TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on May 21, 2019

Journal Issue Date: Jun 2019

Journal Name: Vol 55 No 6

Leaders from Tennessee’s legal community gathered at the Equal Justice Conference in Louisville in May. Among those organizations represented at the event were the TBA Access to Justice Committee, Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Memphis Area Legal Services and West Tennessee Legal Services.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Corker talks with the TBA Leadership Law (TBALL) Class of 2019 during their May session in Chattanooga. The session was titled “Issues in the Courts. Photo by Trey Thacher.


Tennessee Team Wins National Mock Trial Competition

Tennessee’s State High School Mock Trial champion, Agathos Classical School, won the national title May 18 in Athens, Georgia. Columbia lawyers Jason Whatley and Cory Ricci were the attorney coaches for Agathos.

To qualify for the national competition, “more than 30,000 students participate in local high school mock trial competitions throughout the United States, Guam, South Korea and the Northern Mariana Islands,” the host city’s website says. The event this year was hosted by the State Bar of Georgia, its Young Lawyers Division and the Georgia Mock Trial Competition. Tennessee’s competition is hosted by the TBA Young Lawyers Division.

A Tennessee team has only won the national title twice before: Family Christian Academy of Chattanooga won in 2002 and 2003.


Supreme Court Adopts Changes to Rule 21 on CLE 

The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted amendments to Rule 21 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, which governs Continuing Legal Education requirements. On Feb. 11, the court solicited comments and received them from the Knoxville Bar Association, the Chattanooga Bar Association and several individual attorneys.


Historical Society, YMCA Partner for Essay Contest Named for Justice Drowota 

The Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society has partnered with the Tennessee YMCA Center for Civic Engagement to sponsor an essay contest for high school students who participate in the judicial component of the YMCA’s Youth in Government program. The Justice Frank F. Drowota III essay contest, named for the late Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice, asked students to submit a 1,500 word essay on a legal topic of historic significance. This year’s topic was the Scopes Monkey Trial. The winning student received a commemorative plaque, a letter from the TSCHS and $250.

Matthew Goodbred, a student at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, was the inaugural winner of the essay contest at a ceremony during the Youth in Government conference in Nashville.

ABA Law Day Poll Shows Gaps in Americans’ Civic Knowledge 

In conjunction with this year’s Law Day theme, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society,” the American Bar Association conducted a civics study, finding that many Americans struggle with basic questions about the law and our government. The questions were pulled from the pool of 100 possible questions on the U.S. naturalization test.

Only 5 percent of those surveyed could correctly answer all 15 questions they were asked.


Family of Man Executed in 2006 Calls for DNA Testing to Prove Innocence 

Thirteen years after the state executed death row inmate Sedley Alley, his daughter is renewing a call to test DNA evidence in his case, the Commercial Appeal reported in May. His legal team says the results could prove he died an innocent man. Alley’s daughter April Alley, acting as the executor of her father’s estate, filed a petition for the testing in Shelby County Criminal Court. She also asked Gov. Bill Lee to order the long-sought tests. Sedley Alley was convicted in the brutal killing of Suzanne M. Collins, a Marine abducted while jogging at a Navy base north of Memphis in 1985. Sedley Alley was executed in 2006.

High Court Will Not Hear Challenge to Tennessee’s Lethal Injection Method

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to Tennessee’s lethal injection method, officially ending a battle over the controversial drugs used to kill death row inmates here, the Tennessean reported in May. That decision came days before death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson, 68, was executed on May 16.
The challenge, brought by Johnson and 22 other death row inmates, argued that the state’s three-drug protocol, led by the sedative midazolam, does not keep inmates from feeling excruciating pain as they die.


23 Vandy Law Students Complete Pro Bono Pledge 

At a recent awards ceremony, Vanderbilt Law recognized the 23 law students who completed the Pro Bono Pledge, a program that encourages community service and volunteerism amongst future graduates. Students pursuing a three-year law degree must complete at least 75 hours of service, while one-year students in the LL.M. program must complete 25. The students logged a combined 6,908 hours of pro bono legal work and community service activities.


TBA Executive Director Elected to National Board 

Tennessee Bar Association Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson in April was elected to the governing board of the National Association of Bar Executives. Stevenson, a Vanderbilt Law graduate, worked in private practice for 16 years before taking on the leadership role at the Tennessee Bar Association in 2017. She will take her seat on the board at the group’s upcoming annual meeting in San Francisco and serve a two-year term.