Links for March 2016

Study: Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues Plague Attorneys

February 3, 2016

A new study sheds light on the substantial levels of problem drinking and mental health issues plaguing attorneys, according to the American Bar Association. The national study, conducted by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and reported this week in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found that rates of problem drinking increased as individuals spent more time in the legal profession. The study reports that 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers and that 28 percent of attorneys struggle with some level of depression.

“Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people,” said Patrick R. Krill, lead author of the study. In Tennessee, help is available through the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP). Learn more about how TLAP can help.

Comments Sought on Discipline of Attorneys Proposal

February 2, 2016

The state Supreme Court is seeking public comments from judges, lawyers and bar associations on the proposed addition of Tennessee Supreme Court rule 9, section 22.7, regarding the discipline of attorneys convicted or acknowledging guilt of crimes. The addition will clarify discipline measures when an attorney receives judicial diversion for a criminal offense. The deadline for submitting written comments is April 1.

Rubenfeld Receives ABA's 2016 Stonewall Award

February 10, 2016

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld received the American Bar Association’s 2016 Stonewall Award for her work as a gay rights advocate. The award was presented Feb. 6 at the ABA LGBT Caucus as part of the organization’s mid-year meeting in San Diego. Rubenfeld was co-counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. In December, Rubenfeld and co-counsel TBA President Bill Harbison were named Nashvillians of the Year by The Nashville Scene for their work on the case.

Attorneys on Social Media: Report Reveals New Trends

February 10, 2016

How much time do you spend on social media? The average lawyer spends 1.6 hours per week using social networking sites for professional purposes, according to the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. The survey also reported 85 percent of law firms have a website, compared to only 55 percent in 2012. LinkedIn is the most popular social media site for attorneys, followed by Facebookt hen Twitter. Read more from MyCase.

Court Outlines Programs, Future Plans in Annual Report

February 9, 2016

The Tennessee Judiciary released its 2015 Annual Report, which includes details on the newly created business court, a review of case management practice and the groundwork for the state’s e-filing system. “We will continue our review of the judicial branch to ensure that we are using best practices and being good stewards of our tax dollars,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in her introductory letter. http://www.tba.org/tags/e-filing

UT Law Students Offer Free Tax Preparation Help

February 8, 2016

Students at the University of Tennessee College of Law will offer free tax preparation help through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The VITA program, which runs through April 14, offers free tax help and electronic filing to persons with disabilities, limited English-speaking taxpayers and more. Assistance is available from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursday in Suite 157 of the College of Law. Call 865-974-2492 for more information.

Marshall County Lawyers Recognized for Law Day Efforts

February 8, 2016

The Marshall County Bar Association was recognized for providing the Most Innovative Law Day Program during the American Bar Association’s Mid-year Meeting in San Diego. Working in partnership with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, Marshall County lawyers launched a kiosk at the courthouse with an interactive Help Button that provided information on bankruptcy, housing, custody, debt and other legal services. MCBA members also partnered with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to honor the Charter of the Forest, a charter established in 1217 with the reissuance of Magna Carta, and it conducted a Symbol of Freedom discussion with high school students on Magna Carta.

Justice Thomas Silent During Oral Arguments for 10 Years

February 3, 2016

It’s been nearly 10 years since U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asked a question during oral arguments, the ABA Journal reports. His last question was on Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case. His reason: “I think we should listen to lawyers who are arguing their cases, and I think we should allow the advocates to advocate,” he said in 2013 at a Harvard Law School appearance.

Shelby County Mental Health Court Opens

February 2, 2016

A new Mental Health Court opened today in Memphis and will handle nonviolent, misdemeanor cases involving mental health patients, WMCActionNews5 reports. An estimated 25 percent of all Shelby County inmates have a mental illness. Judge Gerald Skahan will oversee the court, which is located at 201 Poplar Ave.

ABA Family Law Award Honors Nashville Attorney

Jean CroweFebruary 1, 2016

The ABA Section of Family Law Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award Committee is accepting nominations for attorneys who have made significant contributions to family law clients on a pro bono basis in their communities. The award includes $1,500 and reimbursement for travel expenses of up to $1,000 to attend the Family Law Section’s Award Luncheon in San Francisco. Nominations are due May 20. Crowe was the TBA's 2013 Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year.

Court Rules on Parents' Constitutional Rights in Termination Proceedings

January 29, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme today held that a parent's constitutional right to fundamental fairness in termination proceedings does not require adoption of a separate procedure that allows parents to further appeal termination orders based on ineffective representation by appointed counsel. The Court argued that adding a separate procedure could result in years of litigation that “could cause immeasurable damage to children.” The Court imposed an additional safeguard that says in an appeal from an order terminating parental rights, the Court of Appeals must consider whether the evidence supports the trial court’s findings as to all the grounds for termination alleged and as to the best interests of the child, even if the parent fails to challenge these findings on appeal. Read the majority opinion in In Re Carrington H., authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, and the separate concurring and dissenting opinion, authored by Chief Justice Lee.

Decline in Bar-Pass Rates May Continue Through 2018

January 29, 2016

The LSAT profiles of current law students suggest the decline in bar-exam and bar-pass rates will continue through 2018, the ABA Journal reports. The analysis shows that current law students who will graduate through 2018 had lower LSAT profiles as entering law students than the previous two graduating classes. That trend does appear to be ending. The number and quality of law school applicants appear to be on the upswing this year, law professor Jerry Organ says. “If these trends continue, the fall 2015 entering class may represent the ‘bottom.’”

Haslam Signs Judicial Confirmation into Law

January 28, 2016

Judicial confirmation legislation implementing the 2014 Amendment to the Tennessee Constitution was signed into law Jan. 28 by Gov. Bill Haslam. Earlier that day, the House of Representatives adopted the Conference Committee report for SB1, HB142 with a vote of 86-5 completing the last of the needed legislative actions. Read the full process.

Davidson County Launches Sex Trafficking Intervention Court

January 26, 2016

The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office announced it will launch a sex trafficking intervention court in an effort to combat sex slavery. WKRN reports victims will be offered long-term services instead of automatic jail time. The program – Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. of Nashville – is scheduled to begin next month.

Mental Health Court Opens in Shelby County

January 15, 2016

Shelby County launched its Mental Health Court under the leadership of Shelby County General Sessions Judge Gerald Skahan, the Memphis Flyer reports. Defendants suffering from mental illness will have a chance to have their charges dropped in exchange for completing a year-long mental health treatment plan. "The benefit to the community is this is a tremendous savings because it's expensive to house somebody in jail and give them their medicine,” Skahan said.

Diversity Leadership Institute Holds First, Abbreviated Session

January 26, 2016

Despite a weekend of terrible weather, the Diversity Leadership Institute held it’s opening session during the annual TBA Leadership Conference, Jan. 22-23. Amidst the snow, four students were able to attend in-person and the rest participated through conference call. Diversity Committee Chair Amber Floyd and Vice Chair John Rice lead the group in an abbreviated presentation on Friday, and the students who had made it into Nashville joined the Young Lawyers Division Board meeting on Saturday.

The Diversity Leadership Institute is a six-month leadership and mentoring program for Tennessee law students. Now in its sixth year, the program is designed to help students develop skills to succeed; empower students to contribute more to the legal community; match students to mentors in a diverse variety of practice areas; and build relationships among students of diverse backgrounds.

Attorneys Honored for Volunteer Work

January 25, 2016


Photo credit: Photo by Liz Todaro

The TBA honored a trio of Tennessee legal professionals Saturday, recognizing their volunteer service during the annual TBA Public Service Luncheon. Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper was the featured speaker. Winter storms kept the event from being held at the War Memorial Auditorium, but the crowd of about 70 still showed their appreciation to those recognized: Libby Sykes, the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year; Dave Yoder, the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year; and Sara Page, the Law Student Volunteer of the Year. Read more about them in the Tennessee Bar Journal, or see photos from the luncheon and other Leadership Conference activities.

Fewer Lawyers Participating in Congress

January 20, 2016

The ABA Journal highlights a new paper, "The Declining Dominance of Lawyers in U.S. Federal Politics," which argues that fewer lawyers are participating in Congress because they are being “squeezed out” by those who have made politics a career. While nearly 80 percent of members of Congress were lawyers inthe mid-19th century, today that number is less than 40 percent. Nick Robinson, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and author of the study, also says that financial incentives of corporate law practice may keep lawyers in private practice. 

          | TBA Law Blog