Feature Story

Medical Examiners and ‘Manner of Death’

How Is a Suicide Determination Made?

By Dr. Amy Hawes and Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan

Medical examiners understand that a family may disagree with a manner of death determination.1 We are also acutely aware of the perceived stigma of a suicide manner of death determination.  Some medical examiners may allow a suspicion of suicide to be overridden by reluctance to impose that stigma.2 However, it is important to emphasize that cause and manner of death opinions are best offered in an unbiased manner free of undue influence from societal, legal or political pressures.3 This article addresses the need to balance medical examiner investigative independence with a family’s right to due process in challenging a manner of death.

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Comparative Fault and ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Cards

A recent decision of the Tennessee Court of Appeals reminds us of the interaction between our law of comparative fault and the legislature’s gift of “get out of jail free cards” (immunity and partial immunity) to certain special interest groups.

Edna Green was hurt on a church-sponsored bus ride to a local farm. The bus, driven by a fellow parishioner, hit some berms on the farm road causing severe injury to Ms. Green. Ms. Green sued her church, and the church asked in its answer to the complaint that fault be assigned against the farm. Ms. Green elected not to sue the farm, and went to trial only against her church.1

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Lawyers Honored with Public Service Awards

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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‘A Greater Fool’

Pro Bono Experiences, Opportunities, Vision

In the 2012 HBO series The Newsroom, we begin to get to know the main character, Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, when we see him on a panel discussion on a college campus. In the first episode, a young woman from the business school asks the panel why America is the greatest country on earth? The other panelists say freedom, diversity and opportunity. After a pregnant pause, Will says he doesn’t believe America is the greatest country on earth. He embarks upon an abusive rant which cites illiteracy, low rankings for math and science, falling life expectancy, rising infant mortality, and incarceration per capita, to name a few. The rant lands Will in a good deal of trouble with the public and with his cable news network where he anchors the evening news.

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The Man Behind the Robe

Edward Terry Sanford

In the sweltering heat of September 1934, when the last thing anyone probably wanted to think about was wearing an additional layer of clothing, a movement began among Knoxville Bar Association’s members to get Knox County judges to adopt the custom of wearing robes while on the bench.1

The supporters of the movement “point[ed] to the fact that the late Justice Edward Terry Sanford, of the United States Supreme Court, a Knoxvillian, introduced the custom in Tennessee” while he was a federal district court judge2 and cited “the added dignity that the wearing of the black robes brings to the bench, the robe being the symbol of the judiciary, which is in turn the embodiment of the people’s majesty as applied to the settlement of legal controversies.”3

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Insolvencies: What Happens If an Insurer Fails?

Lawyers tend to take insurance companies for granted. They are there to pay defense costs and handle any judgments for plaintiffs. But what happens if an insurer fails?

In order to protect ourselves and our clients, it is necessary to understand the insurance liquidation process and know about the safety net provided by the Tennessee Insurance Guaranty Association (TIGA). If insurance companies did not exist, lawyers would have to invent them. Who else would collect money to be paid out to defense attorneys and plaintiff attorneys alike to satisfy judgments? Unfortunately, that well may unexpectedly run dry.

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Deficiency Judgments after Foreclosure Sales

In an apparent attempt to bring a greater degree of certainty to the law in Tennessee with respect to the matter of deficiency judgments after real property foreclosure sales, the legislature enacted what has been codified as Tenn. Code Ann. § 35-5-118, effective Sept. 1, 2010 (the “Deficiency Statute”).

We will briefly examine the state of the law both before and after the enactment of the Deficiency Statute and let the reader decide whether the legislature did indeed achieve its goal.

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A Woman of Many Firsts

Tennessee’s Lutie Lytle

October is “Celebrate Pro Bono Month.” It is fitting that we remember a pro bono lawyer — Lutie Lytle — who was the first in many things. She was one of America’s first black female journalists.[1] She was the first black woman to earn a law degree in the South and be admitted to the bar in the South.[2] She was the first woman (of any color) admitted to the Tennessee bar.[3] She was the first black woman admitted to the Kansas bar. She was the first female law professor (of any color) in the nation.

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Celebrate Pro Bono Month Is Here!

It’s Easy to Be a Part

October is “Celebrate Pro Bono Month,” and Tennessee lawyers are joining their colleagues across the country to provide free legal services to those in need and honor the good work performed by lawyers every day as part of the annual National Pro Bono Celebration. Tennessee is among a small group of states that celebrates Pro Bono Month, not just a single day or week. Now in its 10th year, the TBA’s statewide Celebrate Pro Bono initiative brings together legal services providers with local bar associations, law schools, law firms and individual lawyers to offer free services to those unable to afford a lawyer.

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Supported Decision Making

The Missing Piece in the Puzzle of Planning for Clients with Diminished Capacity

Advising clients to plan ahead for who will make decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated constitutes a significant component of elder law and estate planning. However, the customary legal path of appointing a substitute decision maker, while obviously required for many clients with diminished capacity, is certainly not a necessity for all such clients.

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