News

LSC Gains Funding in Latest Budget Proposal

The proposed FY 2018 omnibus appropriations legislation includes $410 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), an increase of $25 million over the past two fiscal years and the highest appropriation since 2010. LSC provides the central foundation for the civil legal aid and pro bono system in the U.S. The funding increase in the omnibus legislation comes after President Trump’s earlier proposal to eliminate the LSC was abandoned following bipartisan outcry from business and politicians.

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ABA President Asks AG Sessions to Keep ATJ Office Open

American Bar Association president Hilarie Bass sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Department of Justice to keep the doors open at the Office for Access to Justice. “We urge you to make reorganization decisions that assign responsibility and provide adequate funding for the critical programs that preserve access to justice for all Americans – both rich and poor – and demonstrate the Department’s unwavering commitment to this core value and the rule of law,” Bass wrote.
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Corporate Counsel Gather to Support Pro Bono Efforts

Tennessee lawyers gathered at the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala Saturday in Nashville. Over the past 12 years, the event has raised more than half a million dollars in support of pro bono efforts that engage in-house and corporate counsel with legal aid programs across the state. The program featured remarks from past TBA President Buck Lewis and Ann Pruitt, executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, as well as TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson and leaders from the TBA Access to Justice Committee. This year’s event was hosted by Bass, Berry & Sims and honored outstanding law firm and legal departments. This year, Eastman Chemical Company and Bass, Berry & Sims were honored for their pro bono efforts. See photos from the event or learn more about the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative.

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Legal Aid Society to Kickoff 2018 Campaign for Equal Justice

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will host a luncheon to kickoff its annual Campaign for Equal Justice, chaired by Scott Hickman of Sherrard Roe Voigt and Harbison. The event will feature keynote speaker William C. Koch Jr., dean of the Nashville School of Law. The campaign, now in its 31st year, has a fundraising goal of $826,000 for 2018. The luncheon will be held on March 7 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Nashville City Club, 201 4th Ave N in Nashville. Those who wish to attend should RSVP to Jonathan Houghton by Monday, March 5.
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Community Legal Center to Host Memphis Fundraiser

The Community Legal Center (CLC) in Memphis will host a bar trivia night in support of its organization March 28. Called “Quiz for a Cause,” the event will be held at Ghost River Brewing Co. from 7 to 9 p.m. The cost is $5 per person. All proceeds will benefit the CLC.
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Volunteers Needed for Wills for Heroes Clinic in Marshall County

The TBA's Young Lawyers Division is seeking volunteers for a Wills for Heroes Clinic scheduled for March 3 in Lewisburg. The clinic, which will provide wills and other end-of-life documents to first responders, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Law Office of David McKenzie, 205 West Commerce Street. Volunteers should contact Debbie Zimmerle Boudreaux at (931) 359-7305 or debbie@davidmckenzielaw.com if interested.

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Bradley Announces New Firm-Wide Pro Bono Position

Tiffany M. Graves will serve as Bradley’s pro bono counsel, overseeing the development and administration of the law firm’s pro bono programs. Graves will be the first person to serve in this newly created firm-wide position designed to develop and grow outreach to the communities across the states in which the firm operates. Graves is based in the firm’s Jackson, Mississippi, office and most recently served as the head of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. 
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Putnam County Approves New Service for Domestic Violence Victims

The Putnam County Commission yesterday approved a request from General Sessions Court judges to appoint Candie Cooper, a youth services officer in the juvenile court system, as a judicial commissioner and have her serve at the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center, the Herald-Citizen reports. It will simply the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain orders of protection. The Family Justice Center provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.
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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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