News

Haslam Asks for Fire Disaster Designation

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today requested a presidential disaster declaration in the wake of the Gatlinburg wildfires, a blaze that left at least 14 people dead, hundreds of buildings destroyed and thousands of acres of forest scorched. Haslam sent the request for Coffee, McMinn, Polk, Sequatchie and Sevier counties , the Tennessean reports. “My goal is to help ensure these counties have what they need to rebuild and recover from these heartbreaking disasters,” Haslam said in a release. Earlier today, Knoxnews reported that teenagers playing with matches likely started the fires. The boys, ages 17 and 15, were charged this week in Sevier County Juvenile Court with aggravated arson. In related news, New Channel 5 reported this afternoon that downtown Gatlinburg has re-opened to the public. Read about the legal community's response to get or give legal help.

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Legal Aid Honors Tri-City, Knoxville Lawyers

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) held its annual Celebrate Pro Bono Dinner this week in Johnson City. The event honored Tri-City lawyers who volunteered for the group’s Pro Bono Project. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins was on hand for the recognitions. Access to Justice Awards were given to Curt Collins, Mike Forrester, Suzanne Queen and Tony Seaton. Outstanding Service Awards went to Art Fowler III, Adam Kneisley, Rachel Mancl, Dave Robbins, Bart Rowlett, Mark Skelton and Aleania Smith. Karen Boyd was recognized with a special Above & Beyond Award for her work with pro se divorce clinics in the Tri Cities. Several weeks ago, LAET recognized Knoxville lawyers Tom Hale and Betsy Beck at a National Philanthropy Day Celebration in Knoxville. The pair were honored for their service to the community and their longstanding support for LAET.

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Legal Clinic Friday for Wildfire Survivors

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and the Sevier County Bar Association will offer a free legal advice clinic for wildfire survivors this Friday. The clinic will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. at 124 Court Ave. in Sevierville. Please help spread the word about this opportunity. Volunteers are already committed to covering this clinic, but attorneys will be needed to staff other clinics in the weeks to come. For more information contact LAET’s Knoxville Pro Bono Director Kathryn Ellis, 865-637-0484.

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Opinion: Technology Can Narrow the Justice Gap

Lawyer and journalist Robert Ambrogi writes in Above the Law that technology has become a powerful tool for enhancing access to justice. While he cites a number of government studies that show this to be the case, he primarily writes about real-world applications that are being created by legal aid groups across the country. Through special grants from the Legal Services Corporation, local agencies have created a number of online and mobile services to connect lawyers with remote clients, provide free legal resources to at-risk population groups and promote pro bono work. LSC recently announced the latest round of technology grants with $4.2 million going to 27 legal services organizations. Ambrogi looks at several of the projects that received funding.

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Criminal Justice Reform Group Hosts Event

The Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice will host “Stopping the Revolving Door: A Conversation on Safety, Savings and Our Criminal Justice System” on Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in West Knoxville. Jack McElroy, editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel, will moderate the discussion, which will focus on problems with the current criminal justice system and strategies for change. Panelists will include Lindsay M. Boyd, director of policy for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and Thomas H. Castelli, legal director for the ACLU of Tennessee. The event is free and open to the public.

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Public Defender Sought for 24th Judicial District

Twenty-fourth Judicial District Public Defender Guy Wilkinson is retiring on Dec. 31. To fill the vacancy, the state is seeking applicants to serve until the next biennial election in 2018. Applicants must have an active Tennessee law license, have lived in the state for five years and have lived in the district for one year. Interested individuals should submit a resume and cover letter to Counsel to the Governor Dwight Tarwater at State Capitol, 1st Floor, 600 Charlotte Ave., Nashville, TN 37243 or by email to dwight.tarwater@tn.gov by 5 p.m. CST on Dec. 30. Read the job announcement. The 24th District serves Decatur, Henry, Carroll, Benton and Hardin counties.

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Legal Aid Names 2016 Volunteer of the Year

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will name Butler Snow attorney James A. Beakes III as its 2016 Volunteer of the Year at the Nashville Bar Association’s Annual Meeting next week. Beakes was selected for the honor based on his work organizing and promoting a weekly virtual clinic that provides legal services to those in rural communities in Williamson, Hickman, Cheatham and Dickson counties. At the firm, Beakes handles general litigation, trucking litigation and appellate advocacy. Read more from the firm.

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Lawyers Respond, More Needed to Help Wildfire Victims

Attorneys from across the state are stepping up to volunteer to assist victims of the wildfire disasters in Gatlinburg and Sevier County. Many are responding to the call for pro bono legal assistance, both for local clinics and remote support. However, it is anticipated that more volunteers will be needed over the coming weeks and months to assist with legal needs resulting from the fires. Attorneys who want to help can access training resources and other materials on the TBA's Disaster Legal Assistance page. Legal clinics and outreach related to losses from the fires are being scheduled and volunteers will be needed. For more information or to volunteer in the area, contact Kathryn Ellis at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Those who are not in the area but still want to help can volunteer to answer online questions at TN Free Legal Answers or respond to calls on the HELP4TN helpline. To volunteer, complete the Disaster Legal Assistance Volunteer Form.

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Expungement Clinic Planned for Memphis

Building on the success of expungement clinics in Nashville, Memphis lawyers Amber Floyd and Dean DeCandia are organizing an expungement clinic and resource fair in their city on Dec. 10. The clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church, 3900 Tchulahoma Rd. Representatives from the General Sessions Criminal Court and clerk’s office will be on hand to facilitate the process. Volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students are needed to assist clients with paperwork. Those interested in volunteering are invited to a training session on Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the church. For more information contact Floyd, 901-537-1054, or DeCandia, 901-378-0203.

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TBA Activates Disaster Legal Assistance for Wildfires

In response to the wildfire disasters in Gatlinburg and Sevier County, the TBA is partnering with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and the Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission to help those affected with their legal needs. Attorneys who want to help can access training resources and other materials on the TBA's Disaster Legal Assistance page. Legal clinics and outreach related to losses from the fires are anticipated and volunteers will be needed. For more information or to volunteer in the area, contact Kathryn Ellis at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Those who are not in the area but still want to help can volunteer to answer online questions at TN Free Legal Answers or respond to calls on the HELP4TN helpline. The TBA's Young Lawyers Division Disaster Relief Committee has also been activated and will be assisting with volunteer recruitment and coordination efforts. To volunteer, complete the Disaster Legal Assistance Volunteer Form. If you know someone in need of legal assistance, please have them call the legal helpline at 844-HELP4TN, or visit help4tn.org.

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Chattanooga Hosts Drug Court Conference

The city of Chattanooga will host the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals conference Dec. 7-9 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. A highlight of this year’s conference will be an art exhibit featuring works by recovering addicts and staff members, according to Kevin Batts, president of the association. The keynote address will be given by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark, a strong supporter of the Drug Court model. The new commissioner of mental health also will speak at the event, Chattanoogan.com reports.

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Group Seeks Immigration Lawyer in Memphis

The Community Legal Center (CLC) in Memphis is seeking a Joint Immigration Pro Bono Coordinator with at least three years of experience as a practicing attorney and at least two years working in the field of immigration. The attorney will work with Memphis-area nonprofit immigration legal service providers (including the CLC, Latino Memphis and Mid-South Immigration Advocates) in recruiting, training, mentoring and supervising volunteer attorneys handling immigration cases in Tennessee, Arkansas and North Mississippi. For additional details and information on applying see the group's JobLink listing.

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AOC Seeks Pro Bono Coordinator

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is seeking a pro bono coordinator to work with its Access to Justice Commission. The coordinator’s main job will be to cultivate and monitor new pro bono initiatives, especially in parts of the state where specific segments of the population have legal needs that are not being met. The position is funded by a grant through June 30, 2018. Applicants should have a law degree or be in their final semester of law school and be able to pass a criminal background check. To apply, submit a resume and three professional references in PDF format to human.resources@tncourts.gov by Nov. 28.

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Saturday Bar Scheduled for 1st Apostolic Church

An upcoming item in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today contained incorrect information about the location of Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s Saturday Bar on Dec. 3. The clinic will be held at First Apostolic Church, 5020 Pleasant Ridge Rd. in Knoxville in conjunction with a Faith & Justice Legal Advice Clinic.

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Faith & Justice Clinic Coming Next Month

A Faith & Justice Legal Advice Clinic will be held Dec. 3 at First Apostolic Church, 5020 Pleasant Ridge Rd. in Knoxville, in conjunction with Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s regular Saturday Bar Clinic. As part of the initiative, the Saturday Bar will move to First Apostolic Church that day. The goal of the Faith & Justice Clinic is to provide community-based locations that are not as intimidating as law firms or other corporate settings for people who need the services of an attorney. For more information or to volunteer contact Kathryn Ellis, 865-637-0484; Bill Coley, 865-292-2307; or Ian Hennessey, 865-637-0203.

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Lipscomb Renames Institute to Honor Fred Gray

Lipscomb University celebrated the renaming of its Institute for Law, Justice & Society in honor of civil rights attorney Fred Gray at a gala dinner Saturday in Nashville. Gray argued and won landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court four times before he was 30 and represented clients like Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr. and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Among those reflecting on Gray's legacy at the event were Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins, Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, Meharry Medical College President James E.K. Hildreth and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. See photos from the event.

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Opinion: Time to Shed Light on Elder Abuse

It is time to address issues of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation that have largely gone unnoticed and unaddressed, writes Matthew H. Schwimmer in the Jackson Sun. A 2016 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law and an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Elder Justice Fellow with West Tennessee Legal Services, Schwimmer calls on Tennesseans to educate themselves, get involved in older Americans’ lives and, if they become aware of abuse, contact their local legal services organization.

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Nashville Expungement Clinic Scheduled for Saturday

The Music City Community Court Expungement Clinic and Indigency Docket has seen a tremendous community response in Nashville as hundreds of people have obtained non-conviction expungements and important information regarding conviction expungements. The next clinic is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club, 916 16th Ave. S. Those interested in volunteering should contact Amber Floyd, 901-537-1054.

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Opinion: Homeless Vets Lack Access to Justice

Gary Housepian with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands writes in today’s Tennessean that there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in America and another 1.4 million at risk of homelessness. This fact, he suggests, complicates efforts to provide legal services to veterans, who often need help with eviction and foreclosure, outstanding warrants and fines and child support issues. Housepian calls on his fellow lawyers to provide critical civil legal services and urges veterans to reach out for help.

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Voters in 3 States Back Capital Punishment

Voters in three states on Tuesday passed ballot initiatives supporting capital punishment. In California, voters rejected a measure to repeal the death penalty and passed a measure that seeks to speed up the appeal process. In Nebraska, voters restored the death penalty after lawmakers repealed it last year. And in Oklahoma, voters passed a constitutional amendment stating that the death penalty does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Link to news stories about each of these measures from the ABA Journal.

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Hawkins Judge Honors Veterans Mentor

Hawkins County’s first nationally certified “Justice for Vets” mentor, Ron W. Light, was honored by General Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross during a ceremony Wednesday, the Times News reports. Light, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, has a long history of assisting veterans with service-related issues. Most recently he helped implement a Veterans Mentor Program in Hawkins County Sessions Court, and as a volunteer with the program he will help veterans get needed treatment and benefits and coordinate with other judicial entities such as the Community Justice Program and probation services on their behalf.

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Thank Veterans by Helping Them Access Needed Services

"We are allowed to stand on the shoulders of others who gave their time, effort and often their lives to ensure our democracy and the Rule of Law," writes Tennessee Bar Association President Jason Long about veterans. On this Veterans Day, Long urges lawyers to give back to those who have served our country but are unable to access help. "From obtaining needed benefits, to housing, to health care, to a whole host of other issues, veterans need guidance and sometimes patience in navigating what can be a complex administrative and legal system to get the services they need and to which they are entitled. This is where lawyers can begin to repay." He encourages lawyers to help with legal clinics, especially those specifically for veterans, to say thank you by using "skills and talents as lawyers to assist those who have done the heavy lifting for us." Legal organizations in Knox County have partnered on a standing Veterans Legal Advice Clinic. The next clinic is set for Nov. 30 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, 1101 Liberty St., Knoxville 37912. Volunteers are always needed. Read Long's column in the Tennessee Bar Journal.

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Veterans Treatment Court Hosts Fall Festival

Veterans and their families celebrated the fall season with the Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court at the end of October. The event was designed to forge positive relationships between program participants and their families, alumni of the program, mentors and court staff. “We get to know our participants that we see regularly, sadly we don’t build the same connection with their families,” Judge Kenneth Goble told the Leaf Chronicle. The group’s next event will be a graduation ceremony Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. at the county courthouse.

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Court Honors Middle Tennessee Attorneys, Law Students

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently recognized Middle Tennessee attorneys who performed more than 50 hours of pro bono service in 2015, earning each the designation “Attorney for Justice.” The court also recognized recent law graduates who performed 50 or more hours of service during their law school career as “Law Students for Justice.” One area firm, Dodson, Parker, Behm & Capparella, was honored for performing an average of 50 or more hours of pro bono service per attorney in 2015. Finally, the court presented certificates of appreciation to the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization for their support of access to justice initiatives. Honors were presented by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins and Justice Cornelia Clark. See photos from the event, which took place at the Belmont University College of Law.

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KBA Offers LawTalk Events This Weekend

The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) will offer its annual LawTalk sessions tomorrow and Saturday at two locations in Knoxville. On Friday, the sessions will be held at the O’Connor Senior Center, 611 Winona St. On Saturday, the presentations will take place at Fellowship Church, 8000 Middlebrook Pike. From 9 to 10:45 a.m. each day, lawyers will focus on wills and trusts, probate options and the importance of living wills and powers of attorney. Then from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., lawyers will discuss legal protections for the elderly, the disabled and their caregivers. The seminars are free and open to the public but registration is encouraged. Attendees can register for their preferred location at the links above. For more information call 865-522-6522.

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