Links for October 2016

Students Earn Courtroom Experience with Children’s Clinic

September 9, 2016

The University of Memphis School of Law’s Children’s Defense Clinic is giving law students a unique opportunity to represent children in juvenile court and obtain real-world experience. The new program started this year under the direction of Lisa Geis, who moved to Memphis from Washington, D.C., to run the clinic. Almost a month into the semester, clinic students are handling 10 cases ranging from theft to vandalism to cases of aggravated assault, the Commercial Appeal reports. Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush praised the program saying it would be “an important engine” for reform in Shelby County's juvenile defense system.

Ethics Opinion: Judges Must Hear Cases to Sign Orders

September 9, 2016

The chair of the Judicial Ethics Committee says that conduct rules do not allow judges to retroactively sign orders without hearing evidence, and that such practices could violate a person’s right to be heard in court and could appear to be an impropriety. Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Alan Glenn issued the informal opinion in response to a request from Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland, who sought the guidance after news broke that General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell retroactively signed orders committing dozens of people to mental health institutions without hearing the cases herself. Glenn said he will not write a formal ethics opinion, which would require approval of the other judges on the committee, the Tennessean reports. He did not address the specific case involving Bell.

Durham Expelled from House on 70-2 Vote

September 13, 2016

Rep. Jeremy Durham was expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives today during a special legislative session. Durham defended himself before his colleagues, noting that no formal complaint has been filed against him and he has never been charged with a crime. The bipartisan vote of 70-2 came after an hour of discussion. Reps. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, Jimmy Eldrige, R-Jackson, Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, voted present. As many as 12 members did not vote at all, the Tennessean reports. Lawmakers warned Durham against releasing the names of his alleged victims and pleaded with media outlets not to publish the names if he does. Durham had threatened to name his accusers if expelled.

Son of Women’s Suffrage Figure Dies

September 6, 2016

Harry T. Burn Jr., the son of the Tennessee legislator who cast the “aye” vote in 1920 that ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, died Thursday (Sept. 1) at his residence in Athens. Burn, 78, was an only child, never married and had no children, Knoxville lawyer Wanda Sobieski told Knoxnews. She knew Burn from working with him on a statue of his father Harry Burn Sr. and grandmother Febb Burn proposed for the grounds of the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville. Febb Burn earned her own place in history by writing to her son urging him to vote for amendment. He had originally voted against the measure but changed his vote after reflecting on her note.

Court Seeking Comments on Proposed Amendments

September 7, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering amending Rule 7, section 16.01, and Rule 9, section 30.3, which deal with reinstatement of a law license after a disciplinary or administrative suspension, disbarment or inactive status designation. The court also is seeking comments on proposed amendments to Rule 19 that are designed to eliminate a potential conflict between Rule 7, section 5.01(g)(8) and Rule 19, which deals with pro hac vice appearances before Tennessee courts and agencies. Comments on both proposals are due by Oct. 10.

TBA President Praises Lawyers' Contributions at EJU

September 1, 2016

TBA President Jason Long today voiced gratitude and admiration for the legal services professionals and pro bono volunteers gathered this week at the Equal Justice University, and emphasized that the Tennessee Bar Association’s initiative focused on the Evolving Legal Market has much to offer the access to justice community. Three Tennessee lawyers were recognized for their commitment to access to justice during an Awards Dinner Wednesday night. Craig Barnes with Memphis Area Legal Services and Russell Fowler from Legal Aid of East Tennessee both received the B. Riney Green Award for their work with their organizations and throughout the community. The award is named to honor Nashville attorney Green’s collaborative efforts to prevent cuts to legal aid funding in the late 1990s and is presented to individuals that promote inter-program cooperation and strengthen access to justice across the state. Zac Oswald with Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands also was honored with the New Advocate of the Year Award.

Barry, Ryan Honored at Opening of EJU Conference

The annual Equal Justice University kicked off today in Murfreesboro with Jim Barry and Sharon Ryan of International Paper in Memphis being presented the Holder Award at the Welcome Luncheon. Programming continued through the afternoon and tonight more Tennessee attorneys will be honored for their good works at the annual Awards Dinner. TBA President Jason Long will address the gathering during tomorrow’s Leadership Luncheon, where newly elected Chief Justice Jeff Bivins will be given the oath of office by Justice Sharon Lee. The annual event is sponsored by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association.

Bivins Elected Chief Justice of State Supreme Court

August 19, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme Court has elected Justice Jeff Bivins to be the next chief justice of the court, the AOC reported today. His term will begin Sept. 1. Bivins was appointed to the court in 2014 by Gov. Bill Haslam. Prior to that he was a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and the 21st Judicial District Circuit Court and an attorney in private practice with the Nashville office of Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Tennessee in this expanded role,” Bivins said. He also praised outgoing Chief Justice Sharon Lee for her efforts to modernize the court system, address the needs of business litigants and improve the state’s indigent defense system.

Bivins Swearing in to Take Place at EJU Luncheon

August 22, 2016

Newly elected Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins will take the oath of office during the upcoming Equal Justice University in Murfreesboro. Justice Connie Clark will present the oath to Bivins at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services' Leadership Luncheon, set for noon on Sept. 1. TBA President Jason Long is the featured speaker and Duncan School of Law is the sponsor of the Leadership Lunch. Those not attending the conference but who would like to attend the lunch should register online by Wednesday.

Drug Court Gets Grant to Expand Program

September 1, 2016

The 10th Judicial District Drug Court has received a grant of nearly $800,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Cleveland Banner reports. The grant will be paid out over three years and will allow the program to grow from 40 to 75 participants and expand substance abuse and mental health services. The court, which began in 2004, serves Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties.

Bankruptcy Court Seeks Comments on Rules Changes

August 31, 2016

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee today published proposed amendments to its local rules for public comment. The comment period will run from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31. Comments may be made in writing to James E. Bailey III, Butler Snow LLP, 6075 Poplar Ave., Suite 500, Memphis, TN 38119 or to Michael Tabor via email at

Court Solicits Comments on 2017 Rules Package

August 30, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and changes to the Juvenile, Criminal and Evidence rules. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law and Juvenile and Children’s Law – will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 23.

Court Amends Rule Dealing with Chief Justice’s Term

August 30, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order amending Supreme Court Rule 32 to make several changes to the way the court’s chief justice is selected. The amendment (1) removes the deadline of Sept. 1 for selecting a new chief justice, (2) extends the initial term of the chief justice from one to four years, (3) allows the chief justice to serve additional unlimited consecutive two-year terms, and (4) allows three justices to remove the chief justice for cause (down from the previous requirement of four).

Birch Statue Unveiled Saturday in Nashville

August 29, 2016

Photo credit: Nashville Bar Association

An eight-foot-tall bronze statue of former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr. was unveiled Saturday at a ceremony in downtown Nashville, the Tennessean reports. The event also marked the 10-year anniversary of the city’s criminal courthouse, which bears Birch’s name. The larger-than-life statue, created by New Jersey artist Brian Hanlon and paid for by donations, sits at the courthouse’s main entrance on Second Ave. Among those speaking at the event were Birch’s son, Adolpho Birch III, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and Davidson County General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell.

Taylor Swift Reports for Jury Duty in Nashville

August 29, 2016

After delaying jury service last December because she was on tour, Taylor Swift showed up for jury duty today. If selected she would have heard a domestic violence case involving a charge of aggravated rape. She was dismissed about 1 p.m. though. Others in the courthouse said she was smiling and happy and willing to take pictures with would-be jurors, the Tennessean reports.

Court Issues Order Amending Rule 40A

August 25, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order amending Rule 40A of the Rules of the Supreme Court to remove “contested private guardianship cases” from the definition of “custody proceeding.” The court said that including guardianship cases in the definition is an apparent conflict with Rule 40A(6)(b) and Tennessee code section 34-1-107(d)(1). The court solicited comments on this proposed change between May 16 and July 15 but reports that it did not receive any comments.

Public Approval of Supreme Court Matches Low Point

August 25, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 42 percent job approval rating is down slightly from September 2015 and matches the low point in the Gallup poll's 16-year history. The earlier mark was recorded in 2005 just after the court allowed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development. Among its other findings, the poll indicates that Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to approve of the court, though the differential has narrowed. Read more or view survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

New Tool Links Resources to Louisiana Lawyers in Need

August 23, 2016

Efforts to support the legal community in flood-ravaged Louisiana now include a message board where those wanting to help can find requests for assistance from lawyers in need of office space, supplies and furniture. The service compliments a number of sites announced last week that provide ways to donate financially. These include the Louisiana State Bar Association’s SOLACE program, which distributes funding to those in need, the Baton Rouge Bar Association and the Lafayette Bar Association, which are in areas most heavily affected by flooding.

2016 Criminal Justice Handbook Now Available

August 18, 2016

The 2016 edition of the Criminal Justice Handbook is now available from the Administrative Office of the Courts. The handbook contains more than 600 pages of Tennessee criminal statutes and court rules and is available as a printed volume or on a CD. It is updated each year to reflect changes made by the legislature and the courts. The book includes chapters 11 through 17 of Title 39 as well as sections on the Sentencing Act, Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Evidence. The appendix includes sections on DUI, warrants and summons, bail and a list of offenses by criminal class and code. Find out how to order a copy now.

ABA Unveils New Tools for ATJ Efforts, Solo Lawyers

August 16, 2016

The ABA this week announced two new efforts. The first, a new Center for Innovation, is designed to increase access to justice and improve the delivery of legal services through innovative programs and initiatives. The second is a new web-based tool to help solo and small firm lawyers manage their practices. The ABA Blueprint program will launch this fall and offer information on technology, marketing, retirement and insurance services.


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