Cast Your Vote Aug. 7 in Judicial races

Bar associations across the state have conducted membership polls regarding the retention election of Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee. as well as for candidates in contested judicial, court clerk and district attorney elections. Like the Tennessee Bar Association’s statewide poll (which showed 9 of 10 lawyers want to retain the members of the court on the ballot), the Memphis and Nashville bar associations reported that about 80 percent of their members who voted gave strong support for the retention of the justices.

A partisan campaign to oust three Democrat-appointed Tennessee Supreme Court justices in the upcoming retention election has received national attention, GavelGrab reports. A Slate article profiles the Tennessee contest and its players, and voices alarm about another big-spending race that could threaten fair and impartial courts. “When judicial races turn into spending races, what suffers most is not Democrats or Republicans, but judicial independence and integrity,” Dahlia Lithwick writes in the article, “How to Take Out a Supreme Court Justice.”

Early voting for the election began in July. Election day is Aug. 7.

LAW SCHOOL

UT Law to Freeze Tuition for Upcoming Academic Year
The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees voted in June to freeze tuition for College of Law students for the 2014-2015 academic year. Tuition will remain at $16,078 for Tennessee residents and $34,522 for out-of-state students.

COURTS

Justice Bivins Reports for Work  
Jeffrey Bivins was installed on the Tennessee Supreme Court July 16 by Gov. Bill Haslam at the historic Franklin Theater in Franklin. He took the seat vacated by Justice Bill Koch, who retired July 15.

U.S. Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to 'Tennessee Plan'
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 1 affirmed dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the “Tennessee Plan” under which the justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court and judges of the intermediate appellate courts will stand for retention election on Aug. 7. The lawsuit, brought by Knoxville lawyer Herbert Moncier, is the second unsuccessful federal challenge to the plan, which has been upheld by every state and federal court to examine the issue.

Mentors Promise to Help Veterans
The Administrative Office of the Courts is now working with Justice for Vets to help veterans who find themselves before a judge. More than 60 veterans became the state’s first ever Veterans Treatment Court mentors. Mentors completed a boot camp to learn how to help fellow men and women in uniform who end-up with criminal charges, and will be able to work in courts across the state.

Supreme Court Gives Sendoff to Justice Koch
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch Jr. was honored at a reception at the Tennessee Supreme Court building for his retirement. Emceed by Justice Connie Clark, the program featured comments by those impacted by Koch's service over the years. Herbert Slattery, counsel to the governor, presented a gubernatorial proclamation announcing the day as “Justice William C. Koch Jr. Appreciation Day” and Sen. Randy McNally presented a resolution from the Tennessee General Assembly honoring Koch. All five members of the court were present at the standing-room-only event. Court of Appeals Judge Frank Clement, a trustee of the Nashville School of Law, also spoke. He said Koch's arrival will be a huge “shot in the arm” for the school.

Awards

TALS Announces New Award Named for Justice Holder
The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) has created the Janice M. Holder Access to Justice Award to honor the state’s first female Supreme Court chief justice, a passionate leader in Tennessee's Access to Justice efforts and a dedicated public servant. The award will be presented each year to an individual who has made significant contributions to expanding access to justice in Tennessee. The group accepted applications for this and other awards and will present them Sept. 10 during TALS's Equal Justice University.

Civics Education Program Captures Emmy Award
The groundbreaking civics education campaign backed by the TBA has earned an Emmy Award for a public service film featuring former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Informed Voters Project was developed by the National Association of Women Judges. It focuses on providing non-partisan education to increase public awareness about the judicial system, to inform voters that politics and special interest attacks have no place in the courts, and to give voters the tools they need to exercise an informed vote in favor of fair and impartial courts.

ETHICS

BPR Opinion Looks at Disclosure of Client Wills
A formal ethics opinion issued by the Board of Professional Responsibility on June 13 looks at whether a lawyer who represented a testator can refuse to disclose the will prior to the client’s death based on attorney-client privilege or confidentiality. The opinion was requested by an attorney who says it is becoming more common for courts to order wills and other testamentary documents drafted for competent clients be made available to guardians or conservators handling the affairs of the individual after he or she is no longer competent.