TBA Announces Statewide Civility Initiative

Programs across Tennessee will explore balancing civility and free expression in three segments of society: the public square, the courts and government

NASHVILLE, Aug. 31, 2012 -- Can civility co-exist with free speech in today's world? That's just one topic that will be explored in a series of public conversations presented across the state this fall by the Tennessee Bar Association.

The initiative is designed to encourage a public conversation about the tensions between civility and free speech, the state of our public square and the challenges of maintaining civil discourse in a democracy. "We cannot preserve our democracy without finding the right balance between free speech and civility," TBA President Jacqueline B. Dixon said in announcing the initiative. "The TBA is pleased to be a part of such an important project."

The TBA's "Balancing Civility and Free Expression Initiative" will involve three public forums -- one in Memphis, one in Nashville and one in Knoxville. Each forum will focus on a particular topic, feature a panel of experts who will present real-life scenarios that raise civility and free speech issues, and conclude with a question and answer session with the audience. The forums are free and open to the public.

The series will kick off in Memphis on Sept. 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. This program, sponsored by the TBA and the law school, will focus on civility in the public square, where policy debates -- especially those with cross-cultural implications -- can quickly become contentious. It will use the current effort to consolidate city and county schools in Memphis as a case study in how to bring civility into a divisive debate. Three members of the Transition Planning Commission -- the body responsible for overseeing the consolidation -- will serve as the program panelists.

The second forum, set for Nashville on Oct. 16, will focus on civility in interacting with the courts, as well as in discussing issues affecting the access to and delivery of justice. It is being sponsored by the TBA, the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University. The event will be held at Lipscomb's Ezell Center. Following the program, attendees are invited to stay and watch the presidential debate scheduled for that night.

The final forum, scheduled in Knoxville on Feb. 21, 2013, will focus on civility and effective governance, using the model emulated by former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to Japan Howard H. Baker Jr. The event is being sponsored by the TBA and the University of Tennessee. It will be held at the university's Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

PROGRAM PARTNERS

The Balancing Civility and Free Expression Initiative is designed to encourage a public conversation about the tensions between civility and free speech, the state of our public square and the challenges of maintaining civil discourse in a democracy. The program is part of Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy -- A National Dialogue, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and conducted in partnership with the American Bar Association Division for Public Education.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association or any of their program partners.

Program partners in Tennessee include the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; Lipscomb University Institute for Law, Justice & Society; University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law; Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee; and the University of Tennessee College of Law.

American Bar Association -- With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association (ABA) is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. The mission of its Division for Public Education is to educate the public about law and its role in society. Learn more about the Division for Public Education's Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy program.

National Endowment for the Humanities -- Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy -- A National Dialogue is funded by the NEH under the Bridging Cultures Initiative.

The First Amendment Center -- The First Amendment Center supports the First Amendment and build understanding of its core freedoms through education, information and entertainment. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government. Founded by John Seigenthaler, the First Amendment Center is an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute. The center has offices in the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The center's programs, including the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, provide education and information to the public and groups including First Amendment scholars and experts, educators, government policy makers, legal experts and students. The center is nonpartisan and does not lobby, litigate or provide legal advice. The center's website is one of the most authoritative sources of news, information and commentary in the nation on First Amendment issues. It features daily updates on news about First Amendment-related developments, as well as detailed reports about U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the First Amendment, and commentary, analysis and special reports on free expression, press freedom and religious-liberty issues.

Lipscomb University Institute for Law, Justice & Society -- The Institute for Law, Justice & Society (LJS)administers an undergraduate academic program related to law and legal institutions, promotes dialogue related to the legal community, and offers programs of interest to the community at large. The main purposes of the institute are to be a national leader in multidisciplinary undergraduate legal education; to serve the community by providing timely and thoughtful dialogue on contemporary social and legal issues; to assist globally on issues related to law, justice and society, such as providing rule of law training in countries with developing democracies; and to train K-12 students on the American legal system and inspire good citizenship. The mission of the institute's undergraduate education program is to provide an integrated, multidisciplinary learning environment that will develop practical liberal arts knowledge of the many areas of influence the American legal system has on society, within the context of ethics and Judeo-Christian values.

University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law -- The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, which first held classes in 1962 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, prepares graduates for private practice and public service. The school is located in the former U.S. Customs House in downtown Memphis, near the city's judicial and legal community and was ranked by preLaw magazine as a best value law school, based on three criteria: low tuition, the high percentage of graduates passing the Tennessee bar exam, and the success of graduates in finding employment. The school is accredited by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, the official accrediting agency for legal education, and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, the society for legal education in the United States. Graduates of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law include judges, other public servants, and leading practitioners in the Mid-South and throughout the nation.

University of Tennessee Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy -- The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan institute devoted to education and research concerning public policy and civic engagement. Through classes, public lectures, research, and student initiatives, the center aims to provide policy makers, citizens, scholars, and students with the information and skills necessary to work effectively within our political system and to serve our local, state, national, and global communities.

University of Tennessee College of Law -- The University of Tennessee College of Law, located in Knoxville, enjoys a rich tradition of providing sound legal education. Founded in 1890, the college prepares tomorrow's lawyers through clinical and skills training, innovative classroom teaching, legal writing and professional values. The college has the longest continuously operating legal clinic in the country. The UT College of Law is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools. Its clinical training program is ranked 11th nationally and its legal writing program is ranked eighth among public universities by U.S. News and World Report.


The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with more than 11,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The TBA’s dedication to serving the state’s legal community is evidenced by its membership roll, which represents the entire spectrum of legal practice: plaintiff and defense lawyers, corporate counsel, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and legal services attorneys.

For More Information

Stacey Shrader Joslin
Tennessee Bar Association
(615)277-3218
221 Fourth Ave. N., Suite 400
Nashville, TN 37219

Additional Information

Event Details:

Memphis, Sept. 18, 2012
7-8:30 p.m.
University of Memphis
Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
Wade Auditorium
Read the TBA's press release
See photos from the event

Nashville, Oct. 16, 2012
6-7:30 p.m. Civility Program
8-9:30 p.m. Presidential Debate
Lipscomb University Ezell Center
Read the TBA's press release
See photos from the event

Knoxville, Feb. 21, 2013
5:30-7 p.m.
University of Tennessee
Howard H. Baker Jr. Center
for Public Policy
Toyota Auditorium
Read the TBA's press release
Download a flyer about the event
See photos from the event

TBA Civility Initiative: