The Tennessee Supreme Court announced in October it will support reform of the state’s method for providing legal assistance to individuals unable to afford an attorney.

Responding to a report from its Indigent Representation Task Force, the court said it will seek funding to increase the rate attorneys are paid to work on such cases to $65 per hour, and will also request an appropriation in next year’s budget to raise compensation caps by $500 on all felonies and by $250 on juvenile matters.

“The TBA applauds the Supreme Court’s strong leadership on indigent representation reform,” TBA President Lucian Pera said in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with the court and others interested in making real improvement on the status quo.” Pera added, “The court’s recommendations regarding rates and caps is a step in the right direction. Frankly, it’s a small step, and it is not enough; but it is a start.”

Tennessee attorneys were admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 11 as part of the 34th Annual TBA Academy. Front row, from left: Floyd Senter Flippin, Michael Patrick Dolan, TBA Emeritus Executive Director Allan Ramsaur, TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson, TBA President-elect Jason Pannu. Back row: Deborah Murphy Dickson, Thomas H. Forrester, Zachary D. Jones, Scott David Weiss and Donna Simpson. Mark N. Foster, who was also on the trip, is not pictured. Photo by Guinda Flippin.


Comments Requested on Court’s Proposed Rules Amendments
The Tennessee Supreme Court in October published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the 2018 Proposed Rules Amendments. Several TBA sections are reviewing the recommendations for possible comment. Comments are due to the court no later than Nov. 22.

Court Amends Rule 34: Public Access to Court Records 
The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order and appendix Sept. 15 amending Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 34. The amendments, which were effective immediately, revisit the records policy for appellate courts and indicate they are adopting a separate written public records policy applicable to the appellate courts.

Court Clarifies Process for Determining Best Interests of a Child  
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled  that courts must consider all nine statutory factors, as well as any other relevant facts, when deciding whether terminating parental rights is in a child’s best interests. The Supreme Court explained that requiring courts to consider all relevant facts and circumstances ensures each case receives individualized consideration before fundamental parental rights are terminated. Justice Cornelia A. Clark authored the unanimous opinion.

Tennessee Lawyers Sworn-in to U.S. Supreme Court 
Ten Tennessee attorneys were admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 11 as part of the 34th Annual TBA Academy in Washington, D.C. The event, which offered three hours of CLE credit, kicked off with a reception and celebration dinner, continuing the following day with breakfast at the Supreme Court, being sworn-in, and watching two oral arguments.

After hearing a lecture on the history of the court the group had lunch at the U.S. Capital, followed by a tour conducted by a staff member from Sen. Bob Corker's office.


Passage Rate Up for Tennessee Bar Exam 
The passage rate for candidates who took the July Tennessee bar exam increased by 4.55 percentage points from the same exam last year. Overall 67.68 percent (467) of the applicants passed the exam. Among first-time takers, the passage rate was 78.52 percent, also up from last year. Among Tennessee law schools, Vanderbilt University Law School grads passed at the highest rate – 97.06 percent – followed by Belmont University College of Law School at 87.32 percent. The Board of Law Examiners has more detailed results from all Tennessee law schools.


Inventor Bootcamp Provides Training to Lawyers and Inventors 
The TBA’s Legal Assistance Volunteers for Patent Applicants (LAVPA) hosted an Inventor Legal and Business Bootcamp on Sept. 20 in Knoxville for inventors and the attorneys who represent them.

Jimmy Cochran, a Knoxville inventor of the product Hooky, a device to help fishermen thread their fishhooks, kicked off the Bootcamp by taking the attendees through the creative, legal and business process he encountered. This presentation set the stage for attorneys Stephen Adams of Luedeka Neely and Bill Fortunado of Merchant & Gould, along with Hope Shimabuku, regional director of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, to address the patent process. R. Christopher Trump and Tracy McAfee of Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis PC, and Joan Heminway of the University of Tennessee College of Law then addressed business entities and the investment process. 

How Lawyers Can Help Hurricane
Victims  To ensure that legal assistance is available to victims of hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the American Bar Association (ABA) has partnered with the Louisiana Civil Justice Center (LCJC) to create a hotline (800-310-7029) to provide needed information and services through pro bono volunteers.

The ABA urges lawyers who are active members of the USVI or Puerto Rico bars to sign up to accept referrals of pro bono cases from the LCJC. Lawyers who are not licensed in either place can also assist by providing legal research or assistance with federal/administrative law questions.

There is a continued need for legal assistance for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. Tennessee attorneys can volunteer with, now updated to permit attorneys licensed outside of Texas, to participate.

For more opportunities, go to the TBA's Volunteer Resources for Disaster Relief page at


Tennessee Legal History Project Video Interviews Available  
More than 100 video interviews of senior Tennessee lawyers and retired Supreme Court justices are now available online from the Tennessee Bar Foundation. Search for Tennessee Bar Foundation on YouTube to find them.

The interviewees, from across Tennessee, recount personal biographical information and significant legal topics dealt with during their careers, as well as the important social and political issues of their day. The Tennessee Legal History Project continues to conduct interviews, and more videos will be added soon.

AOC Extends Deadline for Courthouse Security Grant Apps 
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has extended its deadline for court security grant applications to Nov. 17. The AOC launched the one-time court security grant program after receiving $2 million in funding from the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam to improve court security.  For more information, contact

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