News

Legal Resources Made Available in Wake of Hurricanes

Lawyers are serving as critical “second responders” helping with legal needs for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Soon after Harvey hit the Texas coast in August, the state’s Supreme Court went into action. By issuing an emergency order allowing out-of-state lawyers to practice Texas law temporarily, the court opened the avenue for legal help to pour in from other states. The order allows volunteer attorneys from across the country to provide pro bono support in Texas or remotely, by working with a “legal aid or pro bono program or a bar association that provides services to victims of Hurricane Harvey.”

Tennessee lawyers, like in many other states, have responded by going to Texas Free Legal Answers to help. (See page 3 and 4 for more ways you can help.)

“Now is the time to begin spreading the word so that lawyers across our state realize we have a real opportunity to be true Tennessee volunteers again and help those who need it most,” Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins said. “The Tennessee Supreme Court stands ready to help the volunteer lawyers in any way we can.”

Soon after, in early September, Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas, leaving devastation across the entire region. To help its citizens, the Florida Bar responded through pro bono and fundraising efforts. Although Florida has not expanded pro bono opportunities to attorneys licensed outside the state, the Florida Supreme Court raised the income cap for use of Florida Free Legal Answers, thus allowing more people to get pro bono help from lawyers. Additionally, there are Hurricane Legal Aid Funds set up in both states that will support civil legal aid for hurricane survivors.

As avenues and resources are added to help with support for pro bono legal services and financial assistance for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, updates will be made at the Tennessee Bar Association’s website. Visit www.tba.org/node/94433 to stay informed.

COURTS

AOC Launches Grant Program to Upgrade Courthouse Security 
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has launched a one-time court security grant program to improve courtroom security and to provide safe and secure facilities. Money has been made available by the General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam for this.

A committee of judges from across the state will determine the qualifications and criteria for grant awards. Preference will be given to counties with courtrooms that do not currently meet the present minimum courtroom security standards as well as counties that have experienced a recent courtroom security breach. Applications will be accepted until Oct. 16.

Federal Court to Revisit Ruling Permitting Women to be Paid Less  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will revisit a panel’s ruling that men may be paid more than women based on salary histories, the ABA Journal reported. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission appealed the April ruling, saying it would perpetuate the gender pay gap. The 9th Circuit granted the request and will hear oral arguments in December.

TECHNOLOGY

New Program Will Provide Legal Support to Entrepreneurs 
Vanderbilt Law School has created a new program, the Turner Family Community Enterprise Clinic, which will provide legal support to entrepreneurs on shoestring budgets. The clinic was made possible via a $2 million investment by Cal Turner Jr., and will offer students opportunities to help entrepreneurs with matters such as applying for tax-exempt status and drafting lease agreements. Lauren Rogal, assistant clinical professor of law, will direct the program starting this fall.

Counsel on Call Acquires Nashville E-Discovery Firm
Brentwood-based Counsel On Call, an on-demand legal services company, in September bought Nashville-based DSicovery LLC (DSi), which offers digital forensics and e-discovery services. Counsel On Call will operate DSi out of its current Nashville officers. Both companies will continue to conduct business under their current names.

NATIONAL

Fact Check Site Adds 'Free Speech in the Workplace' The American Bar
Association updated its new web-based legal fact check service by exploring conflicting issues regarding free speech in the workplace. The site, ABA Legal Fact Check, debuted in August and is the first fact check website focusing exclusively on legal matters. The new item offers a brief legal history of speech in the workplace and notes that the extent of free speech protection in the workplace depends on many factors, such as whether the employee works in the public or private sector, the state in which the individual works, applicable
federal and state statutes and whether the worker is protected by a union.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Bar Leaders Praise Service, Honor Lawyers, Pose Challenges at EJU
More than 275 lawyers, law students and advocates attended the 2017 Equal Justice University (EJU) in Murfreesboro in August.  The conference’s 40th anniversary, EJU is an annual event for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community, providing continuing education as well as networking through task force meetings and social functions. It is hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and co-sponsored by the TBA.

This year, the Janice M. Holder Award went to Larry Bridgesmith and Cat Moon for their innovative work in connecting technology solutions with challenges faced by the access to justice community.

Carol Gish and Ashley Holliday, both from West Tennessee Legal Services, received the B. Riney Green Award for their work with their organization and throughout the community.  Christina Magráns-Tillery with Legal Aid of East Tennessee received the New Advocate of the Year Award for her creative and effective advocacy efforts on behalf of housing clients in the Knoxville area.

During the conference, TBA President Lucian Pera voiced appreciation for legal services professionals and pro bono volunteers. Pera presented thought-provoking questions about the changing legal market and the need for creative options to respond to the growing justice gap. TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson also delivered remarks, emphasizing the TBA’s continuing support and appreciation for the access to justice community.

ELECTIONS

Tennesseans Can Now Register to Vote Online 
The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office has rolled out online voter registration across the state.

The new option, which gets Tennessee up to speed with the majority of U.S. states that already offer the service, comes as a result of a law passed last year. In addition to registering new voters, the online system will allow current voters to update their contact information.

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