Court's Access to Justice Plans Include Forms, Summit

Tennessee Supreme Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court unveiled plans in July to bring greater access to the state's justice system by removing barriers, making the system more user-friendly, providing education and involving more lawyers and law students in closing the state's growing civil legal needs gap. Central among projects announced was a pro bono summit to be held in January 2011 and development of "downloadable plain-language forms" that would be approved by the Supreme Court.

After attending the announcement, TBA President Sam Elliott said he was "impressed by the court's commitment to access to justice" and that the TBA would be actively supporting January's Pro Bono Summit.

A number of resources are available to learn more about the court's plans. You can download the court's media release, remarks that Chief Justice Janice Holder made in announcing the plans, or comments from Access to Justice Commission Chair Margaret Behm. You can also view an interview with Justice Holder and Behm conducted by TBA Access to Justice Committee Chair David Esquivel or an access to justice promotional video produced by the court.

Find all these resources through tba.org/journal_links.  

Briefs

New T.C.A. volume has error about insurance agreements
The new Volume 1 of Tennessee Court Rules Annotated, published by Lexis Nexis " arriving in law offices in July as part of the Tenn. Code Ann. subscription " contains a significant editorial error suggesting that insurance agreements are now discoverable under TRCP 26.02(2). This is not correct. The proposed amendment to make insurance discoverable was subject to separate approval resolutions (SR177, HR234), which were not adopted by the General Assembly. Under Tenn. Code Ann. Section 16-3-404, proposed rules shall not take effect until approved by resolutions of both houses.

Video ad informs voters  
The Tennessee Bar Association released its first Web ad this summer, which highlights the importance of not leaving judicial elections to chance and shows ways to become an informed voter. The ad provides links to TBA's Judicial Election Center, which includes a copy of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission's evaluation for two candidates up for retention election " Justice Sharon Lee and Judge John McClarty. Lee and McClarty are both recommended to "retain." (The new parlance on the judicial retention election ballot is "retain" or "replace," rather than the former "yes/no.") The website also gives voters information about judging judges and provides a link to a page showing those judges who have adopted the campaign code of conduct. Find these resources through tba.org/journal_links

ABA releases diversity report and recommendations
A recent report from the American Bar Association lays out proposals to advance diversity in the legal profession. The report, "Diversity in the Legal Profession: Next Steps," is the result of a two-year study by the Commission on Diversity. The report contains recommendations for law schools, firms, bar associations and government bodies interested in increasing diversity. The commission is asking organizations to submit information on how they plan to implement " or already are implementing " any of the proposals in the report. Responses will be posted on the association's Next Steps web page. Access the page and download the report through tba.org/journal_links

New site pairs nonprofits with pro bono lawyers
The Thomson Reuters Foundation recently launched TrustLaw Connect, a global service that connects organizations in need of free legal assistance with those able to provide it. Through the site's online marketplace, social entrepreneurs, NGOs and government agencies will be able to access pro bono legal support from lawyers anywhere in the world. More than 190 organizations and 60 law firms have joined the effort so far. In addition, the service aims to become an international hub on anti-corruption and governance issues by offering a database of related legislation, law review articles, news, country profiles and international conventions.

Learn more at www.trust.org/trustlaw/connect.

Missed the TBA's Convention?      
Video footage of the Lawyers Luncheon and the Governor's Luncheon held during the recent Tennessee Bar Association Annual Convention are available for viewing online. The Lawyers Luncheon video features award winners for the year, remarks by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, and the swearing-in of new TBA President Sam Elliott. The Governor's Luncheon video features a keynote address by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who talked about the budget process, praised the state's judicial selection system and took questions from the audience. Access the videos through tba.org/journal_links.

More than 400 to date helped by disaster legal services hotline
More than 400 flood victims to date have contacted the Disaster Legal Services Hotline for help. Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) Executive Director Erik Cole reports that many callers have requested assistance with landlord/tenant issues, with insurance assistance being the second highest need. More than half of the callers are Davidson County residents, followed by those in Shelby and Rutherford counties.

To help lawyers offering assistance, the Tennessee Bar Association has developed a third free, one-hour webcast. This webcast features members of the Metro Recovery Team and will focus on the buyouts being offered to homeowners in the floodway and the flood plain. Learn more about the free webcast at https://www.tnbaru.com.

Also, TALS now has a Facebook page with updates on disaster-related developments. On Facebook, search for "Disaster Legal Services in Tennessee."  

Art, Essay Contests Honor the Law

The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division announced the winners of the 2010 Tennessee Law Day Art and Essay Competitions. The theme of this year's contest, "Law in the 21st Century: Enduring Traditions, Emerging Challenges," was designed to spark students' thinking about how society can honor long-standing traditions in the law while addressing new issues and situations that might challenge "old ways" of doing things.

First place in the essay contest went to Matthew Street, a senior at First Assembly Christian School in Cordova, while the first place art award (seen here) went to Chihye Kim, a fifth grade student at Cedar Bluff Elementary in Knoxville. Jackson lawyer Paul Whitt served as this year's state Law Day Art and Essay Contest coordinator.

Read the winning essays and see all the art winners at www.tba.org/YLD/artessay_2010