TBA Supports Court's Action Making Basic Forms Available for Those Who Cannot Afford a Lawyer - Articles

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jul 27, 2011

Effort included work by several TBA entities

NASHVILLE, July 27, 2011 — Tennessee Bar Association President Danny Van Horn today applauded the Tennessee Supreme Court's adoption of new rules aimed at making access to the courts easier for Tennesseans who may not be able to afford an attorney.

 "It is a sad reality that many Tennesseans are forced to come to court in life altering matters without the assistance of counsel," Van Horn said, "so we applaud this latest effort to help clients and judges through the use of universal forms in certain well defined instances."

The rule allows the court to make certain forms -- and instructions on how to use them -- universally accepted in courts across Tennessee. The Court today also approved eight plain-language forms that can be used in uncontested divorces without minor or dependent children.

The forms adopted today were developed through the court's Access to Justice Commission with heavy involvement from the Tennessee Bar Association's Family Law Section, its House of Delegates and its Access to Justice Committee, which has been working on the issue since 2006.

"Clients and our system of justice are better served by the care, expertise and attention that only lawyers can bring to legal matters," TBA President Danny Van Horn said of the new rule.

"Unfortunately our society has been unwilling to put enough resources in our system to give everyone access to counsel in critical matters such as divorce, child custody and the loss of one's home."

The need for legal assistance in those areas has been growing dramatically, and Tennessee lawyers have demonstrated the volunteer spirit by providing thousands of hours of free or reduced legal services. Lawyers have also worked with the court to enhance pro bono representation.

In announcing the new rule, Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said that "the forms are not intended to replace the need for an attorney, but rather provide a helpful resource for attorneys and also for Tennesseans who choose to file for a divorce on their own because they can't afford to hire an attorney."