Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade (left) shares a moment with Circuit Court Judge Mike Faulk of the 3rd Judicial District, Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Rob Montgomery and state Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee. Photo by Hank Hayes.
KINGSPORT — Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade on Tuesday night lifted up Northeast Tennessee attorneys who have given free legal services to low-income and elderly residents, and victims of domestic violence.
Wade hailed attorneys' so-called "Pro Bono" work during a "Dinner with the Tennessee Supreme Court" event served up at The Club at Ridgefields to benefit Legal Aid of East Tennessee's (LAET) Pro Bono Project.
LAET's Pro Bono Project is aimed at offering lawyers, law students and other legal professionals opportunities to increase access to justice.
"I cannot thank you enough for the time you give to Legal Aid of East Tennessee to Pro Bono work in Tennessee," Wade told about 100 attendees at the event. "I think that you will find this Supreme Court will continue to support the efforts of providing those 1.2 million people in the state of Tennessee who qualify for legal services under federal poverty guidelines with valuable services as an attorney."
LAET completed more than 7,000 individual cases, helping about 12,100 people directly with a $10 million economic benefit, according to the organization's annual report.
"Our participation in Access to Justice efforts by the Supreme Court, the Tennessee Bar Association, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and community bar associations is significant," LAET Executive Director David Yoder said in the report.
Wade, in his keynote remarks, also recognized outgoing state Supreme Court Justices Janice Holder of the Western Section and William Koch of the Middle Section. Holder was the first woman to serve as chief justice in Tennessee.
"We have the finest Supreme Court in the nation," Yoder said. "They have done so much for access to justice and the needs of low and moderate income people in Tennessee. Besides that ... these are really nice people. That's not always the case with Supreme Court judges."
Wade and Justices Cornelia A. Clark of the Middle Section and Sharon Lee of the Eastern Section all face retention elections this August. They are Democrats expected to be targets of Republican efforts to unseat them.
LAET's Pro Bono Awards recognition began with a Commitment Award featuring Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz; Herndon, Coleman, Brading and McKee; Fowler and Fowler; Smith, Booksh and Farrell; and Hunter, Smith and Davis. Attorneys Tony Seaton, Suzanne Queen and Mike Forrester were recognized for the Access to Justice Aw a r d .
The Outstanding Service Award went to Art Fowler III, James Janaitis, Randy Kennedy, Andrew Hutchinson, Lindsey Lane, Karen Boyd and Brandee Riddle.
The Above and Beyond Award went to Aleania Smith.