News

Updated Rosters for Attorney-Related Commissions

The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed TBA President Bill Harbison to serve another three-year term on the Board of Law Examiners. The term began the first of year and will expire Dec. 31, 2018. The Court also announced additional appointments to the Board of Law Examiners, along with appointments to the Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, TN Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection, Board of Professional Responsibility and CLE Commission. The state Supreme Court last month announced appointments to the Access to Justice Commission. The Court yesterday also announced newly-appointed Justice Roger A. Page will serve as the Circuit Justice for 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 31st Judicial Districts. 

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Bill to Reduce Some Drug Punishments Moves Forward

A House subcommittee today unanimously approved a bill that would reduce the punishment for those found guilty of carrying a small amount of drugs. The bill would make three or more convictions for simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor, The Tennessean reports. The bill now heads to the full House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

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Bill Would Allow Opioid Antagonist Therapy in Pharmacies

The Senate passed SB2403 by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, authorizing the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health to implement a state-wide collaborative pharmacy agreement specific to opioid antagonist therapy. The agreement would apply to any pharmacist licensed and practicing in the state. Tennessee leads in the number of prescription painkillers per person, and saw a record number of deaths from opioid overdoses in 2014, according to The Tennessean. The companion bill will be heard on the House floor tomorrow.

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Bill Addressing Witness Signatures Moves Out of Committee

Legislation from Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, permitting until July 1, 2016 the combined signatures of witnesses and those executing a self-proving affidavit to validate a testators signature moved out of the House Judiciary Committee today. The bill (HB 1472) is intended to address a situation like that addressed in the Court of Appeals case IN RE Estate of Bill Morris.

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Changes to Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative package making changes to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in SB2553/HB2572 includes clarifying the effective date and clarifying the definition of initiating tribunal. Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, passes the bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, passes its companion out of the House Civil Justice Committee. The bill now heads to the Senate floor and the House Calendar and Rules Committee for consideration. 

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Page Sworn In Last Night in Private Ceremony

Tennessee Supreme Court appointee Roger Page was sworn in last night by Justice Jeffrey Bivins in a small private ceremony following his confirmation by the General Assembly, the Nashville Post reports. Michele Wojciechowski, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said a more formal swearing-in will happen at a later date. “It’s typical for judges, especially sitting judges that are appointed to a higher court, to have a quick swearing-in so that they can begin the work, which are later followed up by more ceremonial proceedings,” she said.

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Senate OKs Push for Refugee Act Suit

Despite opposition from protestors, the state Senate on Monday approved a resolution (SJR 0467) requiring Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over a federal refugee resettlement program. The move comes after Gov. Bill Haslam last week expressed “concerns” over the need for the measure, the Associated Press reports. Sponsor Sen. Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, argued the state has a right to control its own money. He said the General Assembly will hire its own lawyer if Slatery declines to get involved. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, voted against the measure, saying, "(It) is misguided and really betrays the values of who we are." 

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Bill Would Extend Statue of Limitations for Child Abuse Civil Actions

The House Civil Justice Committee today passed HB2593 by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville.  As amended, the bill extends the statue of limitations for civil actions based on an injury resulting from child sexual abuse that occurred when the person was a minor but was not discovered until after the person became an adult. The bill would extend the period to seven years from the discovery of the abuse. The bill, supported by the TBA, has also been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville.

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Senate Votes to Nullify Nashville Local-Hire Bill

The state Senate on Monday passed a bill to nullify a local-hire rule that requires at least 40 percent of work hours on certain Nashville construction projects go to Davidson County residents. Nashville residents in August approved the measure, and the move to nullify it drew criticism from Nashville Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro. “I think that we should be a little more reluctant than this to go in and overturn the will of the voters,” he said. Attorney General Hebert Slatey issued an opinion in October stating that the rule violates state law. Read more from The Tennessean

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Page Confirmed as Tennessee Supreme Court Justice

The Tennessee House and Senate in a joint session this evening unanimously confirmed Roger Page to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Page received recommendations last week from the House Judicial Confirmation Ad Hoc Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. His confirmation in a joint session is the first under the General Assembly’s newly adopted judicial confirmation process

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Scalia's Death Could Impact Judicial Confirmations

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could complicate the confirmation of two Tennessee attorneys nominated to federal judgeships, according to Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. and U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III have both won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have yet to be scheduled for a full Senate vote. “…I think (his death) will be another excuse that could be used by the Republicans," Tobias said, according to the The Knoxville News Sentinel. The Senate confirmed just 11 nominees in 2015; the pace is the slowest in 60 years.

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School Funding Lawsuit Moving Forward

Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman denied on Friday the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the school districts in Hamilton and six nearby counties over the state’s Basic Education Program funding formula. However, the Nashville judge did dismiss the requested class-action status for the suit, which would have brought all 141 school systems into the lawsuit. If the school districts win the challenge, the state government may be required to spend at least half-billion dollars more each year, according to the Times Free Press

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Early Voting in Tennessee Ends Tomorrow

Early voting in Tennessee for the March 1 presidential preference primary ends tomorrow. You can find your early voting and Election Day polling locations online

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Sexual Harassment Committee May Receive Outside Help

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, has asked the Sexual Assault Center to work with a non-legislative panel tasked with improving the legislature’s sexual harassment investigation practices. The panel, scheduled to hold its second meeting today, was created following an investigation by The Tennessean of sexual harassment complaints against Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin.

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Fastcase Will Face No Defense in Suit to Access State Laws

Casemaker agrees with Fastcase: state law is not copyrightable. Fastcase filed a federal suit against Casemaker after its parent company Lawriter demanded Fastcase take down Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations from its platform. Lawriter has a contact with the state to publish the laws, but Casemaker CEO says the company will not defend the Fastcase suit. Read more from the ABA Journal.

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Plan to Allow Guns at Legislative Plaza Dies

WSMV reports the plan to allow guns at the legislative plaza in Nashville will not move forward. The office of Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said the decision was made following a meeting with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Officials said the building modification necessary to allow guns would not be “a good use of money” since they plan to move from the plaza to the Cordell Hull building by 2017.

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Senator Files Complaint Against Detective in Ooltewah Rape Case

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire filed a complaint against Gatlinburg Police Detective Rodney Burns, who is already the subject of a TBI investigation because of his statements during testimony in the Ooltewah student rape case. Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said he based the complaint on Burns’ attitude toward the case. "I'd also filed a little complaint with the proper people in Nashville from another angle on his attitude that may go back to his superiors in Sevier County," he said. Read more WTVC.

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Bill Would Allow Counselors to Deny Service on Religious Grounds

Despite opposition from LGBT groups, the state Senate yesterday approved a bill (SB 1556) that would give state-licensed counselors and therapists the right to deny service on religious grounds. WPLN reports the proposal comes in a response to a 2014 revision to the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, which stated counselors could not deny service based on religious objections. "We're doing nothing to prohibit or restrict the ability to get counseling from someone who is trained and willing to provide that counseling," said bill sponsor Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. Opponents, including the Tennessee Counseling Association, argue the measure will make it harder for people in rural areas to access help.

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Senate, Obama Clash Not Just Over Scalia Replacement

The New York Times asserts that the recent death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia highlights the Republican-led Senate’s refusal to sign off on judicial nominees for vacancies on 12 regional federal courts of appeals. Traditionally, Senate members sign off on nominees in their home states prior to nomination by the president. The author says the move is “payback” for a 2013 decision by Democrats to alter Senate rules and eliminate the ability of lawmakers in the minority to block confirmation votes with a filibuster. 

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Senate Committee Approves Funds for Clearing Open Records Backlog

The state Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved $264,000 requested by Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson for hiring additional employees to clear the backlog of open records requests. Last month, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said the number of pending requests is around 1,000. “I think this office provides a great form of transparency for our state government,” Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said. Read more from The Tennessean

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Durham Questions Legality of AG Sexual Harassment Investigation

Rep. Jeremy Durham is requesting that Attorney General Herbert Slatery remove himself from an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the Franklin Republican, The Williamson Herald reports. Durham says he questions the legality of the appointed committee handing over the investigation to Slatery. The Tennessean reports Slatery has requested that Durham turn over his electronic devices, including his state-issued iPad, and personal email accounts in the investigation. Durham says he will not comply with all of Slatery’s requests until speaking with an attorney. The comments from Durham are the first following his two-week leave of absence from the legislature to seek “pastoral and professional counseling." 

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Final Vote to Confirm Page Could Come Next Week

A confirmation vote by the joint state House and Senate is the last step needed in order for Roger Page to officially become a Tennessee Supreme Court justice. A joint session is scheduled for Monday. Page appeared before the House Judicial Confirmation Ad Hoc Committee yesterday to receive a unanimous recommendation; he went on to earn the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recommendation. The Tennessean has more details

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Senate, House Committees Approve Page for State Supreme Court

The House Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Confirmation and Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved Roger Page to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court. Page was appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Haslam, but was subject to approval by the House and Senate committees under the Conference Committee on Judicial Confirmation’s recently adopted judicial confirmation process. While speaking before the House committee, Page expressed the importance of improving the state’s indigent defense system. He also said he will recuse himself from any cases that present a conflict of interest with his wife, Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy.

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Senate Resolution Orders AG to Sue Feds Over Refugee Act

The Tennessean reports the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee today approved a Republican-backed resolution that orders Attorney General Hebert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance of the Refugee Act of 1980. Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said the federal government has required the state to participate in the refugee resettlement program, even after the state opted out of the program in 2008. Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, expressed concerns that the resolution might have a “chilling effect” on the state’s refugee community.

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Judge Seeks Clarification of Mandatory Reporting Law

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw asked lawmakers to clarify the state’s mandatory reporting law, including the time frame of reporting. The judge’s request comes after he sent a case against three Ooltewah High School officials to a grand jury after the officials failed to report the abuse of a student. "There's an argument that could be made that Victim 1 was reported the next day, but that's not good enough. And there's no proof that the other three were reported," Philyaw said. Read more from WRCB.

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