Links for July 2014

Exonerated: Tennessee Man Released After 11 Years in Prison

A Tennessee man who was imprisoned for 11 years for a rape he maintained he didn’t commit was released after DNA evidence and a wavering victim led prosecutors in Marshall County to drop all charges, the Tennessean reports. The case is one of a growing number of exonerations across the country. The National Registry of Exonerations has documented nearly 1,400 cases that have been reversed when evidence — DNA, perjury, witness and victim recantations, bad eyewitness identifications or withheld evidence — surfaced showing that a defendant was innocent.

Lawyers Push Back Against Effort to Oust Justices

Lawyers across the state have begun fighting back against Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s campaign to unseat Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Cornelia Clark and Justice Sharon Lee. The Nashville Bar Association Tuesday released a resolution supporting the judges’ retention in the Aug. 7 judicial election and urged its members to vote in favor to retain. On Wednesday, a group of attorneys including former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Drowota and former Appeals Court Judge Lew Conner met with the Tennessean to spell out their efforts to combat Ramsey, who Drowota said was using misinformation to unfairly criticize the justices in an effort to stack the court with partisan judges. “To have politics come into the courts makes absolutely no sense,” Drowota said. “You don’t want a politicized court. You want a fair, impartial court.”

Legal Aid Awarded $50,000 Grant for Volunteer Lawyers Program

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has received a $50,000 AmeriCorps Planning grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. According to a press release, Legal Aid will use the award to plan a capacity building program using AmeriCorps service members as liaisons for its Volunteer Lawyers Program, which engages the private bar to provide pro bono legal services across 48 counties in Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau.

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 today, 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 amendmdents.

How Workers’ Comp Changes the Legal Game

Sweeping reform to Tennessee’s workers’ compensation process goes into effect next month and will have new legal implications for employers. The Nashville Business Journal spoke with Stuart Scott, an attorney with Dickinson Wright in Nashville, who highlighted what he considers the major changes in the new process. For a 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.

Local Bars Educating Members, Public on Judicial Elections

Bar associations across Tennessee have joined the effort  to educate their members and communities on the upcoming judicial elections. The Memphis Bar Association will launch a Judicial Qualification Poll for August 's contested races, as well as the retention election for  Western Section Appellate Court seats and Supreme Court posts. The Knoxville Bar Association has developed a "Get to Know Your Judicial Candidates"  website to provide information about state judicial candidates. This tool provides a convenient way for Knox County voters to get non-partisan information about candidates so they can make an informed decision at the ballot box. The KBA, working with the League of Women Voters Knoxville/Knox County, has also invited all trial court candidates to participate in a judicial candidate forum on Aug. 7 at the South College Auditorium.

JAS: High Spending in Tenn. Court Race is 'Discouraging'

The national Justice at Stake organization is concerned about preserving the impartiality of Tennessee courts after news broke that the three targeted Tennessee Supreme Court justices — Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Cornelia Clark and Justice Sharon Lee — have raised $600,000 for a coordinated campaign to defend against attacks from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who has outlined a plan to oust the three justices. “It’s discouraging to hear that Tennessee’s courts are about to face the kind of special-interest tsunami that is targeting courts across the country,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement released yesterday. “Retention elections are designed to keep partisan politics out of the courts — not turn judges into politicians in black robes." GavelGrab has more.

Legal Aid Takes Initiative to Protect At-Risk Veterans

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, has partnered with Operation Stand Down Nashville (OSDN) and drawn on its Volunteer Lawyer Program to ensure at-risk veterans are receiving the resources they need. The program staffs monthly clinics at OSDN that provide general advice and legal counsel to veterans on a wide range of topics, including custody, drivers’ licenses, divorce and landlord-tenant issues. The Murfreesboro Post has more.

New Attorneys Take Oath at Nashville Ceremonies

About 80 new attorneys were welcomed to the practice of law during ceremonies today in Nashville. All had passed the February Bar Exam. Prior to the afternoon ceremony, many of those being admitted joined with their families at an open house and luncheon at the Tennessee Bar Center, sponsored by the TBA.

Number of Black Lawyers in 'BigLaw' Firms Falls

According to a new American Lawyer survey, only 3 percent of lawyers and 1.9 percent of partners at large law firms are African American. While the percentage of all minorities increased slightly last year at the 223 law firms polled, the number of black lawyers fell to its lowest level since 2000. Asian-Americans are now the largest group of minorities in law firms, comprising 6.3 percent of the lawyers and 2.7 percent of the partners. The next largest group is Hispanics, which account for 3.2 percent of the lawyers and 2.3 percent of the partners. The ABA Journal has the story.

YLD Board to Appoint 5 District Representatives

A number of vacancies in district representative positions will be filled by the YLD Board during its summer meeting, June 14, in Gatlinburg. Pursuant to the division’s bylaws, a special nominating committee has met to consider applicants for the position and has voted to recommend the following candidates to the full YLD Board. Thank you to everyone who expressed interest in these positions!

District 1
William "Evan" Anderson
Law Office of Kelley Hinsley, New Market
Counties: Carter, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington

District 3
Katherine "Kati" Goodner
Paine, Tarwater & Bickers, Knoxville
County: Knox

District 8
Cherrelle Hooper
Legal Aid Society, Gallatin
Counties: Macon, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale and Wilson

District 10
Jamie Durrett
Batson Nolan, Clarksville
Counties: Cheatham, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, Montgomery, Robertson and Stewart

District 12
Ben Conley
Wilkerson Gauldin Hayes Jenkins & Dedmon, Dyersburg
Counties: Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion and Weakley

YLD Annual Membership Meeting Set for June 13

The TBA Young Lawyers Division will hold its annual membership meeting Friday, June 13, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern at the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg. The hotel is located at 705 Cherokee Orchard Rd., Gatlinburg 37738. The meeting will take place in Tennessee Ballroom 3. All members of the division are invited to attend. Members will consider one contested election for District 2 Representative, hear a recap of the 2013-2014 bar year from outgoing YLD President David McDowell and hear from incoming President Stacie Winkler about her plans for the year.

The one contested race that will be considered at the meeting is for District 2 Representative. The following candidates qualified to stand for election:

  • John Billings, Appalachian Underwriters Inc., Knoxville
  • Bryce McKenzie, Law Office of Bryan Delius, Sevierville

Biographical information for the candidates is available on the YLD's election page.

New Resources for Lawyers Ready to Go It on Their Own

The Tennessee Bar Association today launched the Solo in a Box Toolkit, a new resource available to lawyers starting their own practice. With advice on everything from how to choose an office space to managing client files, the Toolkit will be a valuable resource for the growing number of lawyers who have decided to “hang out their own shingle.” An initiative of TBA President Cindy Wyrick, the guide was developed and produced by the TBA’s Mentoring Committee under the guidance of Franklin attorney David Veile.

TBA Earns National Award for Public Service

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.