Supreme Court Establishes Pro Bono Emeritus Attorney Program

September 8, 2010

The Tennessee Supreme Court has established a program allowing retired attorneys to provide pro bono legal services as yet another step in the Court’s effort to improve access to justice in the state. With the adoption of Supreme Court Rule 50A, retired attorneys will have the ability to work with legal assistance organizations that offer free services to Tennesseans who are unable to afford legal counsel. Supreme Court Rule 50A will take effect on January 1, 2011.

The adoption of this Rule comes on the heels of the Court’s June announcement of a statewide pro bono summit and access to justice website, both to be launched in January. These efforts are part of the Supreme Court’s access to justice initiative, which was launched in December 2008.

“The pro bono emeritus rule offers retired attorneys the unique opportunity to share their legal expertise with Tennesseans in need,” said Chief Justice Cornelia Clark. “We hope that this Rule change encourages retired attorneys to step up and answer the call to provide pro bono services for the growing number of Tennesseans who cannot afford legal representation.”

“I commend the Court for their ongoing commitment to address the legal needs gap in Tennessee,” said Margaret Behm, Chair of the Court’s Access to Justice Commission. “The need for pro bono legal assistance in Tennessee is overwhelming and this program offers an excellent approach to increasing the pool of attorneys who can offer pro bono services.”

The pro bono emeritus rule gives retired attorneys the authority to perform all legal work, without pay, on behalf of a client. Pro bono emeritus attorneys may represent the client in court with the approval of the judge hearing the case.

Retired attorneys who wish to participate in the program must file an application with the appellate court clerk’s office. The Supreme Court will review all applications and provide a written approval to the attorney.