News

Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The 107th Tennessee General Assembly is now in session and the TBA has a number of tools to help you track the status of legislation. Watch TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has  initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community. Find complete TBA legislative resources

TBA at Work on Emerging Judicial Election, Tort Bills

Another vehicle for addressing the manner of election for Supreme Court and appellate judges emerged this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out its third conflicting proposal. The TBA remains deeply involved in the ongoing discussions to preserve the Tennessee Plan. Read more in TN Report

More Tort Changes – Bills which, as amended, require the loser to pay attorney’s fees when a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is granted (HB 3124) and limiting vicarious liability for punitive damages (HB 3125) advanced from a House Judiciary subcommittee today and could be voted on as early as next week in full committee. The TBA has worked to try to narrow and clarify these measures.

Conservatorship Law – The sponsor of a far-reaching restructuring of Tennessee's conservatorship law has agreed to a much more modest revision while the TBA undertakes a thorough review of the fiduciary and conservatorship statutes. Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, publicly expressed his appreciation for the TBA's cooperation in this matter. The TBA applauded Odom's willingness to undertake a thoughtful examination of the issues involved. The bill, HB 2648/SB 2519, should now proceed through the legislative process with the modest changes proposed.

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'Guns in Trunks' Bill Moves to Full Senate

A measure that would prevent employers and landowners from prohibiting individuals licensed to carry guns from storing them in locked, personal vehicles is headed for a full Senate vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-1 today (Tuesday) to advance the bill after Chairwoman Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, refused a request to hear from representatives of FedEx Corp. or other large employers that oppose the bill. "I don't know that any more testimony is going to change anybody's mind," Beaver said. The News Sentinel has the story

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House Approves, Bills Now Ready for Governor's Signature

With approval by the House on Monday, legislation now headed to Gov. Haslam's desk for his signature include an anti-crime package, a bill that would allow public buildings to display "historically significant documents" including the 10 Commandments, and a bill that would encourage classroom debate over evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

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Carter to Run for New House District 29

Mike Carter announced Monday he will run for Tennessee's newly redrawn House District 29. JoAnne Favor, who is now running for the newly redrawn District 28, held the seat before. News 12 reports

Former State Rep Edwin Arnold Dies

Edwin Arnold, who served in the Tennessee House of Representatives and was also an assistant prosecutor, has died after being struck by a car on Saturday, March 24. He was 77. A graduate of Cumberland University School of Law, he was in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1963-67. Arnold also served Blount, Loudon and Roane counties as an assistant district attorney. His funeral was Monday at First Baptist Church in Loudon. The News Sentinel has his obituary.

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Mountain City State Rep. Not Seeking Reelection

Rep. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City became the third Republican to announce he will not run for reelection in the House. Ten Democratic incumbents have announced they won't seek re-election this year, the Commercial Appeal reports.

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AG Weighs in on Pending Legislative Issues

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper recently issued opinions on a number of issues moving through the General Assembly. In an opinion released this week, Cooper said a bill that would require businesses to allow guns in their parking lots is constitutionally defensible. He said that while the legislation, SB 3002, pits two constitutional principles against each other – the right to bear arms and the right of businesses to control their property – courts in other states have found such laws constitutional. Read more in the Tennessean's political blog. On another issue, Cooper said that the state cannot broadly drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare benefits. That opinion comes in response to several bills pending in the state legislature. Cooper states that such requirements would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan, as well as the constitutional rights of welfare recipients who have a right not be tested unless there is suspicion of illicit drug activity. The Memphis Daily News has that story.

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Lollar to Replace Hawk as Committee Chair

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell announced today that Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, will take over as chair of the House Conservation and Environment Committee following the decision by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, to step down from the post to focus on defending himself against charges of domestic abuse. In a statement Hawk said, "Proving my innocence will take much of my focus, so I feel relinquishing my chairmanship will best serve these goals." Because the committee plans to wrap up its work for the year in a few weeks, the speaker opted to not appoint an official replacement. Lollar is currently the committee's vice chair. TN Report has more

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House Committee Passes Merit Selection Measure

A constitutional amendment, HJR 753, passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 9-6 vote today and is now on its way to the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee. The measure would specifically place a merit-selection system in the state’s constitution for appellate judges in the state. Gavel to Gavel has details, including a video from the hearing

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Hurley Surprised to Learn Dogs Not Allowed in the Courthouse

Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, was asked to leave the Roane County Courthouse last week because she had a dog with her. Hurley, who says she simply didn't know dogs weren't allowed in the courthouse, says the 11-pound dog is a service animal and therefore permitted in public places according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The dog was already registered as a service dog when she adopted it, she points out, saying that's why she got the dog so she could take it to the hospital to visit cancer patients. WATE reports

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Editorial: Sunshine Law Needs Uniformity, Penalties

In an editorial, the News Sentinel points out some “flaws” in the Tennessee Open Meetings Act that need to be addressed, for instance that there is no policy or law directing the 200 or more boards and commissions subject to the law to uniformly inform the public of their meetings. And, the paper says, there are no penalties for violations. The editorial praises Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed revisions to his administration's policy to create a uniform statewide protocol for responding to records requests.

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House Committee to Review 'Life Defense Act' This Week

Doctors who perform abortions in Tennessee could see their names listed online, and women who undergo the procedures could be unintentionally identified under a bill pending in the state legislature. House Bill 3808, known as the Life Defense Act of 2012, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, is scheduled to come up Wednesday in a state House committee.  Read more in the Tennessean

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Rep. Hawk Arrested on Domestic Assault Charges

According to the Greene County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, was arrested Sunday morning and charged with domestic assault. Hawk remained in the Greene County Jail as of Sunday evening. Hawk pleaded not guilty to the charge this morning in an appearance in Greene County General Sessions Court. He told the Greeneville Sun that he is innocent and "did not do what has been alleged against me. I did not harm my wife."

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Democrats Sue Over Redistricting Plan

Opponents of Republican-drawn lines for the Tennessee Senate are suing for the redistricting plan to be thrown out on the basis that it ignored proposals made by the Legislature’s Black Caucus, their lawyer, Bob Tuke, said Friday. Tennessee lawmakers in January approved new boundaries for the 132 seats in the Tennessee General Assembly and the state’s nine seats in the U.S. House. House Democrats had complained that the proposal, which placed five black incumbents into three seats, could reduce the number of African-Americans serving in the Legislature. The Leaf-Chronicle has the AP story

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'Conversation' Starts on Judicial Selection

Legislation, characterized by backers as a “conversation starter” on judicial selection, quickly emerged and cleared its first hurdle this week. HJR 753 by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, proposes to amend the Tennessee constitution to explicitly establish merit selection, performance evaluation and retention elections as the method for selecting appellate judges in Tennessee. The proposal also inserts a requirement that judges nominated by a commission and selected by the governor also be confirmed by both houses of the General Assembly before facing the voters. The Tennessee Bar Association has consistently and firmly expressed the view that it is critical that extension of the present plan be accomplished while a constitutional amendment is under discussion and that legislative confirmation causes practical problems of delay in filling vacancies while adding little to the process other than unwanted political influence.

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House Panel Acts on Voter ID Bills

The House State and Local Government Subcommittee today advanced a Democratic proposal to change Tennessee's new voter ID law, but rejected a second bill and delayed a third. The panel voted 4-3 in favor of a measure that would allow people without government-issued identification to vote after being photographed at the polling place. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said the bill would eliminate the need for voters who don't have the proper ID to cast provisional ballots. The panel went on to reject another Fitzhugh proposal to move the responsibility for making voter IDs to local election commissions instead of the state Department of Safety, and delayed until a later meeting, another Fitzhugh bill that would exempt people over age 60 from the ID requirement. Memphis Daily News has more

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Judicial Conduct Bill Wins Committee Nod

A compromise bill that would alter the handling of ethics complaints against judges won Senate Judiciary Committee approval Tuesday afternoon. The bill last week won approval from the House Judiciary Committee and was slated for action today at the House Government Operations Committee. The legislation would rename the Court of the Judiciary as the Board of Judicial Conduct, and would also change the appointing authorities and revise the standard for proceeding to a hearing. It would preserve the balance of 10 judges, three lawyers and three citizen members. Read more from the Tennessean

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Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The TBA has a number of tools to help you track action in the 107th Tennessee General Assembly. Watch TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has  initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community.

'Don't Say Gay' Bill on Hold

Tennessee lawmakers backing the controversial "don’t say gay" legislation have agreed to put off debating the measure — a procedural move that usually signals they do not intend to pursue it. Legislators who had originally supported the measure are expected to shift their focus to an abstinence education measure.

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Bills Moving as Session End Gets Closer

With some House subcommittees announcing they will be shutting down in the next couple of weeks, the General Assembly seems to be preparing to take more definitive action on pending legislation. The TBA-prepared bill to update Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code – making changes that track the 2010 Uniform Law Commission recommendations dealing with secured transactions -- was recommended for passage by the Senate Commerce Committee, and the House Commerce Committee’s General Subcommittee this week. The bill, SB 2931 by Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville ), HB 3150 by Rep. Jon Lundberg (R- Kingsport), would be effective July 1, 2013, allowing the Secretary of State to prepare for the changes. The effective date would also coincide with that in the many other states adopting the changes.

Discussions also continued with state officials regarding SB 2200/HB 2338, which would alter the law regarding termination of parental rights, and more than a dozen proposals to affect tort law are set for committee and subcommittee calendars next week. The TBA is active in trying to defeat or limit the harmful impact of many of these proposals.

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Judge's Vote Challenged Under Photo ID Law

The Tennessee Secretary of State's Office is backing up the vote of Nashville Judge Barbara Haynes, whose state identification was briefly questioned by a poll worker when she voted yesterday. The issue created confusion among members of the Senate State & Local Government Committee during a hearing this morning, when Haynes' husband Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, mentioned the incident. Responding to the question, Blake Fortenay, spokesperson for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, confirmed that a judge's ID is a valid form of state identification. The Examiner.com reports

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Board of Judicial Conduct Bill Makes First Big Move

Legislation that would make changes to the Court of the Judiciary cleared its first major hurdle today. The bill, which would rename the Court as the Board of Judicial Conduct, would also change the appointing authorities, and revise the standard for proceeding to hearing. It would preserve the balance of 10 judges, three lawyers and three citizen members. Sponsored by Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, the bill received a 12-2 vote in the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the floor. Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins, who chairs the Judicial Conference Committee charged with working with the legislature on the bill, indicated that the changes were suitable. Download the amendment.

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ABA Washington Office Moves

The American Bar Association announced today that it has entered into a 15-year lease with Washington Square Limited Partnership LLP, at 1050 Connecticut Ave., NW, where it will occupy 61,000 square feet of space. This follows the Dec. 16 sale of its historic 175,000-square-foot building at 740 15th St. NW — a block from the White House.

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Governor Signs Bill, Occupy Protestors Given One Week to Vacate

Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill today banning unauthorized camping on public grounds, giving notice to Occupy Nashville protestors. The Department of General Services announced that beginning a week from today it will start enforcing a new state law that punishes unauthorized camping with up to a $2,500 fine and 11 months, 29 days in jail. The Tennessean has the story.