• Chancellor James F. Butler Family Law Seminar Agenda

  • December 11, 2020, held via Zoom

    Email our Pro Bono Coordinator, Andy Cole, for more information. 


    9:00 a.m.  Judge Carma Dennis McGee, “Recent Caselaw Update”

    10:00 a.m. William C. Bell, Jr., Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell, PLC,  “Is it Marital Property?  If so, how to value it.”

    11:00 a.m.  15 minute break 

    11:15 p.m.  Chancellor James Butler, "Tips For Better Practice in the Trial Court and Legislative Update"

    12:30 p.m.  30 minute break for lunch

    1:00 p.m.  Marty Clements, Retired Director of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, “Active Shooter Response Information”

    2:00 p.m.  15 minute break

    2:15 p.m.  Sgt. Chad French, JPD Domestic Violence Unit,  DA Jody Pickens, and ADA Josh Dougan, “”Overview of Domestic Violence Issues” 

    3:30 p.m.  Catherine Bulle Clayton, Executive Director of WTLS and Andy Cole, Pro Bono Coordinator of WTLS, Ethical Considerations — from conflicts to communication to pro bono”

    4:30 p.m. Adjourn


  • West Tennessee Legal Services – Taking a Stand for Racial Justice

  • West Tennessee Legal Services (WTLS) joins in solidarity with other civil legal aid organizations who have expressed outrage against systematic, long-standing, racial injustices in our country. As an organization devoted to the hope of a more perfect union where justice for all is a basic tenet, we know that justice unevenly administered based on the color of a person’s skin is neither justice for all nor justice at all. We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many unnamed others, and acknowledge the long history of repercussions, pain, and fear experienced by people of color in our community and nation. We abhor the persistent racism in our society that denies People of Color equal opportunity identified as self-evident truths in the Preamble of The Declaration of Independence: to pursue the unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” – specifically, to be safe and healthy, to work and live with dignity, and to flourish. 

    As an institution whose mission is to advance, enforce, and defend the legal rights of low-income and vulnerable people, we see first-hand the results when access to justice is denied. Following the lead of our friends at the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA), WTLS is taking the following steps:  

    • WTLS has formed an intraoffice Racial Equality Effort group open to all employees committed to racial justice advocacy efforts both internally and in our work to effect positive change. 
    • WTLS is committed to courageous conversations on race, not shying away from uncomfortable conversations about the history of racism, slavery, and white supremacy. And we are making sure WTLS provides a safe environment for us to have these conversations. 
    • WTLS is forming genuine and sustainable, community-led partnerships aimed at bridging the racial divide in our country and ensuring our efforts are driven by experiences of People of Color. 
    • WTLS is becoming a change agent in our own organizations and communities by further centering racial equity in our work. 

    Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail still ring true: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement about establishing peace: “It isn’t enough to talk about [racial justice]. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” WTLS’ purpose is to provide access to justice, and we continue our work towards that goal.  

  • Do I have to pay my rent and utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • 3-18-2020

  • Answer: YES.  

    While most court proceedings, including those related to eviction actions, have temporarily been postponed,  the obligation to make your monthly rental payment has NOT been suspended.  Failing to make your payments on time and in full can still result in late fees, and once the courts re-open for all proceedings, eventual eviction actions. 

    Similarly, your obligation to pay your monthly utility bill has NOT been suspended either.  While some utilities companies have chosen not to shut off utilities during this time, most have not made this decision and are still shutting off utilities for non-payment.  Even if your utility company has decided not to shut off utilities for non-payment during this time, your responsibility for the payment has NOT ended.  Failing to make your payments on time and in full can still result in late fees, and once utility disconnections resume, eventual loss of utility services.  

    If you have questions regarding your rental obligations, contact WTLS at 1-800-372-8346, ext. 250 and leave a message or online at wtls.org to apply for our services. 

  • Have You Been Given An Eviction Notice?

  • Tennessee is a judicial eviction state.  This means that in order for a landlord to remove a tenant from the property, there must be a court order allowing them to do so and a properly executed Writ of Possession issued by the Court and carried out by local law enforcement.  If your landlord tries to remove you through self-help measures (examples: changing the locks, removing doors, turning off your utilities when they are included in your rental payments, etc.) call your local law enforcement office and advise them that you have not been taken to court yet and your landlord is engaging in an illegal self-help eviction.  Then contact WTLS at 1-800-372-8346, ext. 250 and leave a message or online at wtls.org to apply for our services. 

  • Ending Veteran Homelessness

  • 10-23-2018

  • West Tennessee Legal Services Announces Sub-Grantee Milestone towards Ending Veteran Homelessness

    On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, the Jackson/West Tennessee Continuum of Care (CoC) announced that it is the first CoC in the State of Tennessee to meet the federal benchmarks for effectively ending homelessness among Veterans for its service area. A CoC is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as “a community plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximize self-sufficiency.  It includes action steps to end homelessness.” 

    As the Direct Grantee of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program grant, West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc. has worked in close partnership for over five years with its Sub-Grantee, Tennessee Homeless Solutions as well as the local Continuum of Care (CoC) to establish a community-wide plan to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in this area.  The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program is funded from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assist very low-income Veteran families residing in or transitioning into permanent housing and to promote permanent housing. 

    An end to Veteran homelessness means that every community will have a comprehensive response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible, or if it can’t be prevented, it is a rare, brief, and one-time experience.  Specifically, every community will have the capacity to:

    • Quickly identify Veterans & engage those Veterans that are at risk of homelessness or currently experiencing homelessness.
    • Intervene to prevent Veterans from losing housing & divert Veterans from entering the homelessness services system
    • Provide Veterans with immediate access to shelter & crisis services without barriers to entry if homelessness does occur
    • Quickly connect Veterans that are experiencing homelessness to housing assistance & services that are tailored to meet the unique needs to help achieve and maintain stable housing.

    Homelessness is always a tragedy but is especially heart-breaking when a Veteran’s service to our country contributed to the situation. According to a survey released by the VA in May 2018, four of the top 10 unmet needs for homeless veterans result from a lack of legal assistance.  They are:

    • Legal assistance for child support issues (No. 5 for males, No. 5 for females)
    • Legal assistance to help restore a driver’s license (No. 8 for males, No. 8 for females)
    • Legal assistance for outstanding warrants and fines (No. 9 for males, No. 10 for females)
    • Legal assistance to prevent eviction and foreclosure (No. 10 for males

    These unresolved legal issues often contribute to the cycle of poverty that keeps these veterans in a homeless situation. Wrongful eviction or foreclosure may force residents from their homes, robbing them of a stable shelter. Outstanding warrants and fines can pile up beyond a person’s ability to pay, possibly leading to jail time. The ability to bring in money through a job can be hampered by the lack of a fixed address, and without a driver’s license, commuting to a job by other means can be a struggle. Navigating the disability benefits process and medical bills for disabled veterans can be overwhelming.

    The spiraling effect of these issues can lead to despair and homelessness.  West Tennessee Legal Services works in conjunction with the CoC and other agencies to help veterans with these types of problems affecting their basic needs for which there may be legal solutions.

  • Bill Reduces Costs of Expungements

  • Posted May 30, 2017

  • According to the Nashville AP, Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law that will make it easier for people convicted of mostly low-level offenses to get their criminal records wiped clean.  The law reduces the costs of expunging criminal record convictions from $450 to $270, making it more affordable.  The bipartisan measure was championed by two Shelby County lawmakers in an effort to help non-violent offenders who have turned their lives around.  The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, a Republican from Collierville, takes effect immediately.