Pera is Treasurer; Tennessee Represented Well in ABA

Lucian Pera, Bernice Donald, Max Bahner, Bill Penny

Memphis lawyer Lucian Pera was installed as treasurer of the American Bar Association (ABA) at the close of the 400,000-member organization’s annual meeting in Toronto in mid-August. Pera, who has been treasurer-elect since last August, will serve a three-year term overseeing the association’s $200 million budget. As treasurer, Pera also serves as a member of the ABA’s Board of Governors and its Executive Committee. He is a partner with Adams and Reese LLP.

Also at the close of the ABA meeting, U.S. District Judge Bernice B. Donald of Memphis ended her three-year term as the ABA’s secretary. Donald is set for a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 6 for a spot on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Donald, 59, a federal judge in Memphis for more than 15 years, got a favorable report by the Judiciary Committee in early May. She is one of 20 judicial nominees awaiting a floor vote, including 16 who received a unanimous “thumbs up” from the committee.

Chattanooga lawyer T. Maxfield Bahner received the ABA Senior Lawyers Division’s John H. Pickering Award at a dinner and ceremony Aug. 4 at the group’s annual meeting in Toronto. Bahner, a former Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) president and the senior member of the litigation section at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel PC, was honored for his outstanding legal ability, service to his profession and community, and commitment to improving access to justice for all. This is the second year in a row that a Tennessee lawyer has received the award. Last year, the division recognized Memphis lawyer S. Shepherd Tate.

During the ABA meeting, Nashville lawyer William L. “Bill” Penny was elected vice chair of the 10,000-member Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER). A former TBA Environmental Law Section chair, he will become the ABA section’s chair-elect in 2012 and chair in 2013. Penny practices environmental law at Stites & Harbison PLLC and is an instructor at the Nashville School of Law. He has more than 30 years of experience in the field.

Young Lawyers’ Service Projects Sweep ABA Awards in Toronto

The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD) received five awards at the ABA YLD meeting in Toronto in August.

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.

The YLD’s project providing coloring books that explain the role of CASA volunteers to children across the 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, the TBA YLD’s director, provided staff support to the projects. 

Briefs

Court makes certain forms universally accepted
The Tennessee Supreme Court has 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 Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, Family Law Section and House of Delegates.

“Clients and our system of justice are better served by the care, expertise and attention that only lawyers can bring to legal matters,” TBA President Danny Van Horn said. “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.” He 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, www.tncourts.gov.

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.

Attorney General says legislators may serve as mediators
An opinion released in July by Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper 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.”

LSC reports civil justice efforts
The Legal Services Corporation’s 2010 Annual Report highlights 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.

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  — recently a man came in his court wearing swim trunks, he says. 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. WATE reported this story.

Bankruptcy court unveils website
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee has debuted a revamped website. The site includes new features for attorneys, debtors and creditors as well as educational materials about the bankruptcy process. Check it out at www.tnwb.uscourts.gov/TNW.