News

CCPBI Gala to Honor Eastman and Bass, Berry & Sims

The TBA Access to Justice Committee, in partnership with the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Association of Corporate Counsel, is hosting the 12th annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala on March 3 in Nashville. The gala, which will be held at the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, will feature remarks from Eve Runyon, president and CEO of the Pro Bono Institute, and the CCPBI awards presentation. Attorneys from Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport will be honored as outstanding legal department for their work with Legal Aid of East Tennessee and Bass, Berry & Sims will receive the law firm award for its ongoing work supporting the Tennessee Justice Center. The deadline to become an event sponsor or purchase tickets is Friday. Contact Liz Todaro, TBA Access to Justice Director, for more information.

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Volunteers Needed for Wills for Heroes Clinic in Dyersburg

The TBA's Young Lawyers Division is seeking volunteers for a Wills for Heroes Clinic scheduled for March 10 in Dyersburg. The clinic, which aims to provide wills and other end-of-life documents to first responders, will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the McIver’s Grant Public Library, 410 W. Court St. Volunteers should contact Megan Warden, (901) 821-0044 if interested.

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ABA President: Proposal to Defund LSC 'Unwarranted'

American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass released a statement today in response to proposed cuts to the Legal Services Corporation. “In the face of strong bipartisan agreement over the value of LSC’s important work, the administration’s second budget proposal to defund such services is unwarranted and should be dead on arrival.” Bass said “Studies show that every federal dollar spent on legal aid returns to communities more than three times as much in benefits such as social services.” Law.com reports that President Donald Trump's proposed 2019 budget would eliminate the Legal Services Corp., a move that the administration attempted in last year's budget proposal but abandoned after outcry from businesses and politicians.
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Volunteers Needed for Memphis Expungement Clinic

Volunteers are needed for an expungement clinic in Memphis Saturday at St. Andrew AME Community Life Center and Gymnasium, 1472 Mississippi Blvd. Those interested should let Amber Floyd or Brittany Williams know their availability. Training will be provided at 9 a.m., while the clinic starts at 10 a.m. The clinic is sponsored by the TBA's Young Lawyers Division, the Memphis Bar Association, the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association, the Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance and the Shelby County General Sessions Clerk’s Office.

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Lipscomb Hosting Legal Clinic on Feb. 20

The Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice & Society will host another legal advice clinic on Feb. 20 at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 600 28th Avenue North in Nashville. Attorney volunteers are needed to assist from 5:30 to 8 p.m. It will be an advice-only clinic with no expectation to take on continuing representation. Contact Randy Spivey for more information.
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DOJ Closes Obama-Era Access to Justice Office

The U.S. Department of Justice has shuttered the Office for Access to Justice, which began in 2010 with the goal of making legal aid accessible to all citizens, The New York Times reports. While Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot close the office without notifying Congress, he can effectively close it by reallocating its resources. The offices are now dark and no longer staffed. The DOJ has not commented on the move.
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Budget Includes $10M Indigent Representation Increase, TBA to Press for More

Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2018-2019 budget submitted yesterday includes $9,880,000 “to provide recurring funding for the Indigent Representation Task Force initiatives to raise hourly rates and case caps.” The Tennessee Bar Association termed it “gratifying" that the administration acknowledged the dedication and hard work by the lawyers who accept appointments to represent the indigent and vowed to press for more money in the appropriations process.
 
The Supreme Court’s task force, headed by former justice and now Nashville School of Law Dean Bill Koch, spent two years studying all facets of indigent representation. Among the recommendations of the group are elimination of the per case cap on amounts of compensation for appointed counsel and guardians ad litem, an increase in the rate to $75 to $125 per hour and creation of a commission to oversee and administer the program. The first task of the TBA will be to learn the exact contours of the administration recommendation, which funds only part of the task force plan. The TBA will then quickly pivot to equipping and mobilizing members to advocate for a more substantial increase. TBA policy calls for elimination of the caps and at least a $100 per hour rate. The TBA also supports establishment of the commission. 
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Access to Justice Commission Seeking Feedback

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is seeking input from the legal community to help in planning efforts as it develops a new strategic plan in March. A brief survey is available for all who wish to share thoughts and feedback. The survey will remain open through Feb. 7. Please contact Anne-Louise Wirthlin at the Administrative Office of the Courts with questions or for more information. 

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LAET, Hospital Form Children's Health Law Partnership

Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have partnered to create the Children’s Health Law Partnership (CHLP), the first program of its kind in the Knoxville area. The new program places a civil legal aid attorney on the care team with the doctors, nurses and social workers at the hospital. The attorney works to address non-medical issues that impact positive medical outcomes. The Children’s Health Law Partnership is funded through a 2017 grant from Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee. For more information on this program, contact the Knoxville office of Legal Aid at (865) 637-0484.
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LSC in Tennessee Examines ATJ Issues, Honors Volunteers

Tennessee's Access to Justice community was in the spotlight this past week when the Board of the Legal Services Corporation held three days of meetings and events in Nashville. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Janice Holder and William Koch, Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins and former TBA Presidents Marcy Eason and Buck Lewis were among those addressing the participants. TBA President-elect also Jason Pannu took part in the pro bono awards program, where the Waller firm and volunteers from across the state were recognized for their work.

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ABA House to Consider Expanding ATJ, Mandatory Sentencing, Attorney Well-Being

The American Bar Association House of Delegates will consider about three dozen resolutions at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., including recommendations to expand access to the courts, limit use of mandatory sentences, encourage more attention to lawyer health and well-being, and improve civil rights protections for Americans, particularly on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The 601-member House will meet Feb. 5 at 8:30 a.m. to conclude the Midyear Meeting, which begins Jan. 31.
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Hickman to Chair Legal Aid Society 2018 Fundraising Campaign

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands announced that Scott Hickman will serve as the 2018 chair of the Campaign for Equal Justice, an annual initiative that raises funds for Legal Aid Society. Hickman, an attorney at Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison practicing in the areas of employment law and business dispute resolution, has been an active participant in Legal Aid’s free legal help clinics since 2000. The Campaign for Equal Justice, set to launch in March, has been held annually since 1987. This year’s goal has yet to be set, but in 2017, the campaign received $814,240 of a $826,000 goal.
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Ashworth Named Chair of Access to Justice Commission; 3 Appointed to Group

Three lawyers have been named the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, and Gail Ashworth has been appointed the new chair. Michael L. Forrester of Kingsport, John L. Farringer of Nashville, and Alexander McVeagh of Chattanooga were appointed to three-year terms to replace the outgoing Marcia M. Eason, David R. Esquivel and Anthony Alan Seaton. Ashworth’s term as chair will last two years, beginning on April 1. Farringer also currently serves as chair of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice committee.
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Dog Bites, Alimony Deductions and a New Superhero

The January Tennessee Bar Journal carries a full slate of legal information from our columnists, ranging from a column covering the law regarding dog bites by John A. Day, to the elimination of alimony deductions by Marlene Eskind Moses and Manuel Benjamin Russ; and Bill Haltom's thoughts on the possibilities for a new superhero: Super Spiderman Batman Lawyer.

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What Indigent Representation Reform Is, Why it Matters

"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put indigent representation on a path to real and lasting reform," TBA President Lucian Pera writes his January Tennessee Bar Journal column. "Reform matters especially to us as lawyers because of the special commitment we all made in the admission oath we each swore. It also matters especially to us because the system won’t work without the full participation of lawyers. [This] depends in part on the system’s fair compensation of lawyers who accept appointments to represent the indigent." Pera asks lawyers to help achieve reforms mapped out by the Supreme Court. The magazine delves into the subject in an article by Elizabeth Slagle Todaro, and focuses on other access to justice areas, too, with updates on initiatives, innovations through Equal Justice Works fellowships and features on this year's public service award honorees.

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Supreme Court, MBA Recognize Memphis Attorneys

The Tennessee Supreme Court recognized Memphis-area 2017 Attorneys for Justice during the Memphis Bar Association Annual Dinner. Justice Holly Kirby publicly thanked attorneys who provided 50 or more hours of pro bono work in the prior calendar year. Out-going President Dean Decandia presented one of his President’s Awards to Amber Floyd for her leadership in pro bono work. Retired Judge Robert L. Childers also was honored for his 33 years of service on the bench, and was presented with the inaugural Robert L. Childers Wellness Award.
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LAS, Nashville Bar Launch New Program for Veterans

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has launched a new program with the Nashville Bar Association (NBA) to support veterans with legal issues. Called The Veterans Project, it is a partnership among the NBA, Veterans Court, Office of the Mayor of Metropolitan Nashville, Metro Homelessness Commission, Operation Stand Down TN (OSDTN) and Legal Aid Society’s Volunteer Lawyers Program. While the program is primarily focused on helping veterans who are homeless or facing homelessness, help with civil legal problems is available to all veterans. The scope of civil legal issues for which veterans can seek help includes child support, debt, bankruptcy, car purchase/repair, family law, expungement and reinstatement of driver’s licenses. 
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MALS Presents B. Taylor Gray with Pro Bono Award

Memphis Area Legal Services last week presented The W.J. Michael Cody Access to Justice Award to B. Taylor Gray at the Memphis Bar Association Annual Meeting. The award recognizes a private attorney who has furthered the vision of "Justice for Those in Need" and has supported MALS' mission of providing excellence in legal advocacy for those in need. Gray represented several MALS clients in adoption proceedings and provided many hours of free legal support. He also was instrumental in establishing Bass, Berry & Sims as a Pillar Law Firm, which means the firm has agreed to be the first point of contact in MALS' efforts to place pro bono cases with private attorneys.

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New TBJ: How the 38-Year 'Geier' Case Changed Higher Education

Follow the 38-year legal battle to secure educational opportunity for African-Americans in Tennessee's public colleges and universities, in this issue. Written by C.A. Gonzalez, who was the mediator and court's monitor in the case, the article explains all the twists, turns and intrigue of the famous Geier case that changed everything. Also, TBA President Lucian T. Pera explains what he sees as a market failure for lawyers as well as what the solutions could be. In a feature article, Tennessee's 1865 Constitution and "the return of civil government" is examined by former TBA President Sam D. Elliott. Read the December Tennessee Bar Journal.

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Faith and Justice Alliance to Host Legal Clinic Saturday in Knoxville

The Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance will host a free legal advice clinic in Knoxville on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The clinic will take place at Ball Camp Baptist Church, 2412 Ball Camp Byington Road, and is coordinated by the Knoxville Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the University of Tennessee College of Law and legal volunteers.

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ABA Urges 11th Circuit to Ban Bail System in Calhoun, Ga.

The American Bar Association filed a new amicus brief Monday, again contending that the bail system in Calhoun, Ga., which allows pretrial release only if the defendant pays an amount of bail money fixed to a schedule of offenses, violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit remanded the case back to the trial court, requesting the judge’s injunction provide more guidance to Calhoun on how it must comply with the minimal standards required by the U.S. Constitution. This is the second brief filed by the ABA in the matter.
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Attorney Volunteers Needed for Immigrant Family Defense Workshop in Memphis

The TBA Young Lawyers Division and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition will be hosting their final Family Defense Workshop on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Iglesia Nueva Vida. Volunteer lawyers will provide powers of attorney for individuals in the event of deportation or other immigration enforcement actions. A large turnout of clients is expected so many attorney volunteers are needed. No immigration law experience is required and a brief training will be held prior to the clinic. Those with questions should contact Brandon Pettes or Camila Fyler.
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Nearly Half of Tennessee Attorneys Report Pro Bono Service

Nearly half of Tennessee attorneys reported doing some pro bono work in 2015, totalling 591,064 hours of pro bono service or an average of 72.7 hours for each attorney. That data comes from the just released 2016 Pro Bono Report, which is compiled by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission. The report shows that the number of attorneys who reported pro bono and the number of hours of pro bono work performed both increased from the prior year. The report also describes the significant work being done by bar associations, law schools, legal aid organizations and faith-based communities across Tennessee to increase opportunities for pro bono service. 

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Legal Services Corp. Announces Award Grants, Nearly $8 Million Headed to Tennessee

Last week the Legal Services Corp. announced a series of grants awarded to organizations that “provide effective and economical delivery of high quality civil legal services to eligible low-income individuals,” and some of that money will be granted to Tennessee-based organizations. The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will receive over $3 million, Memphis Area Legal Services will see just north of $1.5 million, West Tennessee Legal Services will receive nearly $700,000 and Legal Aid of East Tennessee will be awarded almost $2.5 million. Interested parties have 30 days to comment on the proposed grants.
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TJC Honors Long-time Donors at Hall of Fame Event

The Tennessee Justice Center this week honored nine donors who have contributed close to $1 million to the organization since its inception 22 years ago. The Hall of Fame event Thursday in Nashville recognized Don Enright, Ruth Ann Leach Harnisch, Ellen Levy and Gregg Horowitz, Bill and Robin King, Nancy MacLean, and Steve and Jeanne Thomas. See photos from the event.

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