TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Suzanne Craig Robertson on Sep 27, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Oct 2018

Journal Name: Vol 54 No. 10


ATJ Community Gathers to Learn and Honor Leaders for Service

More than 200 lawyers, law students and advocates gathered in late August for the 2018 Equal Justice University (EJU) in Murfreesboro. The three-day conference is sponsored by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS); the Tennessee Bar Association is an event co-sponsor.

TBA President Jason Pannu spoke to the group via video, thanking the legal service staff and volunteers for their role as first responders, providing life-changing assistance to Tennesseans in need, and also acknowledging the strong collaborations that make this work possible.

Justice Frank Drowota III was honored posthumously with the Janice M. Holder Award for his career of service and legacy to the access to justice community, alongside Memphis attorney Amber Floyd, honored for her work spearheading statewide expungement clinics.

Tennessee lawyers also recognized were Marcy Eason and Gary Housepian, who each received the B. Riney Green Award for their work promoting collaboration to strengthen access to justice across the state. Eason is a past TBA president and was honored for her service as the immediate past chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission. Housepian was recognized for his decade of work as executive director at Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands. He is now CEO at Disability Rights New Mexico. Vanessa Bullock from West Tennessee Legal Services received the New Advocate of the Year Award for her creative and effective advocacy efforts in the area of fair housing.

In addition to Pannu, speakers included Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, TBA YLD President Christian Barker and Rhodes College Professor Charles McKinney. Session topics included the opioid epidemic, immigration relief, legal support for veterans and legal technology innovations.


Vandy Faculty Member to Launch Legal Clinic for At-Risk Teens

Cara Suvall has joined the faculty at Vanderbilt Law, where she will launch a new legal clinic to provide civil legal representation to teens and young adults at risk for criminal involvement in areas of education, housing and employment. The Youth Opportunity Clinic will open in spring 2019 and “will address an important gap in legal services for youth between the ages of 16 to 25,” Dean Chris Guthrie said.



A recent study confirms that widespread gender and racial bias permeates hiring, promotion, assignments and compensation in the legal industry, the American Bar Association (ABA) reported in September.

Fifty-eight percent of women attorneys of color and half of white women lawyers surveyed say they have been mistaken for administrative staff or janitors, in contrast to only seven percent of white male lawyers reporting a similar occurrence, according to the study, “You Can’t Change What You Can’t See.”

Conducted by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, on behalf of The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and The ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession, the report examines implicit gender and racial bias in legal workplaces and offers new solutions and tools for interrupting bias across the legal profession.



Court Seeks Comment on Proposed Rules Amendments

The Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure annually presents recommendations to the Tennessee Supreme Court to amend the Rules of Appellate, Civil, Criminal and Juvenile Procedure, and the Tennessee Rules of Evidence.

The court is now soliciting written comments from the bench, the bar and the public concerning the recommendations. The deadline for submitting written comments is Oct. 30. Written comments may be emailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov or mailed to James M. Hivner, Clerk, Re: 2019 Rules Package, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Ave., North, Nashville 37219.


Tennessee Supreme Court Rules DUI Fee Is Constitutional

The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that a statute allowing the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to collect a $250 fee when an individual is convicted of certain drug and alcohol offenses does not deprive defendants of the right to a fair and impartial trial under both the Tennessee and U.S. constitutions. The ruling reverses a February decision from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. The opinion, written by Justice Cornelia Clark, was unanimous. Attorney General Herbert Slatery praised the ruling, saying it “removes any uncertainty over past DUI convictions.”



Law Day 2019 Theme Announced

“Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” is the theme for Law Day 2019, the American Bar Association announced.

The theme focuses on questions such as: Should all speech be free? What is the role of government in regulating or protecting the press? Should speech or the press be constrained through laws or norms? Can a free society exist without free speech and free press?

Law Day 2019, celebrated May 1, offers the opportunity to explore the freedom of speech and freedom of the press by probing their history and considering their future.


Annual Student Essay Contest Begins

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is kicking off its third annual civics essay contest for students. The goal is to encourage students to be actively engaged citizens by recognizing their important roles as citizens. The theme is leadership. Winners will receive a TNStars 529 Program College Savings scholarship of $100, $250 or $500, plus a trip to the State Capitol. Learn more at https://sos.tn.gov/ node/6105.



Legislators Host 'First in Adoption' Luncheon

Members of the Adoption Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association recently attended the Tennessee: First in Adoption Law Luncheon hosted by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. Other attendees included Deputy Governor Jim Henry, Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich, lawyers from the Department of Human Services, Thea Ramirez, founder of Adoption-Share Inc. and TBA Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Berkley Schwarz.

The “Tennessee: First in Adoption Act” makes a number of modifications in many areas of adoption and termination law, including a new, less bureaucratic surrender form, included in the Tennessee Code. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2018.

Learn the details about the new law in the July 2018 Tennessee Bar Journal, in an article by Dawn Coppock and Michael S. Jennings.



States Reconsider Workplace Confidentiality Agreements in #MeToo Era

In response to the #MeToo movement, at least 16 states have introduced bills to restrict the usage of non-disclosure agreements in workplace sexual harassment cases, with six states — including Tennessee — successfully approving such measures, the Associated Press reported last month.

The intent of the new policies is to prevent abusive people in power from being allowed to stay on and abuse more employees. Legal experts say that it’s yet to be seen what effect these laws will have in the workplace.