TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Jun 1, 2015

Journal Issue Date: Jun 2015

Journal Name: June 2015 - Vol. 51, No. 6

National pro bono tool to be based on tennessee model

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is implementing a national interactive pro bono website based on Tennessee’s OnlineTNJustice. The decision came at a May meeting in Austin, Texas.

“We got this far because of a great team effort and we now need help from Tennessee attorneys with the work of funding the national site and signing up the remaining states,” former Tennessee Bar Association President and Baker Donelson lawyer George T. “Buck” Lewis said. Lewis and staff from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) presented the OnlineTNJustice model to over 100 lawyers from 25 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark also praised the move saying, “It is so exciting to see Tennessee ideas ... be embraced coast to coast.”

OnlineTNJustice is a joint project of the TBA, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and Baker Donelson.

To volunteer or to learn more about it, go to http://onlinetnjustice.org/


Senate Passes on Judicial Confirmation Plan 
The Tennessee Senate voted late on the last night of the Legislative Session, 4 yes, 1 no and 27 present not voting on adoption of a conference committee report on SB0001/ HB0142 implementing appellate judge confirmation. Led by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Memphis, the upper chamber action left the conference committee report on the desk for action next year as time ran out in the first year of a two-year legislative term. Members of the Senate expressed reservations with voting for confirmation in a joint convention, believing it would dilute the power of the Senate.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery opined the month before that the governor could continue to appoint appellate judges under present authority if no new statue was adopted. Creation of a trial court vacancy commission, appointed by the two speakers, which would nominate three lawyers to fill any vacancy on the trial bench, was also deferred by the Senate's action. The governor continues to have unfettered statutory power to make interim appointments pending the next election.

Bill to Raise Rate for Court-Appointed Counsel Tabled 
A TBA bill to raise the compensation rate for court-appointed counsel was tabled this legislative session for a task force that will study the issue and is expected to report in December 2015.

The TBA remains committed to seeing that attorneys are paid a fair rate and will continue to work with TBA members to educate lawmakers on this issue. The rate court-appointed attorneys are paid has not changed since 1994. 

Gender Equality

Chief Justice Stresses Gender Equality in Legal World  Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee challenged the legal profession to set the standard for all professions and make gender equality a top priority during remarks at the East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women (ETLAW) annual Supreme Court luncheon in May.

In her speech, Lee cited statistics from an American Bar Association publication, A Current Glance at Women in the Law, noting that although women make up 47 percent of law students and 45 percent of private practice associates, only 17 percent of equity partners are women. Most concerning, she said, is that female attorneys make only 79 percent of what their male counterparts pull in.

Your TBA

TBA Board Approves Medical-Legal Partnership Resolution  
The Tennessee Bar Association Board of Governors has adopted a resolution that "encourages lawyers, law firms, legal services agencies, law schools and bar associations to establish, develop and maintain medical-legal partnerships" in collaboration with medical and health care organizations.  The resolution, which was recommended by the TBA Access to Justice Committee and the Medical-Legal Partnership Working Group, also won support from the TBA House of Delegates. The full resolution, accompanying report and materials are available on the TBA website.

Environmental Law Section Honors Vick  
The TBA Environmental Law Section's recent annual meeting and seminar in Gatlinburg, April 22-24, was in conjunction with the Environmental Show of the South. This marked the 44th year of the Show of the South and the TBA section has been a part of this program for many years.  During the three-day event, the section honored Tony Vick, deputy chief disciplinary counsel at the Board of Professional Responsibility. Vick, who has spoken at the program for a number of years, retired the week after this presentation.


High Court Hears Electric Chair Challenge 
The Tennessee Supreme Court heard a challenge to a new state law resurrecting electrocution in capital murder cases when it convened May 6 in Knoxville. The panel heard arguments on whether it is too soon for the 34 death row inmates suing the state over all manner of death penalty protocols to mount a challenge at all. Twenty-two attorneys filed a brief with the court asking to allow inmates to move forward with the claim.

Flawed FBI Testimony Found in Capital Cases  FBI examiners gave flawed forensic testimony in 16 Tennessee cases that led to convictions, including four that sent defendants to death row, according to a report from The Washington Post.


LAET Celebrates 50 Years 
In April, Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) hosted its 50th Anniversary Celebration in Knoxville. The event was attended by more than 150 attorneys, members of the judiciary and other guests, including James J. Sandman, president of Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and retired California Court of Appeals Justice Earl Johnson Jr., who also helped write the Congressional Act that created the LSC.

The core organization was founded as Knoxville Legal Aid Society (KLAS) in 1965, growing out of the University of Tennessee College of Law Pro Bono Clinic.

Law Jobs

Report: More 2014 Law Grads Have Jobs 
Law schools reported a slight rise in the percentage of 2014 graduates obtaining entry-level jobs compared with 2013 and a slight decline in the total number of jobs, according to figures announced in April by the American Bar Association's accrediting body. The two numbers are explained, in part, by the decrease in law school graduates from 2013 to 2014. The nation's 204 ABA-approved law schools reported that roughly 10 months after graduation, 31,160 graduates of the class of 2014, or 71 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions where bar passage is required or a J.D. is preferred.