TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Oct 1, 2015

Journal Issue Date: Oct 2015

Journal Name: October 2015 - Vol. 51, No. 10

Process to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy Underway

By Amelia Ferrell on Wed, 09/09/2015 - 2:39pm

The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments is accepting applications for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Gary R. Wade's retirement. Applicants must be licensed attorneys who are at least 35 years old, a resident of the state for five years and a resident of the Eastern or Western Grand Division of Tennessee. Applications are available online and must be submitted to the Administrative Office of the Courts by noon CDT on Oct. 12.

UT Program Offers Undergraduate, Law Degrees in 6 Years

By Amelia Ferrell on Tue, 09/08/2015 - 12:06pm

University of Tennessee Knoxville's new accelerated degree program, UT 3+3, allows students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and law degree in six years. In the program, students complete three years of approved undergraduate coursework in the College of Arts and Sciences, then participating students are admitted to the College of Law and become full-time, first-year law students. “UT Law offers an excellent legal education at a great value, and our 3+3 program will make law school an even more affordable option for UT students by saving them a full year of tuition,” said Melanie D. Wilson, dean of the College of Law.

TBA President Speaks at EJU Leadership Luncheon

By Amelia Ferrell on Fri, 09/04/2015 - 4:45pm

Tennessee lawyers have a unique connection with legal aid organizations, TBA President Bill Harbison told legal services professionals gathered this week at the Equal Justice University, and the Tennessee Bar Association needs to continue its strong and ongoing support for the access to justice community. Other speakers at the Leadership Luncheon included Herman Hicks with First Tennessee, a sponsor of the luncheon, and Memphis Area Legal Services' Cedric Harris.

Knoxville, Nashville Lawyers Honored at EJU Event

By Barry Kolar on Thu, 09/03/2015 - 4:47pm

Two Tennessee lawyers were recognized for their commitment to access to justice on Wednesday during the Equal Justice University Awards Dinner. Lenny Croce with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands received the B. Riney Green Award for his collaborative efforts to promote law reform for the protection of low income Tennesseans. And Robert Downs with Legal Aid of East Tennessee received the New Advocate of the Year Award for his creative and effective advocacy efforts on behalf of domestic violence victims in the Knoxville area. See photos from the event.

Yoder Honored with Holder Award

By Elizabeth Todaro on Wed, 09/02/2015 - 5:48pm

Legal Aid of East Tennessee Executive Director Dave Yoder was honored with the 2nd Annual Janice M. Holder Award today during the opening luncheon of Equal Justice University 2015.  The award recognizes an individual who has advanced the quality of justice statewide by ensuring that the legal system is open and available to all. Held in Murfreesboro, the event also featured an address from Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby and a presentation from Department of Human Services Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter during its first day. EJU continues through Friday morning.

UT Law Leaves Students With Less Debt

By Amelia Ferrell on Wed, 09/02/2015 - 3:12pm

The University of Tennessee College of Law is among the 10 top schools for graduating students with the least debt, U.S. News and World Report says. “This report only confirms what we already know: that UT Law offers a superb legal education at a great value, with practical training against a theoretical background,” Melanie D. Wilson, dean of the College of Law, said in a university press release. The report, published Sept. 1., said UT’s class of 2014 completed law school with an average debt load of $66,201, compared to the national average of $111,899.

UT Law Boasts 50% Increase in Applications

By Amelia Ferrell on Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:02pm

The University of Tennessee College of Law is one only four law schools nationwide showing an increase of more than 50 percent in applications for 2015, according to UT Law. As of Aug. 27, the college had received 1,036 applications for admission for the 2015-2016 academic year, a 55 percent increase over last year’s total. UT Law's class of 2018 contains students from four countries and 17 states, and is 22 percent racially diverse with an equal number of men and women.

Some Hourly Rates Going Up, New Survey Says

By Amelia Ferrell on Tue, 09/01/2015 - 4:54pm

An article in The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog said some law firms are increasing hourly rates to increase or maintain revenue despite dropping legal demand. According to a survey by Wells Fargo Bank’s Legal Specialty Group, revenue rose 4.1 percent at 60 of the nation’s highest-grossing firms, while the number of hours logged by the firm’s attorneys rose just 1.7 percent. The research group also found the average rate increase across the board was 3.3 percent.

Judge Bennett Honored For Student Mentoring

By Amelia Ferrell on Fri, 08/28/2015 - 11:53am

Belmont University College of Law's American Inn of Court honored Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Andy D. Bennett with the student-nominated Outstanding Mentor award. Bennett mentored two first-year law students, meeting monthly to discuss topics including legal writing, study skills and test-taking strategies. The students were also invited to view a session of the Court of Appeals.

Vanderbilt Honors Civil Rights Attorney George Barrett

By Amelia Ferrell on Wed, 08/26/2015 - 3:50pm

Vanderbilt Law School’s Social Justice program was named in honor of Nashville civil rights attorney George E. Barrett, a 1957 graduate of the law school who passed away in 2014. The George Barrett Social Justice Program, established by a gift from Vanderbilt law graduate Darren Robbins, will support students pursuing social justice careers. “I am so grateful to Darren and so honored to be able to recognize George’s tremendous legacy. This is a fitting recognition of George’s lifelong dedication to the public interest," Chris Guthrie, Vanderbilt Law School dean, said. Barrett filed one of his most significant cases in 1968, Geier v. Tennessee, which resulted in the desegregation of Tennessee’s state universities.

TBA Seeks Support for Loan Forgiveness Program

By Amelia Ferrell on Fri, 08/28/2015 - 4:59pm

The TBA supports funding for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that allows recent law school graduates and other professionals to enter and continue working full-time in public service jobs in government and the nonprofit sector. Under the program, individuals may qualify for forgiveness of their remaining loan balance. The TBA has joined the ABA and a broad range of groups in support of the program as it could be eliminated by Congress.

To build support, the TBA is sharing stories of those who have benefited from the program with senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and the Tennessee congressional delegation. Kevin D. Balkwill, disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee’s Board of Professional Responsibility, is one who has benefited. Balkwill entered the program in 2009, restructuring his loan payments so he would be debt-free following 10 years of public service. He passed on taking more lucrative opportunities and said ending this program would force him to pay towards his loans longer. “Ending the PSLF program does not seem fair to many persons who have relied upon the program for so many years seeking an opportunity to be truly debt free of their student loans,” Balkwill said.

The TBA is seeking support for the PSLF program and is also requesting lawyers share their experience with the program.

Judge Says Tennessee's Lethal Injection Protocol is Constitutional

By Amelia Ferrell on Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:53am

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Wednesday that the state’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional, The Tennesean reports. Bonnyman said a group of condemned inmates and their attorneys did not prove during trial that the single lethal-injection protocol creates risk of cruel and unusual harm. The decision does not immediately allow executions to resume after a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling earlier this year put them on hold until the final disposition of the case.

The ruling comes the same day as U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state of Mississippi from using two drugs — pentobarbital or midazolam — in executions, The Commercial Appeal reports. Prisoners there also claimed they face risks of excruciating pain and torture during an execution. 

LSAT Faces Challenge to Disability Accommodations

By Amelia Ferrell on Mon, 08/24/2015 - 4:36pm

The Law School Admission Council has until early October to revise its disability accommodation policies after a judge upheld a series of changes aimed at making it easier for disabled test takers to obtain accommodations for the LSAT. Changes include reducing the medical documentation most applicants are required to produce and having an outside expert automatically review applications denied by council staff. The council argued the majority of recommendations would harm the credibility of the exam. Read more from the National Law Journal.

Lee Re-elected to 2nd Year as Chief Justice

By Amelia Ferrell on Fri, 08/21/2015 - 3:39pm

Justice Sharon Lee was today unanimously re-elected as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Lee has been a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court since 2008, and recently led the launch of the state’s first business court. She also recently spoke at a White House forum on Tennessee’s nationally-recognized Access to Justice program. “I look forward to continuing the work we have begun,” Lee said. “I am thankful for the support of my colleagues on the court. I will continue to work hard to ensure that courts in Tennessee are on a continuous path of making things better in our communities and across the state.”

Legal Aid Society Receives 2 Major Grants

By Amelia Ferrell on Thu, 08/20/2015 - 3:02pm

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will receive more than $723,000 over the next three years thanks to two Tennsessee Office of Criminal Justice program grants. Money from a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant and a Service Training Officers Prosecution (STOP) grant will support victims advocacy and counsel at the Legal Aid Society. “The VOCA and STOP grants will help us address the breadth of a victim’s needs and provide legal assistance for matters pertaining to housing, education, immigration, access to benefits and more,” Gary Housepian, executive director of Legal Aid Society, said.

Media Agencies Support TBA's Rule 30 Amendment

By Amelia Ferrell on Wed, 08/19/2015 - 11:01am

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and several media agencies support the TBA’s alternative amendment to proposed Supreme Court rules on how reporters can use electronic devices in courtrooms, The Tennessean reports. Seventeen media organizations filed comments opposing the changes to Rule 30; no comments were filed in support by the Aug. 14 deadline.

TBA: Revision Needed to Guide Lawyer's Ethical Inquiries

By Amelia Ferrell on Mon, 08/17/2015 - 3:06pm

In a comment filed today, the Tennessee Bar Association suggested clearer language could be used to revise Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 5.4, involving confidentiality guidelines for lawyers receiving ethical advice. The Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition on June 18 citing concern that there may not be sufficient confidentiality protection under the existing rules. In its comment, the TBA recommended a revision of the BPR’s petition so that the rule will still permit lawyers receiving ethical advice to disclose information while maintaining confidential treatment of inquiries.

Mental Health Court Coming to Shelby County

By Amelia Ferrell on Tue, 09/15/2015 - 3:39pm

Shelby County announced plans to open a Mental Health Court in January, WREG reports. The court hopes to help nonviolent offenders suffering from mental illness receive mandatory treatment or counseling instead of jail time. "If we can bring more resources to the table and make sure that these individuals who need this help get linked with those services, then that's a better day for those individuals, and that just might keep them from victimizing you and your neighbors," District Attorney General Amy Weirich said.