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Military Legal Assistance Campaign
TBA Joins Military Pro Bono Effort
The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) has joined a nationwide effort to increase the number of lawyers committed to providing needed legal support to servicemembers, veterans and their families. Organized by Army OneSource, the Military Legal Assistance Campaign is focused on identifying and training volunteers who can assist families while a servicemember is deployed and help servicemembers when they return from overseas duty. Through its Access to Justice Committee, the TBA is recruiting lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance to these groups.
“The sacrifices made by our servicemembers, as well as their families, are hard to fathom,” said TBA President Cindy Wyrick. “When legal issues add to these challenges, lawyers have a unique opportunity to provide assistance. I urge my colleagues to participate in this important program.”
Study Shows Lawyers Giving More Time to Help Others
Tennessee attorneys have nearly tripled the amount of time they give to pro bono work, the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission reports in a study released in July. It found that 9,736 attorneys practicing in Tennessee provided 804, 9461 hours of pro bono in 2011, an average of nearly 83 hours per attorney and nearly triple the amount volunteered in 2009.
“This is exactly what we had hoped to see,” Buck Lewis, chairman of the Access to Justice Commission, said. “The profession is stepping up and contributing more than ever before to assist those in need of legal services. It is extremely encouraging to see this level of participation.”
The following month, Lewis was awarded a Presidential Citation from ABA President Laurel Bellows at the ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards luncheon in San Francisco in August. The presidential citation is a new award that allows the ABA president to recognize lawyers who have made “noteworthy contributions to the legal profession and the ABA,” and who exhibit “outstanding leadership qualities.” The luncheon was being held in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting.
Law Prof: LSAT Not to Blame for Lack of Minority Lawyers
University of Virginia School of Law professor Alex Johnson Jr. argues that blame for the underrepresentation of minorities in the legal profession is misplaced, the National Law Journal reported in August. Instead of identifying the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as a major barrier to black and Hispanic law school applicants, Johnson writes in the latest edition of the Stanford Law & Policy Review that the real reason is because these students tend to “misapply” to law schools that are unlikely to admit them because of their grades and LSAT scores. He also says a disproportionate percentage of minority law grads take the bar exam in states with the toughest pass cutoffs. Other legal educators took Johnson’s conclusions with a grain of salt. “I don’t think that this ‘misapplication’ alone can explain the large number of shutouts that occur,” said John Nussbaumer, an associate dean at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School who has researched the correlation between LSAT scores and the admission of minority applicants.
TBA Wins Top Awards for Programming
The Tennessee Bar Association was recently recognized with two of the top awards from the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. The TBA’s Diversity Job Fair was named an Award of Excellence recipient and the association’s statewide series on Balancing Civility & Free Expression was named winner of the Associations Advance Tennessee Award. The TBA’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity worked with TBA Programs Director Lynn Pointer to produce the job fair, while TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro worked with the Public Education Committee to produce the civility series.
“These programs have both well supported and well received by the Tennessee legal community,” TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said, “but it is also gratifying to receive this recognition from our peers in the association world.”
Justice Kennedy, ABA House Address Human Trafficking
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy spoke out against human trafficking at the ABA Annual Meeting after attendees had heard from Minh Dang, a victim of slavery. In his keynote address, Kennedy recounted statistics indicating there are 27 million people being held as slaves around the world, with at least 100,000 of them in the United States. “Let's stop human trafficking,” he said. “I urge you to continue to bring this to the world's attention.”
Later, the ABA House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved model legislation for states to use in adopting new prohibitions against human trafficking. In related news, the ABA Journal reported that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has begun using civil actions — which require a lesser burden of proof than criminal actions — against those who traffic or abuse employees, while a federal judge struck down a New Jersey law aimed at fighting the sexual trafficking of minors.
For more on what’s being done about trafficking in Tennessee, see this month's cover story.
Court Site Helps Citizens
The Hon. M. Keith Siskin, Circuit Court Judge (Division III) for Rutherford and Cannon counties, has unveiled a new website for the court. The site, designed to make the court more open and accessible to the public, allows any user to download court-approved forms, research statutes and find court rules. It also provides information for jurors including an interactive parking map, a news section where daily updates will be posted, and access to the final sentencing order. Journlists may submit electronic requests for audio or video coverage; the site has information on pending cases through a news and alerts feature. Go to www.rutherfordcountytn.gov/judgesiskin.
Tennessee Lawyers Elected to ABA Offices
Four Tennessee lawyers were elected to leadership positions in the American Bar Association and took office during the annual meeting in August in San Francisco. Former TBA President and Memphis lawyer Danny Van Horn takes over as chair of the Standing Committee on Membership. Former Nashville Bar Association President Jonathan Cole was elected secretary of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, a move that puts him in line to lead the group in several years. He is only the third Tennessean to hold that position. Knoxville lawyer Carole Worthington was elected to an at-large seat in the ABA House of Delegates. Finally, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper was named as a delegate to the ABA House, representing the National Association of Attorneys General.Also the meeting, New York lawyer James Silkenat was installed as president and laid out a series of initiatives he intends to focus on during his year in office. These include a renewed effort to improve access to justice, creating employment opportunities for new lawyers and addressing the public policy issues of gun violence, immigration and election law reform.
YLD Brings Home Awards
The TBA YLD was recognized for a number of programs and activities at the ABA YLD Annual Meeting. The YLD was awarded first place in the Minority Project category for its new invited guest program, which seeks to include the broadest range of perspectives and experiences on its governing board by inviting representatives from all specialty and minority bars in the state to attend meetings and participate in decision-making. It also received special recognition for its annual Mock Trial Competition and its overall member service and public service initiatives.