News

Survey: Public Does Not Recognize Plight of Courts

The ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System wrapped up two years of work this week with a presentation of its findings. A survey conducted by the group shows that lawyers face serious challenges in educating the public about the dangers of the current court funding crisis. The survey found that the public does not fully recognize the financial plight facing state courts and does not have great confidence in their state court systems. Pollsters involved with the survey suggested that court supporters focus on messages involving the financial stewardship of the courts, the importance of preserving access to justice and how delayed justice costs victims and taxpayers alike. Read more from the ABA

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TBA's Civics & Law Academy Highlighted at ABA Meeting

Tennessee Bar Association President Jackie Dixon was among the panelists on a program put on by the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Civic Education in the Nation’s Schools during the ABA meeting in Chicago over the weekend. The program highlighted the Civics & Law Academy activities developed and implemented by the TBA Public Education Committee, led by immediate past chair Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur. The activities also are featured in the commission's Year End Report. Dixon shared her experience in teaching a class at Nashville’s McGavock High School and said one of her goals as TBA president is to expand the program to other parts of the state. Learn more about the Civics & Law Academy

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YLD Leaders Meet for Planning Session

Members of the TBA Young Lawyers Division leadership are meeting this weekend in Nashville to plan public and member service programs for the new bar year. On Saturday morning, TBA President Jackie Dixon will speak to the group about her vision for the year and discuss how the YLD can support those efforts. YLD President David Veile has committed to helping Dixon implement public education efforts designed to help civic and community leaders understand the importance of an independent judiciary. That initiative as well as others are on the agenda for the session. Learn more about the YLD's programs

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Public Education Committee Makes Long Range Plans

The TBA Public Education Committee, under the leadership of chair Tasha Blakney, has met to develop a long-range plan for implementation and coordination of civics and public education programs offered by the TBA. The group will assess the effectiveness of current programs, review proposals for the addition of new programs and make plans to implement civics education programming. For more information about the committee or the programs offered by the TBA contact staff member Sarah Hayman or visit the committee's web page.

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Justice O'Connor Testifies on Civics Education

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today on her work with iCivics, civics education and judicial independence. She also called recent criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote to uphold the health care law as “unfortunate” and said presidential comments on pending cases are “not ideal.” Read more from Fox News or watch a video of the hearing

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Opinion: Justices Give Good Civics Lesson

Jackson lawyer Kevin P. McMahon writes in a Jackson Sun opinion piece that the first six pages of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in the Affordable Care Act case should be required reading in every school, calling it a "much-needed civics lesson." McMahon writes that "it all comes down to an electorate that is both informed and engaged, and that holds government officials accountable." Becoming well-informed starts with a good civics lesson, he contends. "The chief justice and the dissenters have provided the grist," he writes. "We citizens now must make the effort to teach, and apply, what they have written."

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Tennessee Teen Court Gives $7,500 in Scholarships

The Mary Ann Williams Scholarship Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction recently raised more than $8,600, $7,500 of which was given in scholarships. The event was a fundraiser for Tennessee Teen Court Program Inc. Many members of the Sumner County Bar Association supported the fundraiser through generous donations, the Tennessean reports

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Annual Law Camp Teaches Students About Legal Profession

Nashville's Lipscomb University each summer hosts high school students from across the country to participate in a week-long camp that exposes them to various aspects of the legal profession. This year the Tennessee Bar Association’s Public Education Committee partnered with Lipscomb to teach lessons from the American Bar Association’s Civics & Law Academy curriculum and included topics such as distributive justice, procedural justice and corrective justice. Presenters included TBA President Jackie Dixon, Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur, Tyler Yarbro, Rebecca Blair, Shauna Billingsley, Ron Small and Alex Little. The camp closed today with a luncheon honoring the students and their parents, with remarks offered by Bob Wood, partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, and Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur, outgoing chair of the TBA’s Public Education Committee.

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Teachers Gather Next Week for Primer on Judicial System

The 7th Annual Summer Teacher’s Institute will take place next week in Washington, D.C., with a focus on “Federal Trials and Great Debates in United States History.” The week of professional development is designed to deepen teachers’ knowledge of the federal judiciary and the role the courts play in key public debates that define constitutional and other legal rights. The seminar will feature historians, federal judges and curriculum consultants who will focus on three landmark federal trials: Ex Parte Merryman, Chew Heong v. United States, and the Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial. Learn more from the ABA

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YouTube Contest Winners Recognized at TBA Convention

News from the Public Education Committee 
Winners of the TBA's YouTube Video Contest were recognized at the Lawyers Luncheon held in conjunction with the TBA Annual Convention in Memphis last week. Winner of the Middle School division of was Ben Panak of Murfreesboro. Winner of the high school division was Vivian Hughbanks of Signal Mountain. See photos of the award winners or view the winning video entries

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Governor Signs Bill Requiring Civics Education

Legislation that calls for a new emphasis on civics education in Tennessee was among bills signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam this week. House Bill 2114, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, requires civics education to be included in the public school curriculum assessed by local educational agencies. The legislation drew praise from retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor, who wrote the sponsors of the law last week, saying, “This important legislation will help make sure that every Tennessee student receives the civil learning that is so vital to their becoming an informed and engaged citizen.” The Chattanoogan.com reports

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Groups Win Grants to Fight Teen Drug Use

The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services awarded grants to Dyer, Lauderdale and Tipton counties that will allow them to form coalitions to fight drug use among teens. The Tennessean reports

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McCallie Places in Top 20 at National Mock Trial

The McCallie School of Chattanooga finished in the top 20 at the 2012 National High School Mock Trial Championship in Albuquerque last week, placing 16th out of 46 teams. In addition, McCallie student Christian Talley was named one of seven outstanding attorneys in the competition. The case, which students had just a month to learn, centered on the assassination of a Department of Homeland Security agent by a former CIA operative who had taken up contracting work. Following apprehension, the assassin turned informant and testified against a U.S. congressman accused of covering up a million-dollar fraud involving the theft of natural gas. Read more about the team's experience in The Chattanoogan

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Stations Cover Call for Law Day Involvement

Stories from News 12 in Chattanooga and News 5 in Nashville covered TBA President Danny Van Horn’s call for Tennesseans to get involved in Law Day activities. In a joint press release with the Tennessee Supreme Court issued yesterday, Van Horn urged greater public understanding of the American judicial system, while Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark took the opportunity to recognize those working within the judicial system and emphasize the importance of a fully funded court system. Read the release

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TBA Announces 2012 YouTube Contest Winners

News from the Public Education Committee
Students challenged to produce videos on the topic of freedom of communication are being honored today by the TBA as a part of the national Law Day celebration. Middle and high school students from across Tennessee created three-minute videos exploring issues related to free communication as part of the second annual TBA YouTube Video Contest. Students were asked to examine one of several themes, including the value of an "invaluable" right; whether limits can, or should, be imposed on freedom of communication; whether there should be consequences for abusing freedom of communication; and how the concept of freedom of communication applies in a digital era. First place in the high school division went to Vivian Hughbanks of Signal Mountain and Ben Panak of Murfreesboro won the middle school division. Read more about the winners and watch their videos

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Madison County Lawyers Gather at Law Day Lunch

The Jackson & Madison County Bar Association will hold its annual Law Day Luncheon tomorrow at First United Methodist Church in downtown Jackson. The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. The keynote address will be given by Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

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Memphis Bar Kicks off Law Week

The Memphis Bar Association is hosting a week of activities to commemorate Law Day. The celebration kicks off with the annual Law Week Launch Party set for tomorrow from 5 to 7 p.m. on the Court Square. All attendees are encouraged to bring a monetary or canned good donation for the Mid-South Food Bank. Learn more online

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Law Day Events Planned Across Tennessee

News from the Public Education Committee
Legal organizations across the state are preparing to mark Law Day 2012, and TBA President Danny Van Horn is encouraging lawyers to get involved: "Law Day provides an important opportunity for all Americans to reflect on the unique elements of our legal and judicial systems," he said today. "Legal organizations across the state are holding events and activities to celebrate the rule of law and foster greater understanding of the American judicial system. All Tennesseans are encouraged to get involved."

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MBA President: 'Law Rules' Initiative is Vital Civics Lesson

Memphis Bar Association (MBA) President Gary K. Smith writes in the Commercial Appeal this week that too many Americans have lost an appreciation for and proper understanding of the importance of an independent judiciary. He says, "Many seem to think that an independent judiciary means that judges are free to legislate from the bench in accord with their personal whims. But the rule of law does not work that way. All judicial rulings are measured by principles such as adherence to precedent and ultimately by the U.S. Constitution." To improve public understanding of these issues, the MBA is undertaking a major initiative this year called "Law Rules: The Importance of the American Legal System." Read Smith's guest column here

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Law Firm Holds RESPECT Contest for Students

The Nashville law firm of Kinnard Clayton & Beveridge recently announced the results of its annual RESPECT Contest, which asks area fifth-graders to answer two questions through original artwork: "What is respect"? and "Why is it important"? Law firm partner Randy Kinnard recognized contest winners at ceremonies at the Historic Williamson County Courthouse and Montgomery County Courthouse last week. Winners received a U.S. Savings Bond and were able to designate funding for their favorite charity. Read more about the contest and see the winning art entries

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Judges, Attorneys Star in 'GAVELS' Program

A program that sends practicing and retired attorneys and judges into the community to speak to groups is getting some positive attention. The relatively new GAVELS program (Gaining Access to Valuable Education about the Legal System), created by the Tennessee Judicial Conference and Tennessee Bar Association, has already had many requests for speakers. "Folks don’t seem to have a good sense of how the justice system works," says TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur, "and we think that if anyone could explain it, judges and lawyers would be the obvious choice."
The Nashville Ledger has the details.

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Watch Entries from TBA Video Contest

Middle and high school students from across the state submitted original videos exploring the constitutional right to freedom of communication in an annual contest sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association. Winners will be announced on Law Day, May 1. You can see the entries, now available online. First-prize winners from each age category will have their winning videos shown to leaders of the state’s legal community at the 2012 Tennessee Bar Association Convention on June 8 in Memphis.

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KBA Launches Community Newsletter

The Knoxville Bar Association this week launched a new service for members of the public interested in lawyer referral services and public education programs. The newsletter will be published twice a year, in the spring and fall. The inaugural issue includes information on the KBA’s upcoming “Community Law School” – a series of free seminars on legal topics that will begin March 31 with a session on wills and estate planning; links to new resources for the public; and a warning against “do it yourself” legal forms. Download a pdf of the newsletter or subscribe here for future issues.

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YLD Announces 2012 Law Day Art & Essay Contest

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has announced the 2012 Law Day Art & Essay Contest, which gives elementary and high school students the opportunity to express their ideas about living in a society that is governed by the rule of law, and achieve statewide recognition for their work. The 2012 competition theme, "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom," asks students to consider the importance of the courts and their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans. The art contest is open to students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, while the essay contest is open to students in 9th through 12th grades. Submissions must be received by local contest coordinators by April 13. Learn more about the contest

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New GAVELS Program Offers Help Explaining Court System, Judiciary

Public education

Tennessee judges and attorneys have partnered to create a new program for educating students, community groups and business organizations about the legal system. The Tennessee Judicial Conference (TJC) and Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) developed the GAVELS program, which stands for Gaining Access to Valuable Education about the Legal System, to fill the growing knowledge gap about the legal system and the important role it plays in our government.

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