News

BIVINS IS NEW SUPREME  COURT JUSTICE

Criminal Appeals Court Judge Jeff Bivins will be the next person to join the Tennessee Supreme Court, Gov. Bill Haslam announced April 4. Bivins will replace Justice William C. Koch Jr., who is retiring July 15, 2014, to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. Bivins, 53, was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in 2011. He was a circuit court judge for the 21st Judicial District, which serves Williamson, Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties, before his appointment to the Court of Criminal Appeals. He serves as a member of the Board of Judicial Conduct and is the moving vice president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference. A Kingsport native and Vanderbilt Law graduate, Bivins practiced at Boult Cummings Conners & Berry in Nashville before making his way onto the bench. He is a 1986 graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Law. He received his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, in 1982 from East Tennessee State University in political science, with a minor in criminal justice.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Plan Focuses on Analysis, Rural Needs, Family Law 
The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission has released a new strategic plan that assesses legal needs across the state and analyzes how well those needs are being addressed by existing programs. Developed as a roadmap to guide the commission’s work through 2016, the plan also identifies two targets for increased services: rural areas and family law. The plan also includes a recommendation that the court require pro bono reporting with annual registrations but emphasizes that reporting is not a gateway to mandatory pro bono service and that the reporting will be strictly confidential. One other goal is to launch 20 new faith-based initiatives in the next two years through the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance (TFJA).

University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Douglas Blaze became chair of the group April 1, and Miller & Martin Chattanooga lawyer and former TBA President Marcy Eason became the new vice chair. Blaze replaces Memphis lawyer and former TBA President George T. “Buck” Lewis, a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

ELECTIONS

Kingsport Lawyer to Lead YLD in 2016-2017
Kingsport lawyer Rachel Ralston Mancl, an attorney with Hunter Smith & Davis LLP, will lead the TBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) in 2016-2017. Mancl will take office in June as vice president, and then assume the office of president-elect in 2015 and president in 2016. She was deemed elected after the filing deadline passed with no opposition. Mancl has been active in the YLD for a number of years, serving as District 1 Representative and coordinator of the Wills for Heroes initiative in the eastern division of the state. She also is a member of the TBA’s current Leadership
Law class.

Veile, Sheppeard Elected to Board
Tennessee Bar Association members have elected two new members to the Board of Governors. For Middle Grand Division Governor, Position 2, Franklin attorney David Veile of Schell & Davies LLC will fill the post for the upcoming year. For East Grand Division Governor, Position 1, Knoxville attorney Sarah Sheppeard of Sheppeard & Mynatt PLC will fill the position. Both will take office during the TBA Annual Convention in Gatlinburg this June. Voting took place between Feb. 24 and April 1, with results tabulated by an independent accounting firm.

COURTS

Report: More Special Interest Money in Judicial Elections Spending by special interest groups continues to rise in judicial elections, accounting for 27 percent of all the money spent on the races in 2011 and 2012, according to a new report by a Justice at Stake partner organization. This is a sharp increase from the 16 percent seen in the 2003 and 2004 elections, which held the previous high in outside spending.

The report has detailed information about judges who raised the most money and donors who gave the most, and it also identifies funding trends. Gavel Grab reported the news.

Court Rules on Judicial Diversion 
In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court in April ruled that a guilty plea expunged after successful completion of judicial diversion is not considered a conviction, and should not be subject to review in post-conviction proceedings. The case is Jose Rodriguez a.k.a. Alex Lopez v. State of Tennessee.

TBA Files Petition to Amend Judicial Recusal Rule
The Tennessee Bar Association filed a petition in April to amend Supreme Court Rule 10B governing the handling of all motions for the recusal or disqualification of judges. As part of this proposed amendment, the TBA recommends the court clarify that the proper standard of review for any appellate review of the denial of recusal motions is de novo, rather than abuse of discretions.

PRACTICE

Professional Tax Must Be Filed Electronically
All professional privilege tax returns, due June 1, must be filed electronically. Taxable professionals holding an active license in Tennessee must pay the $400 tax. More information on Tennessee’s professional privilege tax is at www.tn.gov/revenue/tntaxes/proftax.shtml.

Employment Up Slightly for New Law Grads
Law school graduates last year obtained long-term, full-time legal positions at a slightly higher pace than those from the year before, the American Bar Association reported April 10. In data compiled by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, 57 percent of the class of 2013 — the largest graduating class ever — had jobs requiring bar passage compared to 56.2 percent in 2012. Another 10.1 percent of graduates landed jobs where a law degree was an advantage. That is also up slightly.