News

TBA Earns National Public Service Award

The Tennessee Bar Association has been awarded the LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award for production and distribution of the 2014 Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors. Written and edited by volunteers working with the TBA Public Education Committee, the handbook contains practical information on topics ranging from Social Security benefits to long-term care considerations and estate planning, as well as sections addressing online security and new health care legislation.

The handbook has been distributed to several thousand Tennesseans through live presentations and requests on the TBA.org website since its launch in February. Members of the National Association of Bar Executives who reviewed entries for the award praised the breadth of information in the handbook and the volunteer involvement with its preparation and outreach. Formal presentation of the award will take place during the NABE’s annual meeting this August in Boston.

Judicial Candidate Poll

9 of 10 Lawyers Recommend Retention of Supreme Court Justices
Results from a recent poll show that 9 out of 10 lawyers recommend that Tennesseans vote to “retain” the three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices on the Aug. 7 ballot. That’s the result of a Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) Candidate Evaluation Poll conducted over two weeks in early June.

The TBA asked its members to indicate whether they highly recommended, recommended, did not recommend or had no informed opinion on the issue as of the date that they responded to the survey, with respect to the retention election of Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee and Chief Justice Gary Wade.

The votes of those with an opinion are shown in the box below.

Poll Shows 9 of 10 Lawyers Recommend Retention

Justice Highly Recommend Do Not Recommend Recommend
Justice Connie Clark 74.4% 18.4% 7.2%
Justice Sharon Lee 75.9% 17.3% 6.8%
Chief Justice Gary Wade 76.7% 17.0% 6.3%


“Lawyers are uniquely qualified to provide an informed opinion as to whether a justice should be retained in office,” outgoing TBA President Cindy Wyrick of Sevierville said in announcing the results. “For that reason, it is important that they share this knowledge with voters who will be going to the polls in August.”

TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur said, that he was “quite pleased” with the large number of lawyers voting. “We think this good turnout means that the results are a fair reflection of the sentiment of TBA members.” The membership is made up of some 12,000 members from all facets of law practice and represents more than 70 percent of the lawyers in Tennessee.

“We want to help the voting public make an informed decision in these retention elections by compiling the views of Tennessee lawyers and presenting them broadly,” incoming TBA President Jonathan Steen said. “These results provide a much better measure than partisan labels as to the issue of a judge’s capabilities.” He said the TBA will continue this educational effort through early voting (which begins July 18) and Election Day.

The poll — the first ever conducted by the Tennessee Bar Association — is part of a broad effort to ensure a fair, impartial and accountable judicial election.

The TBA is a lead sponsor in the Informed Voters project in Tennessee and the originator of the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct. Through its Policy on Unjust Criticism of Judges, the TBA also responds to unjust criticism of judges and judicial candidates when they are unable to do so because of judicial ethics constraints.

Information on all of these efforts is available on the TBA Judicial Selection Information Center at www.tba.org/info/2014-tennessee-judicial-selection-information-center.

Law School

Dean Loser Remembered
More than 700 people attended the dinner  to pay tribute to the late Dean Joe C. Loser Jr., who led the school for nearly 28 years and who died just months before his retirement. Millie Loser is his widow. The entire Tennessee Supreme Court as well as the two judges who will join the court later this year were in attendance: Chief Justice Gary Wade, retiring Justice Janice Holder, Justice Connie Clark, retiring Justice Bill Koch, Justice Sharon Lee, Judge Holly Kirby and Judge Jeff Bivins.

ABA to Decide on LMU Accreditation by End of Year
After an American Bar Association team made a visit in June to Lincoln Memorial University's Duncan School of Law, the school’s Dean Parham Williams said “the committee will make a recommendation in September to the council that votes yay or nay in December."

No matter how well LMU performs, WBIR reports that some external forces may work against the school's quest for accreditation. The committee is under pressure not to approve new member schools because the existing law schools are having trouble attracting applicants, they say. Statistics from the Law School Admission Council show a drastic and steady reduction in the amount of people applying to law schools over the last decade, the story reports.

New Law

How Workers’ Comp Changes the Legal Game 
Sweeping reform to Tennessee’s workers’ compensation process goes into effect in July and will have new legal implications for employers. The Nashville Business Journal spoke with Nashville attorney Stuart Scott, who highlighted what he considers the major changes in the new process. For the time being, Tennessee will be operating under both the new law and old — claims filed before July 1 will still go through the old process, meaning cases can still go to state courts. Those filed after that date will enter the new system.

Courts

Court Delays Appellate Procedure Rule Changes 
The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that the effective dates of amendments 24(b) and 25(a) to the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure should be indefinitely suspended, pending further consideration by the court. In an order filed June 5, the court ruled that the amendments, which would require the filing of an electronic copy of the transcript, in addition to the original transcript, will not go into effect on July 1, the effective date for the other amendments.

Jonathan Steen Takes Office as President at 133rd Convention

Jackson lawyer Jonathan O. Steen was installed as president of the Tennessee Bar Association at the June 13 Lawyers Luncheon, part of the group’s annual convention in Gatlinburg in June.

“Our founders knew that a strong judicial branch is critical for the health of a democracy,” Steen told the group,  and “blatant partisan attacks of late undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary. Lawyers need to be informed, and educate their family and friends about these important issues.”

Steen said his goals for the year are to continue support for lawyers in Tennessee and especially new lawyers through resources such as mentoring and Solo-in-a-Box Toolkit, plus finding new ways to use technology to serve the profession. He also will focus on civics education for younger students on the three branches of government with a special emphasis on the judicial branch and the role it plays in our democracy. He will also have an increased focus on Medical-Legal Partnerships, building on existing programs in the state to expand the concept to more Tennesseans who face not just medical issues but economic or social issues that are impacting their health.

Steen, a shareholder with Redding, Steen & Staton PC – a firm he cofounded in 2006 – serves as trial and appellate counsel for health care, manufacturing, banking and insurance companies. He also serves as local counsel for national and regional law firms and in-house counsel. He focuses his work in the area of civil litigation, with an emphasis on medical malpractice, professional malpractice and products and premises liability defense. Steen received his law degree cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1992.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade administered the oath of office to Steen, as well as to the new members of the TBA Board of Governors. Nashville lawyer Bill Harbison is now president-elect, Knoxville lawyer Jason Long is vice president, and Sevierville lawyer Cindy Wyrick is immediate past president.

Awards

Also at the luncheon, award winners were recognized:

  • The TBA Young Lawyers Division Fellows William M. Leech Public Service Award was given to Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder by Memphis lawyer Charlotte Knight Griffin. Wyrick accepted the award on Justice Holder's behalf.
  • Two awards were given this year for the Justice Joseph Henry Award for Outstanding Legal Writing. The first was given to Nashville lawyers Kimberly Stagg and John E. Anderson Sr. for their article, deemed the best published in 2013, “We Know ... You’ve Got Mail: Attorneys Face Challenges in Protecting Client Communications in the Age of Email.”
  • A Lifetime Acheivement Award was given posthumously to Donald F. Paine for his continuous and important contributions to and shaping of the Tennessee Bar Journal.
  • The Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award was given to Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade. Former Chief Justice Drowota was on hand to present the award.
  • You Tube Video Awards were presented and the winning videos shown. The High School winner is Caroline Rogers of Knoxville; Jack Tucker of Signal Mountain is the Middle School winner.
  • Three President's Awards were given. Angelia Nystrom was honored for her work on the Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors; Richard Johnson for service as chair of the TBA Nonprofit Corporation Act Committee and Jeff Levy for his contributions over the years to family law issues.
  • Senior Counselors were recognized.
  • TBA Programs Administrator Lynn Pointer was honored on her retirement from the TBA.

Bench/Bar

The annual Bench Bar Luncheon featured Iowa Chief Justice Mark S. Cady, who said judges and lawyers need to stand up against challenges facing the courts today. Cady, who saw three of his colleagues fall in retention elections after the court ruled to allow same-sex marriages in Iowa, spoke of the importance of a fair and impartial judiciary and the courage necessary to sustain it.

Meetings, CLE, Events

The convention included meetings of the House of Delegates, Board of Governors, Sections and Committees, Law School Alumni Breakfasts and many hours of CLE, including one featuring author Keel Hunt, former U.S. Attorney Hal Hardin and former Tennessean publisher John Seigenthaler discussing Hunt’s book on the scandal surrounding former Gov. Ray Blanton. Another session featured former Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice Oliver E. Diaz Jr., who detailed attacks from special interest groups he suffered while on the court.

Also, the TBA Leadership Law held its graduation, the Diversity Leadership Institute participated in a service project and there was special programming for children throughout the convention.

Members of the TBA Young Lawyers Division held its annual meeting and election, with outgoing YLD President David McDowell turning the organization over to incoming President Stacie Winkler. Rachel Moses ascended to president-elect and Rachel Ralston Mancl took office as vice president.

New Chairs Begin Work

Tennessee Bar Association committees and sections have new leadership for 2014-15. They are: 

Committees
ABA Resource: Jonathan Cole
Access to Justice: Jim Barry
CLE: Pam Wright
Ethics and Professional Responsibility: Brian S. Faughnan
Governmental Affiars: Matt Scanlan
Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct: Sam Elliott
Committee on the Judiciary: Al Harvey
Long-Range Planning: Jason Long
Mentoring: Chris Varner
Public Education: Shauna Billingsly
Committee on the Protection of the Public from the Unauthorized Practice of Law: Kevin Balkwill
Tennessee Bar Journal Editorial Board: Andrée S. Blumstein
TBA Leadership Law: JK Simms, Mary Beth Maddox, co-chairs
Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity: Mary Beard and Mattielyn Williams, co-chairs
Attorney Well-Being: Mary Griffin.

Sections
Administrative Law: Christy Allen
Appellate Practice, Bob Parsley
Bankruptcy Law: Erika Barnes
Business Law: Van East
Construction Law: Tim Crenshaw
Corporate Counsel: Norma Shirk
Creditors Practice: Nathan Hortan
Criminal Justice: Andy Roskind and
David Veile, co-chairs
Disability Law: Katie Evans Moss
Dispute Resolution: Jackie Kittrell
Elder Law: Amelia Crotwell
Entertainment and Sports Law: Casey Summar
Environmental Law: Rachel Jakubovitz
Estate Planning and Probate: Angelia Nystrom
Family Law: Helen Rogers
Federal Practice: Mark Fulks
General Solo and Small Firm Practitioners: Sam Gowin
Health Care Law: Christie Burbank
Immigration Law: Bruce Buchanan
Intellectual Property: Mark Graham
Juvenile and Children’s Law: Elizabeth Reeve
Labor and Employment Law: Jeb Gerth
Law Office Technology and Management: Mark Donahoe
Litigation: Sarah Akin
Real Estate Law: Brooks Smith
Tax Law: John Burns
Tort and Insurance Practice: Julie Peak
TBASCUS (TBA Seasoned Lawyeres Up To Something): Frank Grace