LMU Law, Geosyntec to host symposium on recent wildfires

Knoxville, Tenn., March 10 — Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law and Geosyntec Consultants will host a symposium entitled “Fire in the Smokies, Rising from the Ashes” from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, at LMU Law in downtown Knoxville.

The symposium will feature a host of experts to discuss the impact of the devastating wildfires that swept through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg in November. Speakers will examine legal issues facing the community as it rebuilds and other important issues.

“In the wake of a tragedy of this nature, the natural inclination of all involved in the process is to ensure that any information disseminated is accurate,” said Judge Gary R. Wade, dean of LMU Law. “This symposium is designed to provide an appropriate analysis of the fire and its aftermath.”

Speakers include Judge Gary Wade, LMU Law dean; Geosyntec consultants Julia Caprio and Duane Graves; attorneys Sid Gilreath, Dean Howell and Catherine Anglin; Great Smoky Mountains National Park Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan and GSMNP Spokesperson Dana Soehn; Michael Harding, a nationally recognized post-fire response expert; Dollywood President Craig Ross and Dollywood Foundation President David Dotson; Sevier County Emergency Management Director John Mathews and Mayor Larry Waters; Knoxville News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy; and Legal Aid of East Tennessee President Sheri Fox.

The symposium will open with a continental breakfast and registration at 8:30 a.m. Speakers will address specific topics throughout the day, and the event will conclude with a panel discussion and question and answer session. Out of respect to those entities that may have to respond to potential lawsuits, questions will be limited to the panel discussion at the end of the program. Four hours of continuing legal education (CLE) credit is available for attorneys. Registration is $35 and includes breakfast and lunch. Contact April Hurley at april.hurley@lmunet.edu to register.

Geosyntec is a specialized consulting and engineering firm that works with private and public sector clients to address new ventures and complex problems involving our environment, natural resources and civil infrastructure.

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Noted presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to present lecture at Bijou

Knoxville, Tenn., March 8 — Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law and the East Tennessee Historical Society have joined forces to bring world-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin to Knoxville.

Goodwin will present a community lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, at the historic Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. The author’s presentation will be on her award-winning book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” which details Lincoln’s skills as a political operative during the most trying time in our nation’s history. Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” was also the basis of director Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln,” which earned 12 Academy Award nominations.

Goodwin is the author of six critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling books, including her most recent, “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.” Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios has also acquired film and television rights to the book. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history for “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.” Goodwin’s “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys” was adapted into an award-winning television miniseries that aired on ABC. In 2015, to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of many of President Lyndon Johnson’s domestic accomplishments, “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream” was released in e-book format for the first time.

Goodwin has made made frequent TV appearances on NBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, CNN, “The Charlie Rose Show” and “Meet the Press.” She has also appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and has even been animated for an appearance on “The Simpsons.”

Tickets for the lecture will go on sale on March 10 at the Bijou box office or online at Knoxbijou.com. General admission tickets are $40. East Tennessee Historical Society members and Friends of the Knox County Library will receive a code for discounted tickets; student tickets will be available for $25 with a student ID presented at the Bijou box office.

For more information, contact Kate Reagan, LMU Senior Director of Press Relations, at kate.reagan@LMUnet.edu or 423-869-6389; or Erica Frye, ETHS Development Director, at frye@easttnhistory.org or 865-215-8817.

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Speakers offer perspectives on drug law enforcement, reform

Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 31 — A range of experts gathered Friday at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law to offer their perspectives on whether the criminal justice system needs to change course in its high-profile war on drugs. The discussion was part of the LMU Law Review’s annual symposium, titled “Criminal Justice Reform: Rethinking the War on Drugs.”

E. Shayne Sexton, a criminal court judge in Tennessee’s 8th District, admitted during the symposium that dealing with East Tennessee’s prescription drug epidemic came with quite a learning curve.

Sexton, who serves Campbell, Claiborne, Fentress, Scott and Union counties, said that it was around 2000 or 2001 that he first heard of OxyContin. Until then, substance-related cases had been mostly related to alcohol and marijuana. “I had no idea of its power,” he said of the drug.

And it quickly forced him to shift his thinking about the addicts who started turning up repeatedly in his court, often after a 28-day treatment program failed to break their habit. “I started realizing the problem is not them. It’s me. I had no idea about addiction.”

Sexton’s answer to the area’s burgeoning heroin and opioid problem was a drug court that helped funnel nonviolent addicts into more intensive treatment programs. “We’re much more in tune now” in combating the issue, he said. “We’re using problem-solving instead of corrections … We’ve seen enough failures in the correction side. You can’t correct the addiction out of someone.”

Dr. Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that examines racial disparities in the nation’s criminal justice system, said there has been a marked difference between how drug epidemics such as crack-cocaine have been approached compared with the heroin and prescription drugs plaguing East Tennessee and other areas.

The latter has received a public health approach instead of a punitive one, “likely because offenders are mostly white,” she said. In contrast, “the response (to crack addiction) is to demonize and punish.”

Keeda Haynes, a Nashville public defender who spent nearly five years in federal prison after becoming ensnared in a drug conspiracy case, offered the perspective of someone who has been on both sides of the nation’s harsh drug sentencing laws.

“Your name isn’t even your name anymore. You’re nothing but a number,” she said of her time in prison. The majority of women in prison with her were also there for nonviolent drug offenses, she said.

As a public defender, she says she struggles every day with whether her clients are being punished too harshly, especially when many struggle to keep their homes, jobs and livelihoods after one misstep. “‘Is this justice?’ It’s a question I ask myself every day,” she said.

Other speakers were attorney and ethics expert Cynthia Brown, who gave an economic overview of the war on drugs; Dr. Christy Cowan, who discussed the physiological effect of drugs and drug treatment on the brain; and Campbell University Law Professor Zac Bolitho, who discussed the constitutionality of states’ non-enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

The symposium was named in honor of Sandra C. Ruffin, a founding member of the faculty at LMU Law. Ruffin passed away in 2013, shortly after helping organize the LMU Law Review’s inaugural symposium in spring 2012.

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LMU Law named ‘Best School for Bar Preparation’ by National Jurist

Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 13 — Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law topped The National Jurist’s list of best law schools for bar preparation, recently published in the magazine’s Winter 2017 issue. To compile the list, The National Jurist compared bar pass rates to incoming LSAT scores and found that some law schools’ graduates perform far better than their scores would predict.

“I credit our top-notch faculty and staff and our sound curriculum, including our robust academic success and bar preparation program, which provides guidance and support for all students,” LMU Law Dean Gary R. Wade said. “At LMU Law, we emphasize the importance of training our students to be effective lawyers. And when a law school does a good job preparing students to pass the bar exam, it’s doing a good job preparing them for the practice of law.”

The National Jurist looked at pass rates on a school-by-school basis and compared the actual pass rates for 2014 and 2013, the most recent data available, with the predicted pass rates to find the difference between the two. Studies show that LSAT scores correlate strongly with Multi State Bar Examination (MBE) performance, which accounts for half of the grade on most bar exams.

LMU Law’s average difference of 15.72 led all schools, followed by Campbell Law (12.49), University of South Dakota (10.92), Florida A&M University (10.09) and Widener Law Commonwealth (10.05). LMU, which received provisional approval from the American Bar Association in December 2014, was founded with a mission to provide legal education opportunities for the people of underserved regions and prepare lawyers for careers in law that enable them to address the underserved legal needs of Appalachia and beyond.

“I often describe our mission as ‘coaching up’ every one of our students,” Wade said. “In 2014, no one in the country did that better than our law school faculty and staff. I have no doubt that LMU’s ranking will be first in that category again in 2016.”

This is a trend LMU Law anticipates will continue. On the July 2016 administration of the bar exam, LMU Law had a first-time pass rate of 87.5 percent, which beat the state average of 73.23 percent for first-time bar takers. Three out of the four re-examinees from LMU Law, or 75 percent, also passed the July 2016 examination. LMU Law’s first-time pass rate, re-exam pass rate, and overall pass rate of 85 percent were each the second-highest among all Tennessee law schools on the July 2016 administration of the exam. Since the law school graduated its first class in May 2013, 93 percent of graduates who have taken a bar exam have passed it.

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LMU Law to host symposium on drug law reform

Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 10 — Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law and the LMU Law Review will host a symposium, “Criminal Justice Reform: Rethinking the War on Drugs,” on Friday, Jan. 27, at LMU Law in downtown Knoxville.

The symposium will feature a host of experts to discuss the impact of the war on drugs. Topics to be covered include economic impact, the disproportionate impact on minority communities, federal drug sentencing reform, criminal justice reform in East Tennessee and the challenges of dealing with substance abuse in the penal system. The symposium will also consider the constitutional implications of other states’ reforms, and conflicts with the Controlled Substance Act.

Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender Keeda Haynes will bring a unique outlook to the symposium. Haynes, a veteran criminal defense attorney, was convicted of aiding and abetting a conspiracy in 2002. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws resulted in a seven-year sentence in federal prison. After several appeals, Haynes ended up serving four years and 10 months before her release. She went on to earn an advanced degree in criminology and a law degree from the Nashville School of Law. Haynes is committed to community education and engagement and is a highly sought speaker on criminal justice reform, recidivism and collateral consequences. Other speakers will include Dr. Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst for the Sentencing Project; Professor Zac Bolitho of Campbell School of Law; Dr. Christy Cowan, a consultant with SocialMind Consulting; Judge Shayne Sexton of Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District; and Cynthia A. Brown, attorney and adjunct professor at Eastern Kentucky University.

Each speaker will discuss a topic of special interest and the symposium will conclude with a panel discussion and question and answer period.

The program, which will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., can provide four CLE credit hours. Admission for attorneys seeking CLE credit is $25 and includes breakfast and lunch. For more information or to register, contact April Hurley at 865.545.5339 or email April.Hurley@lmunet.edu.

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Lincoln Memorial University

Accreditation Statement
Lincoln Memorial University - John J. Duncan, Jr. School of Law (LMU-DSOL) is provisionally accredited
by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Information About the ABA’s Accreditation Process

Questions concerning ABA accreditation may be directed to:

          Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
          American Bar Association
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          Phone: 312.988.6738

Additionally, Lincoln Memorial University - Duncan School of Law is approved by the
Tennessee Board of Law Examiners.