The Tennessee Supreme Court adopted an order today establishing a new funding mechanism for access to justice programs, but declined to implement a requirement that attorneys make an annual report of their pro bono activity. Today’s order is consistent with recommendations made by the TBA in a comment submitted to the court in February.
The TBA comment came in response to a November 2014 petition from the court’s Access to Justice Commission, which had proposed required reporting of pro bono hours. The commission’s request did not include any mandate for pro bono service or financial contributions and only related to the reporting of these activities.
The court indicated that while it recognizes the “important information” provided by pro bono reporting and “continues to encourage strongly voluntary reporting of pro bono” service, it was not prepared to require reporting or impose any sanctions for failure to report.
The commission also had proposed a mechanism for Tennessee lawyers to easily make voluntary financial contributions to access to justice programs. The court accepted this proposal.
The annual registration form now will be revised to include a section allowing attorneys to make a voluntary financial contribution to programs that provide direct legal services to low-income Tennesseans.
The change will take effect July 1, 2015.
In adopting the order, the court reiterated its commitment to its Access to Justice Initiative and recognized that the tireless efforts of Tennessee’s attorneys have made the initiative a success.