Links for September 2014

Voters Retain Justices in Widely Watched Race

Tennessee voters chose to retain all three Supreme Court justices in Thursday's election.

Despite a big money campaign against them, Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee all survived to new eight-year terms on the state's highest court. Complete results compiled by the Secretary of State's office show all three held a margin of about 56 percent to 44 percent. All judges on the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals also were retained by voters.

Tennessee Bar Association President Jonathan Steen said that he is “proud of the way the judges conducted a campaign on the highest ethical plane, upholding the principle of fair and impartial courts.”

Justices, Ramsey Respond to Retention Vote

In a major defeat for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Tennesseans yesterday voted to keep Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee in the retention elections. “What the numbers tell me is that the citizens of Tennessee have heard our story and have agreed with us that justice cannot be for sale in Tennessee and that partisan politics doesn’t have any place in the courtroom,” Clark said in Nashville. Lee agreed, stating, “I think this win is really not about us; it's about our system of justice in Tennessee. The people of Tennessee of have spoken loud and clear. … They don’t want anybody coming into Tennessee and trying to buy our system of justice.” Ramsey issued a statement congratulating the three, saying the race raised awareness about the Supreme Court. "For the first time in decades, we had a real election for the Supreme Court. Our Supreme Court justices traveled the state of Tennessee this summer meeting Tennesseans and learning things about our state that you can't find in any law book," his statement said. The Commercial Appeal has more.

Election Results by Judicial District Now Available

The TBA's roundup of election results and news coverage on races in each judicial district is now updated. For a number of counties, the roundup also includes details about elections for juvenile court and general sessions judges. Additional results and links to news stories will continue to be added as information becomes available.

State Considered Test for Efforts to Reshape Courts

Conservatives with ambitions to reshape courts across the country say results in Tennessee could give their efforts a burst of confidence, The New York Times reports. According to the paper, the Republican State Leadership Committee plans to spend at least $5 million on judicial races this year in places like North Carolina, where more than half of the state’s Supreme Court seats are on the ballot. Conservatives also are closely following races in Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas. Matt Walter, president of the group, says in Tennessee they would be happy defeating just one justice, which would give Republicans a majority on the body of five. “Success on Election Day is winning one because that flips the complexion of the court,” Walter told the paper.

Ramsey PAC Money Funding Campaign Against Justices

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is personally funding the main opposition to three Tennessee Supreme Court justices out of his own political action committee, News Channel 5 reports today. Based on just released financial disclosures, Ramsey’s RAMPAC has provided $425,000 to the Tennessee Forum, which has purchased the TV ads that call the justices "liberal on crime" and claim that they "advanced Obamacare." Both claims have been called "absolutely false" by the justices’ joint campaign. Fundraising for the justices has also been active, with the three together having raised just over $1 million. Chief Justice Gary Wade led the three with $462,281 in contributions, followed by Justice Sharon Lee with $305,404 (including an $18,000 loan), and Justice Connie Clark with $295,535.

Handbook for Tennessee Seniors Receives National Award

The TBA today received the LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award for production and distribution of the 2014 Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors. The award, given each year by the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE), was presented during the NABE Annual Meeting taking place in Boston in advance of the ABA meeting this weekend. Since the handbook was released earlier this year, it has been distributed to thousands of Tennesseans through live presentations and more than 8,000 visitors have been on the TBA’s website to learn about the resource. The award honors outstanding public service and law-related education programs by state and local bar associations.

TBA Wins Top Award for Public Education Project

For the second consecutive year, the Tennessee Bar Association earned the top public service award from the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. The 2014 Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors was named winner of the Association's Advance Tennessee Award. The TBA’s Public Education Committee updated the Handbook and is continuing to conduct outreach and education across the state. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur and Access to Justice/Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro accepted the Award today at a Nashville luncheon.

LAS Provided $17M in Legal Aid Last Year

Year-end results for 2013 reveal that the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and its team of volunteer pro bono attorneys provided more than $17.4 million in free legal help throughout 48 counties. Throughout the year, Legal Aid handled a total of 7,709 cases for low-income individuals and families and received more than 18,000 requests for assistance. Cases covered a variety of legal issues, with family law being the most common. “These numbers not only reflect Legal Aid Society’s dedication to work toward fairness for all people in the civil justice system, they also speak to the continual need for our services,” Executive Director Gary Housepian said in a press release.

CLE Website to Get Update; New Features Coming

The TBA is improving its website for CLE programming to give you new powers, new tools and new formats for learning. Transition to the refreshed website will take place Sunday evening, so there may be some time when the site is unavailable over the weekend. It is expected to be fully operational by Monday morning.

'Barmageddon:' Bar Exam Takers Can’t Upload Tests, Deadlines Extended

Bar exam takers in multiple states experienced delays and failures Tuesday when trying to upload their completed exams using ExamSoft software. Test takers reported staying up late trying to upload their exams multiple times, even as they faced a second day of exams today. One student even dubbed the situation “Barmageddon.” The software provider, ExamSoft Worldwide Inc., says delays were caused by a “processing issue.” State bars in all the affected states have extended their deadlines, the ABA Journal reports.

Angry Bar Candidates Sue Over Exam Software Problems

... Less than a week after a software glitch sent bar-examination takers scrambling to upload their answers, disgruntled law ... takers suffered as they waited to find out whether their exam answers had uploaded properly.

New Vanderbilt Program Offers Joint JD and Master’s in Finance

Students can now earn a law degree concurrently with master's in finance degree through a new program offered this fall by Vanderbilt Law School and the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. “For lawyers heading to Wall Street, understanding markets is critical to building a successful career in financial service,” said M. Eric Johnson, the Ralph Owen Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Prospective students should apply for admission to the J.D. and M.S.F. programs simultaneously. Spaces in this three-year joint degree program are limited.

BBC Examines the Death Penalty in Tennessee

A series of botched executions, shortages of drugs for lethal injections and moves in several states to abandon execution have reignited the debate in the U.S. about the death penalty. The most recent report of an Arizona inmate who gasped for more than an hour and a half during his execution is sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty, WATE notes. In a BBC radio program, correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan travels across Tennessee speaking with people on both sides of the debate about the legislature’s recently passed law re-introducing the electric chair if drugs for lethal injection become unavailable.

New ABA President Calls for Innovation in Delivery of Legal Services

South Carolina lawyer William C. Hubbard accepted the gavel as the new president of the ABA and urged lawyers to join him in his signature effort: closing the legal services delivery gap for the poor. Hubbard outlined several ways to accomplish that goal, including connecting lawyers, judges and academics with technology innovators who are spending millions of dollars on finding new ways of providing legal services. “We must marry this creativity with our own justice system to provide greater access while protecting the public,” he said. He also noted that several specific issues “clamor for our attention and rational evidence-based solutions.” These include a criminal justice system that is breaking down fiscally, the continued imprisonment of low-level offenders, the number of mentally ill in prison, the need for more pro bono representation for domestic violence victims, and the balance between privacy and security. Read more about Hubbard’s goals for the year in the ABA Journal.

Tennessee lawyers received recognition across the board during this past week at the ABA Annual Conference in Boston.

YLD Brings Home 3 Awards from Boston

The TBA YLD took first place in three award categories at the ABA Meeting in Boston this weekend. The awards recognize outstanding accomplishments during the previous bar year. The TBA YLD won first place in the Service to Public category for its Library Education Project, which under the leadership of Immediate Past YLD President David McDowell, focused on educating librarians across the state about the free legal resources available for those who need legal information and advice. The project focused on three free resources: OnlineTNJustice, LIFT and aLEGALz and was made possible by a generous grant from the Chattanooga law firm of Gearhiser Peters Elliott & Cannon.

The group also took first place in the Minority Project category for its Diversity Leadership Institute, a six-month leadership program for Tennessee law students.

Finally, the group won first place in the Comprehensive category, which evaluates all activities and programs undertaken during the year.

TBA Resource for Seniors Wins Statewide Award

Legal handbook named best public service project by a Tennessee association
NASHVILLE, July 23, 2014 – For the second consecutive year, the Tennessee Bar Association earned the top public service award from the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors won the Association’s Advance Tennessee Award as the best public service project by an association in the state. The award was presented last week at a luncheon in Nashville.