NASHVILLE, April 10, 2017 - The Tennessee Supreme Court's Indigent Representation Task Force today recommended seven changes, ranging from increases to the hourly rate paid, to proposals for developing and completing statewide systems and standards. The recommendations released at a Capitol press conference come after the task force held nine public meetings in Nashville and heard from nearly 90 people during an eight-city listening tour across Tennessee. Members of the task force heard presentations by and received submissions from judges, lawyers, court clerks, judicial associations, justice-involved organizations and members of the public.  In addition to the information gathered during its listening tour, the task force reviewed studies and reports detailing how other states provide legal representation to eligible adults and juveniles. They also consulted with national organizations regarding standards from throughout the country. Task force members presenting the following recommendations:

  1. Completing a statewide data and reporting system to ensure the availability of timely and complete information required to manage and oversee the programs
  2. Seriously considering the creation of an independent central commission to oversee all programs providing legal representation to eligible adults and children and transferring current programs to the new commission;
  3. Developing and implementing uniform statewide criteria and procedures for determining eligibility for services;
  4. Amending Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13 to eliminate the distinction between out-of- court and in-court compensation rates, to eliminate case caps and the “complex and extended” designation procedure, and to increase the rate paid to appointed private counsel to an hourly rate not less than $75 nor more than $125;
  5. Enacting a statutory requirement that public defenders be appointed to represent eligible parties in criminal and delinquency proceedings unless the public defender has a conflict of interest;
  6. Appropriating sufficient funds to the District Public Defenders to enable it to represent as many defendants in criminal proceedings and children in delinquency proceedings as possible;
  7. Adjusting Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13’s caps on compensation paid to experts to market rates.

See the the entire report online.  Task force members include:

  • Justice William C. Koch Jr. (Ret.), Chair, President and Dean, Nashville School of Law
  • Lela Hollabaugh, partner, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP
  • Judge Deanna Bell Johnson, Circuit Court Judge, 21st Judicial District
  • Professor Susan L. Kay, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Clinical Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University Law School
  • Rep. William Lamberth, State House District 44
  • Susan Mattson (non-voting member), principle legislative research analyst, Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office
  • Mark A. Mesler II, attorney, Rosenblum and Reisman in Memphis
  • Judge Loyce Lambert Ryan, Shelby County General Sessions Court
  • Judge Vicki S. Snyder, Henry County General Sessions Court
  • Judge Barry A. Steelman, Criminal Court Judge, 11th Judicial District
  • Dwight E. Tarwater, General Counsel, Office of Governor Bill Haslam
  • Sen. John Stevens, State District 24

The Indigent Representation Advisory Council is made up of:

  • Jason Gichner, attorney, Morgan & Morgan
  • Professor Victor S. (Torry) Johnson III, former District Attorney General, Visiting Professor, Belmont College of Law
  • DarKenya Waller, Managing Attorney, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands
  • Professor Christina A. Zawisza, Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the Child and Family Litigation Clinic, Cecil C. Humphreys