Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization Awards Grant Funding for Supreme Court Access to Justice Initiatives

September 21, 2012

Nashville, Tenn.—The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization announced it has awarded funds from its reserves to projects supporting the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Initiative. The Commission’s reserves accumulate from fees paid by lawyers who do not complete the specified amount of continuing legal education hours per year.

“The Commission wanted to use its reserve funding to help low income Tennesseans who need legal help,” Joy Day, Esquire, Chair of the CLE Commission said. “The Supreme Court has raised awareness across the state of the need to find innovative ways to provide citizens with legal information and access to a lawyer. We hope that our contribution can further the Court’s goals.”

The grant will fund the creation of a statewide toll free number the public can call to get legal information. Court personnel, social service providers, and other agencies will be able to refer members of the public to the statewide number. Callers will receive information on legal resources in their area or that address their legal issue. An attorney is sought to staff the information line. Information can be found http://www.tals.org/tals-job-opening-legal-information-line-staff-attorney.

Funding will also be provided to staff an initiative to develop new pro bono projects where low income Tennesseans can go to get free legal advice and help. The position will focus on creating projects in areas of the state that do not currently have free legal resources for low income Tennesseans. An attorney is sought to staff the pro bono support position. Information can be found http://www.tncourts.gov/employment/pro-bono-coordinator.

Judy L. Bond-McKissack, JD, Executive Director of the CLE Commission said, “We are pleased we can contribute to these initiatives that will connect low income Tennesseans with valuable legal information and foster new and exciting projects to provide low income Tennesseans with legal help. It is wonderful that lawyer-generated reserves can be used to effectively increase access to legal resources and the court system.”

Chief Justice Gary R. Wade said, “The CLE Commission’s generosity will have a positive impact on our citizens. The Supreme Court is excited for the many opportunities for new pro bono projects that will arise from this grant funding.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its Access to Justice campaign in Dec. 2008. This was in response to a growing legal needs gap in Tennessee as indigent and working-poor families faced more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions and foreclosures. As part of the campaign, the Court created the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission, which is made up of ten members from across the state.

For more information on the Access to Justice campaign, visit http://www.tncourts.gov/programs/access-justice.