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Posted by: Journal News on Apr 1, 2012

Journal Issue Date: Apr 2012

Journal Name: April 2012 - Vol. 48, No. 4

Judges, Attorneys Star in 'GAVELS' Program

A program that sends practicing and retired attorneys and judges into the community to speak to groups is getting some positive attention. The relatively new GAVELS program (Gaining Access to Valuable Education about the Legal System), created by the Tennessee Judicial Conference and Tennessee Bar Association, has already had many requests for speakers. "Folks don’t seem to have a good sense of how the justice system works," says TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur, "and we think that if anyone could explain it, judges and lawyers would be the obvious choice."
The Nashville Ledger has the details.

Study: Federal Sentences Vary Widely

A new study by the Associated Press shows that federal judges are handing out widely disparate sentences for similar crimes, 30 years after Congress tried to create more uniform outcomes with the Sentencing Reform Act. The law set up a commission that wrote guidelines for judges to follow as they punished convicts, with similar sentences for offenders with comparable criminal histories convicted of the same crimes. But the law's requirement that judges stick to these sentencing guidelines was struck down by the Supreme Court in has the AP story.

Deadline is April 13 for YLD Law Day Art & Essay Contest

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has announced the 2012 Law Day Art & Essay Contest, which gives elementary and high school students the opportunity to express their ideas about living in a society that is governed by the rule of law, and achieve statewide recognition for their work. The 2012 competition theme, "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom," asks students to consider the importance of the courts and their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans. The art contest is open to students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, while the essay contest is open to students in 9th through 12th grades. Submissions must be received by local contest coordinators by April 13. Learn more about the contest at

Watch Entries from TBA Video Contest

Middle and high school students from across the state submitted original videos exploring the constitutional right to freedom of communication in an annual contest sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association. Winners will be announced on Law Day, May 1. You can see the entries, now available online. First-prize winners from each age category will have their winning videos shown to leaders of the state’s legal community at the 2012 Tennessee Bar Association Convention on June 8 in Memphis.

Court Changes Rules for Convictions of Multiple Crimes

In three unanimous decisions issued March 9, the Tennessee Supreme Court significantly changed the tests and procedures for determining when multiple convictions are permissible under the state and federal constitutions. State v. Watkins and State v. Cross confronted the issue of whether multiple convictions under different statutes violate the state constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. In State v. White, the court announced changes in cases involving charges of kidnapping and an accompanying felony. The court concluded that a separate due process test is no longer necessary for determining whether convictions for kidnapping and an accompanying felony may be upheld. In today’s decision, the court set out temporary jury instructions and invited the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction Committee to develop permanent guidelines for future cases. The court also pointed out that its decision does not create a new rule of constitutional law and, therefore, does not require retroactive application. Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

New Video Added to TBA Network

The TBA’s All Access Video Network (TAAN) has a new professional development program available from Nashville attorney Rebecca McKelvey. The free program offers tips on marketing, referrals and more. It is part of a lineup that offers short videos in three major categories: professional development, advice for going solo, and basic information on practice areas. Most of the videos are five to 10 minutes long. See the full program lineup

KBA Launches Community Newsletter

The Knoxville Bar Association this week launched a new service for members of the public interested in lawyer referral services and public education programs. The newsletter will be published twice a year, in the spring and fall. The inaugural issue includes information on the KBA’s upcoming “Community Law School” – a series of free seminars on legal topics with a session on wills and estate planning; links to new resources for the public; and a warning against “do it yourself” legal forms. Learn more at

Commission Recommends 2 for Retention

The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission released its formal evaluations in March for Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Jeffrey S. Bivins and Roger A. Page, who stand for election in August. The commission unanimously voted to recommend both for retention. In addition to posting its recommendations online, the commission will publish its full report in Tennessee newspapers prior to the August election.

Requests to Expunge Criminal Records on the Rise

Tennessee has reported a 71 percent jump since 2007 in the number of people filing to have charges expunged. Davidson County has seen cases more than double in that same time frame. Officials say this rise is related to the economy -- as jobs become scarcer and employers are able to be pickier, people want their records cleaned up to help them in the job market. The Tennessean reports.

More Gains Made in Legal Jobs

Hiring in the legal industry rose for the second straight month in February, with 800 new jobs added, according to the preliminary employment report released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The AmLaw Daily has more.