Links for August 2013

Justice Holder Announces Retirement

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder announced that she is retiring at the end of her current term and will not seek re-election in the August 2014 judicial retention election. Holder became the third woman to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court and the first to serve as chief justice. “It has been my privilege to serve the people of Tennessee as a trial judge and Supreme Court justice – and an honor to have been selected by my fellow justices as the first female chief justice in our state’s history,” Justice Holder said in a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam. Read more about Holder's career at the Administrative Office of the Courts' website.

Confusion Mounts About Choosing Holder’s Successor

Justice Janice Holder’s announcement yesterday that she will retire after her term ends in August 2014 has come at a time when changes in the selection process for judges are both under way and under consideration, complicating and confusing procedures for filling her seat. The announcement came too late for Tennessee’s Judicial Nominating Commission to suggest successors before the commission’s legal authority expires Sunday. Gavel Grab reports that spokespeople for Gov. Bill Haslam and the Administrative Office of the Courts have expressed that it is unclear how Justice Holder’s seat will be filled.

New Guide Clarifies Legal Info v. Legal Advice

Need help determining when you are giving legal advice and when it's just legal information? The Tennessee Access to Justice Commission has developed guidelines to help. Originally intended to provide assistance to court staff and attorneys assisting in self-help centers, the guidelines grew to become something that anyone assisting self represented litigants could use. The Tennessee Supreme Court has now endorsed this policy, which the commission's Self-Represented Litigants Advisory Committee developed. Learn more at the court's access to justice website, www. justiceforalltn.com.

The High Price of Judicial Vacancies

Brennon Center for Justice Fellow Andrew Cohen discusses the high price of judicial vacancies in an article published this week. Cohen writes that there are dozens of jurisdictions all across the nation that now operate under what are known as “judicial emergencies” because of a lack of confirmed judges. By delaying the administration of justice, by thwarting the principles of finality and certainty, judicial vacancies cause real harm both to the American people and to the free market, he writes. Cohen cites Alicia Bannon’s report “Federal Judicial Vacancies: The Trial Courts” as doing a better job than most of trying to bridge the gulf between the raw statistics of judicial vacancies and what those statistics mean for real people.

Roberts: Budget Cuts Affect Courts Differently

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday told a group of federal judges that federal budget cuts are having a different and more severe impact on the courts than other government agencies. “The cuts hit us particularly hard because we are made up of people. That is what the judicial branch is. It is not like we are the Pentagon where you can slow up a particular procurement program … When we have sustained cuts that mean[s] people have to be furloughed or worse and that has a more direct impact on the services that we can provide.” Gavel Grab reports on the remarks.

TBA Volunteers Take Part in Teen Law Camp

TBA Public Education volunteers last week had the opportunity to work with a group of highly motivated students from across the state, helping them explore different aspects of the law and become more informed about educational and career paths they may want to pursue. The 20 students were participants at Law Camp, an annual event hosted by Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice & Society and co-sponsored by law firms and legal organizations, including the TBA. Law Camp 2013 focused on issues related to the U.S. Civil Rights movement and the evolution of the right to vote, from the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution through current Supreme Court decisions. See photos from the program.

TBA Youth Court Coordinator Denise Bentley led a discussion about the significant role of young activists in the Civil Rights movement.

Teens Gather at Lipscomb for Law Camp 2013

Each summer, Lipscomb University hosts high school students from across the state to participate in Law Camp, which offers exposure to various aspects of the legal profession. Volunteers from the TBA Public Education Committee worked closely with Lipscomb’s Institute for Law, Justice & Society this year to organize and deliver sessions throughout the week-long camp, held on the university's campus in Nashville.

Washington County Pro Bono Praised by National Group

Pro bono and access to justice initiatives sponsored by lawyers in Washington County recently were featured in an article by the national group Trial Lawyers Care. The county’s Saturday Clinic, General Sessions Court project and Pro Se Domestic Project were praised for their unique approach to meeting real needs and for their ongoing impact. The group called the projects a “model” for other communities and highlighted the work of three area lawyers – Tony Seaton, Matt Bolton and McKenna Cox – who were instrumental in launching the programs. Read more on the group’s website.

New Veterans Legal Corps Sends Lawyers, Students to Legal Aid

Low-income and homeless veterans will be getting legal help from a new program that deploys lawyers and law students to legal aid groups and courts across the country. Equal Justice Works recently announced the new Veterans Legal Corps, which is funded with money from AmeriCorps. The three-year program will dispatch 36 lawyers and 200 law students to groups across the country. The lawyers and law students will help veterans with disability benefits, barriers to housing and employment, debt and family law problems. The first class of Veterans Legal Corps members will begin work in September and will serve for two years. The ABA Journal has the story.

Vanderbilt, American Judicature Society Join Efforts

The American Judicature Society (AJS) and Vanderbilt Law School announced an affiliation agreement today that, according to the groups, will result in joint educational programming, publications and new research. In addition, AJS will relocate from Des Moines, Iowa, to the Vanderbilt campus in Nashville. Vanderbilt Law Dean Chris Guthrie said the partnership provides the opportunity to “strengthen ties to the bench and bar, conduct academic programming in areas of mutual interest, create new educational and professional opportunities for students, facilitate faculty research, and enhance the reach and reputation of the law school’s dispute resolution and criminal justice program." With the move to Tennessee, AJS executive director Seth Anderson has decided to remain in Iowa so the group is searching for a new director. Learn more about the job opening on the AJS website.

New Lawyers Join the Practice

TBA YLD members were on hand earlier this month as new lawyers took part in admission ceremonies at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Following introductions and administration of the oath by Chief Justice Gary Wade, the group heard remarks from TBA President Jackie Dixon. Close to 200 attorneys successfully passed the bar exam in February. Over 100 of them and their families attended an open house and luncheon at the Tennessee Bar Center before the ceremony. See photos from the event. See the list of all new lawyers who passed the February bar.

Pro Bono Hours Down Second Straight Year at Big Firms

Despite healthy increases in revenues and profits in 2012, The Am Law 200 posted drops in both total pro bono hours and average hours per lawyer for the second year in a row. There were, however, two hints of a nascent rebound. After dropping 10.6 percent in 2011, The Am Law 200's average percentage of lawyers performing at least 20 hours of pro bono work rose 0.4 percent in 2012, to 44 percent.

Access to Justice Videos Now Include Closed Captioning

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice informational videos now include closed captioning to make legal guidance accessible to even more people, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The videos review topics for the general public for civil cases in general sessions courts — where many civil legal matters take place — such as contract disputes, debt, landlord issues and civil suits under $25,000.