News

Ethics Complaints Against Diane Black Dropped, Harwell’s Delayed

Two campaign finance ethics complaints against gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Diane Black were dropped today, The Tennessean reports. The Registry of Election Finance voted unanimously to dismiss the complaints, as well as to delay taking up three complaints against House Speaker Beth Harwell and her campaign for governor.
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Black Has Most Missed Votes of Tennessee Congressional Delegation

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Sumner County Republican and current candidate for governor of Tennessee, has been absent for 29 of 101 votes at the U.S. House of Representatives this year, making her the least-present member of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation. The Tennessean reports that since launching her campaign, Black has missed more than 50 votes, including a recent vote on a bill to fight sex trafficking, an issue she claims to support. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has been absent the second most times and is also campaigning for a statewide seat, missed 11 votes this year.
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GOP Stalls Child Marriage Bill, Citing Connection to Gay Marriage Case

House Republicans effectively killed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit child marriages in Tennessee, citing an obscure legal theory that passing the bill could deter a conservative lawyer's case against gay marriage. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, calls for the state to outlaw marriages where one of the parties is under 18 years of age. The Times Free Press reports that House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, cited an email he received from attorney and former state Sen. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, arguing that passing Jernigan's bill could interfere with a lawsuit he is mounting to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.

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Candidate Leaves Leadership Group After Endorsement

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee has resigned from the board of the Nashville Business Coalition after the group publicly urged Democrat David Briley to seek election as Nashville mayor and called on other prospective candidates to stay out of the race, the Tennessee Star reports. Lee said he didn't think leadership groups should discourage others from entering the political process.

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Attorney Carfi Will Again Seek District 17 Senate Seat

Mary Alice Carfi, the Wilson County attorney who narrowly lost a special election for the Senate District 17 seat last year, has announced she will try again for the position this year, the Lebanon Democrat reports. The district, which is currently represented by Republican Sen. Mark Pody, includes Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith and Wilson counties. Carfi, a Democrat, came within 2.6 percent of the vote from defeating Pody in a solidly Republican district in December’s special election.
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TBA Opposes Bill Moving Judgeships from Shelby, Davidson Counties

A proposal at the legislature would transfer one judgeship from Davidson County and one judgeship from Shelby County into other districts, the Nashville Post reports. The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is opposed to the measure. Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Thompson’s Station, are sponsoring the bill, which would transfer the positions into districts that include Rutherford and Williamson counties. The TBA notes a Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury report that shows courts in Davidson and Shelby counties are understaffed. “There’s no surplus in Nashville and Memphis to transfer to those districts,” said Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur. “We'd be more for a more comprehensive look at the allocation of resources.”
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Legislation Would Make Autopsy Reports Secret

Two Republican lawmakers have presented a bill in the General Assembly that would make autopsy reports conducted by state and county medical examiners secret, The Tennessean reports. Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, say that public forensic findings can be difficult for the families of the dead, but critics of the bill say those records are vital to those in the criminal justice system. "It's important autopsy reports remain open in cases when there are questions about the death," said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. "This bill closes everything. Things that can be used for accountability." 
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Bill Codifying Common Law Creation of Joint Tenancy Passes Subcommittee

Today TBA member Jim Romer testified before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in support of HB1924, a bill he drafted and was sponsored by Rep. Kelly Keisling. The bill codifies common law creation of joint tenancy with right of survivorship through express language in a conveying instrument and prevents unilaterally severing a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. It amends TCA 66-1-107. The bill passed the subcommittee by a voice vote and will now be considered by the House Civil Justice full Committee. The Senate version, SB2001 sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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TBA Members Press for Support of Indigent Representation Reform

Tennessee state senators and representatives this week received several hundred emails from TBA members urging their support for Indigent Representation Reform and an increase in funding for attorneys providing the service. The action follows an alert the Tennessee Bar Association sent to members. Nearly 2,000 attorneys responded to the TBA IMPACT Action Alert. "Reform is crucial to make sure that our poorest and most vulnerable citizens and children are provided much-needed legal representation in an efficient and cost-effective way," TBA Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Berkley Schwarz said in the alert. Use the alert to express your support for reform today.

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Goins Announces Retirement from Legislature

Morristown Republican Rep. Tilman Goins says he will not seek reelection in November, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Goins was first elected in 2012 after defeating incumbent Rep. Don Miller in the Republican primary. Goins represents State House District 10, which covers Hamblin County.
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Maury County Commission Chair Seeks House District 64 Seat

Maury County Commission Chairman Michael Fulbright says he will seek the Republican nomination for Tennessee House District 64, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Fulbright is running for a seat that will be open due to the impending retirement of Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia. House District 64 includes much of rural Maury County.
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Fincher Drops Out of U.S. Senate Race

Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and is encouraging U.S. Sen Bob Corker to seek re-election, Knoxnews reports. "The party must get behind a candidate that can win in November and stop Democrat Phil Bredesen," Fincher said. Fincher's primary opponent was current U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
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Funding for Indigent Representation Reform Now Under Review

With the Tennessee General Assembly in full swing, committees and subcommittees are now conducting budget hearings. One budget being considered would fund indigent representation reform, which is an important issue to the TBA and its members. The TBA is working with lawmakers to ensure that indigent representation reform receives adequate and complete funding, and members are being asked to weigh in on this timely topic as well. Be on the lookout for an email from TBAImpact with details of how you can contact your elected legislators and tell them to support indigent representation reform.

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Campaign Finance Complaints Filed Against Matlock, Burchett

Federal Election Commission complaints have been filed against Jimmy Matlock and Tim Burchett, both Republican candidates in the 2nd District congressional race, Knoxnews reports. Both complaints, filed within one day of each other, cite improper donations. The complaint against Matlock was filed by Knox County resident Lee Dunlap, who alleged that Matlock’s campaign took two $500 contributions from corporations. The complaint against Burchett, filed by Loudon County Commissioner Van Shaver, makes similar claims. Matlock’s campaign has said they will file an amended report, but Burchett’s campaign claims no wrongdoing.
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Corker Reconsidering Retirement

Sen. Bob Corker is “listening” to Republicans pushing for him to abandon his plans to retire at the end of his term, Politico reports. Corker announced in September that he would not run for reelection, triggering many high-profile names to step into the race, including 7th district U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. A poll taken last month shows Bredesen with the edge over Blackburn, prompting concern from Republicans. Today in response, a Blackburn spokeswoman called anyone who doubts Blackburn’s chances a “sexist pig," The Tennessean reports.
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Drafting Legislation Online Series

Representatives from the Tennessee General Assembly present sessions on drafting legislation in this one-click series
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Hayes Drops Out of House Race After Voter Fraud Investigation

A candidate for the Republican nomination for state House District 57 has dropped out amid an investigation into voter fraud, The Tennessean reports. Jeremy Hayes has pulled out of his bid to challenge incumbent Rep. Susan Lynn after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation searched both the house in Wilson County Hayes claims to live in with his grandmother, and the house he admits he owns in Davidson County in the Hermitage area. District Attorney General Tommy Thompson agreed to not prosecute the case any further if Hayes dropped out of the race and removed his name as a voter in Wilson County.
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Proposal Would Expand Legislators Review of Budget, Finances

Legislation that would give Senators and House members a bigger voice in state financial matters has been introduced by House Majority Leader Glen Casada and Sen. Ken Yager, who chairs the Fiscal Review Committee and the Senate State and Local Government Committee. WKRN.com reports that the bill (HB 2096/SB 2122) requires fiscal review staff to cite sources in making estimates for fiscal notes, calls for establishment of an appeals process for members and requires top agency officials to testify about any financial information that has been provided by their agencies. It would also give legislators more input in the budget process, by adding dedicated budget staff and empowering the body to create its own budget.

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Hawkins County Mayor to Run for State House District 9

Outgoing Hawkins County Mayor Melville Bailey will challenge state Rep. Gary Hicks in the Republican primary for House District 9, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Bailey announced several weeks ago that he would not seek reelection as county mayor. Hicks was first sworn in to the House in January 2016. District 9 serves Hawkins and Hancock counties.
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Senator Amends Bill to Move AG Appointment to General Assembly

A Republican senator said he will alter his bill aimed at giving the Tennessee General Assembly authority to choose the next attorney general, the Times Free Press reports. Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, added an amendment from Sen. Art Swann, R-Maryville, that would allow Tennessee’s Supreme Court to nominate an attorney general and give the legislature power to confirm or reject the candidate. The current protocol allows the Supreme Court members to choose the AG themselves. An amendment to the state Constitution will be required to change the process.
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SCOTUS Denies GOP Request to Block Gerrymandering Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied a request to delay a court ruling in Pennsylvania that would require the state to redraw its congressional map, The Hill reports. Justice Samuel Alito denied the two requests — one from state Republican lawmakers and the other from Republican voters — to stay a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that said the current maps were gerrymandered in an unfairly partisan manner. The state court’s ruling gave lawmakers until Feb. 9 to submit a new map to the governor.
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New TBJ: Adverse Legal Authority, #MeToo, a Lewie Donelson Tribute and More

The February Tennessee Bar Journal has a lot packed into it, including an article by Nashville lawyer David Hudson Jr. about the duty to disclose adverse legal authority. Chattanooga lawyer Russell Fowler details the life of Tennessee lawyer and American President James K. Polk and Knoxville lawyers Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow take an employment law look at the Faragher-Ellerth framework in the #MeToo Era. Learn from Knoxville lawyer Monica Franklin what it takes to be an elder law attorney, read a book review by Jackson attorney Mary Jo Middlebrooks of The Fight to Vote, as well as a touching tribute to Lewie Donelson, by Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom.

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How Will the New Tax Law Affect Lawyers and Firms?

How will the new tax law affect lawyers and law firms? The answer is still developing and in the February issue of the Journal, Nashville lawyer Rob Breunig gives an overview of what to expect and where you can look for ongoing updates. And TBA President Lucian T. Pera writes to encourage lawyers to run for office, announcing the upcoming inaugural 2018 TBA Public Service Academy. “We’re committed to strict non-partisanship,” he writes. “Having more lawyers in public office, and in the legislature, is good for lawmaking, good for the profession, and good for the public.”

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Beavers Exits Governors Race

Former Tennessee Senator Mae Beavers has dropped out of the race for governor, the Nashville Post reports. Beavers is the first candidate to do so, after reporting raising just $150,000 in the latest fundraising cycle and the news that her mother had died after a long struggle with dementia. With qualifying deadlines looming, Beavers could still run for a state or local position this year.
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Budget Includes $10M Indigent Representation Increase, TBA to Press for More

Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2018-2019 budget submitted yesterday includes $9,880,000 “to provide recurring funding for the Indigent Representation Task Force initiatives to raise hourly rates and case caps.” The Tennessee Bar Association termed it “gratifying" that the administration acknowledged the dedication and hard work by the lawyers who accept appointments to represent the indigent and vowed to press for more money in the appropriations process.
 
The Supreme Court’s task force, headed by former justice and now Nashville School of Law Dean Bill Koch, spent two years studying all facets of indigent representation. Among the recommendations of the group are elimination of the per case cap on amounts of compensation for appointed counsel and guardians ad litem, an increase in the rate to $75 to $125 per hour and creation of a commission to oversee and administer the program. The first task of the TBA will be to learn the exact contours of the administration recommendation, which funds only part of the task force plan. The TBA will then quickly pivot to equipping and mobilizing members to advocate for a more substantial increase. TBA policy calls for elimination of the caps and at least a $100 per hour rate. The TBA also supports establishment of the commission. 
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