TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Jul 1, 2015

Journal Issue Date: Jul 2015

Journal Name: July 2015 - Vol. 51, No. 7


Proposals put out for comment June 15 by the Tennessee Supreme Court include

• changes to Judicial Conduct Rules regarding treatment of campaign contributions in the context of disqualification matter
• permitting political party donations by judges
• changing the standards of conduct by court personnel and use of court premises
• rewriting the provisions on affiliation with discriminatory organizations and
• lengthening the time period of permitted campaign fundraising by judicial campaign committees from the present 180 days to 270 days.

The proposals represent the work of a joint Tennessee Judicial Conference and Tennessee Trial Judges Association committee.

The court set an August 14 deadline for comments.


Law School Applications Continue to Fall  Law school applications are down for the fifth year in row, The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. Applications dropped 4.6 percent this year from last year, according to numbers from the Law School Admission Council. Law schools have adjusted to the decline in students by scaling back entry-level class sizes, boosting financial aid or cutting tuition price, and trimming staff ranks.


Court Opens Pro Bono Recognition
Tennessee lawyers can now report their pro bono hours from the previous year at any time and be recognized through the “Attorneys for Justice” program if they provide 50 or more hours of pro bono service. Previously, attorneys could apply for the honor when they submitted their annual law license renewal.

Now, attorneys can apply at any time they wish to report hours from the previous year.

Patent Pro Bono Program Coming to Tennessee 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is working with area law firms, the TBA and other legal organizations to launch a Patent Pro Bono program in Tennessee. Kickoff events were held in June to bring inventors and small businesses together with attorneys to learn about a nationwide program created through a White House initiative to connect income-constrained individuals with pro bono patent services.


TBA Website Now Responsive to Mobile Users 
In June the Tennessee Bar Association  launched a new responsive design for the TBA.org website that allows for easier use on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The site now automatically determines which type of device you are using and reformats information to offer the best display for that device.

About 30 percent of all visits to the TBA.org website now come through mobile devices.


Haslam Signs 3 New Bills into Law 
Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law three new bills June 11 that could impact children and victims’ advocates. The Victim’s Rights Photo bill will allow a photo of a victim to be admissible evidence in a trial and show what the person looked like when alive. The Mabry Kate Act — named after a 10-month-old from Powell who died from a rare disorder called Krabbe disease — allows Tennessee’s genetic advisory board to decide if all babies born in the state will be screened for Krabbe disease. The Cannibis Oil bill allows it to be used for some medical conditions where other therapies haven’t provided relief.

AG: Lawmaker Insurance Info Not Confidential 
State Attorney General Herbert Slatery has found that the cost of lawmakers’ taxpayer-subsidized health insurance coverage falls under Tennessee's open records laws. The opinion, issued June 8, states that the amounts spent by the state are not confidential because they do not disclose any information about the treatment, diagnoses or medications for any individually identifiable lawmaker.

Legislature Names Co-Legal Directors
The Tennessee General Assembly has named two new directors of legal affairs following the retirement of attorney Joe Barnes. Karen Garrett and Doug Himes will co-lead the office. Himes also will continue to serve in his current role as counsel to House Speaker Beth Harwell, while Garrett will remain in the same role for Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.


Stanton Nominated U.S. Attorney  
President Barack Obama has nominated U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III to be a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The nomination of Stanton, who has been the chief federal prosecutor for West Tennessee for five years, was announced in June by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, who recommended Stanton to the White House after convening a screening committee of local attorneys.

Leadership Law Honors Donelson
The Tennessee Bar Association Leadership Law (TBALL) Class of 2015 honored Lewis Donelson for his continuous dedication and service to TBALL earlier this year. TBALL founder and former TBA president John Tarpley presented Donelson with a plaque in appreciation of his 12 consecutive years as an Opening Retreat speaker. The class wrapped up at the TBA?Convention in June with a tour of the Civil Rights Museum and a presentation by attorney Walter Bailey, as well as graduation and award ceremonies.


More Tools Available to Aid Domestic Violence Victims 
The Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center has begun using a training program to help law enforcement better help domestic violence victims who are in critical danger. Several area law enforcement jurisdictions are using the Maryland Model Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which has 11 assessment questions for a police officer to ask domestic violence victims. And in Grundy County, the Sheriff's Office is using a tracking device able to alert victims when an offender is close, in hopes of warding off another attack.

Chattanooga Family Justice Center to Open July 1 
The new Chattanooga Family Justice Center, scheduled to open July 1, will provide a central location for victims of family violence to access needed services. Executive Director Valerie Radu tells WRCB-TV that the center’s first goal is to increase reporting of domestic violence by educating the community about available resources. Local law enforcement estimate that more than 30 percent of violent crime is driven by domestic abuse.


Tennessee Now in Compliance With Federal Rules to Stop Prison Rape 
Tennessee and nine other states are now fully compliant with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, according to an updated list released by the Department of Justice. All but four states have either met or are working toward meeting federal guidelines intended to prevent prison rape. ABC has the story from the Associated Press.


Belmont Student Wins 2015 Hastings Writing Competition 
The 2015 Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition winner is Patty Whitehead, a third-year law student at Belmont University College of Law. Sponsored by the TBA Environmental Law Section, the Hastings award is a juried competition for the best legal writing on a topic of Tennessee or federal environmental law and is open to law students enrolled in a Tennessee law school. Whitehead's paper "Opportunities for Environmental Justice Review in Title V Permits Under the Tennessee Air Quality Act" addresses disproportionate air quality among minority and low-income communities under Title V permit rules