Links for October 2017

Magazine Probes Immigration Issues in Tennessee

September 11, 2017

Attorney General Herbert Slatery's decision to pull out of a multi-state anti-DACA effort is an example of how immigration politics in Tennessee are complicated — and changing, the New Yorker magazine reports in its latest edition. “Our office has decided not to challenge DACA in the litigation, because we believe there is a better approach,” Slatery wrote in a letter addressed to Tennessee’s two Republican senators. While the state legislature has pushed through strong anti-immigration laws, the magazine reports, it also nearly passed a bill that would allow undocumented students who grew up in the state to qualify for in-state tuition at public universities.

Legal Response Mobilized in Wake of Hurricane Irma; Harvey Help Still Needed

September 11, 2017

Lawyers are serving as critical “second responders” for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and now Irma. The Florida Bar is already responding to the anticipated legal needs from Hurricane Irma through pro bono and fundraising efforts. It has raised the income cap for use of Florida Free Legal Answers, and has had a solid volunteer response from Florida attorneys. Additionally, it launched a Hurricane Legal Aid Fund that will support civil legal aid for hurricane survivors. “Civil legal aid organizations often help clients not only in the immediate aftermath of a disaster but for years afterwards as they work to rebuild their lives and businesses," Florida Bar Foundation President Jewel White said. The need for legal support continues in Texas, as NBC reports that a South Texas legal hotline for hurricane victims has been receiving over 100 calls a day, mostly involving landlord and tenant issues. Tennessee attorneys can provide pro bono support for hurricane survivors in Texas through the State Bar of Texas website and Texas Free Legal Answers.

Haslam Signs Off on Emergency Aid for Irma Victims

September 11, 2017

Gov. Bill Haslam signed an executive order over the weekend allowing temporary provisions for evacuees who fled Hurricane Irma to Tennessee, the Times Free Press reports. The order allows Florida-licensed health professionals to assist evacuees staying in Tennessee, pharmacists to dispense 14-day supplies of prescription drugs to them, and also allows evacuees to access the WIC supplemental nutrition program. The order will remain in effect until Sept. 25.

Attorneys From Across Country Answer Call to Help Texas

September 6, 2017

At least 1,600 lawyers from across the country have volunteered to provide legal support to survivors of Hurricane Harvey, the Wall Street Journal reports. The State Bar of Texas is connecting with each volunteer and matching their skills and experience with organizations and projects around the state. In addition to the out-of-state volunteers, a “steady rotation” of lawyers from local legal-aid organizations and Texas-based law firms is staffing shifts at shelters, assisting storm victims with issues including replacing lost documents, FEMA and insurance applications, custody disputes and warnings about disaster-related scams. To help volunteer attorneys prepare to serve disaster survivors, the ABA has free training resources available. Visit the TBA website for more information on how Tennessee lawyers can help respond to the crisis, including registering with Texas Free Legal Answers.

Lawyers Still Aiding Sandy Victims 5 Years Later

September 1, 2017

With the legal relief to victims of Hurricane Harvey already underway, reminds attorneys to brace for the long haul – similar work is still ongoing in New York and New Jersey, five years after Hurricane Sandy touched down. The Touro Law Center’s Disaster Relief Clinic in Central Islip, New York, reported that the clinic has 125 active Sandy cases and received 25 new referrals just last week. Touro’s director Melissa Luckman offers advice to attorneys helping after Harvey: photograph everything, and make sure storm victims are cautious before taking repair loans from the Small Business Administration.

Help Hurricane Harvey Victims via Texas Free Legal Answers

September 1, 2017

The Texas Free Legal Answers website has been updated to permit attorneys licensed outside of Texas to create accounts and answer questions for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It offers a simple way for Tennessee lawyers to deliver direct legal support to those impacted by the hurricane, and do it without leaving home or work. The Texas Supreme Court this week issued an emergency order facilitating pro bono service by attorneys from across the country. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins affirmed the need for the Tennessee legal community to respond to this disaster. “Now is the time to begin spreading the word so that lawyers across our state realize we have a real opportunity to be true Tennessee volunteers again and help those who need it most. ... The Tennessee Supreme Court stands ready to help the volunteer lawyers in any way we can.”

Long-term Legal Crises Likely Once Immediate Hurricane Harvey Danger Passes

August 31, 2017

The Atlantic explores “The Legal Crises to Follow in Hurricane Harvey's Wake” in an article describing the many short and long-term legal issues that will likely be faced by survivors of Hurricane Harvey. It notes that “lawyers in Houston are acting as first responders, connecting victims with insurance issues, among others, to pro bono assistance,” and that the demand for legal services will increase and may linger for years. Pro bono and legal aid assistance from across the country will be required to address the needs. The article notes that “after the waters and the sirens recede, the work of the legal-aid community in the state will have only just begun.” Visit the TBA website for more information on how Tennessee lawyers can help respond to the crisis.

Texas Supreme Court Issues Order Allowing Pro Bono by Out of State Attorneys

August 30, 2017

The Texas Supreme Court today issued an amended emergency order that permits out-of-state lawyers to practice Texas law temporarily. The order opens up opportunities for volunteer attorneys from across the country to provide pro bono support in Texas or remotely, by working with a “legal aid or pro bono program or a bar association that provides services to victims of Hurricane Harvey." The Tennessee Bar Association is working to support pro bono legal services needed in Texas in the wake of this disaster. One such remote opportunity is for Tennessee lawyers to volunteer with Texas Free Legal Answers to respond to pro bono client questions via email. Other opportunities are available through the State Bar of Texas.

ABA Supporting Pro Bono Efforts for Harvey Survivors

August 30, 2017

American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass is calling for lawyers to volunteer for disaster response related to Hurricane Harvey. “The American Bar Association stands with those coping with the crisis in Texas and will do everything possible to mobilize lawyers in America to provide the pro bono assistance that is required to assist those who need our help.” Bass said that numerous ABA entities are already activated, including the Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster Legal Services Program, which is coordinating with FEMA to provide direct legal assistance to disaster survivors. To help coordinate response efforts, the ABA has established a Hurricane Harvey webpage to serve as a central information hub. The page provides information for disaster survivors, updates on pro bono opportunities and ways to donate to organizations seeking financial contributions.

Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund Seeks Support

August 30, 2017

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) has established the Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund to support local legal aid organizations that will assist flood survivors “regain their homes, their financial stability and their lives.” TAJF is seeking contributions and says that every dollar donated will go directly to legal aid programs. After a disaster, Legal Aid helps put lives back together by providing life changing support, including assistance with FEMA benefits, insurance claims, replacing documents, consumer protection matters, foreclosure and landlord/tenant issues.

Tennessee Lawyers Preparing to Provide Legal Aid in Hurricane Ravaged Texas

August 29, 2017

The Tennessee Bar Association is working to support pro bono legal services needed in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. One of the TBA's first priorities is to connect Tennessee attorneys already admitted to practice in Texas with existing pro bono programs. Specifically, the State Bar of Texas, the Houston Bar Association and Texas Free Legal Answers all have more information and pro bono opportunities. Additional pro bono opportunities for attorneys licensed outside of Texas are anticipated in the coming days and weeks. More information on volunteer opportunities for legal professionals not based in Texas is available on the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services website.

Houston Mayor Will Represent People Deported While Seeking Aid During Hurricane

August 29, 2017

With catastrophic storms and flooding wreaking havoc on the city of Houston, the city’s mayor has pledged to represent in court  undocumented immigrants who are afraid to seek aid for fear of deportation, Above the Law reports. A Harvard Law-educated attorney, Mayor Sylvester Turner responded to concerns that undocumented immigrants would not seek help from the floods due to a “show me your papers” law scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1. “I don’t care who you are, what your status is, I do not want you to run the risk of losing your life or a family member because you are concerned about SB 4,” Turner said, adding that he would represent those detained himself if need be.

Tennessee Supreme Court Reviews ‘Good Faith’ in Law Enforcement

September 7, 2017

The Tennessee Supreme Court heard two cases yesterday that concern the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule, the Memphis Flyer reports. Defendants in both cases claim that police illegally gathered evidence by drawing their blood or searching their house. Both were convicted due to that evidence, and both want new trials because they claim police violated their rights to unreasonable searches and seizures. While the U.S. Supreme Court already allows such exclusions, the Tennessee Supreme Court only began allowing “limited” good faith exceptions last year.

AOC Names New Communications Director

September 7, 2017

Barbara Peck was recently named director of communications for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). One of Peck’s primary responsibilities is serving as a media spokesperson for the Supreme Court of Tennessee and the AOC. In addition, she will provide communications support to many of the AOC’s key initiatives, including civil access to justice, human trafficking awareness, opioid epidemic response, indigent representation and the business court pilot project. Peck comes to the AOC from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she served as chief communications officer for 10 years.

TBA YLD Leaders Speak to Belmont Law Students

September 7, 2017

TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson and members of the TBA Young Lawyers Division, including Ahsaki Baptist, Judd Taback, Cole Rogers, I’Ashea Myles-Dihigo and James Cobb, outlined volunteer opportunities and other topics to TBA law student members from Belmont University College of Law today. More than 90 Belmont 2Ls and 3Ls are law student members of the TBA.

TVA Estimates Gallatin Coal Ash Cleanup Will Take 24 Years

September 6, 2017

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said that it will take an estimated 24 years to comply with a court order to move a power plant’s coal ash, The Tennessean reports. In a filing from yesterday, TVA said it will start the cleanup process at a Gallatin plant within 30 days, barring a judge’s order. It’s still considering whether it will appeal a court ruling that ordered the cleanup, after its coal ash storage was found to be leaking pollutants into the Cumberland River.

Tennessee Judicial Nominees Breeze Through Senate Hearings

September 6, 2017

Two Tennessee attorneys nominated by President Donald Trump to federal judgeships went before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, the Nashville Post reports. William L. “Chip” Campbell, a member of Frost Brown Todd’s business litigation practice group in Nashville, and Thomas Lee Robinson Parker, a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Memphis office, faced few questions from the panel in their confirmation hearing, as senators focused their attention on other, controversial nominees. Tomorrow Donald Cochran, a Belmont law professor nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, will testify.

Counsel on Call Acquires Nashville E-Discovery Firm

September 6, 2017

Brentwood-based Counsel On Call, an on-demand legal services company, has bought Nashville based DSicovery LLC (DSi), which offers digital forensics and e-discovery services, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Counsel On Call will operate DSi out of its current Nashville officers. Both companies will continue to conduct business under their current names.

New Vanderbilt Law Program Will Provide Legal Support to Entrepreneurs

September 5, 2017

Vanderbilt Law School has announced the creation of a new program, the Turner Family Community Enterprise Clinic, which will provide legal support to entrepreneurs on shoestring budgets. The clinic was made possible via a $2 million investment by Cal Turner, Jr., and will offer students opportunities to help entrepreneurs with matters such as applying for tax-exempt status and drafting lease agreements. Lauren Rogal, assistant clinical professor of law, will direct the program starting this fall.

Federal Court to Revisit Ruling Permitting Woman to be Paid Less

September 1, 2017

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will revisit a panel’s ruling that men may be paid more than women based on salary histories, the ABA Journal reports. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission appealed the April ruling, saying it would perpetuate the gender pay gap. The 9th Circuit granted the request and will hear oral arguments in December.

Bar Leaders Praise Service, Pose Challenges at EJU Luncheon

August 31, 2017

TBA President Lucian Pera today voiced appreciation for the legal services professionals and pro bono volunteers who gathered this week at the Equal Justice University, an annual event hosted by Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and co-sponsored by the TBA. Pera presented thought-provoking questions about the changing legal market and the need for creative options to respond to the growing justice gap. TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson also delivered remarks, emphasizing the TBA’s continuing support and appreciation for the access to justice community. Pera and Stevenson delivered their remarks during today’s Leadership Luncheon.

Bridgesmith, Moon Honored at Equal Justice University

August 30, 2017

More than 275 lawyers, law students and advocates today kicked off the 2017 Equal Justice University (EJU) in Murfreesboro. This is the conference’s 40th anniversary and boasts the event's highest attendance ever. EJU is the annual conference for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community and provides a unique opportunity for continuing education as well as networking through task force meetings and social functions. Highlights of today's program included the presentation of the Janice M. Holder Award to Larry Bridgesmith and Cat Moon for their innovative work in connecting technology solutions with challenges faced by the access to justice community.

Tennesseans Can Now Register to Vote Online

August 30, 2017

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office will officially roll out online voter registration next week across the state, the Tennessean reports. The new option, which gets Tennessee up to speed with the majority of U.S. states that already offer the service, comes as a result of a law passed last year. In addition to registering new voters, the online system will allow current voters to update their contact information.

ABA Fact Check Site Adds 'Free Speech in the Workplace' Resources

August 24, 2017

The American Bar Association updated its new web-based legal fact checkservice today by exploring conflicting issues regarding free speech in the workplace. The site, ABA Legal Fact Check, debuted a week ago and is the first fact check website focusing exclusively on legal matters. The new item offers a brief legal history of speech in the workplace and notes that the extent of free speech protection in the workplace depends on many factors, such as whether the employee works in the public or private sector, the state in which the individual works, applicable federal and state statutes and whether the worker is protected by a union.

AOC Launches Grant Program to Upgrade Courthouse Security

August 22, 2017

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has launched a one-time court security grant program to improve courtroom security and to provide safe and secure facilities. The past year has yielded at least two serious security breaches in Lewis and Coffee counties, one resulting in serious injuries to a deputy. Money has been made available by the General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam for this purpose. A committee of judges from across the state will determine the qualifications and criteria for grant awards. Preference will be given to counties with courtrooms that do not currently meet the present minimum courtroom security standards as well as counties that have experienced a courtroom security breach during the 12-month period of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. Grant applications will be accepted until Oct. 16.

Lewis Honored by Virginia Bar as Pro Bono Hero

August 18, 2017

The Virginia State Bar recently named Memphis lawyer and former TBA President George T. "Buck" Lewis as one of its Pro Bono Heroes for inspiring lawyers to pro bono service and helping the bar launch an online pro bono program. The award was made on the first anniversary of the bar’s, a platform modeled after Tennessee’s (now rebranded as So far, the Virginia site has involved more than 200 attorneys and answered more than 450 questions. More than 40 states have now launched online pro bono platforms based on the Tennessee model developed jointly by the TBA, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Baker Donelson law firm.

New ABA President Sworn In, Emphasizes Lawyers’ Role in Protecting Democracy

August 16, 2017

New American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass was sworn in this week at the ABA annual meeting in New York City, and in one of her first acts, she touted the role of lawyers in protecting American democracy. “Our democracy functions best when there are lawyers prepared to protect it,” Bass said while speaking to the ABA House on Tuesday. The ABA Journal reportsthat Bass elaborated on a new ABA initiative called ABA Legal Fact Check, which is designed to counteract “alternative news and fake facts.” When incorrect assertions about the law are being made, ABA Legal Fact Check will post a press release with the truth.

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