TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Jan 1, 2017

Journal Issue Date: Jan 2017

Journal Name: January 2017 - Vol. 53, No. 1

Attorneys stepped up to help in response to the wildfires and the subsequent destruction in Gatlinburg and Sevier County in November. The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) partnered with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission to help those affected with their legal needs.

A fire that began in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park quickly spread, causing an evacuation from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas. At least 14 people died in the wildfire. At the time of this writing, two juveniles had been charged with aggravated arson.

How to Help
Attorneys who want to help can access training resources and other materials on the TBA’s Disaster Legal Assistance page (www.tba.org/info/disaster-relief-assistance). Legal clinics and outreach related to losses from the fires are underway, and volunteers will be needed. For more information or to volunteer in the area, contact Kathryn Ellis at Legal Aid of East Tennessee at kellis@laet.org. Those who are not in the area but still want to help can volunteer to answer online questions at TN Free Legal Answers  (https://tn.freelegalanswers.org) or respond to calls on the HELP4TN helpline.

The TBA’s Young Lawyers Division Disaster Relief Committee has also been activated and will be assisting with volunteer recruitment and coordination efforts. To volunteer, complete the Disaster Legal Assistance Volunteer Form at www.tba.org/volunteer-for-disaster-legal-assistance. If you know someone in need of legal assistance, they may call the legal helpline at 844-HELP4TN or visit www.help4tn.org.

A Good Example
Legal Aid of East Tennessee held legal clinics in December for those affected by the wildfires. At the first clinic, 10 attorneys volunteered alongside six University of Tennessee College of Law students who performed intake and acted as runners. One person who came for help was Jose Luis Garcia, who owned a Mexican restaurant in Gatlinburg that was a total loss. He was assisted by volunteer attorney Lia Perryman. Volunteer attorney Amber Peters helped Michael Keifsnider with his idea to solicit used car donations for those who lost their cars in the wildfire. Peters advised him with contract and liability information.


Workers’ Comp Court Adopts New Rules 
The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation recently issued new rules governing deadlines for filing wage statements, medical records and interrogatories as well as responding to requests for expedited hearings; filing of documents previously filed with a mediator; obligations on the party opposing a request for expedited hearing; use of e-signatures; and use of causation letters.

Court Amends Judicial Recusal Rule 
The Tennessee Supreme Court in November issued an order amending Rule 10B of its rules, which governs the procedures for seeking disqualification, recusal or a determination of constitutional or statutory incompetence of a judge, justice or other judicial officer. The adopted amendments were revised after a comment period to address concerns raised by the TBA about appellate courts’ handling of motions for court review.

Court: School Zone Law Does Not Apply to Facilitating Sale of Drugs 
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Nov. 16, 2016, that the Drug-Free School Zone Act does not apply when a defendant is convicted of “facilitation of possession” in a school zone, overturning both the trial court and appellate court decisions in the case of Stanley Bernard Gibson, who had received a sentencing enhancement based on the proximity of his crime to a school. In a unanimous opinion, the court found that the state drug-free school zone law specifically lists the offenses to which it applies, and facilitation is not among them. They affirmed the underlying conviction but remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing.


ABA Issues Opinion on Fee Sharing Between Lawyers
The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 475 in December, which details how a lawyer who receives a payment that should be shared with another lawyer should handle and distribute the money. Model Rule 1.5(e) allows lawyers who are not in the same firm to divide a fee under certain circumstances. The new opinion directs the receiving lawyer to deposit funds in a separate account and safeguard the funds. The opinion also calls for prompt delivery of the agreed-upon portion of the fee to the other lawyer, and, if requested, a full accounting of the funds.


Harassment, Intimidation Increase After Election 
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in December that there have been almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation since the election of Donald Trump.

“People have experienced harassment at school, at work, at home, on the street, in public transportation, in their cars, in grocery stores and other places of business, and in their houses of worship," the group writes.


TBA Names 2017 Leadership Law Class 
Thirty-six attorneys from across the state were selected in December for the TBA’s 2017 Leadership Law program. Now in its 14th year, Leadership Law is designed to equip Tennessee lawyers with the vision, knowledge and skills necessary to serve as leaders in their profession and local communities. The class will meet for its first session in January, and then spend the next six months learning about leadership in the legal profession, issues in the courts, policymaking in state government and the importance of community service.

TBA YLD Releases 2017 Mock Trial Case 
The problem for the 2017 Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition is a criminal case, involving the death of a patient at a nursing home facility and a standout high school student employed there. The details were released in November by the TBA Young Lawyers Division’s Mock Trial Committee.

This year’s state competition will take place March 17-18 at the Metro Courthouse in downtown Nashville. The winning team will get a chance to take part in the National High School Mock Trial competition in Hartford, Connecticut, in May.