In 2020, the firm’s pro bono work in response to the COVID-19 crisis has ranged from representation of an international nonprofit promoting development of vaccines to individual representation of families faced with eviction, homelessness, and domestic violence.
Our work to fight racial injustice includes advocacy for the Nashville Community Bail Fund to challenge unconstitutional bail policies and with the Tennessee Innocence Project fighting for innocent individuals wrongfully convicted. We are also committed to remedy the economic inequalities that pervade marginalized communities, including work with graduates of The Academy, a program that empowers Black micro-entrepreneurs to develop and sustain their own businesses.
The firm’s commitment to impact social justice is reflected in the types of matters our attorneys handle and the organizations we partner with. With emphasis on work that impacts systemic issues, we undertake pro bono matters that strengthen families, empower the community, and protect civil rights.
- Partnering with the Community Legal Center, Vanderbilt Law School, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Immigration Equality, lawyers represent individuals in immigration claims, including asylum cases for LGBTQ refugees, cancellation of removal cases, and petitions for U.S. citizenship.
- Preserving income for disabled adults and families with disabled children by representing them on appeals of Supplemental Security Insurance benefit termination, including developing medical proof and representation at an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge, with referrals and assistance from the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee.
- Securing healthcare for low income clients denied eligibility or services by TennCare (Tennessee’s Medicaid program) through representation in contested evidentiary proceedings before administrative law judges and supporting litigation in federal court to address issues related to denial of services in partnership with Tennessee Justice Center.
- Providing stability for families across Tennessee by filing adoption petitions for adoptive parents where the biological parents are absent, including complying with parental notice requirements, coordinating home studies, and litigating as required in state court.
- Resolving conflict through parenting plan mediation with the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center.
- Representing victims of domestic violence in state trial courts to secure orders of protection.
- Assisting veterans denied medical and retirement benefits who are referred through the National Veterans Legal Services Program, submitting written briefs and materials in support of their claims.
Empowering the Community
- Representing two nonprofits working internationally to develop a COVID 19 vaccine, advising on corporate, tax work, and legal issues surrounding human challenge trials to help create equitable access policy for vaccine candidates.
- Working with local nonprofits, including:
- Corner to Corner in Nashville and Advance Memphis in Memphis to connect low income, Black entrepreneurs with a lawyer to partner with them over a year as they build a business.
- Men of Valor by providing legal support for financing and construction of housing that provides support for men released from prison.
- A network of nonprofit charter schools in Nashville, advising as general counsel on employment and contracting issues.
- Youth About Business, a Nashville-based nonprofit that conducts a summer business camp for high school students, by leading a class on business transactions and serving as “counsel” to students as they negotiate and finalize a mock merger or acquisition.
- Expanding legal help to rural areas by answering on-line legal questions through Tennessee Free Legal Answers, with firm lawyers meeting at lunch through the year and supervising up to 30 law students in answering questions at the University of Tennessee College of Law’s Virtual Legal Assistance Clinic.
- Participating in legal advice clinics, in partnership with our clients International Paper and AutoZone, where attorneys provide legal advice and limited representation in information-only settings; partnering with Memphis Area Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee, and the E.LP. project at Room In The Inn.
- Sponsoring pro bono field placements for Belmont University College of Law students, who provided more than 400 hours of support for the firm’s pro bono work.
Protecting Civil Rights
- Representing the Nashville Community Bail Fund, a revolving loan fund that frees people awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges who cannot afford bond.
- Challenging the constitutionality of a 102-year prison sentence imposed on a defendant when he was 16-years-old by filing a habeas corpus petition in federal court.
- Representing innocent individuals wrongfully convicted by filing post-conviction and federal habeas corpus actions in partnership with Tennessee Innocence Project and in-house lawyers at our client, Envision Healthcare.
- Partnering with the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and Vanderbilt Law School to create volunteer opportunities for law students with Tennessee Innocence Project.
- Litigating Section 1983 cases in federal court, through appointment by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee or as co-counsel with the ACLU of Tennessee, to recover damages and seek injunctive relief to remedy the violation of individuals’ constitutional rights
- Representing a Tennessee death row inmate in an appeal filed by the Tennessee Attorney General that challenges our client’s agreement with the Nashville District Attorney to reduce his sentence to life imprisonment after evidence revealed his prosecution was marred by overt racial bias and misconduct.
BBS Pro Bono Fellows
As part of its longstanding commitment to pro bono, the firm established a Pro Bono Fellowship program in April 2019, which allows attorneys to spend up to six months serving full-time in a pro bono capacity within the community. To date, the firm has sponsored a Fellow in Nashville with Choosing Justice Initiative and a Fellow in Memphis with Tennessee Innocence Project.
With Choosing Justice Initiative, Angie Bergman worked with multiple stakeholders litigating issues relating to money bail in Davidson County and filing a federal court, pre-trial habeas corpus petition to challenge the constitutionality of setting bail outside a defendant’s ability to pay. Angie also represented the Nashville Community Bail Fund, which provides cash bail to economically disadvantaged individuals, in ongoing litigation in the Davidson County Criminal Courts. Read a recap of Angie’s Fellowship experience here.
As a result of this work, our attorneys have provided, and will continue to provide, pro bono advocacy on these issues, including representation of individuals on bail appeals and supporting federal court challenges to the constitutionality of bail practices.
Danielle Dudding Irvine completed a six-month Pro Bono Fellowship with the Tennessee Innocence Project (TIP) in June 2020. In addition to serving as co-counsel with TIP’s Executive Director on a Shelby County claim of wrongful identification and actual innocence, Danielle reviewed applications for future representation, developed relationships with experts and attorneys across the country, established support for TIP at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and Vanderbilt Law School, and supported a cadre of pro bono lawyers at Bass, Berry & Sims who continue the work of representing the incarcerated innocent. Read a recap of Danielle’s Fellowship experience here.
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