Statewide Civility Initiative Will Encourage Conversations - Articles

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Posted by: Journal News on Oct 1, 2012

Journal Issue Date: Oct 2012

Journal Name: October 2012 - Vol. 48, No. 10

The Balance Between Free Speech and Civility

An initiative begins this fall 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,” Tennessee Bar Association President Jacqueline B. Dixon said in announcing the initiative.

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. The TBA’s initiative involves three public forums, which will each 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 series began in September at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. That program focused on civility in the public square, where policy debates — especially those with cross-cultural implications — can quickly become contentious.

On Oct. 16, the program is in Nashville, focusing on civility when interacting with the courts, as well as in discussing issues affecting the access to and delivery of justice. It is sponsored by the TBA, the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University. The event will be held at Lipscomb’s Ezell Center.

The final forum, scheduled for 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 and will be held at the university’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

The forums are free and open to the public. Learn more at


Wade Is New Chief Justice
Tennessee Supreme Court Sharon G. Lee administered the oath of office to the court’s new chief justice, Gary R. Wade on Sept. 1 at the Sevier County Courthouse. He was praised for his service as an attorney, mayor of Sevierville, judge and since 2006 a justice of the Supreme Court. In an interview, Wade said that becoming chief justice was not a primary aspiration in his early career. “My first objective,” he said, "was to complete law school. Then pass the bar. Then to make sure there was nothing in my past to disqualify me from becoming a notary public. What came after that was the cherry on top.”

Survey:?Pro Se Litigants More Likely to Lose
An American Bar Association survey said 75 percent of lawyers believe that people who represent themselves are more likely to lose their cases. “Courthouses are being filled with people just showing up, trying to figure out what their rights are,” said Legal Services Corp. Chair John Levi. “If you're a low-income person and you have a legal need, it is not easy to get it addressed.” Legal Services funds 135 legal aid groups across the country and serves about 900,000 clients a year, but it has to turn away about the same number of people because of too few staff.

President #43 or 44? Impress Your Friends with This Trivia
Although the article “Hail to the Chief” (August 2012 Tennessee Bar Journal) stated correctly that the “nation now has had 43 presidents, [but] has had only 17 chief justices.” that led to some confusion. Of course Barack Obama is our 44th president, but did you know he is the 43rd person to be president?  That’s right. President Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms and threw the numbering off.

Griswold, Shelat Join TBJ Editorial Board
The Tennessee Bar Journal has two new members: Knoxville lawyer J. Scott Griswold and Memphis lawyer Kavita Goswamy Shelat. 

After graduation from the University of Tennessee College of Law, Griswold clerked for Chief Justice William M. Barker of the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 2008 he joined Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers LLP.

In 2010, the Tennessee Bar Association awarded him the Harris A. Gilbert Volunteer Attorney of the Year Award.

Shelat graduated in 2010 from the University of Texas School of Law and received her bachelor of arts from the University of California at Berkeley. She is an associate with the Memphis office of Baker Donelson Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC.

Griswold and Shelat fill the spots vacated by Jackson lawyer Jonathan Steen and Nashville Administrative Law Judge Mattielyn Williams. Steen stepped down when he became vice president of the TBA, and Williams left at the end of her term so that she could serve on the association’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

Law School Demand Down, Price Keeps Going Up
The number of applicants to U.S. law schools declined drastically during the past two years, yet the average tuition this fall will climb by more than double the rate of inflation, the National Law Journal reports. Average tuition and fees at private law schools will increase approximately 4 percent over last year to $40,585, according to an examination of published rates by the publication. That's the first time private-school rates have crossed the $40,000 threshold. In-state resident students at public law schools will see a 6-percent increase on average, to approximately $23,590, the report says. In-state tuition at public law schools will remain lower than at private institutions but on average has been increasing at a faster clip for decades. It grew by 10 percent in both 2009 and 2010 and by another 9 percent last year. This year’s increase will be the lowest since 2000.

Belmont Moves Home
Belmont University opened its new Randall and Sadie Baskin Center in a ribbon-cutting celebration Aug. 21 attended by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and many of the donors who helped finance the 75,000-square-foot building that houses Belmont University’s College of Law. The center contains more than a dozen classrooms, a trial courtroom, an appellate courtroom, a two-story law library and more than 20 faculty offices. Belmont is seeking LEED certification for the building, which also uses a geo-thermal system to provide heating and cooling. The new law school welcomed its second class this fall, and is in the process of seeking American Bar Association accreditation.

Accreditation Worries, Graduation on Mind of LMU Students
Eight months after its accreditation denial and subsequent federal lawsuit, students and administrators at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law have returned to the Knoxville campus for the new school year. In the spring, the school will graduate about 90 students, who will be eligible to sit for the Tennessee bar exam. The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners granted the school an extension of its provisional state approval, giving it until 2017 to earn ABA accreditation.

“It reaffirmed our thoughts, and we're proud of this program,” Dean Sydney Beckman said. “Our challenges with the ABA have given a misperception that maybe it’s not a strong program — but it is a strong program, and nothing the ABA has said has challenged the program's legal education.”

Event Will Preview Judiciary Museum, Constitutions
The Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society will host a cocktail reception Dec. 4 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Supreme Court building in Nashville. At the celebration, attendees will be given an exclusive preview of the new Tennessee Judiciary Museum and will see the original 1796, 1835 and 1870 constitutions of Tennessee. Tickets are $100 per person, although the event is limited to 250 people, and can be purchased by contacting Joy Day at 615-771-5008 or at

Public Policy Added to UT Master's Degree
The University of Tennessee this fall began offering a new master of public policy and administration through a partnership between the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the College of Arts and Science’s political science department. The new degree replaces the existing master of public administration degree that has been offered for more than 40 years. The degree will “equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to be effective managers, responsible executives and ethical public servants,” program director Professor David Folz said.

LAWPAC Makes Initial Contributions for Fall Campaign
LAWPAC — the state legislative, independent, multi-candidate, political campaign committee for Tennessee lawyers — this fall contributed in 15 fall legislative races. In 10 of the 15 races, the candidates receiving contributions are lawyers. The group also made donations where candidates are law students, serve as key legislative committee officers, have relatives who are lawyers, or take into account the views of lawyers on critical issues.

See the full list of candidates supported by LAWPAC this fall at