News

More Pick Up Petitions for Williamson County Primary

Sixty-one candidates have picked up petitions to be on Williamson County’s May 6 primary ballot to contend for judgeships, county constitutional offices and numerous seats on the county commission. The last day to qualify for the election is Feb. 20. Voter registration is April 7. Candidates have also been picking up petitions to qualify in the Aug. 7 primary for state Senate and House seats and state executive committees. The qualifying deadline for the August election is April 3. Visit the Tennessean for a full list of candidates

read more »

New PAC to Educate Public on Judicial Issues

Tennesseans for Independent Courts, a new nonprofit political action committee, has announced it will educate the public on the “dangers of partisan political pressures on judicial elections and appointments.” The group, formed Jan. 10 by former personnel commissioner Randy Camp, who served in Gov. Phil Bredesen’s cabinet, will also provide support to judicial candidates who want to run for office without political affiliations, and back legislative and gubernatorial candidates who want the same. Camp states that the non-profit corporation has filed for 501 (c) designation with the IRS, and will be dedicated to informing, educating, engaging and involving the citizens of Tennessee in ensuring that the judicial branch of Tennessee’s government remains free and independent of partisan political pressures from any group or organization. KnoxBlogs has more.

read more »

Lawmakers Cautious About Free Prison Overhaul

It may be free, but state senators remain cautious about an offer to analyze and overhaul Tennessee’s criminal justice system, the Tennessean reports. The offer, made by the Vera Institute of Justice, would study all aspects of the state criminal justice system including sentencing, incarceration and post-release programs. The goal, according to supporters, is to reduce recidivism, reduce the prison population and improve public safety. Funding would come mostly from federal grants. The Senate State & Local Government Correction Subcommittee heard more about the proposal at a recent hearing but members asked for additional information.

read more »

Haslam Budget Focuses on Education, Workforce Readiness

In his “State of the State” speech last night, Gov. Bill Haslam laid out his priorities for state spending in the coming year. Programs targeted for increases include TennCare; teacher salaries; services for the disabled; new DCS field workers and child abuse investigators; and a variety of education programs aimed at helping high school students succeed in college, Knoxnews reports. New programs announced include a statewide residential drug court in Middle Tennessee modeled on a program in Morgan County; “Tennessee Promise,” which would allow all high school graduates to attend two years of community college or a technology school for free; and a new Director of Workforce Alignment who would work with state departments and local officials to close the “skills gap” across the state. Revenue would come from proposed cuts in payments to TennCare providers, increases in TennCare co-pays, elimination of 664 state jobs and a $302 million dip into state lottery reserves. Read the text of the speech in the Tennessean.

read more »

TBA President Wyrick: AG Selection Should Not Change

Once again efforts to change the way Tennessee selects its attorney general are underway, writes TBA President Cindy Wyrick in her February Tennessee Bar Journal column. The state’s current method of naming the AG has led to the selection of some of Tennessee’s finest lawyers and keeps the office insulated from unnecessary politics, she argues in the piece. Read this month's issue to learn more about why Tennessee should not jump off the attorney selection cliff, but rather should maintain the current system. Then use TBAImpact to let your representatives know you do not want to see any changes in how Tennessee selects its top lawyer.

read more »

Haslam Gives 4th ‘State of State’ Speech Tonight

Gov. Bill Haslam is giving his fourth State of the State address this evening at 6 p.m. Central time. The governor will unveil details of his annual state spending proposal and lay out some of his top legislative priorities for the year, the Times Free Press reports. Haslam has warned that flagging state revenues combined with growing health care costs will put the squeeze on programs. State lawmakers expect the governor to emphasize his “Drive to 55” initiative, which aims to increase Tennessee's college graduate rate to 55 percent by 2025 and new requirements to limit the sale of cold medicines used to make methamphetamine.

read more »

Senate Vote on AG Election Delayed a Week

A scheduled Senate vote on the proposal to elect Tennessee's Attorney General has been delayed to Feb. 3, WATE News reports. The constitutional amendment, proposed by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, would require popular election of the AG every four years. The attorney general is now appointed to an eight-year term by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The TBA supports the current system because it insulates the office from political pressures and personal aspirations, ensuring that opinions are grounded in law, not party politics. Use TBAImpact, TBA's new legislative tool, to learn more about the issue.

read more »

Nashville Lawyer Named to Election Panel

The Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus has appointed Thomas W. Lawless to the state Registry of Election Finance, WDEF News 12 reports. He replaces Darlene McNeece who had been on the board since 2002. A former chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party, Lawless was a founding member of the Nashville Chapter of the Federalist Society and served as its first president. He is currently chair of Tennessee's Judicial Nominating Commission. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance was created by the General Assembly in 1989 to oversee compliance with campaign finance laws and required disclosures.

read more »

New Bill Would Upend State Judicial System

Legislation introduced this week by Senate Finance Committee Chair Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, would make sweeping changes to the way state courts are managed, judges are appointed and judicial discipline is administered, Gavel to Gavel reports. Specifically, the bill, SB 2322, would transfer the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to the comptroller of the treasury; replace the Judicial Nominating Commission with a body chosen by the governor and legislative leaders that would suggest replacements for vacancies due to death or resignation; disband the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, forcing judges to stand for contested elections; and disband the Board of Judicial Conduct in favor of a new body comprised of appointees from the governor and legislative leaders. The bill also would make all AOC and Board of Professional Responsibility documents open to public inspection.

Finally, it would prohibit judges from extending filing deadlines in death penalty cases and assess fines on government-appointed lawyers who later are found to have provided ineffective counsel in capital cases. Use TBAImpact, TBA's new legislative tool, to see the status of the bill and let the General Assembly know how this proposal negatively impacts the administration of justice.

read more »

Judicial Candidates Face Special Challenges

As the judicial campaign season starts to heat up, candidates and their supporters are looking over the special challenges they face in trying to win over voters while still operating within  ethical guidelines. The Memphis Daily News looks over these challenges and how General Sessions candidate David Pool and Juvenile Court candidate Dan Michael are navigating them. “People need to pay more attention to the judicial elections,” Michael told the newspaper. "Educate yourself. Know who the judges are. Know what their experience is."

read more »

New Legislative Tool Keeps TBA Members Up-to-Date

The TBA is expanding its legislative advocacy efforts through TBAImpact, a tool to make sure your voice is heard in the halls of the General Assembly on issues important to sustaining and improving the practice of law. The TBA has a long tradition of advocating on behalf of its members in the General Assembly. TBAImpact will enhance these efforts, giving you an opportunity to weigh in on issues important to the profession. TBAImpact also will connect you with your legislators on key issues in the legislature. Log in to your TBA account, then click on the TBAImpact tab to make sure your voice and the profession is heard in the General Assembly.

read more »

Nonprofit Corporation Act Clears First Hurdle

The Senate Commerce Committee today unanimously recommended for adoption the TBA’s 90-page bill, SB 1505/HB 1442, to adopt comprehensive amendments to the Tennessee Nonprofit Corporation Act. The measure, sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Jack Johnson, R- Franklin, is the result of a three-year effort chaired by Nashville attorney Richard Johnson.

read more »

Wamp’s Son Tries Second Congressional Run

Weston Wamp, son of former congressman Zach Wamp, announced Monday that he will make another run for the U.S. Congress, Nooga.com reports. Wamp came in third in the 2012 Republican primary and again will face Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah.

read more »

Knoxville Lawyer Launches Campaign Against Alexander

Knoxville lawyer Terry Adams today launched a campaign to secure the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander. Adams runs a seven-attorney law firm and owns a title company in Knoxville. He said he already has secured support from the current and four prior heads of the Tennessee Democratic Party. Former Tennessee Democratic Party chair Bob Tuke, who lost to Alexander in 2008, has been named his campaign treasurer. Nashville counseling company executive Larry Crim has also declared plans to seek the nomination.

read more »

Nashville Rep. Introduces Medical Marijuana Bill

State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, introduced legislation this week that would allow qualified patients authorized by their physicians to engage in cannabis therapy, the Johnson City Press reports. The bill outlines medical use under the Safe Access program, which would be regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and the state Board of Pharmacy. Under the program, caregivers could give patients a card that qualifies them to purchase medical marijuana at selected pharmacies or “dispensaries.” Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma, immune-deficiency diseases, chronic pain, nausea and seizures.

read more »

Wilkins, Others Pull Petition for Memphis Offices

Memphis attorney Ricky E. Wilkins has pulled a qualifying petition to run in the August Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District against incumbent Representative Steve Cohen. Wilkins has been considering the run for some time though polls show strong support for Cohen. In another local race, Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon and Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael picked up qualifying petitions for juvenile court judge. They would face off to replace current judge Curtis Person Jr. who is not seeking re-election. The Memphis Daily News reports.

read more »

Bailey Named to Fill Term of Rep. Curtiss

The White County Commission voted this week to appoint Paul Bailey, a Republican candidate for the state Senate seat now held by Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, to serve out the unexpired term of Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who resigned from office on Jan. 1. White is a member of the commission but abstained from the vote. He said he would not seek election to the House seat following his appointed term as he remains “100 percent committed” to seeking election to the District 15 seat now held by Burks, who has announced she will not to seek reelection. Humphrey on the Hill has more.

read more »

Reeves, Lipman Re-nominated for Judicial Posts

Two Tennessee attorneys nominated for the federal bench were re-nominated by President Obama on Monday, along with 52 other nominees who had not received Senate confirmation before the holiday break. The renominations were necessary because Republican Senators refused to allow the pending nominees to be “held over” to the new session as in the past, the Blog of Legal Times reports. That means that Knoxville lawyer Pamela Reeves, who won Judiciary Committee support in November for her nomination to the Eastern District of Tennessee court, will now face another committee vote before her nomination can be considered by the full Senate. Memphis attorney Sheryl Lipman, who was nominated in May for the Western District of Tennessee court, had appeared at a hearing before the committee in September, but had not yet come up for a committee vote.

read more »

Cobb Running Again Against Travis

Former District 31 state Rep. Jim Cobb plans to try to regain the seat he lost in 2012 by 105 votes in the Republican primary. He took the first step Friday by picking up papers to run against Rep. Ron Travis, Chattanoogan.com reports. In other news from Rhea County, John L. McCullough of Dayton picked up papers to run for the Fourth Congressional District seat. In area judicial races, Steve Blount picked up papers to run for circuit court judge; Carol Barron, J. Shannon Garrison and Larry Roddy picked up papers to run for general sessions judge; Jamie Holloway, Cheryl Cashman and Pam Peavyhouse picked up papers to run for circuit court clerk; and Mike Taylor pulled papers for district attorney general.

read more »

Tennessee Senate Race Draws Interest

One of two statewide races on the 2014 Tennessee ballot drew immediate interest as the filing period opened late last week, the Memphis Daily News reports. Democrat Gary Gene Davis of Nashville, Republican Joe Wilmoth of Baxter and independent candidate Joshua James of Murfreesboro all picked up petitions to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander. April 3 is the filing deadline for state and federal primaries set for August. The winners of the primaries along with independent candidates then will advance to the November general elections.

read more »

Rep. Curtiss Resigns from House

Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, officially resigned from the state House of Representatives on Jan. 1, ending a 19-year career. The 66-year-old pro-business Democrat and religious conservative announced in October that he would not seek re-election to House District 43, which includes Grundy, Warren and White counties, after a rough 2012 campaign. Curtiss has been hired as executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, which lobbies on behalf of counties’ interests at the Capitol, and had to give up his seat to take the job, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

read more »

DesJarlais Fighting For Another Term

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, has been on a wild political ride: from dark-horse candidate, to surprise tea party winner, to GOP standard-bearer and finally to political outcast -- all in the span of about 36 months. Now, the second-term congressman is trying on one last label -- incumbent -- in his bid to secure a third term. The Tennessean looks at his campaign.

read more »

Lawyer Who Survived Rape Spearheads Law Change

As the issue of dealing with the backlog of testing some 12,000 rape kits in Shelby County moves into federal court, observers predict another attempt will be made to change Tennessee law so that the statute of limitations begins running when kits are processed. One of those rape victims, Meaghan Ybos, has been active in the effort, drafting model legislation and speaking out publicly about the situation in Memphis. Ybos is now a lawyer and is using her training to bring attention to the state’s current statute of limitations for rape cases, which runs for about 15 years depending on the offense, the Memphis Daily News reports.

read more »

Gilmore Elected State Director for Women in Government

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, has been elected a state director within Women in Government, a group advocating for women serving in state legislatures. WDEF News 12 reports that Gilmore was elected by her female colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly to identify key issues, policies and priorities on which the national group should focus. Gilmore said yesterday in a press release that she is humbled to have been chosen, and that she wants to work to ensure more women are elected to public office in Tennessee.

read more »

Gun Group Slams Top Republicans for Lack of Enthusiasm

The Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) is slamming top Republican leaders for displaying insufficient enthusiasm for changing the “guns in parking lots” law enacted earlier this year to address the state attorney general's opinion that the bill does not protect employees from being fired for having guns in their cars. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said they expect the issue to come up but do not intend to take the lead in introducing legislation. In a letter to members, TFA Executive Director John Harris called it “shameful” that Republican leaders “continue ignoring the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding gun owners."

read more »