News

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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Civil Rights Forum on Tap in Chattanooga

A forum titled “Inalienable Rights: Civil Rights and Social Justice” will be presented at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga Tuesday with a reception at 5 p.m., followed by a program with William C. Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Killian will speak on the topic Understanding Civil Rights in Today’s Diverse Society. The discussion will be moderated by Beverly Cosley with the Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs. Read more about the event on Chattanoogan.com

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School Board May Sue State Over Funding

The Metro Nashville School Board will have a special meeting Tuesday to discuss legal action against the Tennessee Board of Education, which withheld $3.4 million as a penalty for Metro denying Great Heart’s charter school application last month. The school board will not use Department of Law attorneys however, opting to hire Chuck Cagle as outside legal consultant. The Tennessean has the story.

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Forum Covers Civility in Courts, Tension with Free Speech

In the second of three forums about civility -- this one focused on the court -- former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyle Reid said that although he is concerned about our legal system and how we choose judges, "merit selection is about as good a compromise between accountability and independence as we can get.” Reid joined two others on the panel -- former Tennessean editor Frank Sutherland and Phyllis Hildreth, academic director at the Institute for Conflict Management and adjunct professor at Lipscomb University. The event was held Tuesday night at Lipscomb University in Nashville. It is part of a series looking at the tensions between free speech and civility that is being moderated by Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom.

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Miller & Martin Celebrates 145 Years

Chattanooga-based Miller & Martin PLLC recently celebrated its 145th anniversary with a reception that also celebrated the philanthropy of one of its partners. Founded in 1867 by T.M Burkett, Miller & Martin has served many of Chattanooga’s leading companies, and expanded to Atlanta and Nashville. The reception also honored Miller & Martin partner Burkett Miller’s philanthropic contributions to education, The Chattanoogan reports. Miller established the Tonya Foundation and founded Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia; The Tonya Public Affairs & Economics Internship programs at The University of the South; and The Burkett Miller Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

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Previewing Tonight's Civility Forum

TBA President Jackie Dixon and First Amendment Center's Gene Policinski previewed tonight's Civility, Free Speech and Courts event this morning on Nashville's Channel 5+ Morningline program. The event is jointly sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association, Lipscomb University's Institute for Law, Justice & Society and the First Amendment Center. See a clip from the program.