Filter Content

TBA Law Blog          

Stay up to date with legal news in Tennessee by following the TBA Law Blog, featuring stories produced by the Tennessee Bar Association or collected from news sources.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the suspension of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order, CNBC reports. A panel of three judges in San Francisco decided the case, brought before the appellate court after U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban. The states of Washington and Minnesota initiated the suit. Read the full opinion here.
The Tennessee House Republican Caucus will hold more closed door “family discussion” meetings in the future, the Tennessean reports. The change was announced yesterday, and will begin as soon as this month. With the Republicans supermajority in the legislature, it's possible the caucus could determine a position that would pass or defeat pending legislation.
Inspired by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, Tennessee lawmakers held a press conference today to tout a bill that they believe will protect “free speech” on college campuses, Knoxnews reports. Called “the Milo bill” by House sponsor Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, the legislation is said to be “designed to implement oversight of administrators’ handling of free speech issues.” Senate sponsor Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said it would defend students with conservative views.
The Gatlinburg disaster recovery center will cease operations tomorrow, though survivors of the Sevier County wildfires will have until Monday to register with FEMA for assistance. After the center closes, survivors can still get updates online or via the FEMA hotline or mobile app. Those in need of legal aid, however, will have options through Legal Aid of East Tennessee for at least the next six months, including a clinic tomorrow in Pigeon Forge.
In the wake of the audit of former Rep. Jeremy Durham, GOP leadership said that it’s up to the Registry of Election Finance to monitor potential violations, even in situations where the legislature’s money is involved, the Tennessean reports. Among Durham’s 500 potential violations of campaign finance laws, one includes the accusation that he received $7,700 from the legislature for personal expenses for which he’d already reimbursed himself. 
Join the TBA for the Immigration Law Forum 2017: Investment Immigration, specifically designed for both lawyers who are experienced immigration lawyers, and for lawyers who may never practice immigration law during their career. Sessions will focus on U.S. and international business investment immigration issues facing both immigration and non-immigration attorneys such as corporate counsel, employment law attorneys and technology law attorneys. For more details and registration information, visit the TBA website.
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed last night as U.S. Attorney General, NBC News reports. The final vote was 52-47, straight across party lines with the exception of Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who voted in favor. This was the Sessions' second attempt at a Senate confirmation. His first attempt, in 1986, was for a federal judgeship, which failed after he was accused of racial insensitivity. 
A team of programmers and lawyers spent their Super Bowl Sunday creating an app to link executive order-affected travelers landing at U.S. airports with free legal help, the Washington Post reports. The site and app went live Monday, and was formed through a partnership between attorneys, legal-data-management company Clio and legal-software firm Neota Logic to provide a solution to attorneys camping out at airports around the clock to help those in need.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch expressed consternation at President Trump’s negative remarks towards the judiciary, the New York Times reports. A White House advisor confirmed that Gorsuch had called Trump’s remarks “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” Via Twitter, Trump had earlier attacked a Seattle judge who temporarily blocked his travel ban, calling him a “so-called judge” whose ruling was “ridiculous.” Trump also  complained that judicial review of the ban was “disgraceful” and “so political.” 

The TBA will host a one-day conference called TBA Mashup: Opportunities Unlocked on Feb. 17. On the schedule are Pro Bono in Action training sessions, presentations about TBA member benefits as well as CLE programs covering technology updates, cybersecurity, drone law, e-discovery and more. Also planned is a Mini-Hackathon, in which lawyers will learn how a variety of professions find technology-assisted solutions to everyday problems. Finally, TBA staff will be taking up donation items for CASA. Find out more details, a list of items for the CASA donations as well as registration information here.

The Tennessee House of Representatives will continue to have "pre-meetings" with lobbyists and members of state agencies prior to formal committee hearings, the Tennessean reports. In 2015, House Republicans were criticized for the practice. Though lawmakers have since begun announcing the meetings, they still face scrutiny, as the meetings don’t have posted agendas, do not appear on public lists and are not broadcast and archived on the legislature’s website.
Federal authorities are looking into allegations surrounding Nashville judge Casey Moreland after a police report documented his relationship with a prominent defense attorney, as well as his interactions with a woman who had a case assigned to his courtroom, the Tennessean reports. Moreland took a temporary leave from the bench due to medical issues, but is expected to return next week. 
A controversial counseling bill, which would have required the state to write a new code of ethics for licensed counselors and therapists, has been dropped by its sponsor, the Tennessean reports. Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said he would abandon plans to proceed with the legislation and instead sign on to another bill, SB 449, which would require changes made by any licensed professionals to their codes of ethics to be reviewed by the attorney general and approved by the state legislature. 
This year’s annual TBA Local Government Program take place on March 23 in Nashville and will cover topics including legislation, ex parte communication, public speaking and social media. Learn from a public relations expert what reporters are looking for when interviewing lawyers and role-play on how to handle media communication. Following the program those attending are welcome to join the TBA for a Nashville Predators game. Find out more and reigster at the TBA website.
A man who was arrested for writing a taunt to the Erin police chief on his truck is suing the city in retaliation, the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports. Joe Southard was charged with criminal harassment last year because of the statement, but the charges were dropped in December. Southard is seeking $850,000 in damages from the city for violating his First Amendment rights and placing him under false arrest.
Former State House Rep. Jeremy Durham was found to have spent more than $10,000 in campaign funds on items prohibited by law, the Tennessean reports. Purchases included lawn care services for his home, suits, sunglasses, spa products, a handgun permit, University of Tennessee football tickets, and more. He also paid over $1,800 to a company to create a forensic copy of his phone to help defend himself against the Tennessee attorney general’s investigation.
Memphis lawyer John R. Hershberger was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility yesterday. Hershberger was found to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by attempting to engage in an ex parte communication when he went to a judge's house to ask her a question pertaining to a case. The judge was not home. This censure does not affect Hershberger’s ability to practice law.
McMinn County attorney Larry D. Cantrell was temporarily suspended yesterday, upon finding that Cantrell poses a threat of harm to the public. Cantrell is not allowed to accept any new cases, and after March 7, must not use any indicia of lawyer or legal staff, nor maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the Supreme Court.

A bill that would remove appellate review from death penalty cases, sending them straight to the Tennessee Supreme Court, passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously today without discussion and will move on to the full committee next week. After discussion in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, rolled the Senate version of bill and will re-calendar it. The Administrative Office of the Courts spoke on behalf of the Criminal Court of Appeals and replied that its court was split and did not want to take an official position. Senate and House judicial committees also heard the budget of the Administrative Office of the Courts and it was recommended for approval. Although the judicial branch is the third equal branch of government, the Tennessee courts budget represents less than one half of one percent of the entire state budget, with funding coming from the state's general fund. Read the AOC annual report here.

 

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has two legal clinics in the pipeline to assist those impacted by the Sevier County wildfires, with plans for more down the road. The first will be held this Friday at the Boyd’s Bear Donation Center in Pigeon Forge, located at 149 Cates Lane, from 2 – 6 p.m. The second is on Feb. 27, with location details still begin locked down. “We expect legal issues to continue to appear for at least six months. Our plan is to continue holding monthly clinics so wildfire survivors have access to legal advice as issues arise,” LAET’s Knoxville Pro Bono Director Kathryn Ellis says.  Those who can help at either clinic should email Ellis.

Tennessee is facing a legal challenge to the state requirement that online vendors collect state and local sales tax, according to comments from Gov. Bill Haslam reported by the Times Free Press. Haslam said that the legal challenge was a welcome opportunity to bring the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Details surrounding the proceeds are secret, with a Haslam official citing state confidentiality laws regarding taxpayer information.

Gov. Bill Haslam's legislative agenda was filed this week, including his much-discussed transportation funding bill, the Nashville Post reports. The agenda also includes a bill to ban open containers of alcohol in vehicles, a bill to increase internet access in rural communities and a proposal to fund scholarships for non-high school students to attend community college, among others. All bills are sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville, with the exception of the transportation bill, called the IMPROVE Act, which is sponsored by Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Thompson Station.
Former State Rep. Jeremy Durham gave more than $20,000 in campaign funds to a professional gambler, the Tennessean reports. The recipient of the funds was David Whitis, a friend of Durham’s who Durham represented in a least two criminal proceedings. More information is expected to be revealed tomorrow, when findings from the state campaign finance and ethics investigation into Durham are expected to be released.
The American Bar Association’s Futures Initiative and Center for Innovation has created a new website to respond to the executive order that bans citizens of seven countries from entering the U.S., the ABA Journal reports. ImmigrationJustice.us is a portal for attorneys interested in volunteering their legal expertise, language experts who can volunteer to translate, as well as members of the public looking to find information on the travel ban and other immigration-related issues. The website was created in just a few hours after an American Immigration Lawyers Association member told the groups that the AILA was struggling to coordinate the flood of pro bono volunteers since the announcement of the order. 
The Knoxville Bar Association will host a free legal advice clinic for veterans tomorrow at the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, reports Knoxnews. This year, the association plans to host free clinics for veterans on the second Wednesday of each month. They are expected to serve 20-30 veterans at each event. For questions about how to get involved, email tchain@knoxbar.org.