News

LAET to Hold Senior Handbook Event Thursday

The first of many events featuring the TBA’s new Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors will take place Thursday in Knoxville when Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) holds a training session at the John T. O’Connor Senior Center. The event will begin at 2 p.m. TBA President Cindy Wyrick and Public Education Committee Co-Chair Angelia Nystrom will be joined by representatives from LAET and the Knoxville/Knox County Office on Aging to present the new resource and answer questions. For more information about the event, contact LAET’s Knoxville office at (865) 637-0484. For information on the Handbook, contact TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro, (615) 383-7421.

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TBA Releases Senior Handbook for Lawyers, Public

The Tennessee Bar Association today released The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors to help Tennesseans better understand federal and state benefits, new health care laws and a wide range of other issues of importance to older citizens. It is available for download on the TBA website and will be the subject of presentations across the state starting this week and continuing during March. TBA members also may use the handbook in counseling their clients and may customize the front page to add their own firm’s logo and branding. In addition, the TBA will offer CLE sessions to equip members to make optimal use of the handbook in their practices.

The handbook, a project of TBA President Cindy Wyrick, was produced by the Public Education Committee and a host of volunteer lawyers under the leadership of Knoxville lawyer Angelia Nystrom. “As difficult as it is to fathom, an average of 7,000 Americans are becoming senior citizens each day,” Wyrick said in announcing release of the handbook. “This trend is expected to continue for years, so it is important that we do something meaningful to assist this rapidly growing, but typically underserved, segment of the population.”

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Mynatt Named Manager of Oak Ridge Legal Aid

Janet Mynatt is the new managing attorney of the Legal Aid Society's Oak Ridge office. She replaces Neil McBride, who retired this month after 35 years of service. “Janet is an outstanding attorney and natural leader -- the perfect person to fill the big shoes of Neil McBride, who has managed the Oak Ridge office since 1978,” said Gary Housepian, executive director of Legal Aid Society. Mynatt has served at Legal Aid since 2001 and has been active in the medical and benefits community, editing Legal Aid’s Sixth Circuit Social Security Manual, helping form a medical-legal partnership at a rural health center in Jellico and serving as chair the TBA’s Disability Law Section. The Oak Ridger has more.

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Judge: State Met Conditions of Development Center Suit

A decades-old lawsuit over conditions at a Memphis institution for people with intellectual disabilities has been dismissed after a federal judge found the state met court-ordered improvements, The Tennessean reports. The 1992 lawsuit over conditions at the Arlington Development Center -- originally filed by the Department of Justice and later joined by People First of Tennessee -- was brought after investigators found the facility failed to protect residents from abuse and neglect, provide adequate medical care and properly train staff. After the court found that the problems were so bad they violated the constitutional rights of the residents, the state entered into an agreement with more than 105 requirements and 103 deadlines. This week, U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla ruled the state had complied with all conditions and dismissed the suit.

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LAET Steps in to Stop Eviction

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has taken on the case of a disabled resident who is challenging a Chattanooga Housing Authority eviction, WRCB Channel 3 reports. Jeffrey Henson suffers from cerebliar degeneration and gets around with the help of an electric wheelchair that has scratched doors, dented doorframes and scuffed the walls of his apartment. Wednesday, a judge granted a restraining order blocking the eviction until the case is heard in court next month, or a settlement is reached. "He's being evicted essentially for being disabled," LAET attorney Emily O'Donnell said, "and that's a violation of state and federal fair housing law."

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Opinion: Conservatorship Reforms Deserve ‘Quick Action’

State legislators are well under way in righting the wrongs in current conservatorship law “thanks to the hard work of the Tennessee Bar Association,” The Tennessean writes in a Sunday editorial. The piece recounts the case of Jewell Tinnon, who lost her house, car and belongings due to the mismanagement of a conservator and highlights the provisions of the legislation under consideration. It ends with final nod to the TBA, which organized a series of public hearings across the state to address conservatorship reform: “We trust that our laws protect us when we cannot. We are glad the Tennessee Bar Association and our General Assembly are making it so.” Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 555. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee is scheduled to take up the bill this week.

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Judge Reviewing Billing Practices of Public Guardian

Davidson County Probate Judge Randy Kennedy is launching a review of the billing practices of the county’s public guardian to see whether she charged excessive fees to the elderly and disabled people she is supposed to protect. According to The Tennessean, Kennedy notified the Metro Council that he also is going to halt new appointments to Jeanan Mills Stuart during the review. The move comes after news of questionable billing practices surfaced last week. As the county guardian, Stuart makes legal, medical and financial decisions for those who are incapacitated by mental or physical illness, addiction or injury when there is no suitable family member or friend to handle such tasks.

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ABA Promotes Equality Through Town Hall Series

The American Bar Association will hold a Town Hall Discussion “Advocating for Equality in the Next Generation – Disability Rights” at Vanderbilt University Law School on Jan. 25, 2013, in the Moore Room. The ABA Town Hall Series is designed to encourage dialogue among law students, young lawyers, experienced members of the bar, and others in the community about how the legal profession should address issues of inequality, intolerance and discrimination in the profession and in society. Paula Pearlman, executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center will be the keynote speaker. Registration is free. Please RSVP by Jan. 23 to irr@americanbar.org

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DOJ Files Suit for LSAT Disability Discrimination

According to the National Law Journal, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have filed suit against the Law School Admission Council on behalf of 22 students, alleging the council violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying  proper accommodations for taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Council administrators state that their process for granting accommodations is rigorous but fair, and does not violate anyone’s rights. 

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Brentwood Man Sentenced in Ponzi Scheme

The former financial advisor and owner of A.D. Vallett & Co. has been sentenced to 120 months in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 30 victims of over $5 million, BrentwoodHomePage reports. Aaron Vallett pleaded guilty to orchestrating the Ponzi scheme. His sentence was announced as the Department of Justice kicks off a series of investment fraud summits in cities across the country, including Nashville. The event was held at Vanderbilt School of Law this morning.

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Lawyers Needed to Work Anti-Bullying Legal Clinics

Volunteer at one of three legal clinics -- "The Puck Stops Here" -- to help stop bullying in schools. The events are sponsored by the Nashville Predators and the Disability Law Advocacy Center (DLAC) to help students and their families identify, prevent, and legally respond to bullying in schools. Volunteer attorneys are needed at the clinics for brief client consultations and to assist clients in drafting key points in notification letters to schools and/or an OCR complaints. Learn more here. DLAC will provide training for all volunteer attorneys on bullying legal issues on Aug. 24. The clinics will be in Clarksville, Sept. 15; Nashville, Oct. 6; and Lebanon, Nov. 10. For more information, contact Sherry Wilds at DLAC at (615) 298-­‐1080, ext. 141 or at sherryw@dlactn.org

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Providing Legal Services to Persons with Disabilities? New Video Can Help

A short video is now available to help lawyers when they provide pro bono legal services to persons with disabilities. The project from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission --  Providing Legal Services to Persons with Disabilities -- raises awareness and reduces the barriers that persons with disabilities face when seeking legal services. The 12-minute video provides general etiquette tips on interacting with individuals with disabilities and highlights specific examples of common scenarios that people with disabilities encounter when seeking legal services. The Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee developed the video with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Learn more from the AOC

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Veterans Court Opens in Clarksville

A court aimed at helping veterans who come to the criminal justice system as a result of drug addictions, homelessness and other situations brought on by the ravages of untreated wartime stress held its first session this week in Clarksville. General Sessions Judge Ken Goble brought the court to order on Tuesday, telling one early participant, “This is for those who have sacrificed and are now in a bad place. This is a chance to get you off the road you’re on.” Learn more about the court from the AOC.

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Free Seminars to Explain Disability Voting Rights

In partnership with the Tennessee Division of Elections, the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee is presenting "Vote TN!," a series of free voting conferences across the state to educate about disability voting rights. Topics will include disability-related barriers during the voting process, potential solutions to these barriers, and step-by-step instruction on training others about voting access. Pre-register and learn more about dates and locations.

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Law School Debt Discharged for Asperger's Sufferer

A former law student has won a bid in bankruptcy court to discharge nearly $340,000 in education debt because her diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome rendered her unable to repay the loans. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland last week found that Carol Todd, who attended the University of Baltimore School of Law, met the difficult burden of showing that she would suffer undue hardship if forced to repay her debt. Read about it in the National Law Journal

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Man Confesses to Plan to Murder Judge

Kenneth Wade Jr. this week confessed to a charge of threatening to kill Social Security Administrative Law Judge K. Dickson Grissom after the judge denied Wade Social Security benefits. Wade now says he armed himself with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol in February and waited outside Grissom's Knoxville office "so that he could shoot him, but the judge did not come out." The News Sentinel reports

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Adoption of Special-Needs Girl a Happy Occasion

Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin's job has some perks, like presiding over the adoption of 7-year-old Keona Vaughn, as he did Monday with assistance from lawyer Kevin Weaver. Keona was shaken when she was 3 months old and was left severely developmentally delayed, but Debbie and Mark Vaughn say the blessings are all theirs. Read more in the Commercial Appeal

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Chattanooga Lawyer Sees Disability in Positive Way

Chattanooga lawyer Terrence Olsen talks to the Hamilton County Herald about his practice and how a lifelong disability has helped shape his work helping immigrants, as well as his drive to provide pro bono. “Since I had a stutter," he says, "I couldn’t actually express what I wanted to, and if you have a language that’s a second language, you have the same issue,” he says."I wanted to give individuals a voice."

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