News

Miller & Martin Adds 3 to Nashville Office

Miller & Martin has added three members to its Nashville office. They are Catie Lane Bailey, Douglas Berry and David Lewis. The Nashville Post reports that the “hirings are another sign that the Chattanooga-based firm is rebuilding its Nashville presence after losing the majority of its attorneys in 2012.” Bailey will serve in the firm’s government relations practice group as senior policy advisor. She previously was director of government affairs at the Tennessee Apartment Association. Berry, formerly of Berry & Harris in Nashville, will continue to represent cities in zoning, eminent domain and utility matters. Lewis previously was vice president and associate legal counsel at LifePoint Hospitals in Brentwood. He has worked in health care for 25 years and is a former chair of the TBA Health Law Section.

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Barrett Named to State Election Commission

Former state Rep. Donna Rowland Barrett has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee State Election Commission, the Memphis Daily News reports. The Murfreesboro Republican served in the state House for 10 years before retiring in 2010. She now runs the Barrett Group, which specializes in cost control strategies. Barrett fills the vacancy created by fellow former Republican state Rep. Tom DuBois of Columbia, who is running for circuit judge.

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Haslam Won't Take Part in Campaign Against Justices

Gov. Bill Haslam said today he will not take part in efforts by Lt. Gov Ron Ramsey to unseat the three Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Haslam told reporters at a Lipscomb University event that he has a “good working relationship with all three” targeted justices. Haslam also said he has some concerns the campaign against the judges could hurt chances of passing the constitutional change on judicial selection that he is supporting.

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General Election Races Take Shape

Candidates from across Tennessee won places on the Aug. 7 general election ballot in primary elections Tuesday. Results are now available from county election commissions and news organizations, which also provided analysis of trends. The TBA provides a listing of these sources.

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General Assembly Adjourns

The 108th Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned for the year. Legislation passing this session included measures to allow wine sales in grocery stores, fight methamphetamine production and give high school graduates free tuition at community colleges, which was a signature proposal of the governor, Knoxnews reports.

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TBA Leaders Lobby Legislators During D.C. Event

Tennessee Bar Association leaders joined more than 350 of their colleagues from across the country for 2014 ABA Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., April 8-10. The annual event provides legal leaders the opportunity to meet individually with legislators and their staffs to cut through the noise of other special interests on Capitol Hill and successfully educate Congress on issues of importance to lawyers. In addition to urging the legislators to support funding for the Legal Services Corp., TBA leaders urged lawmakers to reject tax reform legislation that would tax certain law firms using accrual rather than cash accounting. TBA President Cindy Wyrick, President-elect Jonathan Steen and Executive Director Allan Ramsaur made up the delegation. See photos from the visit.

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Governor Signs 3 TBA Bills; Others on the Way

All of the TBA's legislative initiatives have passed both houses of the General Assembly, and three have been signed by the governor. The statute of repose for legal malpractice was signed by Gov. Haslam and will take effect July 1, as will TBA's family law bill enhancing parental rights concerning custody orders and a bill clarifying liability obligations in a limited liability partnership. Two more measures, the revision to the nonprofit corporations act and changes to the probate law are headed to the governor's desk for signature. Check TBAImpact for other bills we are tracking this session.

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April Issue Covers UPL, Postjudgment Interest and Sex Week

"Protecting the legal profession is only our secondary goal," Tennessee Bar Association President Cindy Wyrick writes in her Journal column this month where she takes on the war against unauthorized practice of law. "We are fighting this battle primarily to protect the public."  Also in this issue, the second-to-last column written by the late Don Paine is about postjudgment interest, and Bill Haltom writes what's on many Volunteers' minds about the legislature, Sex Week and free speech at UT.

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House, Senate Pass Haslam Budget

Gov. Bill Haslam’s $32 billion budget won House and Senate approval today, as amendments proposing pay raises for teachers and state employees were rejected by lawmakers, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The budget approved today mirrors changes introduced by Haslam’s administration last week, which eliminated previously proposed pay raises for teachers and state employees. The changes were aimed at closing a budget gap of around $160 million.

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Senate Votes to Protect Info in Sexual Assault Cases

The Senate voted unanimously today to keep personal information in sexual assault cases confidential after the cases have been closed, The Tennessean reports. Under House Bill 2361 by state Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, evidence presented during trials for rape or sexual assault that identifies the victim would be made confidential once a guilty sentence has been given. The legislation had previously come under fire for being to broad in restricting the media’s ability to report on rape cases. The bill that passed was scaled back from earlier versions.

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Bills Gives In-State Tuition for Kids of Undocumented Parents

Students whose parents entered the U.S. illegally will be allowed to pay in-state tuition at Tennessee colleges, under a bill now on its way to the governor. The bill passed the House 63 to 27, with little debate, according to Nashville Public Radio.

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Senate: Permit Not Needed to Carry Gun

The state Senate has passed a bill to allow Tennesseans to openly carry guns without a state-issued permit, the Tennessean reports. The chamber voted 25-2 in favor of the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet. Before the Senate floor vote, the measure narrowly made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee with only five votes in favor.

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Editorial: Is Justice Being Served?

In an editorial, the Johnson City Press urges state lawmakers to increase funding for district attorneys and public defenders. It says that with caseloads surging and resources dwindling, "can we truly say justice is being served under these conditions?"

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Legislature Considers Return of Electric Chair; State Sets 2016 Execution Date

The Tennessee Supreme Court set a date of March 15, 2016, for Donald Wayne Strouth to be executed, the Tennessean reports. Strouth has been on death row since 1978. On Tuesday, a House committee approved a bill that would make electrocution the state's method for killing inmates sentenced to death if lethal injection were declared unconstitutional or the drugs needed to carry it out were unavailable. But, WBIR reports, a handful of members said they have reservations about the electric chair, which the state has used only once since 1960.

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Lawmakers to Review Judicial Evaluation Commission

Lawmakers Tuesday questioned whether the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) violates the Tennessee Constitution, the Tennessean reports. The House Government Operations Committee heard testimony from several people, including John Jay Hooker, who brought lawsuits against Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell last year contesting the constitutionality of the JPEC and retention election statutes. After hearing the testimony, the committee sent the constitutionality question to the Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations, Judiciary and Government, which will meet this summer. Gavel Grab has more.

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Memphis Candidates Line Up for Yesterday's Deadline

Following yesterday's noon deadline to submit qualifying papers, the Memphis Daily News has a roundup of uncertified political candidates for Shelby County races. Memphis City Council member Lee Harris is challenging Democratic state Sen. Ophelia Ford in the August primary for District 29 -- a seat that has held by a member of the Ford family since 1975. Statewide, Gov. Bill Haslam drew three challengers for the August Republican primary for governor, while the Democratic gubernatorial primary has seven candidates. In a separate article, the paper looks at the "filing frenzy" yesterday for several positions. The Commercial Appeal has more on Harris' challenge.

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Rep. Rich to Retire from House

State Rep. Barrett Rich says he will not run for another term representing his rural West Tennessee district, the Memphis Daily News reports. The Somerville Republican has served three terms in the lower chamber of the General Assembly. Other incumbents who aren't seeking re-election this year include Republican representatives Vince Dean of East Ridge and Eric Watson of Cleveland, and House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner of Nashville.

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Senate Bills Present Judicial Pay Plans

The Senate Judiciary Committee today set the stage for revealing judicial salaries for the next eight years. Sen. Mark Norris presented SB 2598, which will address state court judicial salaries, and SB 1747 by Sen. Ken Yager will be amended to make adjustments to the salaries of general sessions judges. Constitutionally,  judicial salaries must be fixed and can only be adjusted according to law for an entire term.

In keeping with the cancellation of all raises for state employees, no judges will see any increase in their $165,000 base salary or cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the first nine months of the term, beginning Sept. 1, 2014. Effective July 1, 2015, the COLA would be reinstituted. After that, $5,800 per year raises would be granted effective Sept. 1, 2016; Sept. 1, 2018, and Sept. 1, 2020. General Sessions judges would see their pay increase delayed and adjusted in the same fashion, with rate adjustments scaled by population of their jurisdictions.

Scheduled salary adjustments for district attorneys, public defenders, assistants and related offices were originally part of the bill, but will also be delayed. Salaries for those positions do not have the same constitutional protection.

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Opinion: Ag Gag Bill Returns

In an editorial released today, the Memphis Flyer criticizes the return of the whistleblower legislation nicknamed the “Ag Gag” bill. Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the bill last year, which mandated that anyone observing animal cruelty report it to law authorities within 48 hours or be liable for arrest and penalty. "Ostensibly designed to bring swift attention to animal cruelty, the effect of such bills is nearly the opposite one, to discourage anyone from attempting to document such cruelty," the paper argues. The new bill, HB 2258/SB 2406, is sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville. The newspaper claims the new bills are just as “constitutionally suspect” as previous versions, and urges the legislature to oppose them.

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Bill Limiting Employment Discrimination Actions, Whistleblower Protections Advances

Legislation making significant changes in protections for whistleblowers, placing caps on non-economic damages for discrimination and retaliatory discharge, and limiting disability discrimination provisions advanced in both houses this week. The bill could be heard in the House Consumer and Human Resource Committee and on the Senate floor as early as next Tuesday. Let your voice be heard about this and other legislation using TBAImpact.

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Ramsey Backs Judicial Selection Amendment

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey on Friday repeated his support for a November ballot measure that would change the way Supreme Court and appeals court judges in the state are selected, the Kingsport Times News reports. Ramsey encouraged judges and others attending the Tennessee Judicial Conference to get behind the measure, which would give the governor the power to appoint the judges, subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. "It's the best way of doing this," Ramsey, R-Blountville, said of the constitutional amendment, which will be put to voters this fall.

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Incumbent Endorses Jones for DA

District Attorney General Bill Whitesell announced he would not seek re-election and has endorsed Assistant District Attorney Jennings Jones to be his replacement. Jones is running in the May 6 Republican Primary for District Attorney General, 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties. The Murfreesboro Post has more.

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AAA Opposes Weakening Helmet Law

AAA/The Auto Club Group today announced its opposition to a bill that would weaken Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The proposed bill will allow riders older than 25 years to ride without a helmet. Currently, all readers are required to wear a helmet, regardless of age. Senate and House subcommittees are slated to hear the bill next week.

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Proposed Election of AG Fails a Second Time

An attempt to change the selection process for Tennessee's attorney general failed again on the Senate floor Thursday. Brought by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the proposed constitutional amendment sought popular election of the AG. Currently, the AG is appointed to an eight-year term by the state Supreme Court. This was the second vote on the measure, and the AP reports Senate rules prohibit Beavers from bringing the measure to the floor again this session.

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Memphis Attorney Announces Bid for Congressional Seat

Attorney Ricky Wilkins formally announced his candidacy for the 9th district Congressional seat yesterday, backed by a roomful of enthusiastic supporters. Wilkins faces four-term incumbent Rep. Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary. “I know what it’s like to live off food stamps,” he said. “Who better to represent the people of the 9th Congressional district than one who has walked a mile in their shoes?” The Memphis Flyer has the story.

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