Links for August 2012

More than 46 percent of Tennessee attorneys reported performing pro bono legal work in Tennessee, an increase of six percent from last year, according to data from the Board of Professional Responsibility. This is the highest percentage of pro bono reporting since attorneys began to voluntarily report in 2009 and more than twice the level of reporting during the initial year. So far, about 3,860 lawyers with Tennessee law licenses residing in Tennessee reported 329,285 hours of pro bono work. The law license renewal form includes a section where lawyers can voluntarily report their pro bono work done in the previous calendar year. 

Increasing pro bono participation is a priority of the Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission’s 2012 Strategic Plan. “The commission’s goal is to ensure all Tennesseans have access to justice by knowing their rights, having access to counsel and understanding the judicial system,” ATJ Chair George T. "Buck" Lewis said. “This is very encouraging news, and next year we hope to see that number over 50 percent.” Learn more from the Tennessee Supreme Court

The newly established Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct met July 7 for the first time. The board replaces the old Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, whose members were appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Legislation enacted this year calls for appointments by the leaders of both houses of the legislature as well as the governor.

Officers are Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, chair; Circuit Court Judge Timothy L. Easter, vice chair; Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins, General Assembly liason; and Thomas Lawless (attorney), secretary.

Other members of the board are:
Miles Burdine, president & CEO, Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce (public member);
General Sessions Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton;
Circuit Court Judge Timothy L. Easter;
Judge Joe F. Fowlkes;
Robert T. (“Tas”) Gardner (attorney);
J. Ronald Hickman (public member);
Chris A. Hodges (public member);
Court of Appeals Judge Holly M. Kirby;
General Sessions Judge Christy R. Little;
General Sessions/Juvenile Judge Larry J. Logan;
Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Sharp;
General Sessions Judge Dwight E. Stokes; and
David Wedekind (attorney).

All terms run through June 30, 2015. Learn more at http://www.tncourts.gov/

Only 55 percent of people in the law classes of 2011 are known to have found employment in full-time legal jobs, according to an American Bar Association report released Friday. Above the Law looks into what that means.

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.

The head of Chattanooga's gang task force says he will remove a little-known provision on a Sessions Court form that allows police to search the homes of people assigned court-ordered community service. Boyd Patterson said the provision was never intended for minor offenses such as littering, simple drug possession or similar misdemeanors. Instead, the language is aimed at the "worst of the worst" gang members. But the provision, in effect since November, requires people who agree to perform public works days through the court to allow such searches regardless of their offense. The provision is "just such a gross overkill," attorney Hank Hill said. "No competent lawyer would ever require a client to sign it."  The Times Free Press has more

Before he was elected Shelby County Criminal Court clerk in 2010, Kevin Key worked on an e-filing system in circuit court that made its debut this week. Now Key is working toward an e-filing system for the criminal court. Requests for proposals are set to go out soon for vendors to tie all the different criminal justice systems into a central hub. Key’s part of the system includes the ability to file court documents by computer or scan them into the system. Anticipating the task ahead, he says, “It’s going to be the largest single computer system ever implemented by Shelby County government.” The Memphis Daily News reports

Clark: Translators for Crime Victims Important

Since July 1 all non-English-speaking crime victims are being provided state-funded translation services in Tennessee court proceedings. A federal mandate had ordered states to extend free translation services to all litigants or risk losing billions in federal aid. But Tennessee went a step further and included victims in the coverage. "It is important that not only those charged with a crime, but also crime victims, divorcing parents and all those who find themselves before the courts are able to communicate effectively," Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said in a statement Monday. Read more from WBIR