TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Aug 1, 2013

Journal Issue Date: Aug 2013

Journal Name: August 2013 - Vol. 49, No. 8

How to Fill the Seat Is the Question

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder announced June 26 that she will retire at the end of her current term and will not seek re-election in the August 2014 judicial retention election.

Holder became the third woman to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court and the first to serve as chief justice. “It has been my privilege to serve the people of Tennessee as a trial judge and Supreme Court justice — and an honor to have been selected by my fellow justices as the first female chief justice in our state’s history,” Justice Holder said in a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam.

Holder’s announcement came at a time when changes in the selection process for judges are both under way and under consideration, complicating and confusing procedures for filling her seat. The announcement came too late for Tennessee’s Judicial Nominating Commission to suggest successors before the commission’s legal authority expired June 30.

Gavel Grab reports that spokespeople for Gov. Bill Haslam and the Administrative Office of the Courts have expressed that it is unclear how Justice Holder’s seat will be filled

Holder also recently was honored by her alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, for her leadership and dedication to the legal needs of Tennesseans throughout her career.

LAET Honors Lawyers for Pro Bono Work

In June, Legal Aid of East Tennessee honored attorneys and firms that donated their time serving pro bono clients over the past year. U.S. Rep Chuck Fleischmann received the Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award for his lifelong commitment to access to justice. Chattanooga attorney Max Bahner received the Bruce C. Bailey Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award. A third award was presented to Miller & Martin PLLC, which is being named the Pro Bono Firm of the Year for its strong support for Legal Aid of East Tennessee.


Vanderbilt, American Judicature Society Join Efforts
The American Judicature Society (AJS) and Vanderbilt Law School announced an affiliation agreement July 1 that, according to the groups, will result in joint educational programming, publications and new research. In addition, AJS will relocate from Des Moines, Iowa, to the Vanderbilt campus in Nashville. Vanderbilt Law Dean Chris Guthrie said the partnership provides the opportunity to “strengthen ties to the bench and bar, conduct academic programming in areas of mutual interest, create new educational and professional opportunities for students, facilitate faculty research, and enhance the reach and reputation of the law school’s dispute resolution and criminal justice program.” With the move to Tennessee, AJS executive director Seth Anderson decided to remain in Iowa so the group is searching for a new director.

New Lawyers Sworn In
Close to 200 attorneys successfully passed the bar exam in February, and many took part in admission ceremonies at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Following introductions and administration of the oath by Chief Justice Gary Wade, the group heard remarks from TBA President Jackie Dixon. More than 100 of them and their families attended an open house and luncheon at the Tennessee Bar Center before the ceremony.

New Guide Clarifies Legal Info v. Legal Advice
Need help determining when you are giving legal advice and when it’s just legal information? The Tennessee Access to Justice Commission has developed guidelines to help. Originally intended to provide assistance to court staff and attorneys assisting in self-help centers, the guidelines grew to become something that anyone assisting self represented litigants could use. The Tennessee Supreme Court has now endorsed this policy, which the commission’s Self-Represented Litigants Advisory Committee developed. Learn more at www. justiceforalltn.com.

Judicial Vacancies, Cuts Have Serious Impact on Justice
Brennon Center for Justice Fellow Andrew Cohen writes that there are dozens of jurisdictions all across the nation that now operate under what are known as “judicial emergencies” because of a lack of confirmed judges. By delaying the administration of justice, by thwarting the principles of finality and certainty, judicial vacancies cause real harm both to the American people and to the free market, he writes.

Related, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently told a group of federal judges that federal budget cuts are having a different and more severe impact on the courts than other government agencies. “The cuts hit us particularly hard because we are made up of people. That is what the judicial branch is. It is not like we are the Pentagon where you can slow up a particular procurement program. … When we have sustained cuts, that mean[s] people have to be furloughed or worse and that has a more direct impact on the services that we can provide.” Gavel Grab reported on the remarks.

New Veterans Legal Corps Sends Lawyers, Students to Legal Aid
Low-income and homeless veterans will be getting legal help from a new program that deploys lawyers and law students to legal aid groups and courts across the country, the ABA?Journal reports. Equal Justice Works recently announced the new Veterans Legal Corps, which is funded with money from AmeriCorps. The three-year program will dispatch 36 lawyers and 200 law students to groups across the country. The lawyers and law students will help veterans with disability benefits, barriers to housing and employment, debt and family law problems. The first class of Veterans Legal Corps members will begin work in September and will serve for two years.

Access to Justice Videos Now Include Closed Captioning
The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice informational videos now include closed captioning to make legal guidance accessible to even more people. The videos review topics for the general public for civil cases in general sessions courts, such as contract disputes, debt, landlord issues and civil suits under $25,000. See the videos at www.justiceforalltn.com/videos

Pro Bono Down at Big Firms
Despite healthy increases in revenues and profits in 2012, The Am Law 200 posted drops in both total pro bono hours and average hours per lawyer for the second year in a row. There was some good news, however. After dropping 10.6 percent in 2011, The Am Law 200’s average percentage of lawyers performing at least 20 hours of pro bono work rose 0.4 percent in 2012, to 44 percent.