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Links for September 2011
Court makes certain forms universally accepted
The Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a new rule that allows it to make certain forms universally accepted in lower courts across the state. It also invoked the rule for the first time and approved eight forms that can be used in uncontested divorces without minor or dependent children. The forms, which will be accepted for use beginning on Sept. 1, were vetted by the TBA's Access to Justice Committee, Family Law Section and House of Delegates.
TBA President Danny Van Horn responded to the court's action saying, "Clients and our system of justice are better served by the care, expertise and attention that only lawyers can bring to legal matters. Unfortunately our society has been unwilling to put enough resources in our system to give everyone access to counsel in critical matters such as divorce, child custody and the loss of one's home."
Van Horn added that "Tennessee lawyers have demonstrated the volunteer spirit by providing thousands of hours of free or reduced cost legal services. We have also worked with the court to enhance pro bono representation. Because it is a sad reality that many Tennesseans are forced to come to court in life-altering matters without the assistance of counsel, we applaud this latest effort to help clients and judges through the use of universal forms in certain well defined instances."
Read more or download the orders and forms at the AOC website
Proposed rule: Fee exemptions for federal officials
The Tennessee Supreme Court filed an order July 19 soliciting comments on a proposed Supreme Court Rule that would exempt federal judges and federal officials who are prohibited by federal law from practicing law from paying an annual registration fee to maintain their attorney license in Tennessee. The rule change would also allow attorneys to assume inactive status if they are practicing law in other jurisdictions but are no longer practicing law in Tennessee. The deadline for submitting comments on the proposed Rule change is Nov. 16.
Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Courts
Read my lips: Do not post Commandments at courthouse
In July, Senior District Judge Maurice Paul ordered Dixie County, Fla., officials to remove a six-ton Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the courthouse in Cross City, according to the Associated Press. The First Amendment Center's president, Ken Paulson, writes. "The law is clear: Governments cannot post the tenets of a religion. And yet town councils and school boards across the country have decided to run up legal bills anyway."
AG: Legislators may serve as mediators
An opinion released in July by the Tennessee Attorney General finds that legislators may serve as dispute resolution neutrals, including serving as mediators, because such roles are not considered a "lucrative state office." The ruling was requested by state Sen. Mike Faulk, who said "Mediating disputes between competing interests in the political arena has consumed a large part of my time as a legislator so I decided to take mediator training. While taking the training course in December … the common law doctrine on incompatible offices crossed my mind as did the provision in the Tennessee Constitution prohibiting one from serving in two different branches of state government at the same time." Faulk said he wanted to seek the attorney general's opinion before applying for certification as a Rule 31 Mediator.
Download the AG opinion http://www.tba2.org/tbatoday/news/2011/ag-58_072011.pdf
LSC releases annual report
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today released its 2010 Annual Report, highlighting efforts by the nation's single largest funder of civil legal assistance to promote equal access to justice. Among its findings, the report shows that LSC-funded programs closed 932,406 civil legal aid cases, including more than 321,000 cases involving family law issues and more than 235,000 cases involving housing matters. LSC President James J. Sandman writes in the Annual Report that "LSC is the bedrock on which our national system of access to civil justice stands — and its foundation for the future." Download the report
Courts crack down on dress codes, even in this heat
It's hot outside but don't try to go to the courthouse in Knox or Henry counties in shorts, flip-flops or tank tops. Judges there are cracking down on who they will allow into their courtrooms. Knox County Judge Andrew Jackson said it's because the outfits keep getting more unacceptable he says — recently a man came in his court wearing swim trunks. In Henry County, those who come to court dressed improperly will be given the option to go home and change clothes or wear an inmate uniform. "It's really a matter of respect," Circuit Court Clerk Mike Wilson said of the new dress code.
Bankruptcy court unveils new website
After more than a year of planning, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee has debuted a new, revamped website. The site includes new features for attorneys, debtors and creditors as well as educational materials about the bankruptcy process. Check it out here
33 percent decline in job offers for summer associates
A drop in summer associates hired last summer contributed to a 33 percent decline in full-time job offers, according to a survey of large law firms. A recent report says 1,791 summer associates got job offers last year, compared to 2,679 the year before. The American Lawyer has the story
TBA YLD receives national recognition at ABA meeting
The TBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) received five awards at the ABA YLD meeting in Toronto this past weekend. The group's Judicial Internship Program, which matched judges with law students for clerkships this summer, took first place in the Service to the Bar category. The program, an initiative of immediate past president Tasha Blakney, was implemented by Jackson lawyer Nathan Shelby and Knoxville lawyer Joe Fanduzz. In addition, the YLD's project providing coloring books that explain the role of CASA volunteers to children across state took first place in the Service to the Public category. That project was spearheaded by Knoxville lawyer Katrina Atchley. The division's new Diversity Leadership Institute, a six-month leadership program for law students, won first place in the best Minority/Diversity Project category. Also an initiative of Blakney's, the institute was chaired by Memphis lawyer Ahsaki Baptist and Chattanooga lawyer Blair Bennington Cannon. The group's quarterly publication Tennessee Young Lawyer — edited by Lewisburg lawyer Lee Bussart Bowles — won second place in the newsletter category. In addition to winning these four awards in its division, the YLD took home the National Public Service Award for the coloring book project -- beating out all bar association programs in the country. Knoxville lawyer Howard Vogel presented that award to the group. Stacey Shrader is the TBA YLD's director.