TBA Announces 2015 Pro Bono Awards

Nashville lawyers, Memphis law student to be recognized for commitment to pro bono

NASHVILLE, Nov. 3, 2014 — Two Nashville lawyers and a recent University of Memphis School of Law graduate will be honored with the state’s top pro bono and public service awards at a ceremony in January.

The awards will be presented by the Tennessee Bar Association at its 2015 Public Service Luncheon on Jan. 10 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Held each year as part of the association’s Leadership Conference, the luncheon also will feature remarks by TBA President Jonathan Steen and other leaders from the legal community.

Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award
Nashville attorney Rebecca McKelvey Castañeda of Stites & Harbison will receive the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award for her commitment to serving vulnerable clients in need through direct legal representation as well as through leadership with community organizations. Over the past year, she has handled a number of time-intensive pro bono cases and served on the board of the Tennessee Justice Center.

Immediate past TBA Access to Justice Committee Chair Alex MacKay nominated McKelvey Castañeda for the award saying, “Rebecca has handled numerous pro bono cases [that] required a commitment of time over the course of many months and knowledge of niche areas of the law… Rebecca’s clients [were] members of an underserved population that does not qualify for services from LSC-funded organizations. Additionally… Rebecca worked to overcome a language barrier in communicating with her clients.”

McKelvey Castañeda earned her law degree from the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, Georgia, and her undergraduate degree from Belmont University in Nashville.

The Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer Award is named for Nashville attorney Harris A. Gilbert, who served as president of the TBA from 1994-1995, and whose dedication to legal services for the poor set a high standard for all Tennessee attorneys. The award is given annually to a private sector attorney who demonstrates dedication to legal services for the poor and performs significant pro bono work.

Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award
Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, will be presented with the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award. Johnson is being recognized for her nearly 20 years of service with the Tennessee Justice Center and a career-long commitment of advocating for Tennesseans with special health care needs.

Gordon Bonnyman, Tennessee Justice Center co-founder and 1993 recipient of this same award, nominated Johnson and touted her commitment and skills that make such an impact on the community. “Michele Johnson is an extraordinarily smart, capable attorney. She is passionate in her devotion to her clients and to the cause of equal justice. She has developed and inspired a capable team of TJC staff, volunteers, pro bono co-counsel and funders who share that passion. She is creative in finding new ways to engage pro bono colleagues and enlist community support, and in finding new means to advance the welfare of vulnerable Tennesseans.”

Johnson became executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center in January 2014 after co-founding the organization in 1996 and serving there for nearly 18 years. She earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award is given annually to an attorney who has committed to a career in public service, and over the course of that career, has gone above and beyond the call of duty in representing indigent clients. The award is named for Ashley Wiltshire, the former executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, who served the agency in various roles for 37 years.

Law Student Volunteer of the Year Award
Jennifer Mayham, a 2014 graduate from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, will be recognized as the Law Student Volunteer of the Year for her work with the legal aid group Memphis Area Legal Services. She has served with the organization since fall 2012.

Frank Cantrell, deputy director and general counsel at Memphis Area Legal Services, nominated Mayham saying, her work greatly increased our capacity to handle major cases. “At a time when our funding was being reduced from a number of sources, it was invaluable to have her support...” He went on to say that a number of attributes set Jennifer apart from other volunteers. “Her heart for our clients is unlimited, she is willing to take on any project large or small…her organizational skills are outstanding and if she is given an assignment she gets it right the first time.”

The Law Student Volunteer of the Year Award is given annually to a Tennessee law school student or recent graduate who performs outstanding volunteer service to one or more organizations providing legal representation to the poor.

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          | TBA Law Blog

The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with more than 13,000 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.

For More Information

Stacey Shrader Joslin
Tennessee Bar Association
(615)383-7421
221 Fourth Ave. N., Suite 400
Nashville, TN 37219

Additional Information

Rebecca McKelvey Castañeda
Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award

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Michele Johnson
Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award

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Jennifer Mayham
Law Student Volunteer of the Year Award

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