with information about civics and law-related education programs offered for high school students in the state. This past week, the TBA partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools to present a “Civics and Law Academy” at McGavock High School. Lawyers addressed students on issues such as federalism, sovereignty, separation of powers and privacy rights. Finally, this past Saturday, the Children’s Subcommittee of the TBA Public Education Committee hosted a Girl Scout Badge Blast focused on civics at Lipscomb University. Thanks to all who participated in these efforts. To get involved in similar activities in the future, please contact Billingsley at shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov or (615) 550-6603.

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Still Time to Enter TBA Video Contest

Students can explore the idea that the judiciary is, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, "the least dangerous” branch of government in the Tennessee Bar Association’s Third Annual YouTube Video Contest. Middle school and high school students can win up to $500 in the contest by producing a three-minute video that explores this topic and addresses questions such as: (1) why is it important to have a judiciary that is independent of the legislative and executive branches; (2) how does this structure strengthen the doctrine of separation of powers; (3) how high should the walls between the branches be; (4) what happens when judges aren’t fair or impartial; or (5) considering the powers granted to the three branches and the checks and balances each has over the others, do you agree that the judiciary is the least dangerous branch? The deadline for middle school entries is Friday. High school students have until March 29. Questions? Contact Liz Todaro at the TBA.

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YLD Promotes Civics at Teachers’ Event

The TBA YLD will host a table at the Tennessee Conference for Social Studies March 8 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin. Volunteers are needed to help staff the table and encourage elementary, high school and college instructors to include civics education in their lesson plans. All materials will be provided. The annual conference is sponsored by the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies, which is devoted to providing information, resources and support for educators interested in or involved with social studies curriculum. To learn more about the conference or to volunteer please contact Shauna Billingsley at shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov or (615) 550-6652.

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Entries for Law Day Contests Now Being Accepted

The 2013 Law Day Art & Essay Contest is underway. Sponsored by the TBA Young Lawyers Division, the competition this year will center on the theme "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All." This provides an opportunity for students to explore civil and human rights movements in America and the impact they have had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. Students also are asked to consider what remains to be done to rectify injustice in society, including eliminating all forms of discrimination, putting an end to human trafficking and ending other violations of human rights. Art and essay submissions depicting this theme must be submitted by April 12.

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Governors Agree on Importance of Civility

More than 300 people heard Gov. Bill Haslam and former governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist take on the topic of civility and effective governance during a lively panel discussion sponsored by the TBA's Public Education Committee Thursday in Knoxville. The panel was moderated by former TBA President Bill Haltom, who has just completed a book about civility and politics using former U.S. Senator and ambassador to China Howard Baker as the exemplar. All three governors acknowledged the powerful example of respect and cooperation set by Baker, who was in the audience accompanied by his wife Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker. "We cannot preserve our democracy without finding the right balance between civility and free speech," TBA President Jackie Dixon said of the event, which was the final of three held across the state and made possible by a grant from the American Bar Association Division for Public Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The TBA partnered with the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the First Amendment Center for the event. Read more from Knoxnews.

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Balancing Civility and Free Expression — Knoxville

Civility & Effective Governance

More than 300 people packed the Howard Baker Center on the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus Thursday night (Feb. 21) to hear three governors offer their thoughts on civility and free speech. Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom moderated the session that featured Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and former Tennessee governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist. The event was part of a statewide series sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association, supported by a grant from the American Bar Association Division for Public Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more about the Knoxville program from the TBA or from coverage in Knoxnews.

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Firearm Bill Delayed, Online School Enrollment Cap Passed

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey delayed a vote on legislation that declares Tennessee has a right to nullify federal gun laws and charge federal agents who enforces them with committing a felony. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, is presented as an amendment to the Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act of 2009. In a wrap-up of recent legislative news, Knoxnews also reported on a proposal to tighten enrollment requirements for online-only schools, which was approved in the House Education Committee. The proposal would allow online schools to start with an enrollment of 1,500 and expand so long as they meet performance requirements.

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Thursday’s Civility Forum Gets Coverage

The TBA’s upcoming civility forum in Knoxville was highlighted in a recent Knoxnews article. The event, which features Gov. Bill Haslam and former governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist, will explore the conflict between civility and free expression when it comes to politics — especially in campaigns, debates, legislative sessions and citizen interactions. A question-and-answer session will follow. The program runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center at the University of Tennessee. It is free and open to the public.

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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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MBA Recruits Lawyers, High School Students for Intern Program

The Memphis Bar Association (MBA) is accepting applications now through March 25 for its 2013 Summer Law Intern Program, which introduces minority high school students to the practice of law by placing them in attorneys’ offices. Download an application from the MBA website or contact Mary Lynes at (901) 271-0660 or mlynes@memphisbar.org for more information. Lawyers interested in sponsoring an intern -- either by having them work in their offices or by paying a $500 stipend so the students can work at a government or non-profit agency – should contact MBA Executive Director Anne Fritz at (901) 527-3575 or afritz@memphisbar.org.

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Charter School Bill Targets Nashville, Memphis

A new bill that would allow groups looking to open charter schools to circumvent the local school board and apply straight to the state Board of Education appears targeted at the Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) system, the Nashville City Paper reports. The proposal would only apply to ounties with a population of at least 600,000 -- Davidson and Shelby counties -- but was likely prompted by last year's dustup between MNPS and the state over the rejection of a charter school proposal. After passage by a House subcommittee this week, the bill is headed to the full Education Committee.

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LAS Sets 2013 People’s Law School Class Schedule

The Legal Aid Society (LAS) released its updated schedule of free legal classes through the People’s Law School, a program that provides an overview of legal issues that a typical person might face. The weekly, one-hour classes are offered February through April and focus on a different legal topic each week. Classes are taught by LAS staff and other volunteers. For more information or to register for a class, contact Nashville Community Education.

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TBA Response to Judicial Redistricting, Upcoming Civility Forum Make News

The TBA has been featured in a number of news stories this past week about its response to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s judicial redistricting proposal. In an article in the Tennessean, Gif Thornton, who represents the TBA on Capitol Hill, said lawyers “look forward to playing a constructive role in the process and helping draw the best lines possible.” An article in Knoxnews quoted TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur saying, "There always needs to be careful analysis of the way in which the districts are laid out and their caseloads. The most important thing is whether you have the right level of judicial resources, not what counties which judge is in.” That same story ran in the Times News. In an earlier article, Ramsaur cautioned that the process be done “with some sensitivity.” On Monday, Ramsey encouraged the TBA to submit its own recommendation for drawing new lines.

Also this week, the TBA’s upcoming civility forum in Knoxville was covered by The Chattanoogan.

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Emancipation Proclamation on View Next Week

The Emancipation Proclamation will be on view at the Tennessee State Museum Feb. 12-18, reports the Chattanoogan. The document, which is making its only southeastern U.S. stop in Nashville, will be available for 72 hours over the course of the week. After that, a facsimile of the document will be in the exhibit. The viewing is in conjunction with the Discovering the Civil War exhibition from Washington D.C.’s National Archives. Museum officials estimate that 300 people will be able to see the document each hour.

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TBA and UT Host 'Balancing Civility and Free Expression' Event

Program to feature 3 Tennessee governors discussing civility, effective governance

Three of Tennessee's governors -- current Governor Bill Haslam and former governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist -- will headline a public forum on the issue of civility and effective governance Feb. 21 in Knoxville.

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Kids' Mock Trial Program Teaches Debate, Public Speaking Skills

Kids in the gifted program at East Chester Elementary School in Henderson are learning debate skills and a little bit about the nation’s court system through performing mock trials of popular children’s stories such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Three Little Pigs” and “Humpty Dumpty.” Their teacher, Belinda Anderson, says the effort teaches students to look at both sides of an argument with a balanced view, and gives them the opportunity to ask questions. The Jackson Sun reports that as part of the program, the fourth and fifth graders also visited the Chester County Courthouse where they heard a lecture on the judicial system from a criminal justice professor at Freed-Hardeman University.

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Haslam Announces Plans to Boost Higher Ed

Gov. Bill Haslam announced yesterday he plans to boost Tennessee college graduation rates by 23 percent by 2025. Currently only 32 percent of adults in the state hold a post-secondary degree, which is not enough to meet the requirements of the modern job market, Haslam said. He appointed Randy Boyd to lead a group consisting of heads of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Board of Regents, and University of Tennessee systems to find ways to tackle the “iron Triangle” of affordability, access, and quality issues for public colleges and universities across the state.

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ABA Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Gideon Decision

The ABA will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright on March 18 with events and public education programs that draw attention to the challenges facing the criminal justice system. The landmark Supreme Court ruling required state courts to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants who cannot afford their own. For more information, contact Tori Jo Wible or Karyn Linn.

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Legislators to Consider Plans for Approving Charter Schools

Tennessee legislators are considering proposals for trumping local school boards who resist the formation of charter schools in their districts. The proposals come in response to Metro’s repeated resistance to approve Great Hearts Academies, House Speaker Beth Harwell told the Tennessean. Harwell said it is likely there will be two versions of bills involving charter authorization drafted during the next legislative session, one allowing charter operators to apply directly to a panel created solely to review and grant charters instead of  the Tennessee Board of Education.

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2013 Law Day Theme Announced

The American Bar Association (ABA) has announced that the 2013 Law Day theme will be “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.” The event will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the impact that the Civil Rights Movement has had on equality under law. Law Day is celebrated each year on May 1 to foster greater appreciation for the law and greater understanding of the American judicial system. For talking points, planning ideas and other resources visit the ABA's Law Day homepage.

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New Online Videos Educate Lawyers, Public

The Tennessee Supreme Court and its Access to Justice Commission today launched a new video service to equip lawyers with the skills needed to handle pro bono cases outside their regular practice areas and effectively work with different client groups. Two videos – one on orders of protection and domestic violence issues, and one on providing legal services to persons with disabilities – are available now, with more to come.

A second part of the project will educate the public about the law and how to navigate the court system. In announcing the service, Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary. R. Wade said the initiative is part of the commission’s strategic plan and is “a priority for our judiciary.” He also thanked the Tennessee Bar Association and its Access to Justice Committee, which are promoting the service as well as contributing to the content and production of the videos.

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MNPS in Running for Race to the Top Funds

After being fined $3.4 million dollars by the state for denying the Great Hearts Charter School application, Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) announced it is one of 61 finalists seeking a portion of $400 million in district-focused Race to the Top fund, the City Paper reports. MNPS is the only district in Tennessee to land in the final round. Federal education officials are expected to narrow down the remaining applicants to 15-25 by the end of the year.

In related news, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is a staunch supporter of publicly financed, privately led charter schools, announced that he does not currently support the controversial school voucher-program, the Tennessean reports. The Metro Nashville Board of Education, along with school boards in Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, each passed resolutions opposing the voucher proposal.

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Judge Denies Request for Release of Online Commentators’ Information

U.S District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays rejected a request by the Shelby County Commission to compel the Commercial Appeal to release identifying information about those who commented on stories related to the public controversy over the reorganization of Shelby County’s public schools. The commission’s lawyers filed a motion to force the Memphis newspaper to comply with a July subpoena requesting commenters’ identifying information in order to help prove the new state laws enabling municipal school districts in suburban Shelby County was motivated in part by racially discriminatory intent. Judge Mays denied the motions stating, “The information sought by the commission is not relevant to the underlying issue to be decided and is not an appropriate subject of discovery in this case."

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Law Rules Public Forum

The Memphis Bar Association will host a Law Rules Public Forum on Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss the importance of a fair and impartial justice system and the rule of law in American society. Judge Gina Higgins of the Shelby County Circuit Court and attorneys Porter Feild and Tommy Parker will be on hand to lead the discussion at the Benjamin L. Hooks Public Library.

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