TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Apr 1, 2017

Journal Issue Date: Apr 2017

Journal Name: April 2017 - Vol. 53, No. 4


Tennessee lawyers helped raise nearly $50,000 to help legal aid programs in the state at the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala March 4 in Nashville. Over the past 11 years, the event has raised more than half a million dollars in support of pro bono efforts that engage in-house and corporate counsel. The program featured remarks from Michael Sposato, deputy general counsel for Caterpillar Inc., Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young and Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, as well as TBA President Jason Long and other leaders from the TBA Access to Justice Committee. The event was hosted at Bass, Berry & Sims and honored outstanding law firms and legal departments. This year, Waller, DeRoyal Industries, Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law and the City of Knoxville were honored for their efforts.


Davidson County Chancery Court Launches E-Filing March 10, 2017 Electronic case filing is now available in Davidson County Chancery Court. The court has implemented a program called Odyssey eFileTN, which allows users to open cases and file documents from anywhere via a secure website. Learn more about the program, access rules or register for e-filing at the Odyssey eFileTN website.

Tennessee Supreme Court Amends Rule 8
The Tennessee Supreme Court has amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility following a Tennessee Bar Association request in July 2016. The Knoxville Bar Association and the Board of Professional Responsibility both provided comments on the proposal. The amendments provide new language in regard to technology and contracting with other lawyers, updates to confidentiality of information and detection of conflicts of interest, and more.


Committee Begins Search for New TBA Executive
Director  The committee formed to find a new executive director for the Tennessee Bar Association has hired a national legal search and consulting firm to assist in the effort. Young Mayden LLC has launched the recruiting effort, which will include advertising through state, regional and national organizations. With offices in Charlotte, Nashville and Dallas, Young Mayden has facilitated searches for executive directors for the American Bar Association, Uniform Law Commission, New York State Bar Association, North Carolina Bar Association and the State Bar of Wisconsin, as well as working with practicing lawyers, firms, and companies. See page 22 for more details.


Bar Foundation Awards $500,000 in IOLTA Grants
The Tennesseee Bar Foundation awarded $500,000 in Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) grants this year. Among the 29 organizations given grant funding this year were Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Memphis Area Legal Service, West Tennessee Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, and the Tennessee Justice Center.
The recipients are chosen through a very competitive process, according to Executive Director Barri Bernstein. Proposals are reviewed by a 14-member committee, which makes recommendations to the Foundation’s 12-member Board of Trustees, which makes the final call.

LAS Hosts Campaign Kickoff Luncheon, Celebrates 
The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands kicked off its 2017 Campaign for Equal Justice with a luncheon March 9 in Nashville. The event celebrated the pro bono work of Tennessee attorneys and previewed what was to come for the year.

The keynote speaker was Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins, who talked to the crowd about the importance of humility in a lawyer’s personal and professional life. Citing leaders like famed basketball coach John Wooden, the recently passed Sen. Douglas Henry and the man Bivins called his personal hero, Sen. Howard Baker, Bivins urged members of the legal community to remain humble.

“We are never too important to treat every person with dignity,” Bivins said.


In-House Legal Groups Switch to Encrypted Email Communications 
The fear of law firm data breaches has led some in-house lawyers to use encrypted emails to communicate with their firms on important matters like mergers and high-stakes litigation, the ABA Journal reports. Encryption allows for sensitive documents to be locked with passwords. Current users of the technology say that once an information technology specialist sets the system up, it becomes “invisible” to the user.


New Alimony Bench Book Available 
The 15th edition Alimony Bench Book is now available. TBA Family Law Section members can download the book free from the section's resource page after logging in. Others can purchase a loose-leaf printed version of this publication for $40 per book ($50 in a 3-ring binder) from the online TBA Bookstore or by contacting the TBA at (615) 383-7421.

The book, which includes published and unpublished cases from Aug. 8, 2003, through Dec. 31, 2016, is compiled by the section's Alimony Committee under direction of its chair, Amy Amundsen.

Apply by June 1:  Board of Governors to Fill Open Positions

Three open positions will be filled by the Tennessee Bar Association Board of Governors at its meeting Saturday, June 17.

Middle Grand Division Governor - Position 1 is an open seat created when no one sought to be considered for the seat by the deadline.

Middle Grand Division Governor - Position 2 is an open seat created when no one sought to be considered for the seat by the deadline.

The Middle Grand Division includes the counties of Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Coffee, Davidson, DeKalb, Dickson, Fentress, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Macon, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Moore, Overton, Perry, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Smith, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, White, Williamson and Wilson Counties.

Governor, Fifth District - Position 2 (Three-Year Term) is an open seat created when no one sought to be considered for the seat by the deadline. The Fifth District includes Davidson County.

In accordance with Article 47 of the TBA Bylaws, the board may fill the vacancies, with terms through Spring 2018, at its June 2017 meeting. 

If you would like to be considered for one of these positions, contact TBA Executive Director Emeritus Allan F. Ramsaur in writing, indicating your interest and including a resume, at aramsaur@tnbar.org by June 1.

CASA Volunteer of the Year

Former Tech Developer Finds Calling in Helping Teens

John Porter’s story could be described as a “riches to rags” one. He spent much of his life working in the tech industry, where he was credited as one of the developers of the precursors to the Global Positioning System (GPS). He lived in San Francisco, graduated from an Ivy League college and traveled the world. But along the journey he realized that having money wasn’t everything. He found faith in God, and things began to change. He says he grew tired of “chasing a little white ball around the golf course.” He was searching for a place to give back to the community, to do more than just sit on boards or write checks.

After moving to Monroe County, Tennessee, it all fell into place. That’s when he found an article in the local newspaper about about Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

That was 2007, Porter recalls. This year, Porter was awarded the 2017 CASA Volunteer of the Year award, an annual honor bestowed upon an especially dedicated CASA advocate, by the Tennessee Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.

Porter, saying he feels that God called him to this work, distinguished himself quickly as one of the most committed and effective volunteers at CASA Monroe.

“He just goes above and beyond,” Alisa Hobbs, executive director of CASA Monroe, says. “[He] feels so blessed that he is willing to do anything that is needed.”

Volunteering at CASA Monroe was a natural fit for Porter.

“I found that I could go out and become involved in the community without having to deal with a whole lot of embedded bureaucracy,” he says.

To be a CASA advocate, the volunteer doesn’t have to be an attorney and doesn’t function as guardian ad litem. The volunteer just has to be willing to put in a lot of time and effort, and most of all, to put the child’s needs first.

“It’s an intensely human relationship,” Porter says.

Hobbs says that Porter is vital to CASA Monroe because of his ability to connect with older children. Porter said he’s able to build trust with his cases by abiding by his own protocols he’s developed over years of doing this work.

“When I first meet the child I want the parent there, and I say to the child and the parent that I will probably not always agree with your [parent/guardian],” Porter explains. “And secondly, whenever I speak to an adult about you, I want you to be there. I don’t want to be carrying on a conversation about you when you are not there.”

Then he typically adds that he won’t make a commitment that he can’t keep, because he doesn’t want to lie to the people in his cases. It’s from there that the trust begins to develop, although it is never easy, he admits.

“It takes a lot of time, I find,” Porter says, “because the children are really wary of adults for a variety of reasons.”

Eighty percent of his job, he says, is just showing up when he says he will, because the children he works with have often been lied to by parents — some well-intentioned, others not.

“The bond ends up being a no-nonsense kind of relationship,” he says. “I’m brutally honest. Eventually the young guys tend to respect that.”

The work can be disappointing sometimes. Porter recalls one young man he worked with for four years and built a great relationship with, but he still ended up in jail. But it’s worth it for the success stories, he says. Hobbs told the story of a juvenile delinquent in Porter’s care who grew to become a decorated Marine. The young man and Porter still keep in touch.

“[Porter] is requested by some judges,” Hobbs says. “If there’s a really tough case, he’s their go-to guy.”

Porter said that one issue he has, which would explain in part why he is so vital to the program, is that so few men volunteer as CASA advocates.

“These children desperately need a strong male role model in their life,” Porter says. “I can’t understand why being an advocate isn’t more attractive to men of all ages. We need 30- or 40-year-olds who can go out with these kids and fish and hunt and relate to them.”

For those who might be interested in taking up the call to become a CASA advocate, Porter doesn’t offer platitudes about making a difference in a child’s life, because those are available everywhere. Instead, he offers another perspective.

“I know one thing,” he says. “It’s made a tremendous difference in me.”

— Katharine Heriges