The Tennessee Supreme Court today announced the creation of a new statewide Access to Justice Commission to help address the growing civil legal needs crisis in Tennessee. The ten-member Commission is chaired by Margaret Behm, a Nashville lawyer with Dodson Parker Behm & Caparella, PC who has been a leader in the legal community in Tennessee. She is joined by Dean Douglas A. Blaze of the University of Tennessee College of Law; Kathryn Reed Edge of the law firm of Miller & Martin PLLC; Francis S. Guess, executive vice-president of The Danner Company; George T. "Buck" Lewis of the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC; A. Gregory Ramos of the law firm of North, Pursell, Ramos & Jameson, PLC; D. Billye Sanders of the law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP; Maura Abeln Smith, senior vice-president and corporate secretary of International Paper; Dr. Frank Anthony Thomas, Senior Servant of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis; and Bill Young of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee.
“I’m honored that the Court selected me to head this very important Commission, and I look forward to working with these talented Commissioners,” said Margaret Behm.
The Court created the Commission through the adoption of a new Supreme Court Rule 50, which outlines the structure of the Commission and the responsibilities to be undertaken by it to improve access to justice in Tennessee. The Commission has been charged by the Court to develop strategies and solutions to help meet the legal needs crisis; to foster continued collaboration among the judiciary, access to justice organizations, bar associations, and legal professionals; and to work to educate and focus the attention of the public and policymakers on this civil legal needs crisis so that all Tennesseans will be fully vested in solving this problem. The Commission will begin its work in April.
Chief Justice Janice Holder expressed confidence in the Commission and its members, stating, "I am confident that this very distinguished Commission will build on our efforts to date and will collaborate with other individuals and organizations to provide greater access to civil legal services to Tennesseans who are most in need."
Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 50