Links for February 2013

New Rule Requires Electronic Tax Filing

All professional privilege tax returns filed on or after Jan. 1, 2013, must be filed electronically. The Tennessee Department of Revenue says returns can be filed by individuals, or by companies who file and pay for multiple individuals. For a step-by-step guide to electronically filing an individual return visit the department's website. Companies filing and paying for multiple individuals can get details here. The department will not mail a Professional Privilege Tax Return for the $400 tax due June 1, 2013. Questions should be directed to the Electronic Commerce Unit at (866) 368-6374 for in-state calls or (615) 253-0704 for Nashville or out-of-state calls. Download the notice.

Tenn. Legislative Session Convenes

The 108th General Assembly convened Tuesday by re-electing House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville. The legislature has its largest freshman class in years, with 31 new members of the 132. The 99-member House has 23 new members, and the Senate has eight. Republicans rule both chambers with a supermajority of more than two-thirds of the membership in each house.

Comptroller Announces New Online Fraud Tool

Tennesseans can now report suspected cases of fraud, waste and abuse of public funds at www.comptroller.tn.gov. The new service from the Office of the Comptroller compliments a toll-free telephone hotline that has been in existence since 1983 and has logged 17,000 calls. The Chattanoogan reports that the online tool was created in response to a new requirement passed by the General Assembly.

2013 Law Student Leadership Class Named

The 2013 class of the TBA Diversity Leadership Institute was announced today. The six-month leadership and mentoring program for law school students is sponsored by the TBA's Young Lawyers Division. This year it is made up of 18 students who will gather for their first meeting Jan. 18 in Nashville in conjunction with the TBA Leadership Conference.

Class members are: Shana Berkeley, Brett Knight, Kimberlee McTorry, Daniela Quintero and Ashley Upkins from the Belmont College of Law; Aisha DeBerry from the Duncan School of Law; Sonia Boss, Cynthia Brown, Cole Rogers, Mike Sandler and Tracey Williams from the Nashville School of Law; Anthony Adewumi, James Cobb, Jayniece Higgins and Jerry Ivery from the University of Memphis School of Law; and Estefania Chavez, LaToyia Trotter and Yessle Yi from the University of Tennessee College of Law. The program is being chaired this year by Memphis attorney Ahsaki Baptist and Nashville lawyer Brian Winfrey.

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Law Salaries to Rise in 2013

A new Robert Half Legal Salary Guide anticipates that lawyers across the country will receive a salary increase in 2013, the Birmingham Business Journal reports. The average salary for attorneys with four to nine years of experience is expected to increase 4.55 percent, while attorneys with 10-12 years experience will see an average 3.68 percent raise. Lawyers with one to three years experience and first-year associates are projected to receive a 2.6 percent and 1.9 percent increase, respectively.

Federal Courts Hold Line on Spending

Chief Justice John G. Roberts is defending the federal courts’ cost-containment strategy, stating in his year-end report that the Supreme Court will seek $75 million in the upcoming fiscal year, a 3.7 percent decrease from three years ago. Nationwide, federal courts spent about $6.9 billion last fiscal year, a “miniscule portion” of the overall federal budget Roberts said. In the report, Roberts also urged executive and legislative branches to fill open seats on the U.S. District and appellate courts which he said constitute “judicial emergencies.”

Courthouse Dogs Program Helps Children in Court

The Child Advocacy Center of Charlotte and the Courthouse Dogs Foundation recently joined together with Humphreys County court officials to discuss a new program in Waverly. Under the new program, Courthouse Dogs would assist and comfort sexually abused children while they go through forensic interviews and testify in court. The dogs are trained by organizations that are members of Assistance Dogs International. Experts say the dogs play two key roles in the courtroom — making victims feel safe and less anxious, and reducing stress levels. Learn more from the Leaf Chronicle.

ABA Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Gideon Decision

The ABA will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright on March 18 with events and public education programs that draw attention to the challenges facing the criminal justice system. The landmark Supreme Court ruling required state courts to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants who cannot afford their own. For more information, contact Tori Jo Wible or Karyn Linn.

Lawyers, Judges Raise Money for Chattanooga Food Bank

Members of the Chattanooga chapter of the American Inns of Court donated $11,250 to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, the Hamilton County Herald reports. Most of the money was raised at an auction during the group's holiday party, with the rest coming from member donations. “Every dollar donated to the Food Bank buys five meals,” said Maeghan Jones, president of the Food Bank. “So, the Inn’s donation will allow us to provide 56,250 meals. I’m thrilled to know my colleagues in the legal community are so willing to give back by making sure their neighbors do not go hungry, especially during the holidays.”

AG Announces Free Mortgage Hotline

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has announced that his office has partnered with the Homeownership Preservation Foundation to provide a free hotline to help distressed homeowners find mortgage relief programs. Residents in need of reliable information or referrals to foreclosure prevention counseling are encouraged to call the hotline at (855) 876-7283. Chattanoogan.com has more

LMU Hires Interim Dean

Parham Williams Jr. will serve as interim dean of Lincoln University's John J. Duncan School of Law while the school goes through the accreditation process and conducts a nation search for a permanent dean, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Wiliams served as law dean at the University of Mississippi, Samford University and Chapman University for a combined 35 years. He is a gradate of Ole Miss and earned his law degree from Yale University.

Duncan Law Hires New Admissions Director

Lincoln Memorial University has announced the appointment of Randy Mathews as director of admissions at the John J. Duncan School of Law. Mathews joins the school after an 18-year career with BARBRI, the law school and bar exam preparation company. At BARBRI, Mathews served as state director and then as vice president for academic affairs. He earned his law degree from the Cumberland School of Law and holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Knox.news has more

Duncan Law Preparing Second Accreditation Application

One year after being denied accreditation by the American Bar Association, the faculty and staff at Lincoln Memorial University John J. Duncan Jr. School of Law have worked tirelessly preparing a second application due Dec. 31. In October, LMU hired a new interim dean, dropped its federal lawsuit against the ABA and began working cooperatively with the accrediting body during the reapplication process. The Knoxville News Sentinel has the story.

Volunteers Needed for College Mock Trial Tournament

The opening round of the American Mock Trial Association’s 29th National Intercollegiate Tournament will be held at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis on March 22, 23 and 24, 2013. Attorneys in the state are invited to serve as judges for one or more of the four rounds. Informational session will be held one hour prior to each round. To volunteer or to get more information, contact Barbara Pohlmann at (901) 624-0309 or pohlmannb@rhodes.edu, or Marcus Pohlmann at (901) 843-3843 or pohlmann@rhodes.edu.

ABA Report Finds Non-J.D. Degree Enrollment Up

Although law school application numbers are down, enrollment in non-J.D. programs at ABA-approved law schools has increased substantially, the ABA Journal reports. According to preliminary data released Friday by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, schools have experienced a 52 percent increase in enrollment over the last 12 years, and a 39 percent increase in just the past seven years. Popular programs include those for nonlawyer professionals who want to learn about basic concepts in the law or about the legal and regulatory environments that apply to their field of work, and lawyers who want to pursue additional degrees, such as a master of laws, to develop expertise in a particular practice area.

TALS Hires New Legal Referral Attorney

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services has hired Tim Hughes to staff a new toll-free legal information and referral line that will be active in mid-January. Hughes formerly worked in private practice and at Memphis Area Legal Services. The new service will allow Tennessee residents to call 24-hours a day, seven days a week to request assistance finding resources to deal with civil legal issues.

Court Presents 2013 Rules Amendments

The Tennessee Supreme Court today filed orders proposing amendments to a number of court rules. All of the amended rules become effective July 1, 2013, pending approval by resolutions of the General Assembly. Download each of the orders for proposed amendments here: