News

Commission on Civil Rights Concerned with Proposed Budget Cuts

The bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has launched an investigation into Trump Administration proposals to cut funding and staff from civil rights programs. The commission expressed concern that the administration’s proposed budget cuts “would result in a dangerous reduction of civil rights enforcement across the country.” The proposal to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the major funding source for local legal aid agencies across the country, is one of the specific cuts to be considered in the two-year investigation. Learn more about the bar’s support for LSC on the TBA website.

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TALS Access to Justice Awards Nominations Due Friday

The deadline to submit nominations for the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services’ (TALS) three annual Access to Justice Awards is this Friday. The awards will be presented at the Equal Justice University Conference. The Janice M. Holder Award recognizes a professional in private practice, corporate counsel, a public servant or other social service advocate who has advanced the quality of justice statewide by ensuring the legal system is open and available to all, the B. Riney Green Award recognizes someone who promotes inter-program cooperation across the state, and the New Advocate of the Year Award acknowledges someone who has been with their legal services program for five years or less.

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Memphis Lawyer’s Nonprofit Featured in Vogue

Former Shelby County juvenile court judicial magistrate Claudia Haltom’s A Step Ahead Foundation was among several women’s health organizations profiled in Vogue magazine this month. Haltom’s group was hailed as “innovative” for its work helping women in need. The organization even provides free rides to those it serves so they can obtain health services.
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CASA Monroe to Host 5th Annual Balloon Fiesta Benefit

CASA Monroe will host the 5th Annual Muscadine Balloon Fiesta benefit at Tsali Notch Vineyard. The event will feature balloon rides, live music, food, games and more and all proceeds will support the organization. The two-day Fiesta runs on Sept. 2 and 3, from 2 to 10 p.m. at 140 Harrison Road, Madisonville. VIP packages are available. Tickets can be found at the Muscadine Festival website.
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Volunteers Needed for Veterans’ Legal Clinic in Memphis

The next Memphis Veterans’ Legal Clinic will take place tomorrow (Tuesday) from noon to 2 p.m. at 1407 Union Ave, 11th Floor. Volunteers are needed to assist, especially those with expertise in criminal defense, family law and employment law. Those with questions or who would be able to volunteer should contact Jake Dickerson at (901) 577-8236 or jdickerson@bakerdonelson.com.
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Volunteers Needed for Lipscomb Legal Clinic Next Week

A free legal advice clinic, hosted by the Lipscomb University Institute for Law, Justice and Society, will be held at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville on June 20 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This will be an advice-only clinic and informational materials with frequently asked questions will be provided. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Randy Spivey at Lipscomb at (615) 966-2503 or randy.spivey@lipscomb.edu.
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Attorney General Ends Practice of Donating Settlement Money to Third Parties

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo on Tuesday telling Department of Justice lawyers to stop directing settlement funds to nongovernmental organizations unaffiliated with the cases, the ABA Journal reports. The practice, popularized during the Obama administration, was especially common in settlements with mortgage lenders accused of wrongdoing during the financial crisis of 2008. That money was often directed to community groups, including legal aid organizations. The new policy forbids these settlements unless the funds go directly to remedy direct harm from the wrongdoing; all other funds will go to the U.S. Treasury. 
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LAET to Host 3 Legal Clinics for Seniors Thanks to Grant

Legal Aid of East Tennessee will host three legal clinics for seniors in Knoxville this month, thanks to the “Serving Seniors” grant and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The first clinic will be held June 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Frank Strange Senior Center in Lovell Heights, the second will be on the same day from 10 a.m. to noon at the Corryton Senior Center, and the third will be on June 15 at 1 p.m. at the South Knoxville Senior Center. Each session will continue until everyone present has been served, and no appointment is necessary. The grant is being administered by the Community Foundation through the settlement of a lawsuit against SeniorTrust and ElderTrust.
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Legal Aid Attorney Elected to Chair Domestic Violence Council

Deborah Yeomans-Barton, Managing Attorney for Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s Johnson City office, has been elected to chair the Tennessee Domestic Violence State Coordinating Council (DVSCC). Her one-year term begins on July 1, 2017. Yeomans-Barton has served on the Council for five years and is the appointed representative for legal aid service providers across the state. The DVSCC was established through legislation in 1995, and works to develop model policies and training curricula for law enforcement agencies, the courts, and batterers’ intervention programs. Yeomans-Barton also serves on the TBA Board of Governors.
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TALS Now Accepting Nominations for Access to Justice Awards

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) is now accepting nominations for its three annual Access to Justice Awards, which will be presented at the Equal Justice University Conference. The Janice M. Holder Award recognizes a professional in private practice, corporate counsel, a public servant or other social service advocate, the B. Riney Green Award recognizes someone who promotes inter-program cooperation across the state, and the New Advocate of the Year Award acknowledges someone who has been with their legal services program for five years or less. Nominations and any supporting documents must be submitted to TALS by June 23.
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Haslam Signs Law to Cheapen Price Tag of Expungements

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law legislation that will lessen the costs of expunging criminal conviction records, NewsChannel 5 reports. Effective immediately, the cost of expunging records will be $270, down from $450. The law was backed by a bipartisan coalition and was sponsored in the state legislature by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville. 
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Court Orders Minor Modifications to Certain Divorce Forms

The Tennessee Supreme Court has approved minor modifications to the plain language forms for uncontested divorces with no minor children, as recommended by the Access to Justice Commission. These changes were necessary to ensure that the plain language forms adopted in 2011 for uncontested divorces with no minor children are consistent with the same forms that were adopted in 2016 for uncontested divorces with minor children, according to the court documents. The order as well as the changes can be found here.
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Former TBA President Reflects on Fight to Take Public Defender Office Statewide

Former TBA President Landis Turner writes to The Tennessean about the hard work of extending public defender offices statewide. Prior to 1989, public defenders were only found in the four big cities, and young lawyers and solo practitioners in rural areas suffered because of it. Turner worked alongside TBA lobbyist John Lyell, Gov. Ned McWherter and then-Rep. Bill Purcell, a former public defender who would go on to serve as mayor of Nashville.
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LAET to Host ‘Pro Bono Night’ in Chattanooga

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) will host its annual Pro Bono Night event on June 9 in Chattanooga. The program will be held at 2 on the Roof, 313 Manufacturers Road, starting at 5:30 p.m., and will feature a live band, open bar and silent auction. Tickets are $35 each and are available on the LAET website.
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Columnist Examines Indigent Representation Report

In a new piece published in The Tennessean, columnist Keel Hunt examines the Indigent Representation Task Force’s report released earlier this year, and highlights the paramount importance of a working justice system, the struggles public defenders face and the necessity of every person having access to a skilled lawyer. Former Tennessee Supreme Court justice and current Dean of Nashville School of Law William C. Koch, the task force’s chair, elaborated: “Fundamental fairness says that everybody stands on the same floor and no one has an advantage over anyone else.” 
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Trump Budget Eliminates LSC, Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The White House today released its first full budget proposal, maintaining overall spending levels, but cutting many domestic programs that provide legal and social services. In response to the budget, which proposes elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), American Bar Association President Linda Klein said the cuts would “severely undermine the fairness of the legal system and deny access to justice for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals.” The budget also proposes to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which Klein said means fewer law school graduates will be “able to dedicate their lives to public service as prosecutors, public defenders, legal aid lawyers and other justice related fields, especially in underserved rural areas.” Lawyers and legal groups across the country are speaking out against the cuts. The Knoxville Bar Association is among the most recent, adopting a resolution last week.

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U.S. Judge Blocks DOJ Move Against Immigration Legal Aid

After the Justice Department attempted to stop a nonprofit from advising immigrants who cannot afford a lawyer, a federal judge granted the organization a temporary restraining order and issued an order to stop the department from taking similar actions against legal nonprofits, Reuters reports. The government had told the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project of Washington state that it could not advise people in immigration court without formally representing them. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones’ order prevents the department from enforcing the rule against legal nonprofits.
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Sentenced to Debt: When You Can't Pay Your Fines

In the current issue of the Journal, Nashville lawyer Vidhi S. Joshi looks into what happens within the criminal justice system in Tennessee when a person cannot pay their fines. Read the feature “Sentenced to Debt.” Columns this month include "Redefining Relocation," by Marlene Moses and Benjamin Russ; John Day writing about "Mothers, Minors and Medical Bills"; and Bill Haltom following the saga of where the bodies of President and Mrs. James K. Polk will land for eternity.

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Program Will Train Attorneys to Represent TennCare Enrollees

A free program in Chattanooga will train pro bono attorneys to represent TennCare enrollees in enrollment and medical service appeals and contested case hearings. The program, called “Making a Difference for Families in Need,” will be led by Chris Coleman, a staff attorney with the Tennessee Justice Center. It will be held May 18 from noon to 1 p.m. at 832 Georgia Ave #1200, Chattanooga, 37402. Find more information and register here.
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Klein Testifies in Congress to Support LSC Funding

ABA President Lina Klein testified in the U.S. House of Representatives last week on the importance of funding the Legal Services Corporation, the nonprofit that supports legal aid offices across the county, the ABA Journal reports. President Donald Trump’s budget proposed eliminating all funding for LSC. “Funding for equal justice under federal law is a federal duty,” Klein said. “To strengthen legal aid is to strengthen the rule of law.”
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May 'Journal' Now Available Online

“The withdrawal of the Legal Services Corporation funding would be a crippling blow to our access to justice community at a time when need for their services has never been greater,” writes TBA President Jason Long in the June Tennessee Bar Journal. Long speaks out for the LSC in the face of a proposed budget that would obliterate it, asking lawyers to contact their representatives. Also read about how more than 300 years ago when pirates terrorized the Caribbean it appeared to be a free-for-all on the high seas. But there was a certain form of democracy being carried out among them, as the pirates operated their own form of the Rule of Law. It's detailed in this month’s Journal.

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Many Pledge to 'Stand Against Racism' at YWCA Event

Several hundred people gathered in Nashville's Public Square Park today for the YWCA's annual Stand Against Racism event. The programming was led by Mayor Megan Barry and featured several lawyers and others speaking on the theme "Women of Color Leading Change." Among the speakers were Ana Escobar, with the Davidson County District Attorney General's Office; civil rights attorney Abby Rubenfeld; and Sharon Roberson, president and CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. Melody Fowler-Green, with the Metro Human Relations Commission, and Beverly Watts, who serves on the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commisson, led the crowd in committing to the pledge. See photos from the event.

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Knoxville Judges Will ‘Serve Justice’ at LAET Event

To celebrate its new Knoxville location, Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) will host a event in which local judges will serve the food and drinks called “Serving Justice.” The evening will include a short program and feature Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Lincoln Memorial University President Dr. B. James Dawson, LMU Duncan School of Law Dean Justice Gary R. Wade and LAET executives. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. on May 2 at the Star Building, 607 West Summit Hill Drive.
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Attorneys Needed for Truancy Intervention Program

Attorneys are needed to represent students in the Connecting Attendance to Results in Education (CARE), a community-based truancy intervention program created by Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Metro Student Attendance Center and Advocates for Women’s and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE). A training session, which is required in order to represent a student, will be held at Waller, 511 Union Street in Nashville, on May 2 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. The program will train attorneys about truancy laws, the truancy adjudication process, the structure of the CARE program and the boundaries of the attorney-client (student) relationship. Register at the Nashville Bar website.
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Attorneys Needed for Truancy Intervention Program

Attorneys are needed to represent students in the Connecting Attendance to Results in Education (CARE), a community-based truancy intervention program created by Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Metro Student Attendance Center and Advocates for Women’s and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE). A training session, which is required in order to represent a student, will be held at Waller, 511 Union Street in Nashville, on May 2 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. The program will train attorneys about truancy laws, the truancy adjudication process, the structure of the CARE program and the boundaries of the attorney-client (student) relationship. Register at the Nashville Bar website.
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