The Flood and How We Responded

Mid-state Under Water; Lawyers Galvanize to Help

The 'volunteer spirit' was never more evident than in West and Middle Tennessee in the days and weeks following the May 1-2 storms that dumped flood-level water on the state. The Tennessee Bar Association, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), and many other organizations quickly became a clearinghouse for services, legal and otherwise, for attorneys needing help and information. In fact, TALS was flooded out of their offices and set up shop in the Tennessee Bar Center with the TBA for a while.

Lawyers volunteered at many disaster service centers, even as fellow lawyers were flooded out of their offices and closing their doors for days. A toll-free legal assistance line was established [(888) 395-9297] that allowed callers to be matched with Tennessee lawyers who had volunteered to provide free legal help.

A disaster services manual was also put up on the TBA Web site for lawyers to use in helping clients, and a free webcast, "Providing Pro Bono Legal Services After a Disaster," was aired less than two weeks after the flood. A second webcast followed: "FEMA: Facts, Forms and Follow-up." Both courses are now available for free viewing, with CLE credit, for the next year.

Take a look at the resources, which are still in use, at www.tba.org/volunteer.


Tweed Award goes to TBA for increasing legal services to poor
The Tennessee Bar Association will be honored with a major national award for helping bring legal services to the poor. The TBA will be the 2010 recipient of the Harrison Tweed Award, which is given jointly by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association to honor "extraordinary achievements" in increasing access to civil legal services for the poor. The award will be presented at the ABA Annual Meeting in August. In selecting the TBA for the award, the judges cited Tennessee's 4ALL Campaign, http://www.tba.org/4all/ which included the 4/4 Pro Bono Public Service Day, as well as legal clinics and events held during October 2009's Celebrate Pro Bono Month. The work was launched under the leadership of TBA Immediate Past President Buck Lewis and was continued under the guidance of current TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth. To learn more about the award and the programs that won it at http://www.tba.org/cpb_2009/Lawyers stepping up to offer help

Court seeks comments on proposed fee hike
The Tennessee Supreme Court has solicited comments on a proposed rules amendment that would increase the hourly rate paid appointed counsel of indigent defendants. The Supreme Court order seeks comment on a petition to amend the Court's Rule 13 that was filed by the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL). The deadline for submitting written comments is Dec. 31, 2010. Download the order and the Petition for Amendment at www.tba2.org/feepetition_050510.pdf

Honors awarded in environmental law writing competition
Nicholas C. Christiansen, a second-year student at The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, was awarded first place in the Tennessee Bar Association Environmental Law Section's 2010 Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition. His winning article, which will net him $800, is "Environmental Justice: Finding a Private Right of Action." Eliot D. Kerner, a third-year law student at the University of Tennessee College of Law, won second place and $400 for his article, "'Cooking' Up a Solution: Remediating Methamphetamine's Environmental Hazards in Tennessee."

'StopFraud.gov' new service
The new Financial Fraud Enforcement Task has launched StopFraud.gov, a one-stop shop for the American people to learn how to protect themselves from fraud and to report it wherever and however it occurs. It will also serve as a hub of information about the task force's work. Go to http://www.stopfraud.gov/

Judicial candidates sign campaign code of conduct
Most of the Tennessee judicial candidates standing for election this year have signed a campaign code aimed at preserving public faith in the integrity of the justice system. The Tennessee Bar Association also is making available judicial evaluation information about appellate court candidates and providing a guide to factors that voters should consider before casting a ballot in a retention election.

See the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct and a list of candidates who have signed it at http://www.tba.org/judicialcampaign/

TBA recognized for advocacy on behalf of profession
In April, the American Bar Association recognized the Tennessee Bar Association for its effectiveness in lobbying Congress on behalf of issues of concern to the justice system. In presenting the ABA Day Grassroots Award, the national association specifically referenced TBA's work educating its congressional delegation on the need to improve and modernize funding for the Legal Services Corporation. The award was given in conjunction with ABA Day, a series of events in Washington, D.C. designed to bring together lawyers and lawmakers. TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth and Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur accepted the award. See a picture and learn more http://www.abanow.org/2010/04/illinois-tennessee-bars-nationally-recognized-by-aba/

Vandy law students launch job, salary web site
Saying that law schools hide employment data in aggregate form, two Vanderbilt law students have created a web site where they plan to publish details about job and salary history for all ABA-accredited law schools. Patrick Lynch and Kyle McEntee want to use the Law School Transparency site to publicize where law school graduates end up working each year and how much value they receive from their degree.

Read more about the effort from the ABA Journal. http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/law_students_plan_website_to_publish_better_law_school_employment_stats

Visit the site http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/

Dig this: TBA volunteers plant 100+ trees
Tennessee Bar Association volunteers planted more than 100 trees in Chattanooga in celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day in April. The trees " donated by the Tennessee Valley Authority " were planted at the Clifton Hills Elementary School. Additional plantings took place in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville. Taking part in the Chattanooga planting project were: TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth, TBA President-elect Sam Elliott, TBA Environmental Law Section Chair David Higney, Chattanooga attorneys John Grant, Alicia Oliver, Yousef Hamaden, Jason Isaacson, Katie Giannasi, Chris Varner and Bobby Dan and TBA staffers Angie Bianchi and Britt Simonson.

See photos from the event on TBAConnect http://www.tbaconnect.org/

Some nonprofits' tax breaks to end May 15
At midnight on May 15, an estimated one-fifth to one-quarter of some 1.6 million charities, trade associations and membership groups lost their tax exemptions, thanks to a provision buried in the Pension Protection Act of 2006. An Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman said that while groups would lose their exemptions effective May 16, the IRS would probably not send out notices until next January, to give nonprofits a chance to bring themselves into compliance with the law. Learn more from The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/us/23exempt.html?scp=10&sq=non-profit&st=cse

Teens visit legislators to promote Youth Courts
Twenty-five Wilson County high school students who participate in the state Youth Court Program came to Nashville this spring for the fourth annual Youth Court Day on the Hill. The teens started the day at the Tennessee Bar Center with a training session and a presentation by Assistant Attorney General Gregory Nies. From there they visited the state capitol to meet with legislators. Read more about this year's Youth Court Day on the Hill http://www.tba.org/pressroom/releases_2010/youthcourtdayonhill.html

New database gives stats on trial judges
The Tennessee court system has a database of trial judge statistics on its Web site. While the courts have long shared filing and disposition data by judicial district, this is the first time the court system has published statistical information by individual judges. This statistical database allows Web site visitors to see the number of cases disposed or appealed by individual judge or by judicial district during the 2008-09 fiscal year. The database provides the docket numbers for the cases that have been appealed, and also offers a link to the site's searchable opinion database, allowing visitors to easily see the appellate court opinions that have been filed for those cases. Access the Trial Judge Case Statistics database at http://www.tncourts.gov/JudgeStats/

'Capital Case Handbook' revised, given to state's PDs University of Tennessee law professor Penny White authored the book, Tennessee Capital Case Handbook, a revision of a 1992 edition, and several members of the law school community were involved in its publication. The handbook is an 800-page, 24-chapter guide for capital defense lawyers and will be provided to every public defender in Tennessee. Read more about it at http://www.law.utk.edu/publications/5-4-10.shtml

How to best choose judges examined on O'Connor site
A new Web site devoted to information and news about the escalating national debate over the best way to select judges is available from an initiative spearheaded by retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Called the O'Connor Judicial Selection Initiative, it seeks to boost state-level efforts to end the practice of electing judges. Check out the web site here
http://www.du.edu/legalinstitute/judicial_selection.html?utm_source=BenchmarkEmail&utm_campaign=Judicial%20Selection%20Site%20Launch&utm_medium=email

Attorneys may pay professional tax online
With the June 1 professional privilege tax-filing deadline approaching, the Department of Revenue is reminding professional groups about the convenience of filing online. With the department's e-filing application, professional privilege taxes can be filed in minutes, and a new feature allows companies to file returns on behalf of multiple employees and make a single payment. Payments can be made via credit card or EFT transactions through checking accounts at the department's web site, http://www.tn.gov/revenue/