Case Law Update in Disability Law Forum

This year's Disability Law Forum will provide a full day of essential and useful material applicable to disability law. Laura Chastain, ethics counsel with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, will present an update on ethics. Further sessions will include updates on 6th Circuit Social Security Case Law and will address the new mental health regulations effective in January 2017. Join other practitioners on April 21 for these updates and more.

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Lawsuit Raises Questions About Accommodating Disabled Lawyers

A lawsuit and a recent New York Times op-ed shine a light on the difficulties lawyers with disabilities face, the ABA Journal reports. Attorney Diana Lewis filed a suit after she claims she was forced to resign from the Bronx DA’s office for joining a class action lawsuit about handicapped access to courthouses. When she started using a wheelchair after an accident, she struggled to move between court buildings, one of which had a lone, unsafe access ramp. Op-ed author Carol Steinberg explains more of the difficulties, such as arguing before a judge who sits six feet up while she is in a wheelchair.
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SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Disabled Girl and Service Dog

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that the family of a Michigan girl with cerebral palsy can sue the girl’s school for banning her service dog, the ABA Journal reports. The court ruled that the family was not required to exhaust administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act before filing a disabilities suit. The school banned the dog in 2009.
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Court Weighs Education Benefits for Disabled Students

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed willing to put more teeth into a law that requires public schools to help learning-disabled students, the Associated Press reports. Most of the justices indicated that school districts must offer more than the bare minimum of services to children with special needs. But they struggled over how to clarify the law without inviting more litigation between frustrated parents and cash-strapped schools. The court is considering an appeal from the parents of an autistic teen who say his public school did not provide sufficient services and are seeking reimbursement for the costs of sending him to a private school.

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Services Friday, Saturday for Memphis Lawyer

Memphis lawyer Thomas Robinson James died Jan. 1 at the age of 87. A 1952 graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, James joined with his brother-in-law and a classmate to form the law firm of Adams, James & Weldon and practiced there for 20 years. He later created the firm of James, Ray & McEvoy and then served for many years with the law firm of Walt, Dyer & James. Father to a daughter with special needs, James worked locally and at the state level to enhance opportunities for the disabled, including pushing a law mandating an education for every child. Visitation will be Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Memorial Park Funeral Home. A burial mass will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church. Donations may be made to the disability support group SRVS or Christian Brothers High School. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Disability Rights Group Seeking Attorney

Disability Rights Tennessee is seeking an attorney to provide legal advice to agency management, staff and clients. The position also will be responsbile for developing content for publications, assist with fundraising activities, provide information to governmental entities, and develop and conduct training programs for staff, clients and other organizations. Candidates must have a law degree and at least five years of litigation experience. Experience in systemic impact or civil rights cases is preferred. DRT will consider either part-time or full-time employment for this position. Download a job description or apply for the position on TBA’s JobLink.

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Disability Rights Group Presents Freedom Awards

Disability Rights Tennessee awarded its 2016 Freedom Awards at the Third Annual Disability Employment Awareness Luncheon last week in Nashville. Joey Hassell, an assistant commissioner for special populations in the Tennessee Department of Education, was recognized for implementing a holistic approach to aligning services for all students. Martie Lafferty was honored for 13 years of service with DRT, including her work as the organization's legal director. During her time with the organization, Lafferty won cases that granted access to Tennessee courts and Medicaid waiver services for thousands and ensured equal access to health care for Tennesseans who are deaf and hard of hearing. Lafferty is now a litigator at the Washington, D.C., civil rights firm Stein & Vargas.

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Elder Law Programs Now Online

If you missed the TBA's annual Elder Law forum, the courses are now available online. Sessions focused on ABLE TN (a program that helps disabled individuals save for their health care), federal issues related to elder law, emergency conservatorships and a panel addressing TennCare. Watch one or all four!

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Disability Law CLE Videos Now Available

If you missed the TBA’s Annual Disability Law Forum, the sessions are now available online. Presentations cover client consultations, ADA accessibility and effective communication, and ethics for the disability law practioner. Check them out today!

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Inaugural Veterans’ Clinic Coming in September

The Knoxville Bar Association’s inaugural Veterans’ Legal Advice Clinic will take place Sept. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St., Knoxville 37912. The clinic is a joint project of the Knoxville Barristers and their Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Knox County Public Defender’s Office, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the local VA office. Lawyers are needed to volunteer to help veterans with a wide variety of issues, including family, landlord/tenant, bankruptcy, criminal defense, consumer protection, contract disputes, child support and personal injury cases. WATE reports on the event.

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Court Square Series: Sept. 13 in Clarksville

The TBA’s 2016 Court Square series will head to Clarksville on Sept. 13. The three-hour course will be held at the Customs House Museum. Parke Morris, Judge William Goodman, Sherry Wilds and Elise McMillan will address privilege law in Tennessee, best practices from the bench, occupational diploma and hiring persons with disabilities.

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Disability Group Seeks Attorney in Chattanooga

The Florida-based Disability Help Group is seeking an associate attorney to serve the greater Chattanooga area. Responsibilities include helping individuals obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and handling all stages of the administrative process. Past experience with SSA cases is not required but successful candidates will need to spend four to six months in Florida for training. Those hired also must be able to work from home. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, salary request and resume to Matthew Sauerwald. Learn more in this job announcement.

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Deadline is Friday for Comments on Proposed SSA Rule Changes

The deadline is Friday to comment on proposed rule changes that the Social Security Administration says would make some of its procedures more consistent nationwide. The proposed rule would limit what evidence could be submitted less than five (5) days before an ALJ hearing, among other changes.

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) has already filed comments on the proposed rule changes. You can review those by following the links below:

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Group Seeks Input for Disability Rights Survey

Disability Rights Tennessee, formerly Disability Law & Advocacy Center Tennessee, is conducting a survey aimed at gathering information from people with disabilities, family members, service providers and professionals to help shape the work of the organization. Attorneys working in the disability rights field are asked to contribute their thoughts. Others are asked to share the survey with friends, colleagues and partners working in the field. The deadline to participate is July 11. For more information contact the center at 800-342-1660 or

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Disability Rights Tennessee Wants to Hear From You!

Disability Rights Tennessee has launched a survey aimed at gathering information from people with disabilities, family members, service providers and professionals to help shape the work of the organization.

The organization is looking for as much information as possible, so please feel free to share the survey with partners, colleagues and friends, so that an accurate picture of the needs of those with disabilities in the State of Tennessee can be compiled. Take the survey now. The deadline to respond is July 11.

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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2016 Microsoft Legal Internship for Law Student with a Disability

The American Bar Association's (ABA) Commission on Disability Rights has partnered with Microsoft to provide a summer internship opportunity for a highly motivated, first-year law student who is living with a disability.

Legal interns will work within Microsoft's Corporate, External and Legal Affairs department in Redmond, Washington. They will have a broad range of responsibilities from across the department, which may include researching legal issues impacting business strategy, drafting transactional documents, attending client meetings and product reviews, and collaborating with internal teams on cross-group projects. Get ready to overcome challenges, forge solutions and provide direct counsel to the cutting edge of the world's most dynamic industry.

For more information on the internship or if you would like to find out how to recommend a student, please click here.

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Investigation: Abuse at Group Homes Never Reported to Police

Third Judicial District Attorney General Dan Armstrong has requested that investigators with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities contact his office and police after every confirmed case of abuse and neglect at every state and privately-run group homes. The request comes after a DIDD investigation revealed cases involving people with intellectual disabilities in Greene County were never reported to police, WJHL reports.

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Term for Animals in Bill is 'Courtroom Facility Dogs'

An item in Wednesday’s issue of TBA Today used an incorrect term in identifying courtroom facility dogs, which are currently being debated in a Tennessee Senate bill. A 2014 Tennessee Bar Journal article offers guidance on the use of service animals, therapy animals and assistance animals, along with current laws regarding their use.

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Judge Partially Dismisses Lawsuit Over Treatment of Disabled

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp on Friday partially dismissed a long-standing lawsuit over Tennessee’s treatment of people with disabilities following the state’s fulfillment of obligations outlined in an exit plan, the Associated Press reports. Advocates sued the state in 1995 over conditions at several state institutions. The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Bureau of TennCare have since completed several obligations agreed upon in the exit plan, including developing training for law enforcement and physicians. The state’s last remaining obligation under the exit plan is to close the Greene Valley Development Center.

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Suit Claims Nashville Restaurants Not ADA Compliant

Federal lawsuits filed by Jeffrey Anderson claim four popular Nashville restaurants are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Anderson, who travels in a wheelchair, alleges Bagel Face, Marche, Noshville, and Sitar lack compliant parking, required widths in restaurants and in bathrooms, and handrails. He is requesting that the restaurants be ordered into compliance and that his attorneys’ fees be paid. Read more from the Nashville Post.

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Deaf Couple Sues Johnson City Hospital

Chris and Donna Cantrell, a deaf couple from Virginia, are suing Mountain States Health Alliance in Johnson City for allegedly failing to provide a qualified sign language interpreter while their 21-year-old daughter was dying of cancer. The federal suit, filed Wednesday by Disability Rights Tennessee and the National Association of the Deaf, said the hospital provided an unqualified interpreter on fewer than five occasions. "(Donna) Cantrell saw her daughter burst into tears but had no idea why she was crying. Because her daughter was too upset to explain, (she) did not learn that her daughter was dying until much later,” the lawsuit said. Read more from The Times Free Press.

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State Settles with Parents in Special Education Classroom Suit

A settlement for $185,000 between the state of Tennessee and the parents of a Hamilton County student with down syndrome was approved Tuesday by the Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee, The Times Free Press reports. Deborah and Greg Hyde filed a suit against the Hamilton Count Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education last year when they were told their son would be removed from his normal class and placed in a special education class. The state settled because “it recognized its own administrative complaint process did not meet the court's standards,” according to Hamilton County Schools attorney Scott Bennett.

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