Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission Focuses on Second Chances and a Clean Slate in Celebration of Help4TNMonth

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission (ATJ), which offers much-needed access to civil legal services to communities in need, is celebrating Help4TNMonth. Help4TNMonth is an annual celebration held during the month of April. Its purpose is to offer Tennesseans free assistance with civil legal issues and highlighting the organizations that provide these services throughout the year. This year’s theme is second chances and cleaning up records/clean slate. Legal service providers and partners are asked to submit their legal clinics, trainings, and volunteer events here.

Attorneys are encouraged to provide pro bono service through the Help4TNMonth event list, or through their local legal aid or bar association. There is already a statewide resource that allows attorneys to volunteer and help clients across the state. TN Free Legal Answers is an online legal clinic that allows people who qualify to email their legal questions to a volunteer lawyer who will respond with free legal advice. The ATJ encourages attorneys who have not yet volunteered with TN Free Legal Answers to explore the site and take advantage of this pro bono opportunity. Tennesseans with legal questions should visit TN Free Legal Answers to see if they qualify to use the service.

Tennessee also has a free legal advice helpline, 1-844-Help4TN (1-844-435-7486). The helpline is free for all callers. Callers with non-criminal law questions can simply dial the number. During business hours, a call responder will answer, record the caller’s information and schedule a return call from a Tennessee attorney. Help4TN also has attorneys on-hand to help callers who are 60 years of age and older with elder law issues.

“TALS is excited to partner with the Governor’s Office of Reentry, the ATJ, and other civil legal providers to spread the word about Second Chance and HELP4TN month,” said Laura Brown, Executive Director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. “Providing expungement and re-entry services during April, in conjunction with services provided daily via the 1-844-HELP4TN helpline and Tennessee Free Legal Answers, will help clients resolve legal issues, secure gainful employment, and will result in empowered individuals and families.” 

The month of April kicks off with three Second Chance Resource and Hiring Events, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Reentry. Each event includes a Job Fair, Community Resources, Expungement Consultation, and State IDs and Duplicate License Services. These events are set for the following dates and times:

  • Thursday, April 6, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CDT) at the American Job Center located at 1124 Whitehall Street, #100 in Jackson, Tenn.*
  • Friday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (EDT) at Chattanooga State Community College located at 4501 Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Friday, April 21, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CDT) at the American Job Center located at 523 Madison Street, B in Clarksville, Tenn.*

*The Justice Bus will be on location at these events. For more information on these events, click here.

“The Access to Justice Commission is excited to partner with the Governor’s Office of Reentry to celebrate Second Chance Month in conjunction with Help4TNMonth,” said John Farringer, Chair of the Commission. “Expungement and reentry services not only improve the lives of justice-involved individuals, but also their families and local communities are positively impacted.”

In addition, the ATJ is recognizing the importance of expungement and reentry through three additional expungement events and the need for general civil legal clinics as listed below:

  • Thursday, April 13, from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Expungement Event at the Rutherford County Justice Center located at 116 West Lyle Street in Murfreesboro.
  • Thursday, April 27, from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Expungement Clinic at The Journey Church located at 1240 Leeville Pike in Lebanon.*
  • Saturday, April 29, from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: General Civil Legal Advice Clinic at the Union City Housing Authority Community Center located at 1409 E. Main St. in Union City.*

*The Justice Bus will be on location at these events.

Justice Jeff Bivins said, “The TN Justice Bus, launched last June, will be a part of the Help4TNMonth initiative for the first time. The TN Justice Bus will help us provide enhanced services to those registered for the legal clinics and members of the community. The Justice Bus is an exciting development that is sure to make a positive impact on our state”

Civil legal questions include issues that arise in family law, employment law, landlord/tenant law, business law, insurance law, estate planning, and other non-criminal law issues. Today, a greater number of people are faced with legal issues and the inability to afford an attorney. More than half of all Tennessee attorneys currently provide pro bono legal services, which is one of the highest rates in the country. In 2019, the last year for which data is available, 11,536 attorneys provided 683,208 hours of pro bono, an average of 70.5 hours per reporting attorney.

About the ATJ:

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its access to justice initiative in December 2008. The Court saw the growing and urgent civil legal needs in our State. Tennesseans were facing more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions and foreclosures. The Court created an Access to Justice Commission to steer the initiative. The Commission provides collaborative leadership to create solutions and resources that address and eliminate barriers to justice for all. The Court hired an Access to Justice Coordinator that to oversee this work. Today there are three staff at the Administrative Office of the Courts supporting the initiative, led by the Director of Access to Justice.

About the TN Justice Bus:

The TN Justice Bus is a mobile law office that brings technology to rural and underserved communities. The TN Justice Bus is a passenger van outfitted with computers, tablets, a printer, internet access, video displays, WiFi, and other office supplies. Lawyers and other volunteers will be able to provide on-the-spot access to legal help and meet Tennesseans where they are.

About National Second Chance Month

Second Chance Month, established and observed in the United States during April since 2014, is a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction and unlock second-chance opportunities for justice-involved individuals who are returning to their communities. In America, 95 percent of the nearly 2 million people incarcerated will be released at some point and will, therefore, return to our communities as our colleagues, neighbors, and co-workers.

About the Office of Reentry

The Tennessee Office of Reentry (OOR) is housed in the Workforce Services Division of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and has been in existence since July 1, 2021. Inspired by Governor Bill Lee’s vision, the OOR’s mission is to provide comprehensive workforce services to support justice-involved individuals who are reentering society.