News

Legal Aid Society Receives Grants from Bar Foundation, Others

The Tennessee Bar Foundation's Interest on Lawyers Trusts Accounts recently awarded a $112,936 grant to the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. The non-profit law firm also received grants from The West End Home Foundation and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The contributions will enable Legal Aid Society to help low-income individuals and families find legal civil assistance.

read more »

Memphis Attorney's "Blight Fight" Featured

Next City, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire change in cities through journalism, profiles attorney Steve Barlow’s “blight fight” in Memphis. Barlow said he was inspired to begin tackling the city’s blight problem more than a decade ago after attending a conference put on by a national blight elimination nonprofit. He later filed the city’s first ever blight lawsuit under the state’s Neighborhood Preservation Act. “I feel like it is my job to be sure irresponsible owners are held accountable to a very high standard of property maintenance," Barlow said.

read more »

Marshall County Lawyers Recognized for Law Day Efforts

The Marshall County Bar Association was recognized for providing the Most Innovative Law Day Program during the American Bar Association’s Mid-year Meeting in San Diego. Working in partnership with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, Marshall County lawyers launched a kiosk at the courthouse with an interactive Help Button that provided information on bankruptcy, housing, custody, debt and other legal services. MCBA members also partnered with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to honor the Charter of the Forest, a charter established in 1217 with the reissuance of Magna Carta, and it conducted a Symbol of Freedom discussion with high school students on Magna Carta.

read more »

LAET Partners with Attorney to Offer Free Estate Planning

Attorney David Coates, of the Law Offices of David Coates, has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Legal Aid of East Tennessee to offer free estate planning this Saturday to every Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area homeowner in the Chattanooga area. “Now that these families are homeowners, it is such a blessing to see them able to meet with a lawyer to help protect their homes,” Cheryl Marsh, Director of Family Services, said. The clinic, along with a free legal clinic, will be held in the Chattanooga Housing Authority’s multipurpose room located at 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

read more »

ABA Family Law Award Honors Nashville Attorney

The ABA Section of Family Law Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award Committee is accepting nominations for attorneys who have made significant contributions to family law clients on a pro bono basis in their communities. The award includes $1,500 and reimbursement for travel expenses of up to $1,000 to attend the Family Law Section’s Award Luncheon in San Francisco. Nominations are due May 20. Crowe was the TBA's 2013 Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year.

read more »

New Orleans Public Defender Refusing New Cases

Derwyn Bunton, chief public defender in New Orleans, speaks with NPR about his office’s decision to stop accepting new cases in an effort to highlight underfunding. The office is now being sued by the ACLU. "We depend on fines, fees and costs paid by people going through our criminal justice system to actually operate our criminal justice system,” Bunton said.

read more »

New 'Journal' Features Ousters, History and More

The February Tennessee Bar Journal will tell you all you need to know about Ouster Law in Tennessee in this article by Knoxville lawyer Joe Jarret. Read Russell Fowler's account of a Civil War scoundrel and the Memphis lawyer who defended him back in 1864 in what was described as a “hopeless case.” TBA President Bill Harbison looks at another historical case, this one that helped develop the concept of due process. Take a look at the entire issue here.

read more »

Attorneys Honored for Volunteer Work

The TBA honored a trio of Tennessee legal professionals Saturday, recognizing their volunteer service during the annual TBA Public Service Luncheon. Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper was the featured speaker. Winter storms kept the event from being held at the War Memorial Auditorium, but the crowd of about 70 still showed their appreciation to those recognized: Libby Sykes, the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year; Dave Yoder, the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year; and Sara Page, the Law Student Volunteer of the Year. Read more about them in the Tennessee Bar Journal, or see photos from the luncheon and other Leadership Conference activities.

read more »

Supreme Court Appoints Access to Justice Commission

The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed the following people to serve a three-year term on the Access to Justice Commission: Mary Jo Middlebrooks of Middlebrooks & Gray in Jackson; Beverly Watts, Executive Director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in Nashville; J. William Coley of Hodges, Doughty & Carson in Knoxville; and Sean Hunt of Hunt Law in Memphis. The term will begin April 1. Former TBA president Marcia “Marcy” Meredith Eason was appointed to serve as chair for a two-year term. The state Supreme Court created the Access to Justice Commission in 2009 and tasked it with improving access to justice in Tennessee.

read more »

Veterans Treatment Court Made Possible by Volunteers

Volunteer attorneys, probation officers and others are making it possible for veterans to participate in the newly formed General Sessions Veteran’s Treatment Court in Williamson County. VTC is a one to two-year program for non-violent felony and misdemeanor offenses, the Williamson Herald reports. The court is paid for by criminal court fees and through benefits veterans have earned from their military service. "This program can work in any county because it doesn’t rely on money, it relies on time,” Judge Tom Taylor said.

read more »

'Participatory Defense' Needed to Reduce Incarceration, Authors Say

An opinion piece published in The Tennessean highlights how the relationship between public defenders and the community is helping to reduce incarceration in Tennessee. “Participatory defense is about helping community members partner with public defenders to ensure the accused is understood as more than just a case file and bolstering the defense team, in order to prevent and reduce incarceration,” said co-authors Raj Jayadev, of SV De-Bug, and Dawn Deaner, the Metropolitan Public Defender for Nashville-Davidson County.

read more »

Lawyer, Author Bryan Stevenson to Speak at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University will host lawyer and author Bryan Stevenson Jan. 15 as part of its Chancellor's Lecture Series and to kick off the school's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration weekend. Stevenson is founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice & Redemption, a book about "the potential of mercy to redeem our society and fix our justice system." A reception and book signing is 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.; the lecture is 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

read more »

January Issue Explores Access to Justice

The January Journal puts its focus on Access to Justice — where we are in Tennessee and where we still need to go — as well as the history of the Tennessee Justice Center and an article about the needs of the self-represented litigant. Read about the honorees of the TBA’s Public Service Awards: Libby Sykes, Dave Yoder and Sara Page. President Bill Harbison points out that “thinking like a lawyer” includes pro bono work. Read the full issue here.

read more »

Attorney Says Refugee Was 'Steamrolled by the System'

Immigrant advocates say the reopened case of a Burmese refugee exposes a lack of legal education for immigrants, The Tennessean reports. Sawng Hing, who was sentenced in 2012 for child abuse charges, received incorrect interpretations during her hearing because her language of Matu-Chin is so rare. The inaccuracy resulted in Hing being taken to federal prison facing deportation. "Nashville has one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country," said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "What that means is for local institutions it can be a challenge to keep up." 

read more »

Volunteers Needed for Wills for Heroes Clinics

Volunteers are needed for upcoming Wills for Heroes Clinics around the state. These sessions provide free wills and other end of life documents for first responders in Tennessee. The next clinics are scheduled for Jan. 9 at Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan in Knoxville, and Jan. 16 at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel in Chattanooga. View the schedule of clinics and more information.

read more »

LAET Receives National Pro Bono Recognition

Legal Aid of East Tennessee won the second place award for Legal Aid and Pro Bono Programs in the American Bar Association’s 7th Annual National Celebration of Pro Bono competition. The competition judges programs on the number, quality, diversity and creativity of pro bono events and programs they offered during National Pro Bono Month in October. LAET held a series of events across its 26-county service area.

read more »

TBA Announces 2016 Pro Bono Awards

Two distinguished Tennessee pro bono attorneys and a recent Belmont University Law graduate will be honored with the state’s top pro bono and public service awards at a Nashville ceremony in January. Clarksville attorney Elizabeth “Libby” Sykes, who retired in 2014 from leading the Tennessee Administration Office of the Courts, will receive the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award for commitment to providing free legal advice to low-income Tennesseans through the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services’ statewide legal helpline, HELP4TN. David Yoder, who is set to retire at the end of the year as executive director of Legal Aid of East Tennessee, will receive the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award. Yoder is being recognized for 40 years of commitment to expanding access to justice. And Sara Page, a 2015 graduate from Belmont University College of Law, will be recognized as the Law Student Volunteer of the Year for her work with numerous pro bono organizations including Belmont Legal Aid Society, Justice for Our Neighbors and Magdalene Clinic. Read more about the honorees.

The awards will be presented at the TBA’s 2016 Public Service Luncheon Jan. 23 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Held each year as part of the association’s Leadership Conference, the luncheon also will feature remarks by TBA President Bill Harbison and other leaders from the legal community. 

read more »

TBA Announces 2016 Pro Bono Awards

NASHVILLE, Dec. 16, 2015 — Two distinguished Tennessee pro bono attorneys and a recent Belmont University Law graduate will be honored with the state’s top pro bono and public service awards at a ceremony in January.

The awards will be presented by the Tennessee Bar Association at its 2016 Public Service Luncheon on Jan. 23 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Held each year as part of the association’s Leadership Conference, the luncheon also will feature remarks by TBA President Bill Harbison and other leaders from the legal community.
 

read more »

Just City to Hold Fundraiser Tonight for Clean Slate Fund

Just City will hold a fundraising event tonight in Memphis for the nonprofit’s Clean Slate Fund, which helps nonviolent ex-offenders expunge their criminal records. “Wonder” is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6 p.m. at Amurica, 410 N. Cleveland. Read more from The Commercial Appeal.

read more »

Legal Aid Society Relocates its Clarksville Office

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands relocated its Clarksville office from 120 Franklin Street to 109 South Third Street in downtown Clarksville. The new 3,700 square foot office houses seven employees and is located across from the Clarksville courthouse. “A more accessible, updated and welcoming office promotes the dignity of our clients and sets the tone for advocating for their rights and well-being," Gary Housepian, Legal Aid Society’s executive director, said.

read more »

TALS Free Legal Hotline Featured

The Tennessean shares how Tennessee residents in poverty can receive free legal help by calling 1-844-HELP4TN, a free statewide legal helpline operated by Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. “Getting connected to free legal help can be the difference in being homeless or not, suffering continued abuse or achieving protection from abuse, maintaining financial self-sufficiency or being driven into hopeless debt,” the author writes.

read more »

New Victim Advocate Joins Legal Aid's Nashville Office

Avis Littleton joined the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands as a victim advocate in its Nashville office. Littleton, who previously worked with domestic abuse victims at Ujima House, will accompany domestic abuse victims to court and educate victims on legal processes. 

read more »

ABA Issues Ethics Opinion on Limited-Scope Legal Services

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility today issued ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 472, "Communication with Person Receiving Limited-Scope Legal Services." In this opinion the committee addresses the obligations of a lawyer under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2, "Communication with Person Represented by Counsel," commonly called the “no contact” rule, and ABA Model Rule 4.3, "Dealing with Unrepresented Person," when communicating with a person who is receiving or has received limited-scope representation under ABA Model Rule 1.2, "Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer." The opinion also provides recommendations for lawyers providing limited-scope representation.

read more »

LAET Names Sheri Fox as Executive Director

Sheri A. Fox has been named executive director of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET), the firm’s board of directors announced today. Fox replaces David R. Yoder, who retires Dec. 31. A long-time volunteer with LAET’s Pro Bono Project in Chattanooga, Fox has been recognized as an Attorney for Justice by the Tennessee Supreme Court. She previously worked in the Chattanooga office of Baker Donelson. “One of the primary reasons I joined Baker Donelson over 14 years ago was because of the firm’s demonstrated commitment to access to justice,” Fox said. “Given that commitment, it is not at all surprising that my Baker Donelson family ‘raised’ a lawyer who would one day take the helm of LAET."

read more »

Report: Campbell County Judge Charging for Unused Defense Services

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons is charging people a fee for court-appointed counsel even if they do not use the service. Sammons said that in each incident, the families initially asked for court-appointed counsel before choosing to hire private lawyers. “The AOC fusses at us if we do not collect that fee. In order for the indigent defense [system] to work statewide, that fee must be paid,” Sammons said. But others say that the law establishing the fee as well as court rules provide a mechanism to waive the fee.

read more »