Indigent Claims Go Electronic

Administrative Office of the Courts

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has recently unveiled an effort to bring the state's indigent claims process online. The Indigent Claims Entry (ICE) system will significantly streamline the claims process by eliminating more than 90 percent of the 105,000 paper claims the AOC receives on an annual basis, according to the AOC.

The ICE system will allow appointed attorneys and interpreters to enter their claims online and receive payment via direct deposit. In addition to making the process easier for attorneys and interpreters, the ICE system will also allow attorneys and interpreters to get paid much quicker than they do today.

"Although our office has worked diligently to reduce the turnaround time for paying indigent claims, the paper process is incredibly inefficient," said AOC director Elizabeth Sykes. "We are thrilled to offer the ICE system as a simpler, greener alternative that will allow attorneys and interpreters to receive payment quicker and easier."

Prior to the official implementation, the ICE system was piloted in the 15th Judicial District, which includes Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson counties. The month-long pilot gave attorneys, interpreters and judges the opportunity to use the system and share their feedback with the AOC.

"The system is incredibly easy to use and I'm convinced that if I can use it, anyone can," said Criminal Court Judge David Durham, who participated in the pilot program.

"The major benefit to this new system is that it allows the AOC to process claims faster and get the money into the hands of the attorneys quicker," said Jack Bare, a solo practitioner in Carthage, Tenn., who participated in the pilot. "I also like that the system is user-friendly and saves me time by eliminating some of the steps that were required with the paper process."

"Filing and getting paid in a matter of days versus a matter of weeks makes a big difference," said David Kennedy, an attorney who participated in the pilot program. "With the new system, you save postage and paperwork on the front end and receive your money much quicker on the back end. That's a great thing."

On July 6, the AOC will begin its year-long rollout of the ICE system in the 17th Judicial District, which includes Marshall, Lincoln, Bedford and Moore counties. As part of the implementation effort, the AOC will offer training classes and materials to assist attorneys, interpreters and judges in learning the new system.  

More information about the ICE system, including a tentative rollout schedule, is available online at http://www.tncourts.gov.  

Federal courts launch new web site, YouTube channel
The federal judiciary's web site, www.uscourts.gov, now has an email delivery service, multimedia/video, podcasts, photos, YouTube Channel, widgets and a read-aloud service. Also check out the new Federal Judiciary Channel, a joint initiative of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center. Watch a YouTube video about the new channel at www.youtube.com/uscourts

Court solicits comments on CLE mentoring program
The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has petitioned the Supreme Court to allow up to 12 hours of CLE credit for serving as a mentor or mentee through a mentoring program it proposes to establish. The court issued an order last month asking for comments on the proposal by Aug. 13. Learn more about the proposal at http://cletn.wetpaint.com/

Help with nonprofit litigation
Attorneys who provide pro bono legal assistance to nonprofits can get help from the Business and Corporate Litigation Committee of the ABA's Business Law Section. The committee has just released the 2010 edition of its Annual Review of Developments in Business and Corporate Litigation, and it is making the chapter on nonprofit law and litigation available free to organizations and attorneys that provide pro bono legal assistance to nonprofits. Contact oconnora@staff.abanet.org.

Tennessee Bar Association members were at the center of the state's legal and political worlds when they came together in Nashville June 2-5 for the 129th Annual Tennessee Bar Association Convention.

Highlighted by an address from Gov. Phil Bredesen, the gathering also featured all four major candidates hoping to replace him taking part in more than three hours of question-and-answer forums and informal campaigning. [See story and breakdown of positions on issues on page 14.] Also on the political front, attendees got an insider's perspective of the recent legislative session from lawyer lawmakers Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Sen. Mike Faulk (R-Kingsport).

The convention this year was held in conjunction with the Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women, the Tennessee Alliance for Black Lawyers and the Tennesse Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

When Sam D. Elliott of Chattanooga was installed as the TBA's new president, there was something missing, though. Outgoing President Gail Vaughn Ashworth, who normally would've passed the traditional gavel and TBA ring, had been hospitalized earlier that week and remained there into the next week. Her presence was felt, however, because of all she had done to prepare for the convention " and because a cardboard cut-out "Stand-Up Gail," attended many of the events.

At the annual meeting, Danny Van Horn of Memphis rose to the office of president-elect; Jackie Dixon of Nashville is the new vice president. Nashville lawyer David Changas was chosen to fill the Fifth District Board seat vacated by Dixon when she was elected TBA Vice President. Changas will hold the seat until the board's next annual election in the spring of 2011.

The TBA Young Lawyers Division held its annual election during the convention, electing Secretary Stacie Winkler of Memphis; Treasurer Marisa Combs of Nashville; District 10 Representative Garth Click of Springfield; and District 14 Representative Michael McLaren of Memphis. Other officers and board members were elected without opposition this past spring.

At the annual Lawyers Luncheon, honors were given, including recognition of Senior Counselors and awards.

Drowota Judicial Service Award

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Haynes was honored with the association's Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award. The award is given to a judge or judicial branch official of a federal, state or local court in Tennessee who has demonstrated extraordinary devotion and dedication to the improvement of the law, our legal system and the administration of justice as exemplified by the career of former Supreme Court Justice Frank F. Drowota III " the award's first recipient.

William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award

Nashville mayor and lawyer Karl Dean was awarded the William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award for his extraordinary service to the people of Nashville and Middle Tennessee in the wake of devastating flooding in May. In addition to the timely and organized provision of basic services to flood victims, the award recognized his commitment to the provision of pro bono legal services to those affected by the flooding.
The Leech award is given annually by the TBA Young Lawyers Division Fellows and is named for former Attorney General William M. Leech. The award honors a lawyer who has been of outstanding service to the profession, legal system and the community.

Justice Joseph W. Henry Award

Chattanooga lawyer S. Spencer Elg received the Justice Joseph W. Henry Award for the most outstanding article published in the Tennessee Bar Journal during the preceding year. He was recognized for his 2009 article, "Health Care Arbitration Agreements in Tennessee," which was published in the October 2009 issue of the magazine. He also won a cash prize of $500.

Elg practices law with Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP in Chattanooga. He is a 2009 graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Law and a 2006 summa cum laude graduate of the University of Memphis. This year the judges for this award were Chief Justice Janice Holder, Vanderbilt Law School Dean Chris Guthrie and TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth.

Presidents' Awards

Each year the TBA president designates certain individuals to be honored for their work during her year in office. This year, awards were given to the following lawyers:

  • T. Maxfield Bahner, for his service as chair of the TBA's Task Force on Judicial Conduct Rules. Bahner is a partner with the Chattanooga firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel PC.
  • Steve Cobb, for his work furthering the legislative initiatives of the TBA as the association's legislative counsel. Cobb is a solo practioner in Nashville.
  • Brian S. Faughnan, for service as chair of the TBA's Standing Committee on Ethics & Professional Responsibility. He serves with the firm of Adams and Reese in Memphis.
  • Sarah Y. Sheppeard, for her service as reporter of the Task Force on Judicial Conduct Rules. She is partner with Sheppeard, Swanson & Mynatt PLC in Knoxville.