ATJ Initiative is Court's Number One Strategic Priority

Access to Justice Commission Report:

The effort to secure equal justice for all is not a new concept. From the formation of the German Immigrant Society, the predecessor to the Legal Aid Society of New York, in 1876 to the Tennessee Supreme Court's August 2008 decision to make access to justice its primary priority, well-meaning lawyers, judges, and some public servants have fought to make civil legal aid to the indigent and underserved a reality.

Tennessee's bold access to justice initiative has evolved since the Supreme Court made the ATJ initiative its number one strategic priority. The Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Janice Holder, set an ambitious schedule for achieving these goals:

  • September 2008: The court begins plans to hire an Access to Justice Coordinator for the staff of the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).
  • October 2008: Rebecca "Becky" Rhodes is hired by the AOC as the Access to Justice Coordinator. Rhodes formerly held the same title at the Tennessee Bar Association.
  • November 2008: The court plans and prepares for its Access to Justice campaign announcement and for five public meetings to be held across the state on ATJ issues.
  • December 2008: The court makes a public announcement about its ATJ campaign and its plans to form a Tennessee Access to Justice Commission (commission).
  • January, February and March 2009: Five public meetings are held around the state; the court drafts Rule 50, creating the commission; judicial involvement and leadership on ATJ issues is cultivated across the state, leading up to the Statewide Public Service Day.
  • April 2009: The court announces the creation of the commission and its membership on April 3 and encourages involvement in 4All Campaign and 4/4 Public Service Day, April 4. The day is sponsored by the TBA and a host of other state, local and specialty bars, which includes more than 45 pro bono service projects across Tennessee. The commission holds its first nearly day-long meeting on April 29.
  • May and June 2009: Many of the advisory committees to the commission meet. These advisory committees, chaired by commission members, include:
    • Self-Represented Litigants (Pro Se) Advisory Committee, chaired by Francis Guess
    • Pro Bono/Attorney Involvement Advisory Committee, chaired by Buck Lewis
    • Community and Pro Bono Mediation Advisory Committee, chaired by Billye Sanders
    • Education Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Katie Edge and Dr. Frank Thomas
    • Disabilities and Language Minorities Advisory Committee, chaired by Greg Ramos
    • Unmet Legal Needs: Alternative Strategies, chaired by Dean Doug Blaze
    • Court System Advisory Committee, chaired by Bill Young
    • Resources and Technology Advisory Committee, chaired by Maura Smith
  • July 2009: The commission holds its second meeting on July 17; chairs of various committees make preliminary reports.
  • September 2009: Commission Chair Margaret Behm is the plenary luncheon speaker and presenter at the Tennessee Statewide Equal Justice Conference.
  • October 2009: The commission meets for the third time on Oct. 14, 2009.
  • Jan. 8-9, 2010: Commission members retreat to Evins Mill in Smithville to receive the advisory committee reports and prepare the initial draft of its Strategic Plan to be presented to the court.
  • April 3, 2010: Commission to present its first Strategic Plan to the court.

In a short nine months, the commission will have studied a myriad of issues, heard testimony from dozens of experts, prioritized the recommended strategies for achieving the court's goals, and have come one, small step closer to providing equal justice to all.

" Kathryn Reed Edge

Briefs

New resource for would-be public interest lawyers

A new online publication is aimed at filling a void in existing law school rankings by tailoring its information to would-be public interest lawyers. The Equal Justice Works Guide to Law Schools has information on the percentage of graduates in public service jobs, public interest field placements and clinics, and pro bono opportunities. The publication also has financial information, including tuition, scholarships and average student debt. The guide doesn't rank law schools, but it does allow users to do side-by-side comparisons of selected schools. Check it out through www.tba.org/journal_links

BPR launches online services

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility has two new online services that will help attorneys comply with licensing requirements. The first is a new site that allows lawyers to register and pay their 2010 annual fee online. Also new for the 2010 registration, which will run from Jan. 15 to March 1, is a revised statement that includes an IOLTA compliance statement, a pro bono reporting statement and a contact verification form. For more information about the online registration process visit www.tbpr.org. The second new service, the Attorney Online Portal, allows lawyers to review and update their contact information, and see their BPR history on the board's web site.

Addiction can be harder for professionals to overcome

A newspaper editor " and recovering addict " writes about how addiction is often harder for professionals to overcome because a person can "be too smart to get help." Many facilities now have impaired professionals programs, "tailored to those who work in positions of status and authority ... designed to help the addicted doctor, lawyer or pilot address their addiction and find the coping skills to return to their chosen profession, should they want."Connect to this personal story in The Daily Times at www.tba.org/journal_links

TBAConnect attracts members from age 24 to 80

The TBA's new TBAConnect social networking site continues to grow rapidly, attracting lawyers of all ages and practice areas from all across Tennessee. The web site " similar to LinkedIn or Facebook but limited to TBA members and invited guests " now has more than 200 participants ranging in age from 24 to 80. Those joining are almost equally split by urban/rural location " 56 percent are from Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga; by age " 44 percent are 50 and older; and gender " with about 60 percent male and 40 percent female. Already members are using TBAConnect to create profiles, share photos, notify colleagues about upcoming events and blog on current issues.

Join the TBAConnect social networking site now at http://www.tbaconnect.org

Ex parte talks in 'problem solving courts' approved

The Tennessee Supreme Court has approved new commentary for the Code of Judicial Conduct saying "problem solving courts" like the drug courts and mental health courts that have cropped up in recent years may, if local rules authorize it, engage in some ex parte communications regarding those who are under their jurisdiction. The Tennessee Bar Association, joined by the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee Trial Judges Association, had recommended a delay in adoption of the proposal pending the comprehensive review being undertaken by the TBA Task Force on Judicial Conduct Rules. The court indicated that the new commentary was being adopted "without prejudice" to any efforts to deal with the issue in the comprehensive rules proposal.

Download the rule at www.tba.org/journal_links

New lawyers admitted in ceremonies across state

The Tennessee Supreme Court welcomed new attorneys to the practice of law in Tennessee in November in ceremonies across the state. In Nashville, the TBA hosted many of the new admittees and their families for a celebration luncheon and open house at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the swearing-in.

Link to pictures from the admissions ceremonies and open house at www.tba.org/journal_links

Apply now for American Bar Association posts

Applications are available for lawyers interested in being appointed to any of the more than 600 positions for which the American Bar Association (ABA) president makes appointments. The deadline for submitting applications is March 1. The Tennessee Bar Association's ABA Resource Committee is offering assistance to lawyers interested in applying for service on the various committees, commissions and other entities to which the ABA president appoints. Contact ABA Resource Committee Chair Jonathan Cole or ABA State Delegate Randy Noel for further information about ways in which the committee can be of assistance.

Find out more and apply at www.abanet.org/scripts/nomination10/appointments.jsp

ABA launches federal appeals court tracking service

The American Bar Association launched a pilot project that will make certain opinions from the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 3rd, 5th and 9th Circuits publicly available. Students and professors at four law schools will select opinions most likely to be of interest to journalists and the public. While the pilot project covers just three circuits for now, the group plans to include all nine circuits eventually.

Learn more from the ABA through www.tba.org/journal_links

Mock trial problem released

The case for the 2010 Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition is a civil scenario involving a dispute over design and construction of a 400,000-square-foot distribution center featuring a concrete slab-on-grade floor. The central issue at stake is whether the work performed constitutes a breach of contract or professional negligence. Teams and other interested parties may download the problem and the rules and see the list of district competition coordinators at www.tba.org/mocktrial.

2010 Leadership Law Class Chosen

Thirty-two emerging leaders in the Tennessee legal community have been chosen to make up the 2010 TBA Leadership Law class. The diverse class was selected from an original pool of 700 nominations. The program will kick off with an opening retreat in January at Montgomery Bell State Park and will include day-long programs on policy and politics, the courts, community leadership, and leadership in action. Graduation will take place during the 2010 TBA Annual Convention in Nashville in June.

Those chosen are Shauna Billingsley, City of Franklin Law Department; Bob Bowman, Kramer Rayson LLP; Michael Brezina, Hodges Doughty & Carson PLLC; Jeff Cherry, Lowery Lowery & Cherry PLLC; Evan Cope, Cope Hudson Scarlett Reed & McCreary; Jason Creasy, Wilkerson Gauldin Hayes & Jenkins; Sherie Edwards, State Volunteer Mutual Insurance; John Elder, Paine Tarwater and Bickers LLP; Jason Fisher, Jenkins & Jenkins PLLC; John Heacock, attorney at law; Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU of Tennessee; Kim Hodges, Federal Express Corporation; Tim Housholder, Gilreath & Associates; Eric Hudson, Butler Snow O'Mara Stevens & Cannada PLLC; Rhonda Kinslow, Waller Landsen Dortch & Davis; and Sean Lewis, attorney at law.

Also chosen were Aimee Luna, Legal Aid of East Tennessee; Joe Lynch, Wimberly Lawson Seale Wright; Bill Maddox, attorney at law; Amy Martin, The Landers Firm; Jeffrey Matukewicz, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC; Alonda McCutcheon, Bass Berry & Sims PLC; Timothy Mickel, Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP; Rachel Moses, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands; Junaid Odubeko, Office of the Governor; Emily Ogden, The Justice Project; Sharon Reavis, EMI Christian Music Group Inc.; Sara Reynolds, Walker Tipps & Malone; Donna Roberts, Stites & Harbison PLLC; William Stover, Stover Law Firm; Bridget Willhite, Carter Harrod & Willhite PLLC; and Mason Wilson, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC.