HELP4TN MONTH Provides Civil Legal Help

April 15, 2021

Uniting for Communities in Need

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission has kicked off its annual Help4TNMonth celebration in April to provide much-needed access to civil legal services to communities in need.  The theme of Help4TNMonth 2021 is Uniting Communities in Need, as Tennesseans continue to struggle with legal issues related to the COVID-19.  Throughout the month of April, the ATJ Commission will promote virtual and telephonic legal clinics and other ways to obtain civil legal help and information.

The ATJ Commission has assembled a team of over 65 professionals to develop resources and create and promote pro bono service opportunities.  The team includes representatives from law schools, legal service providers, private law firms, and bar associations.  Faith leaders, communications experts, and technologists have also been tapped to assist in this initiative. Tennesseans may visit https://help4tnmonth.mailchimpsites.com/ to see events that are occurring throughout the month and learn how to access civil legal resources.

The impact of the pandemic is yet to be determined.  More and more people are struggling with legal issues and cannot afford an attorney. One area where the Commission is focusing its resources is helping both landlords and tenants locate resources.

“Tennesseans are facing an unprecedented rental housing crisis and many people don’t know where to turn for help,” said J. William “Bill” Coley, chair of the ATJ Commission. “Educating stakeholders about evictions resources and how to access them, including financial assistance, is key to addressing the current crisis.” Representatives from the Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the ADR Commission, Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands, and the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center were featured on an episode of NewsChannel 5 Plus OpenLine on April 14th to provide information on evictions and civil legal resources. Click here to view the episode.

The Commission is sponsoring a virtual training event as part of its racial and ethnic fairness work. On April 23, the Commission will sponsor its second installment in a virtual webinar series titled, “Words Matter: America’s Reckoning with Race Through the United States Supreme Court.” The seminar will evaluate America’s history with race through the words of the US Supreme Court with the goal of determining how America came to this moment of racial reckoning. This seminar is designed for all stakeholders in the legal community and will feature Brooklyn Sawyers Belk, legal counsel for Lyft, Inc., a leading international transportation company, managing a litigation and safety team. Belk is the first African American women to earn the position. Belk is the first African American or female, Advocate in Residence Visiting Professor and Lecturer at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Registration is free and more information is available here.

The Commission’s TN Faith & Justice Alliance will be sponsoring a second virtual event and training opportunity later in the month on April 29th. The event announcement and registration will be posted and shared through the ATJ Commission’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter, @JusticeForAllTN. Tennesseans and the legal community are encouraged to follow the Commission on its social media accounts to stay updated on new events and resources.

Attorneys are encouraged to provide pro bono service in a variety of ways throughout the month of April, and the coming months.  Many statewide, regional, and local legal aid groups are developing creative ways to connect volunteer lawyers with clients remotely.  Volunteer lawyers should contact the legal aid organization(s) that serve their community to find out about remote pro bono opportunities and resources currently being developed.

“The Tennessee Supreme Court has been amazed at the innovation and dedication of our legal service and equal justice partners both prior to and throughout the pandemic,” said Justice Cornelia A. Clark, liaison to the Commission. “Groups and individuals have united to provide timely and much-needed help to Tennesseans in need.”

There is already a statewide resource that allows attorneys to volunteer and help clients remotely.  TN Free Legal Answers is an online platform that allows people who qualify to email their legal questions to a lawyer, who will respond with free legal advice.  The ATJ Commission encourages attorneys who have not yet volunteered with TN Free Legal Answers to explore the site and take advantage of this remote pro bono opportunity.  Attorneys can go to https://tn.freelegalanswers.org/AttorneyFAQ to view an instructional video and learn how to sign up to volunteer.

Tennesseans with legal questions or needing legal help should go to https://tn.freelegalanswers.org/ to see if you qualify and to post your question.  In addition to TN Free Legal Answers, there are other statewide online resources for Tennesseans to use to connect with legal information and legal help. https://www.help4tn.org/ is a web portal that gives Tennesseans a broad range of legal and social services resources

Tennesseans with civil legal issues who do not have internet access can use Tennessee’s free legal advice helpline, 1-844-Help4TN (1-844-435-7486).  Simply dial the number to ask a non-criminal question to a licensed Tennessee attorney.  During business hours, a call responder will answer the call, take down the caller’s contact information, and schedule a return call from a Tennessee attorney.  There are Tennessee attorneys on hand to help Tennesseans age 60 and older with elder law issues.

The ATJ Commission provides collaborative leadership to create solutions and resources that address and eliminate barriers to justice for all.  The Help4TNDay awareness campaign is a joint effort by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, and the Tennessee Bar Association.  Other partners include Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Memphis Area Legal Services, West Tennessee Legal Services, University of Tennessee College of Law, the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, Community Legal Center, Tennessee Justice Center, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Disability Rights Tennessee, Vanderbilt University Law School, and many others.