TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Mar 27, 2019

Journal Issue Date: Apr 2019


The Tennessee Bar Association launched a series of weekly legislative video updates in February, which are livestreamed most Thursdays via Facebook while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session. Also available are weekly round-ups of bills from the previous week impacting the legal community each Friday in TBA Today.

In the videos, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Berkley Schwarz and Communications Coordinator Katharine Heriges discuss a range of related topics, including the TBA’s lobbying process, from bill selection all the way through committee, as well as details on specific bills. They also have hosted guests on the show, including YLD President Christian Barker and TBA lobbyists Clay Byrd and Brad Lampley.

To find out more about TBA initiatives before the legislature and to contact your elected officials, go to TBAImpact at https://p2a.co/xFc8g5z.

In other legislative news, when Gov. Bill Lee delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly, he emphasized the importance of criminal justice reform and the need to move away from the “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality that he said has long prevailed in Tennessee.

Lee also announced the creation of a task force, to be chaired by senior advisor and former judge Brandon Gibson, that will develop legislative and budgetary recommendations on various issues, including crime prevention, recidivism, victim support, mental health, and reforming the criminal code and sentencing guidelines. In the legislature, next week committee activity will continue to ramp up as leadership encourages members to put their bills on notice, with a target goal of May 1 for adjournment.


Demand to Increase for Attorneys Practicing Elder Law 

As the U.S. population continues to get older, more attorneys are entering the field of elder law or expanding their practices to provide elder law services, the ABA Journal reports.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035, for the first time in American history, there will be more adults age 65 and older than children.

“As the American population grays, the need for attorneys who understand the unique aspects of planning for the elderly and people with special needs will grow,” says Michael J. Amoruso, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Medicare and Medicaid issues, long-term care planning, age discrimination disputes, veterans benefits, guardianship issues, inheritance disputes and elder abuse, among other categories, are areas that will need significant legal attention in the coming decades.

Blue Book Honors 19th Amendment
The 2019-2020 edition of the Tennessee Blue Book will be dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett has announced.

Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, the 19th Amendment was not submitted to the states for ratification until 1919 and was ratified by three-fourths of the states a year later. Tennessee ratification on Aug. 18, 1920, was the last state needed to amend the Constitution. Published by the Secretary of State’s office once every two years, the Tennessee Blue Book serves as a state and government manual for Tennessee. It includes information on Tennessee state history and government, biographies of elected and appointed state officials, elections results, census data and more.


ABA Grants Full Approval to LMU Duncan School of Law 

The American Bar Association in March granted full approval to Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law. The ABA granted LMU Law provisional approval in 2014. “Over the last 10 years, our school has managed to hit a few potholes along the path to full approval by the American Bar Association, so success is all the sweeter,” said Gary Wade, vice president and dean of the school. Last year the school failed to meet ABA accreditation standards, but was later able to resume its “provisional approval” status.

UT Law, UT Martin Partner for Law Degree Program
The University of Tennessee College of Law has launched a partnership with the University of Tennessee at Martin to expand the 3+3 law degree program. Students will complete three years of general education and upper-division courses before they take the law school admissions test in their junior year. Provided they are successful and meet law school admission standards, students will begin their legal studies during their senior year of undergraduate school and complete both undergraduate and juris doctor degrees in six years. Students who participate in the 3+3 program at UT Martin will still earn an undergraduate degree from that institution.

Clothes Closet to Help Students Transition to the Profession 

Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law recently announced the opening of the school’s “Career Closet.” Suits, shoes, and briefcases, all donated by the local legal community, are now available to law students free of charge. This is an effort to address challenges faced by many of the school’s first generation students.

For more information, contact Career Service Director Allison Starnes-Anglea.


Tennessee Innocence Project to Focus on Wrongful Convictions 

A new nonprofit with offices in Nashville will focus on litigating wrongful convictions and obtaining exonerations, as well as training law students and attorneys about how to work such cases, the Nashville Scene reported.

The Tennessee Innocence Project (TIP) launched in March and is spearheaded by Nashville attorney Jessica Van Dyke. It is not officially affiliated with the Innocence Network, but Van Dyke said staff from the national program have been involved in helping the TIP get up and running.


ABA Issues Guidance on Judges Performing Same-sex Marriages 

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released on Valentine’s Day a formal opinion giving judges guidance related to their options for performing same-sex marriages under the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The formal opinion differentiates between the obligations of a judge whose performance of marriages is either mandatory or optional.

In either case, Formal Opinion 485 said the Model Code of Judicial Conduct is violated “by refusing to perform marriages for same-sex couples while agreeing to perform marriages of opposite-sex
couples.” If a judge is not obligated to perform marriages, the judge “may decline to perform all marriages for members of the public” while maintaining that prerogative for “family and friends,” the opinion said. Still, the judge must be consistent and not discriminate based on sexual preference in performing those specific marriages.


Community Leaders Address TBALL Class  The 2019 Tennessee Bar

Association Leadership Law (TBALL) class met recently for its “Issues in Community Leadership” session in Memphis. Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris was a featured speaker to the class’s meeting at Burch Porter Johnson. The class has also heard from Casey Shannon and Tommy Pacello, Monica Wharton, Judge Tim Dwyer, Jaxon Wexler and W. J. Michael Cody. The class also took a guided tour of the National Civil Rights Museum.