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Links for May 2012
New System for Disciplining Judges Passes Legislature
Legislation that puts into place a new system for disciplining judges won House approval Monday night on an 88-5 vote without any debate. The Senate had earlier approved SB2671 unanimously, so the bill now goes to the governor. The bill abolishes the Court of the Judiciary and replaces it with a new 16-member Board of Judicial Conduct. Read more from the Knoxville New Sentinel.
McCallie Bests Chattanooga Rival for Mock Trial Title
McCallie School of Chattanooga claimed the state high school mock trial championship title March 17, defeating rival Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association, in the 32nd annual Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition, sponsored by the TBA Young Lawyers Division. The McCallie team now will represent Tennessee at the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Albuquerque, N.M., May 3-6. The state competition involved 13 teams and 200 volunteers, including lawyers, law students and paralegals. In addition, sitting judges in the state presided over the trial rounds, while Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade presided over the championship match. See complete results, pictures and the list of volunteer judges and lawyers.
Court: Defendants Have Right to Counsel in Plea Bargains
For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that defendants have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in plea bargains. Its 5-4 decision today also declared that when a lawyer acts unethically or gives clearly wrong advice, the defendant may be entitled to a second chance at accepting a plea offer. Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that since 99 percent of all convictions are the result of plea bargains, not trials, the right to adequate assistance of counsel guaranteed in the Constitution cannot exclude the central role plea bargaining plays. NPR has this analysis.
Number of LSAT Takers Declines
About 22,000 people took the Law School Admission Test in February, the lowest number for a February exam since 2001, according to data from the Law School Admission Council. The number of people taking the test in June, October, December and February — 129,925 — dropped by 16 percent from the prior cycle and is also at an 11-year low point. An analysis of tuition increases for the 2011-2012 academic year published by the Am Law Daily suggests that the declining numbers are having an effect on law schools and their tuition. ABAJournal.com reports.
Lawyers Honored for Pro Bono Service
Community Health Systems and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC were recognized for their commitment to providing free legal services to the poor at the 6th Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Gala Saturday, March 24, in Nashville. CHS received the Corporate Legal Department Award for its dedicated staffing of a monthly legal advice clinic in Franklin. Baker Donelson received the Law Firm Award for its work in helping create OnlineTNJustice.org, a website that allows lawyers to provide brief advice and counsel via the internet. The event featured remarks by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Connie Clark and Legal Counsel to the Governor Herbert Slatery. The Pro Bono Initiative is a partnership between the Tennessee Bar Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel, which encourages and supports pro bono activities by lawyers serving as in-house and corporate counsel in the state.
Shelby County Courts Go Paperless
The Shelby County Circuit and Chancery Court clerks’ offices will go to electronic filing of all court records in June. Attorneys will still be able to file a paper version of proceedings but clerks will scan the documents, and the court will go completely to e-filing at some point. Until then, the court will phase in use of the technology with the goal of a two-hour turnaround in approving filings during business hours. Attorneys will be able to file after business hours and will receive an email confirmation later after the office has reviewed the filing. Provided there are no errors in the e-filing, the court record will show the document was filed when it was sent in, instead of when it was reviewed. The Memphis Daily News has more.
Lewis is Chair of ATJ Commission, New Members Named
Memphis lawyer George T. “Buck" Lewis was appointed chair of the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission on Friday. Board member Douglas Blaze was reappointed, with his term expiring in 2015. New members Anthony Alan Seaton of Johnson City, David R. Esquivel of Nashville, and Marcia Eason of Chattanooga were appointed for three-year terms. The terms of Margaret L. Behm, Kathryn Reed Edge and Gregory Ramos expired March 31. All but Blaze did not wish to be reappointed. Commissioner Maura Abeln Smith, whose term expires in 2014, and Commissioner Frank Anthony Thomas, whose term expires next year, resigned. Sharon Rose Beth Ryan of Memphis will serve the remainder of Smith’s term, and J. Houston Gordon of Covington will serve out Thomas’s term.
New Alimony Bench Book Available
The 10th Edition of the Alimony Bench Book is now available from the TBA's Family Law Section. The new version, edited by the section's Alimony Committee, includes published and unpublished cases from August 2003 to December 2011. It is available for purchase in a loose-leaf format for $40 or in a three-ring binder for $50. You can order the book from the TBA's online bookstore or by contacting the TBA at (615) 383-7421.
Fewer Law Jobs in March
The legal sector lost 1,300 jobs last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The legal sector had gained jobs in January and February. The total number of legal sector jobs in March stood at 1,116,400, compared to highs of 1,180,000 before the recession, the Am Law Daily says.