2011 News Articles

December 30, 2011 – Commercial Appeal: Memphis Domestic Assault Victim Alleges Eviction

A woman claims she’s being evicted from her apartment for a criminal activity far from her own doing: a domestic violence attack against her. The 19-year-old mother of three says she was attacked by her former boyfriend on Oct. 15. She fled the apartment screaming for help from a security guard, who gave chase. According to her lawsuit, Jones received a notice from the apartment manager, Van Rooy Properties, seven days later. Jones is represented by attorneys Sapna V. Raj, managing attorney of the Memphis Fair Housing Center of Memphis Area Legal Services, and Keith L. Dobbs. Read More

December 16, 2011 – Daily News: MALS Expands Fundraising Amidst Cuts

Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. is expanding its annual fundraising drive in both its amount and who the nonprofit is seeking donations from. MALS has lost $300,000 in federal government funding as a result of budget cuts this year. The first $65,000 was cut in April retroactively for the current budget year. And MALS will lose another $235,000 next year. “If you compare what they were getting from the federal government in 2010 to what they will get in 2012, that’s a $300,000 cut,” said MALS fundraising chairman George T. “Buck” Lewis, a shareholder in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz PC and a former president of the Tennessee Bar Association.ther $235,000 next year. Read More

November 26, 2011 – Commercial Appeal: Pro Bono Legal Aid Makes Real Difference

Lawyers are in a unique position to level society’s playing field and improve people’s lives, yet there is often a wide economic gulf between demand and supply for our services. Rather than blindly accepting this inequity, the legal profession in Memphis has a long tradition of providing free or reduced-fee services on a volunteer (pro bono) basis. In Memphis and Shelby County, hundreds of attorneys provide pro bono services, supplementing the work done by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Community Legal Center (CLC). Read More

October 21, 2011 – Commercial Appeal: Bernice Donald Sworn In As Federal Appeals Court Judge

U.S. Dist. Court Judge Bernice Donald on Thursday officially became a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In a two-hour investiture ceremony at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, Donald was praised by fellow judges, officials, family members and friends as role model, friend of the law and dedicated public servant. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last month by a vote of 96-2. Donald, who in 1982 was the first black woman elected judge in West Tennessee, now becomes the first black woman on the Sixth Circuit bench. Donald earned undergraduate and law degrees from Memphis State University and worked for Memphis Area Legal Services and the Shelby County Public Defenders Office before being elected judge in General Sessions Criminal Court. Read More

October 06, 2011 – Daily News: Bar Foundation Chairman Key Oversees Grant Program

Memphis attorney Charles Key of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP recently was elected chairman of the Tennessee Bar Foundation. As chair, Key takes great pride in performing the duties bestowed upon him, including administering the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. The Tennessee Supreme Court established the program in 1984, assigning the responsibility for its administration to the Tennessee Bar Foundation. The purpose is to raise funds to be distributed as grants to Tennessee organizations that provide direct legal services to the indigent or seek to improve the administration of justice; as well as to students, in the form of scholarships, at state-supported law schools. Local recipients of IOLTA funds include Memphis Community Legal Center, Exchange Club Family Center of the Mid-South Inc., Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., YWCA of Greater Memphis’ Immigrant Women’s Services, plus many other services on the state level. Read More

September 13, 2011 – WMCTV: Victim Wants Out Of Lease After Home Invasion (Video)

21-year-old, Rachel Summerlin had some serious question for the Edgewater Apartment property owners. “What would you do if you were in this situation? You got to put yourself in my shoes,” said Summerlin. Summerlin was pistol whipped and dragged into her apartment during a robbery attempt on June 28th. “They ransacked it keep asking for money, which I didn’t have. It was my first apartment so I didn’t have anything,” said Summerlin back in June. Luckily Summerlin was on the phone with her girlfriend at the time of the attack. Her girlfriend was able to alert cops. Memphis Police arrived and they traded gunfire with the suspects. However Summerlin’s assailants got away. That day she knew she had to get out of that apartment. Read More

July 28, 2011 – Daily News: U of M Event Honors City’s Legal Pillars

They’ve argued landmark cases in Memphis courtrooms in addition to representing everyday clients. They’ve grown into lions of the local legal profession. And they’ve helped tilt the course of history in the city. For their contributions to the law and to the community, seven men will be honored during a dinner and ceremony Aug. 13, hosted by the alumni chapter of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Six of the men are Pillar honorees. They are Leo Bearman Jr., David Caywood, W.J. “Mike” Cody, Robert Green, John Paul “Jack” Jones and the Hon. Russell Sugarmon. Charles Tuggle Jr. is the feted Friend of the law school. Read More

July 20, 2011 – Commercial Appeal Editorial: Relief From Old Debts

While Washington is consumed with the struggle over how to reduce the nation’s debt, one member of Congress is promoting an idea that would help struggling individuals keep from being pulled into court by their very old debts. The bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis would clarify a principle already established by law — that it is not permissible to sue or threaten to sue an individual whose debt has exceeded the statute of limitations. It should not be necessary to remind creditors of this, but, according to lawyers for Memphis Area Legal Services, they are often called on to persuade judges that “stale debt” lawsuits violate existing law. Read More

July 17, 2011 – Commercial Appeal: U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen Pushes Legislation To Set Time Limit On Bill Collections

As it stands right now, Gwendolyn E. Hall owes Covington Pike Acceptance Co. $5,503 plus attorneys’ fees. Whether she will in the long run is in dispute. What is clear is that Covington Pike sued her to collect the debt in August 2002, couldn’t find her to serve the complaint, then waited almost eight years before obtaining a $7,337 judgment against her last September in Shelby County General Sessions Court. That would not have happened if a bill introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., had been the law. Cohen’s bill would bar lawsuits by creditors who seek to collect a debt after the statute of limitations has run, as Hall’s lawyers say it had in her case. Right now, according to Frank S. Cantrell, general counsel of Memphis Area Legal Services, lawyers for some debtors have to persuade judges such “stale debt” lawsuits violate existing law. Read More

June 6, 2011 – WMCTV.com: Don’t Do It! (Video Story)

Never sign a lease-purchase agreement on a home. Ever. At least not in this economy, according to Action News 5′s legal and real estate sources. Andrew Kee, broker/property manager and owner of Kee Property Management in Midtown Memphis, said before the housing bubble burst, consumers could trust most lease-purchase agreements. Not anymore, said Sapna Raj, managing attorney of the Memphis Fair Housing Center of Memphis Area Legal Services (www.malsi.org, (901) 432-4663). Raj said now, prospective home-buyers are trying to buy too much house by putting too much money down on a lease-purchase agreement to move in right away. She said those consumers often confuse the money for a down payment or earnest money. That money, in a lease-purchase agreement, is actually a non-refundable deposit, she said. Read More

May 3, 2011 – The Daily News: Bill Would Alter Foreclosure Notices

The judiciary committees in the House and Senate of the Tennessee General Assembly are scheduled to vote on companion bills Tuesday that would give homeowners less advance warning before their homes are foreclosed. By allowing lenders to reduce the number of foreclosure notices they publish in newspapers from three to one, the legislation would either do little more than reduce fees collected on the back end from homeowners or hasten what consumer advocates say is an already too-speedy foreclosure process in Tennessee, depending on who you ask. “Our problem with something like this is we are a non-judicial foreclosure state, so people don’t have to be taken to court,” said Sapna Raj, managing attorney of the Memphis Fair Housing Center, which is part of Memphis Area Legal Services. “All they get is a notice in the mail or someone tells them there’s a notice in the paper. Read More

April 30, 2011 – The Commercial Appeal: Letter: Fighting DV From Every Angle

The Memphis Area Women’s Council has worked since its founding in 2003 with partners from law enforcement, courts, social service providers, Memphis Area Legal Services, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee, Shelby County agencies, Memphis/Shelby Domestic Violence Council, Operation: Safe Community and others to unify efforts and focus strategic action on gaps in our local system of response. That unified work, since 2008 under the umbrella of the Erase Domestic Crime Collaborative, is coordinating awareness outreach, increasing emergency shelter capacity and quality, improving orders of protection process, assuring training and evaluation of judicial commissioners, and developing housing options for domestic violence survivors. Read More

March 16, 2011 – The Commercial Appeal: U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice Donald of Memphis Breezes Through Confirmation Hearing

A federal judge from Memphis who has been nominated to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals breezed through her confirmation hearing before a congressional panel on Wednesday. U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice B. Donald fielded questions about her experience on the bench, whether her race influences her decisions, and her ruling in a local schools case that was later overturned by the appeals court on which she soon may sit. Neither of Tennessee’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — has indicated whether they will vote to confirm Donald to the federal appeals court. But Alexander introduced Donald at her confirmation hearing and noted in his remarks that her professional credentials “are considerable” and that she has an “extraordinary record of community service and personal achievement.” Read More

March 15, 2011 – The Commercial Appeal: U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice Donald Faces Confirmation Hearing Today

Donald’s nomination by President Barack Obama goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee today after both of Tennessee’s Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, said they had no objection. Donald, a federal judge in Memphis for 15 years, was first nominated in December, but the Senate could not act before adjourning. She was renominated in January. Prior to that, she worked with A C Wharton at Memphis Area Legal Services and at the public defenders’ office, then became the first elected black woman in Tennessee to serve as a Shelby County General Sessions Court judge, in 1982. She was the first black woman appointed to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, in 1988. She is a graduate of then-Memphis State and its law school. She was nominated to her present district judgeship by President Bill Clinton.Read More

February 25, 2011 – WMCTV.com: U of M Law Students To Spend Spring Break “Giving Back”

In an initiative that is unprecedented in scope, students of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis will host law students from around the country for an “alternative spring break’ during the week of March 7through 11. The students will offer free legal services to elderly and low-income residents of Memphis. In addition to a number of local lawyers who will supervise the students’ interaction with clients, PALS’ partners include the Memphis Area Legal Services, the Community Legal Center, the Memphis Bar Association, CASA, RISE and Literacy Mid-South. Read More

February 17, 2011 – The Daily News: Clark Reaches Pinnacle as State’s Top Judge

When Bill Haslam took the oath of office as governor last month, Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia Clark administered the oath. It is one of the more public parts of a critical job that has many sides and calls on many talents. The job of chief justice comes with a two-year term, a high profile, some travel and a lot of administrative duties. The chief justice has become an influential voice for better access to justice through encouraging more pro bono work by attorneys as well as fundraising for legal aid organizations like Memphis Area Legal Services. Read More

January 27, 2011 – The Tri-State Defender Online: Judge Donald to Receive Holmon Award

The University of Memphis Black Student Association will honor Judge Bernice Donald with the Authur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Michael D. Rose Theatre. The Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 1991 to honor Memphians whose lives exemplify outstanding dedication to the Memphis community and who are a constant reminder to today’s students that hard work and dedication are true keys to success. The award was renamed the Authur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 in honor of a longtime University of Memphis administrator. Read More

January 10, 2011 – The Memphis Flyer: 20 < 30

The under-30s — born in the glare and glitter of the 1980s, the decade of big hair and big shoulders, that musically metallic wasteland between the death of disco and the birth of grunge. Their newly opened eyes witnessed the fall of communism, the safe return of some spacecraft and the loss of another, and violence against a president, a pope, and a Beatle. The following Memphians are all in their 20s, all embarking on adventures in business, nonprofit groups, the arts, ecology, society — life. Theyare positive, community-minded, smart, ambitious. They are seldom singular, choosing instead to come together as collaborators, as collectives of artists and professionals to make Memphis a better place, to make themselves better people. (Features MALS attorney Shayla Purifoy) Read More

January 13, 2011 – The Daily News: Thornton Finds Balance Between Practice, Pro Bono Work

Laurie Thornton says it was her own experience with paralyzing fear and a sense of helplessness that led her into the pro bono work she does with her law firm, Glankler Brown PLLC, and with Memphis Area Legal Services. Thornton’s work with MALS has been in the areas of real estate transactions, estate issues and collection matters. The service-based award for charitable work has been presented for three years, an award Thornton is very familiar with it as she’s won it every year. Read More

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