TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Sep 24, 2012

Second of 3 programs to focus on civility in interacting with the courts

The Tennessee Bar Association, Lipscomb University's Institute for Law, Justice & Society and the First Amendment Center will hold a public forum on the issue of free speech and civility on Oct. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Lipscomb University’s Ezell Center. A public viewing of the Presidential Debate will follow at 8 p.m. Refreshments will be served and free parking is available in front of the Ezell Center as well as in the P2 garage (view parking map).

In announcing the forum, TBA President Jacqueline B. Dixon said, "The TBA is pleased to be a part of such an important project. We cannot preserve our democracy without finding the right balance between free speech and civility."

The event is the second in a series of three forums across the state designed to encourage a public conversation about the tensions between civility and free speech. The Nashville event will focus on how these issues play out with regard to the courts, as well as the role of the media in reporting judicial decisions.     

Panelists include:

  • Phyllis Hildreth - Academic Director the Institute for Conflict Management and Adjunct Professor at Lipscomb University
  • Justice Lyle Reid - Retired Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court
  • Frank Sutherland – Former Editor of The Tennessean
Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom with Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell PLLC will moderate the discussion.
Specific issues to be discussed at the Nashville forum include the impact on judicial decisions when the courts are accused of acting in political or partisan ways; whether the courts can or should respond to attacks questioning their legitimacy; and what role the media plays with regard to civility towards the courts? For example, does the media have responsibility for the tone, substance and evaluation of decisions?

The Balancing Civility and Free Expression Initiative is designed to encourage a public conversation about the tensions between civility and free speech, the state of our public square and the challenges of maintaining civil discourse in a democracy. The initiative involves three public forums -- one in Memphis, one in Nashville and one in Knoxville. Each forum will focus on a particular topic, feature a panel of experts who will present real-life scenarios that raise civility and free speech issues, and conclude with a question and answer session with the audience. The forums are free and open to the public.

The program is part of Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy — A National Dialoguefunded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and conducted in partnership with the American Bar Association Division for Public Education.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association or any of their program partners.

Nashville program partners include the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University Institute for Law, Justice & Society. Learn more about these organizations below.


ABA Division for Public Education
American Bar Association
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association (ABA) is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. The mission of its Division for Public Education is to educate the public about law and its role in society. Learn more about the Learn more about the Division for Public Education's Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy program.
National Endowment for the Humanities

National Endowment for the Humanities 
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy -- A National Dialogue is funded by the NEH under the Bridging Cultures Initiative.

TBA logo

Tennessee Bar Association
The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with more than 11,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The TBA's dedication to serving the state's legal community is evidenced by its membership roll, which represents the entire spectrum of legal practice: plaintiff and defense lawyers, corporate counsel, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and legal services attorneys.

The First Amendment Center
The First Amendment Center supports the First Amendment and build understanding of its core freedoms through education, information and entertainment. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government. Founded by John Seigenthaler, the First Amendment Center is an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute. The center has offices in the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The center's programs, including the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, provide education and information to the public and groups including First Amendment scholars and experts, educators, government policy makers, legal experts and students. The center is nonpartisan and does not lobby, litigate or provide legal advice. The center's website is one of the most authoritative sources of news, information and commentary in the nation on First Amendment issues. It features daily updates on news about First Amendment-related developments, as well as detailed reports about U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the First Amendment, and commentary, analysis and special reports on free expression, press freedom and religious-liberty issues.
Lipscomb University, Institute for Law, Justice & Society
Lipscomb University's Institute for Law, Justice & Society (LJS) administers an undergraduate academic program related to law and legal institutions, promotes dialogue related to the legal community, and offers programs of interest to the community at large. The main purposes of the institute are to be a national leader in multidisciplinary undergraduate legal education; to serve the community by providing timely and thoughtful dialogue on contemporary social and legal issues; to assist globally on issues related to law, justice and society, such as providing rule of law training in countries with developing democracies; and to train K-12 students on the American legal system and inspire good citizenship. The mission of the institute's undergraduate education program is to provide an integrated, multidisciplinary learning environment that will develop practical liberal arts knowledge of the many areas of influence the American legal system has on society, within the context of ethics and Judeo-Christian values.


Program Participants:

Bill Haltom

Bill Haltom

Phyllis Hildreth

Justice Lyle Reid

Frank Sutherland

Additional Information:

Programs in the “Balancing Civility and Free Expression” Series include:

Memphis, Sept. 18, 7-8:30 p.m.
University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
Wade Auditorium
Read the TBA's press release
See photos from the event

Nashville, Oct. 16, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Lipscomb University
Ezell Center
Read the TBA's press release
See photos from the event

Knoxville, Feb. 21, 5-7:30 p.m.
University of Tennessee
Howard H. Baker Jr. Center
Toyota Auditorium
Read the TBA's press release
Download a flyer on the event
See photos from the event

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