Links for June 2017

Tennessee Legal Leaders Tackle Access to Justice Issues at Conference

May 9, 2017

Members of Tennessee’s Access to Justice community gathered in Pittsburgh last week for the 2017 Equal Justice Conference. The annual event draws over 900 lawyers, law students and members of the judiciary, who discussed the delivery of legal services to the poor and low-income individuals in need of legal assistance. Among those representing Tennessee were Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins, Access to Justice Commission Chair and past TBA President Marcy Eason, TBA Vice-President Jason Pannu and TBA Access to Justice Chair John Farringer.  Past TBA President and current Chair of the ABA's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Buck Lewis also welcomed conference attendees at the opening plenary and lead a panel discussion about new developments for ABA’s Free Legal Answers, which grew out of Online Tennessee Justice.

TBA Leaders Speak for Legal Services in D.C.

April 28, 2017

TBA leaders were in Washington D.C. this week as a part of ABA Day 2017 to speak to members of Congress about the importance of funding for the Legal Services Corporation and other issues. TBA efforts were led by President Jason Long, President-elect Lucian Pera, YLD President Rachel Mancl, Legislative Counsel Gif Thornton and Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur. Nashville attorneys Ann Pruitt from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and Jonathan Cole, president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, also joined the delegation.

LSC Gains Support Across the Bar

April 17, 2017

Lawyers and legal groups across the country are speaking out against the Trump administration's plan to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). These efforts include: 

  • TBA President issued a statement in support of LSC funding: “Tennessee lawyers know how vital legal aid programs are to the fabric of our community,” Long said. “We will mobilize our resources and, most importantly, the voices of our members to maintain and indeed expand LSC funding."
  • The Tennessee Bar Association is mobilizing to save legal aid services by encouraging Tennessee representatives in Congress and the White House to restore LSC funding. Learn more about the threat to LSC and show your support for vital legal aid programs via TBAImpact.
  • National advocacy groups including The Shriver Center, Pro Bono Institute and National Legal Aid & Defender Association have joined in efforts to mobilize support for LSC. The Shriver Center notes historic bipartisan support for LSC, and its role as a “barometer for our country’s commitment to supporting basic fairness and access to equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of one’s income.”
  • The heads of more than 150 U.S. law firms, including several of the largest firms in the world, have written a letter to the Trump administration expressing concern regarding a reported proposal to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corp.
  • The Memphis Bar Association (MBA) sent a letter last week to Tennessee’s elected officials in Washington, urging that the federal government continue to provide “robust funding” for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).
  • American Bar Association President Linda Klein said in a statement released today that the ABA was "outraged" at the budget proposal.
  • Bar Associations across the country have shown their support for the Legal Services Corporation. The ABA Division of Bar Services has compiled those statements.

TBA Limited Partnership Bill Adopted By Legislature

May 10, 2017

The TBA’s Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act (TULPA) was adopted by unanimous vote of the House this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton), modernizes and harmonizes provisions of the limited partnership law with other forms of business organization. The 110th General Assembly adjourned today and will reconvene on Jan. 9, 2018.

Free Law Project to Download, Make All PACER Opinions Public

April 28, 2017

The Free Law Project, a non-profit dedicated to providing free, public access to legal materials, will download all of the free opinions available on PACER, Law Sites Blog reports. “These documents are a critical part of America’s legal system, and yet there is no easy and free way to access or analyze them except through expensive third party vendors whose tools are out of reach for many people,” said Free Law Project Executive Director Michael Lissner.

Rutherford County Lawyers Form Women's Association

May 12, 2017

Lawyers in Rutherford County have formed a new professional organization to address issues of concern to women within the legal profession. The Middle Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women (MTLAW) was organized on March 16. Magistrate Diana Benson Burns was elected the group's first president. Any practicing attorney or law student who supports the goals of the association, which include improving the administration of justice, increasing the diversity of the bench and bar, and facilitating personal and professional networking between members, is eligible for membership. Persons interested in membership may contact the group via email.

ABA Issues Guidance on Electronic Transmission of Client Info

May 11, 2017

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued an opinion with guidance for lawyers on enhancing confidentiality for transferring sensitive client information electronically. The guidance recommends lawyers be trained in technology and information security and encourages attorneys to take a proactive role in ensuring communications are protected, among other edicts. The new opinion adds to one issued in 1999 that discusses protecting the confidentiality of encrypted email. Read the full opinion here.

Justices Appear on Panel at SETLAW Event

May 11, 2017

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, Sharon G. Lee and Holly Kirby served on a panel as part of the Southeast Tennessee Lawyers' Association for Women's (SETLAW) Ladies of Justice "Lunch and Learn" event at the Hamilton County Criminal Courthouse in Chattanooga. The panel was moderated by SETLAW President Sara McManus of Baker Donelson. The justices spoke about how they decided to become lawyers, who their mentors were, the career challenges they have faced and their advice for other women.

Former Hospital Executive Set to Graduate UT Law School at 73

May 11, 2017

At the age of 73 and after a full career as a hospital executive, Tom Winston is set to graduate the University of Tennessee College of Law on Saturday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Winston has retired three times, only to find himself called back to work in one form or another, and on the third try, he enrolled in law school at the age of 70. Winston said he made the choice because he needs purpose in his life. “What better resource is there for the workplace than seniors who say like I did, 'I just don’t have usefulness, let me get trained in whatever turns me on today,’” Winston said. He plans to take the bar exam in July and practice out of Chattanooga upon receiving his license.

ABA Launches Study of LGBT, Disability Bias

May 10, 2017

The American Bar Association has launched a nationwide study of biases encountered by LGBT and disabled lawyers in the profession, the ABA Journal reports. The study, a part of the ABA Pathway to the Profession Project, will help develop strategies to fight biases. Statistics from the National Association for Law Placement show differences in employment for LGBT and disabled lawyers, including that LGBT attorneys are more likely to work for public interest groups rather than firms, and that disabled lawyers were less likely to be employed that other law graduates.

Inmates' Suit Over Hep C Epidemic Granted Class Action Status

May 5, 2017

Yesterday a federal judge granted class action status to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Tennessee inmates suffering from hepatitis C in state prisons, the Tennessean reports. The suit, filed by inmates Russell Davis and Charles Graham, calls on the Tennessee Department of Correction to provide treatment to every infected inmate. A 2016 investigation by the Tennessean found that 3,487 inmates were suffering from the disease but only eight were receiving treatment.

TBA to Join Push for Legal Services Funding in Washington

April 19, 2017

Lawyers from Tennessee and other states will be in Washington next week to speak to members of Congress and their staffs about the importance of funding for the Legal Services Corporation as part of ABA Day 2017. The TBA effort will be lead by President Jason Long and will include President-elect Lucian Pera, YLD President Rachel Mancl, TBA Legislative Counsel Gif Thornton and Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur. Nashville attorneys Ann Pruitt from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and Jonathan Cole, president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, will accompany the delegation as they visit each lawmaker from Tennessee in the American Bar Association's annual effort to connect policymakers with constituents in the legal profession.

Many Pledge to 'Stand Against Racism' at YWCA Event

April 27, 2017

Several hundred people gathered in Nashville's Public Square Park today for the YWCA's annual Stand Against Racism event. The programming was led by Mayor Megan Barry and featured several lawyers and others speaking on the theme "Women of Color Leading Change." Among the speakers were Ana Escobar, with the Davidson County District Attorney General's Office; civil rights attorney Abby Rubenfeld; and Sharon Roberson, president and CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. Melody Fowler-Green, with the Metro Human Relations Commission, and Beverly Watts, who serves on the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commisson, led the crowd in committing to the pledge. See photos from the event.

Mock Trial Competition Championship Video Available for Streaming

April 26, 2017

The video from the 2017 Tennessee High School Mock Trial Competition’s championship round is now available for streaming. This year’s competition featured a showdown between two Nashville teams, the all-girls Harpeth Hall squad versus the defending champions, the all-boys Montgomery Bell Academy. MBA took home the title once again. The 2017 case was a criminal trial, involving a death at a nursing home facility.

Recidivism in Tennessee High, But Improving

April 21, 2017

Nearly half of all people released from prison will return within three years, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Correction on Thursday, the Tennessean reports. However, recidivism has gone down by 3.4 percent, from 50.5 percent in 2010 to 47.1 percent in 2016. "These encouraging numbers demonstrate that we're on the right track," said TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker.

SCOTUS Will Not Reinstate N.C. Voter ID Law

May 15, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court has again declined to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law, NPR reports. The law, considered one of the strictest in the nation, was found by a lower court to have been intentionally designed to stop African-Americans from voting. The appeals court said the law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” This is the second time that North Carolina Republicans have attempted to have the Supreme Court revisit the case.

20 Attorneys General Call for Independent Probe into Russia

May 12, 2017

Nineteen state attorneys general and one from the District of Columbia are calling for the appointment of an independent special counsel to investigation Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, the Associated Press reports. Tennessee is not among those states. The group said in a letter yesterday to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that only the appointment of an independent special counsel can begin to restore public confidence.

          | TBA Law Blog