News

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‘Hometown Support’ Provides Legal Help for Military

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee is proud to announce “Hometown Support,” a new program that makes free legal help available to service members and their families with limited income who are facing legal problems in Tennessee. The efforts will connect eligible service members with volunteer lawyers who are willing to help.

Hometown Support will serve military families whose household income does not exceed 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. This financial eligibility level is higher than the ceiling for most Legal Aid clients, which is 125 percent of poverty guidelines. (For a family of four, 125 percent of poverty is $28,813 and 200 percent of poverty is $46,100.) While the program is coordinated by legal services offices across the state, it will rely on the volunteer participation of Tennessee lawyers to succeed.

Tennessee Guard Members First

The program will begin by serving Tennessee Guard members and their families, with plans to expand to other branches of the military over the next year. The program is a collaboration of the TBA, the Tennessee National Guard, Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands, Memphis Area Legal Services, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and West Tennessee Legal Services.

To learn more or to volunteer, visit the website at www.tba.org/info/hometown-support-legal-help-for-our-military

Briefs

Judges, Attorneys Star in 'GAVELS' Program
A program that sends practicing and retired attorneys and judges into the community to speak to groups is getting some positive attention. The relatively new GAVELS program (Gaining Access to Valuable Education about the Legal System), created by the Tennessee Judicial Conference and Tennessee Bar Association, has already had many requests for speakers. “Folks don’t seem to have a good sense of how the justice system works,” says TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur told The Nashville Ledger, “and we think that if anyone could explain it, judges and lawyers would be the obvious choice.”

Study: Federal Sentences Vary Widely
A new study by the Associated Press shows that federal judges are handing out widely disparate sentences for similar crimes, 30 years after Congress tried to create more uniform outcomes with the Sentencing Reform Act. The law set up a commission that wrote guidelines for judges to follow as they punished convicts, with similar sentences for offenders with comparable criminal histories convicted of the same crimes. But the law’s requirement that judges stick to these sentencing guidelines was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005.

Deadline Is April 13 for YLD Law Day Art & Essay Contest
The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division’s Law Day Art & Essay Contest gives elementary and high school students the opportunity to express their ideas about living in a society that is governed by the rule of law, and achieve statewide recognition for their work. The 2012 competition theme, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” asks students to consider the importance of the courts and their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans. The art contest is open to students in kindergarten through 8th grade, while the essay contest is open to students in 9th through 12th grades. Submissions must be received by local contest coordinators by April 13.

Watch Video Contest Entries
Middle and high school students from across the state submitted original videos exploring the constitutional right to freedom of communication in an annual contest sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association. Winners will be announced on Law Day, May 1. You can see the entries, now available on YouTube.

Court Changes Rules for Convictions of Multiple Crimes
In three unanimous decisions issued March 9, the Tennessee Supreme Court significantly changed the tests and procedures for determining when multiple convictions are permissible under the state and federal constitutions. State v. Watkins and State v. Cross confronted the issue of whether multiple convictions under different statutes violate the state constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. In State v. White, the court announced changes in cases involving charges of kidnapping and an accompanying felony. The court concluded that a separate due process test is no longer necessary for determining whether convictions for kidnapping and an accompanying felony may be upheld. In today’s decision, the court set out temporary jury instructions and invited the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction Committee to develop permanent guidelines for future cases. The court also pointed out that its decision does not create a new rule of constitutional law and, therefore, does not require retroactive application.

New Video Added to TBA Network
The TBA All Access Network (TAAN) provides the Tennessee legal community with a rich source of video programming  — on topics as diverse as tips for starting your own practice, to an overview of practice areas, to suggestions for advancing your legal career. Most of the videos in the free service are five to 10 minutes long.

KBA Launches Community Newsletter
The Knoxville Bar Association has launched a new service for members of the public interested in lawyer referral services and public education programs. The newsletter will be published twice a year, in the spring and fall. The inaugural issue includes information on the KBA’s upcoming “Community Law School” — a series of free seminars on legal topics with a session on wills and estate planning; links to new resources for the public; and a warning against “do it yourself” legal forms.

Commission Recommends 2 for Retention
The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission released its formal evaluations in March for Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Jeffrey S. Bivins and Roger A. Page, who stand for election in August. The commission unanimously voted to recommend both for retention. In addition to posting its recommendations online, the commission will publish its full report in Tennessee newspapers prior to the August election.

Requests to Expunge Criminal Records on the Rise
Tennessee has reported a 71-percent jump since 2007 in the number of people filing to have charges expunged. Davidson County has seen cases more than double in that same time frame, the Tennessean reports. Officials say this rise is related to the economy — as jobs become scarcer and employers are able to be pickier, people want their records cleaned up to help them in the job market.

More Gains Made in Legal Jobs
Hiring in the legal industry rose for the second straight month in February, with 800 new jobs added, according to a preliminary employment report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The AmLaw Daily reported.

Find the links and more details for these stories at tba.org/journal_links