Cover Story: This Month's Top Story

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Access to Justice in the Time of COVID-19

Many in the legal community are seeking solutions to ordeals we did not face a year ago. We are working in different settings, forming new collaborations and recognizing the need for an unprecedented level of flexibility. Effectively serving clients during COVID-19 has required nearly all attorneys to make shifts in how they work, and legal services organizations are no different. In this Special Access to Justice Issue, the Journal looks at the challenges the access to justice community is grappling with. Given the vulnerable, low-income and isolated client populations legal service organizations are serving, some of the barriers are more formidable.

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Access to Justice Awards Recognize Outstanding Work

Each year the Tennessee Bar Association recognizes outstanding service by attorneys and law students who have dedicated their time to helping others. The awards given are the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year, the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year and the Law Student Volunteer of the Year. Read the stories of those recognized here.

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Access to Justice Commission Looks Back on 2020, Highlights What’s to Come

2020 was an unprecedented year for the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, as it was for all Tennesseans. Learn about how the Commission dealt with the issues brought on by COVID-19, and what is upcoming.

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Opportunities for Pro Bono Service During the Pandemic

Tennessee is a leader in promoting access to justice and there are countless opportunities for pro bono service across the state. Learn what is available ... and how you might be interested in contributing.

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FOCUS: Evictions

There has been national attention focused on the housing and eviction crisis, and many Tennessee communities are dealing with this issue. Learn more about the growing crises.

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FOCUS: Disability Rights Tennessee

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) has responsibility for protecting and advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities across Tennessee. Read how COVID-19 sent this organization into a tailspin ... and how it has recovered.

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FOCUS: Tennessee Justice Center’s Support for P-EB

Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) has maintained a largely consistent client population, but it has had a tremendous increase in clients experiencing food insecurity.

Featured: This Month's Articles

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The Music of Confrontation: Taking Back Independence in Interpreting Tennessee’s Constitution

Our legal culture treats American courts like an orchestra, with the U.S. Supreme Court standing at the center guiding the music. True, the Supremacy Clause justifies this focus as to federal law. But as for all other topics, from state constitutional law to secured transactions, the better picture is Nashville on a pre-pandemic weekend, a city full of jazz trios, rock stars and country bands, each on their own stage playing their own music. Read Nathan Kinard's article. 

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Getting to Know the Federal Executive Branch Ethics Laws: A Primer, Part I

Until news reports over the last four years provided a “ripped from today’s headlines” aspect to the topic, most American citizens were unaware that a robust and complex corpus of federal laws and regulations exist to prevent conflicts of interest from arising among federal executive branch employees. Many persons who deal with federal employees — including lawyers in private practice — do not know that actions and requests that are taken for granted in the business world cannot be engaged in by federal employees — at least, not without negative consequences to themselves and their agencies. Nick McCall and Jill McCook explain what to look for, in Part 1 of "Getting to Know the Federal Executive Branch Ethics Laws."

Columns: Quick Reads on Timely Topics

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President's Perspective

Lawyers Are Essential, Especially in a Crisis

TBA President Michelle Greenway Sellers writes this month about the importance of lawyers, especially as the pandemic descended and stayed. "Attorneys not only continued to work, but they found creative and innovative ways to serve their clients. Despite the many challenges, attorneys pushed forward. … [providing] essential services in many different areas of the law. Attorneys have been involved in matters impacting constitutional and civil rights, protecting children and victims, criminal law, mental health law, end of life matters, health care, estate planning, employment issues, and proceedings directly related to the pandemic."

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Crime & Punishment

Taking Client Confidences on the Road

Someday, we might get to travel again. If so, most lawyers will still be wed to our electronic devices. In his column this month, Wade Davies wonders if it is possible to travel internationally while fulfilling the lawyer's ethical responsibilities to clients to preserve confidential information without falling under suspicion of obstruction of justice. Read his column "Crime & Punishment."

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History's Verdict

Black Monday and the Court-Packing Plan

Step back in time to when FDR implemented the New Deal, an effort to get the country out of the Great Depression. Although much of the endeavor was trial and error, it marked a titanic shift in power to the national government and to the executive branch in particular. But soon after, "a judicial thunderbolt struck on May 27, 1935, a date to be known as 'Black Monday.'” An ultra-conservative block of the court, known as the “Four Horsemen,” were united by devotion to the constitutional doctrine of "substantive due process" and in one day, the Supreme Court struck down three central features of the New Deal. You won't want to miss this timely column by Russell Fowler.

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Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. provides this month's quick inspiration for your busy day.

The Legal Life: Passages, Licensure & Discipline, 50 Years Ago, Sections

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Letters of the Law

The January-February 2021 TBJ struck a chord with many readers. In "Letters of the Law," you can read one by former TBA President Buck Lewis, grateful to a long-ago TBA president and Supreme Court justice — as well as many, many responses to Kent Halkett's article, "Mental Health in the Legal Profession: A Crisis, a Case Study and a Call to Action." There was not room for them all in print, but they are here.

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NEWS: TBA CLE Recognized for Excellence

The TBA’s Year End CLE programming was recognized recently as the state’s top continuing education program by the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. Read about this and other legal news from around the state.

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Section Competitions Help Hone Writing Skills

It’s a fair assumption that legal writing is one of the most basic, necessary skills for a lawyer. In fact, studies have shown that excelling in a legal writing course is one of the strongest predictors of law school success, with students who master first-year writing courses often maintaining better GPAs and performing better on exams than their peers who struggle in these classes. Read how TBA Sections are helping lawyers sharpen these skills.

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New Resource Helps in All Stages of Law Practice

The challenges of opening, building or maintaining a law practice are great enough during normal times, but in today’s climate most everyone could use some help. The TBA has launched the Practice Management Center, which has the resources you need for every stage of your practice.

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Tennessee Bar Association members who have died recently are memorialized.

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Read about the lawyers who have recently been reinstated, disbarred, suspended, censured, or transferred their licenses to disability inactive status.