The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to support Access to Justice initiatives in the state. The grants will extend by one year each the pro bono coordinator position and the aLEGALz project.
“Encouraging lawyers to give back to their communities is a priority for the Court,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee. “These programs play a significant role in identifying opportunities and aligning the appropriate resources and we are grateful that the funding to continue them was possible.”
The grants come from the CLE Commission’s reserves, which are funded by fees paid by attorneys who do not complete the required number of training hours in a year.
“These important programs illustrate the Supreme Court's commitment to providing access to justice to all Tennesseans,” said Edward Lancaster, a Columbia attorney who chairs the CLE Commission.
The Commission made an initial grant toward both of these initiatives in 2012. This funding will allow those programs to continue.
“The commission is proud to be able to subsidize these programs that provide much-needed support to Tennesseans,” said Judy Bond-McKissack, Executive Director of the CLE Commission.
Fifty-six thousand dollars of the award goes to extending the pro bono coordinator position through May 2016. The position was first funded in 2012 to assist the Access to Justice Commission in their goal of increasing the number of civil case pro bono clinics in all of the state’s 31 judicial districts. The position also has been instrumental in the launch and continued growth of the Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance, which supports and encourages faith-based groups to coordinate legal resources through their place of worship.
The remaining $44,500 will help support aLEGALz through March 2017. aLEGALz is a statewide toll free number that assists Tennesseans in finding resources to deal with civil legal issues.
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.