TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Jul 1, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Jul 2018

Journal Name: July 2018 - Vol. 54, No. 7

ATJ Report: 10-Year Snapshot of Efforts

A decade after the Tennessee Supreme Court made access to justice its top strategic priority, it has issued an extensive report recognizing the many organizations and individuals that have worked to improve access to justice in the state.

Download the report from the court’s website at www.tncourts.gov.

“What we have learned in the past 10 years is that there is no single solution, no magic bullet to solve this issue,"  Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark said. "But, with all hands on deck, we are having an impact and are improving lives across the state.”

The report covers information on the court’s goals and initiatives, including HELP4TN Day, self-help forms, pro bono work, Equal Justice University, Pro Bono & Faith Days and the Immigration Task Force.
Gail Vaughn Ashworth, chair of the commission for 2018-2020 and a past Tennessee Bar Association President, adds, “We have momentum and are really seeing access to justice issues become engrained in our state culture. The bench, the bar and our community organizations know we need to collaborate to make real progress. Tennessee is the Volunteer State, and our state is also known as a nationwide leader in developing innovative programs and resources to help achieve access to justice for all.”


Court Extends Comment Deadline for Proposed Rule 6 Changes 
The Tennessee Supreme Court granted a request by the Knoxville Bar Association, asking for additional information regarding the proposed Tennessee Law Course under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 6 and seeking an extension of time in which to comment. The court solicited comments in April  regarding the proposed change, which “would require new attorneys to complete a Tennessee Law Course within one year of admission to the Tennessee bar.” The comment period, which originally expired on June 18, has been extended to July 18.

Report: Federal Judges Should Report Harassing Behavior 
A recent  report analyzing harassment in the federal courts system submitted to the Judicial Conference of the United States emphasized the judiciary’s role in addressing workplace misconduct, the ABA Journal reports. Judges have a “special responsibility” to promote appropriate behavior, and to report misconduct by others, including other judges, the report says. It also notes that confidentiality obligations don’t prevent an employee from revealing or reporting misconduct.

Court Strikes Law Banning Political Apparel at Polls
The U.S. Supreme Court released several decisions in June, including a 7-2 opinion that the Minnesota law banning political apparel at polling places violates the First Amendment. Some forms of advocacy may be excluded from polling places, but the state has to draw a reasonable line, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the majority opinion.

Public Education

Law Camp Empowers High School Students 
Law Camp is a week-long intensive camp for high school students presented by the Lipscomb University Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society in partnership with the Tennessee Bar Association. The camp was  held on the Lipscomb University campus in Nashville, June 11-15. This year’s theme was “Power and Empowerment in Your Community,” which examined federalism and shared powers, separation of powers, checks and balances, and ideals and realities of political power.

Among the?participants this year was Sahara White, a rising senior at Whites Creek High School in Nashville, who is serving as an intern for the TBA?this summer.


10 New U.S. Attorney Positions Coming to Tennessee
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June announced the appointment of 311 new assistant U.S. attorney positions, with 10 allocated across Tennessee’s three divisions. Seven of those will be violent crime prosecutors — three to the Eastern Division, three to the Middle Division and one to the Western Division. Each grand division will also see the appointment of one new prosecutor who will support the newly created Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, which targets the opioid crisis.

General Assembly

TBA Applauds Governor, General Assembly for Funding Indigent Representation Reform
Tennessee Bar Association President Lucian Pera in May applauded Gov. Bill Haslam, the General Assembly and the Tennessee Supreme Court for their partnership in strengthening Tennessee’s commitment to indigent representation. The governor earlier had signed the FY 2018/19 state budget that includes an additional $9.7 million in recurring funding for indigent representation reform.

“Competent representation costs money, and the constitutional right to counsel is only real if lawyers appointed to defend them are paid reasonably,” Pera said in a media release. “The TBA especially wants to thank Chief Justice Jeff Bivins for his courageous leadership in making indigent representation reform and increased funding the Court’s top priority this year.”

In a recent video, Bivins and Pera hold an informative and candid conversation about indigent representation reform. The pair talk about how the push for reform developed, the recent state budget approved by the General Assembly, and how the fight for reform will continue. Watch it on YouTube.

Civil Rights Cold Case Bill Now Law

Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law May 15 legislation creating the Tennessee Civil Rights Crimes Information, Reconciliation, and Research Center. Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, were the sponsors of the legislation, which is effective immediately. Former TBA President Jim Emison also has been instrumental in the efforts.

The center will be housed within the Office of Minority Affairs and will serve as a "civil rights crimes remembrance and reconciliation repository, function as an informational clearinghouse on unsolved civil rights crimes and cold cases in this state, and coordinate volunteer activities."  A website and toll-free number will be set up to receive information related to unsolved civil rights crimes and cold cases.

Judges Have New Tools to Protect Domestic Violence Victims 
Two laws recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly have given the state’s judges new tools to help protect victims of domestic violence. One law targets cell phones, allowing judges to order wireless telephone service providers to grant domestic violence victims control over their own cell phone numbers if those cell phone numbers are on an account held by an alleged abuser. The other law will change the way courts respond to the arrests of alleged perpetrators of domestic violence. If a court finds probable cause that an alleged perpetrator “caused serious bodily injury” or “used or displayed a weapon,” then a judge will issue a “no contact order” to keep the perpetrator away from the victim. That no contact order will be added as a mandatory condition of the perpetrator’s bond and will be in addition to a requested civil order of protection.

Public Service

TBA Launches Public Service Academy 
During the TBA Convention in Memphis, newly sworn-in President Jason Pannu announced the TBA Public Service Academy, a new effort to encourage attorneys to seek public office.

The program, based on a similar one launched by the North Carolina Bar Association, will provide training to a class of 25-30 attorneys on topics like strategy, campaign finance, work-life balance and more. Applications to join the inaugural class are now available at TBAPSA.org.

Pannu Sworn-in as TBA President

Nashville lawyer Jason M. Pannu was sworn in as president of the Tennessee Bar Association June 15 during the annual convention in Memphis, with Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins administering the oath of office. Pannu said his top priorities this year will be Access to Justice, launching the TBA Public Service Academy, and establishing the Uniform Statewide Filing Incubator, which will work to implement electronic court filing statewide.

He told the crowd gathered during the Lawyers Luncheon that he wanted to “reinforce that the TBA?is a nonpartisan organization and to cultivate an atmosphere where we respect the views of all lawyers. But that it is a place where facts matter.” 

Pannu, a shareholder with Lewis Thomason’s Nashville office, is a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He practices primarily in the areas of complex business and commercial litigation with an emphasis on the construction industry. He also practices in the areas of professional liability, toxic tort and environmental law, and employment law disputes. Pannu is fluent in Cantonese Chinese and French.

Lucian T. Pera of Adams & Reese in Memphis ended his term as president at the convention. Knoxville lawyer Sarah Y. Sheppeard, a shareholder with Lewis Thomason in Knoxville, is president-elect. Jackson?lawyer Michelle Greenway Sellers, with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC, is vice president.

Rhodes College Professor Timothy Huebner was the keynote speaker at the luncheon.

Members who retired from the Board of Governors are Carl Carter, Ahsaki Baptis, Chris Craft, Brian Faughnan, Donna Hargrove, John Harris, Kim Helper, Jason Long and Donna Pierce. Members new to the board are Frank (Trey) Thacher,  Amelia (Aimee) Luna, Jim Barry,  David Veile, Jim Cartiglia, Troy Weston, Tim Easter and John Partin. Matt Willis is not new to the board, but moved from speaker of the House of Delegates to District 7 Representative.


The luncheon also featured recognition of Senior Counselors and the outstanding work of several members throughout the past year:

  • Bob E. Lype was honored with the Justice Joe Henry Award for Outstanding Legal Writing for the best article published in the Tennessee Bar Journal in 2017.  Lype was chosen this year by a panel of judges for “How to Deal with Bullying, Threats and Physical Violence in the Workplace,” which was published in the April 2017 edition. Lype also recieved the honor in 2002. He is the principal of the Law Office of Bob E. Lype & Associates in Chattanooga, where his practice includes representation of employers of all sizes in labor and employment law matters.

    The award is named for Justice Joseph W. Henry, a former chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The award was established in 1981 to encourage scholarly yet practical writing to benefit members of the bar. The winner was chosen this year by a panel that included Judge Brandon Gibson of the Western Section Court of Appeals, former University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Dean Peter Letsou and Lucian Pera.
  • Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia A. Clark  was honored with the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award. Named in honor of the late Tennessee Chief Justice Frank Drowota, this is the TBA’s highest award for service to the judiciary and has been given annually for more than a decade.
  • Clark was chosen for her decades of service to the legal profession in Tennessee, including the implementation of the Access to Justice Commission’s first-ever strategic plan in 2010 and creation of the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance (TFJA) in 2011. The TFJA aligns volunteer attorneys with faith-based social justice programs to help those in need.
  • Memphis attorney Charles F. Newman was honored with this year's prestigious William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award, presented by the TBA's Young Lawyers Division Fellows. The Leech Award is presented each year to a Tennessee lawyer who has given outstanding service to the legal profession, the legal system and the local community.

    “Charlie Newman personifies the William Leech Public Service Award, as a great civil rights lawyer, conservationist and visionary who has shaped the history of Memphis and Shelby County,” said TBA YLD Fellows Treasurer Bill Haltom. “He has both witnessed history and made history.”
  • Pera recognized six?individuals with President’s Awards: Bill Haltom, Gov. Bill Haslam, Amber Shaw, Gail Vaughn Ashworth, Julie Sandine and Dean Bill Koch.
  • A new award was established this year, the Fourth Estate Award, to honor courageous journalism that enhances public understanding of the legal system and the law. It was awarded to the News 4 I-Team of WSMV in Nashville. The group was recognized for its extensive coerage about former Judge Casey Moreland.

Meetings, CLE, Events

On June 14, Gubernatorial candidates addressed issues facing the legal profession during the TBA Gubernatorial Candidate Forum, co-hosted by The Commercial Appeal, USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, both Democrats, joined Republicans Randy Boyd, a Knoxville entrepreneur and former state economic development commissioner, and House Speaker Beth Harwell at the event.

The convention also included meetings of the House of Delegates, Board of Governors, Sections, Committees, Local Bar Leaders Caucus, a luncheon for “seasoned members of the bar,” Law School Alumni Breakfasts, and many hours of CLE.

Members of the TBA?Young Lawyers Division held their annual meeting, with Nashville lawyer Christian Barker taking office as president and Troy Weston of Knoxville as president-elect. Terica Smith of Jackson is vice president.

Ahsaki Baptist of Memphis is the immediate past president.

Also during convention, the TBA?Leadership Law class held its graduation, and named Nashville lawyer Raquel Bellamy of Bone McAllester as the recipient of this year’s Larry Dean Wilks Leadership Award.

The Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI) held graduation ceremonies as well as participating in a service project, a Wills/Power of Attorney Clinic in conjunction with the Memphis Area Legal Services, held at the Frayser Branch Library.

Special thanks to our 2018 convention sponsors:

  • Fastcase
  • Adams and Reese
  • Butler Snow
  • Clio
  • The Bar Plan
  • ABA Retirement Funds
  • Huseby
  • ImageSoft
  • GilsbarPro
  • Thomson Reuters
  • Liberty
  • Tennessee Court Reporters Association
  • CIA Media Group
  • LawPay
  • Bloomberg Law
  • LTC Global
  • Baker Donelson
  • VistaPoints