Links for June 2013

Judicial Selection Bill Fails in Final Days of Session

Legislation to extend the life of the Judicial Nominating Commission failed to win approval Friday, falling by the wayside along with key measures on issues ranging from charter schools to judicial redistricting. With the failure of the bill to extend the Judicial Nominating Commission, the panel will cease to exist on July 1, meaning there is no way to replace a judge who resigns, dies or retires after that date, TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur tells Knoxnews. Also offering roundups on the session were the Commercial Appeal and Humphrey on the Hill.

The legislature also failed to reauthorize the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which will sunset July 1, 2014. Efforts to replace the members of that body led Ramsaur to tell the Metropulse that continuity on the commission is critical for providing the highest level of credibility to the proceedings.

Memphis attorney C. Barry Ward of Ballin, Ballin & Fishman, P.C. has served on the Judicial Nominating Commission since 2009. He offered his thoughts on the death of that body in a submission to the Tennessee Bar Association. You can read them below: (If you have comments, you can add them below. You must be logged in to the website to post comment.)

Tennessee to Enter Period of Uncertainty

The Tennessee General Assembly's decision not to extend the life of the state Judicial Nominating Commission is drawing national attention. The Gavel Grab website reports on the situation noting that the state will soon enter a period without a mechanism to replace judges who quit or retire. The website quotes Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade saying that no appellate judges plan to retire before the next retention judicial elections set for August 2014. With help from senior judges and other trial judges, Wade said, “[W]e should be able to cover any illnesses or unexpected deaths throughout the remainder of the term without any undue delay to the litigants and their attorneys” at the trial level.

Court Denies Advertising Rules Changes

A petition proposing several rules changes restricting lawyer advertising was denied today in a per curiam order issued by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In taking the action, the court said, "We have determined that the continued enforcement of the existing rules is preferable to any of the changes sought by the petitioners."

The petition, which was filed last spring, would have required that lawyers have a "bona fide" office in Tennessee, prohibited actors from portraying clients, banned commenting on results and imposed requirements for pre-submission of ads to the Board of Professional Responsibility.

The petition drew comments from a wide array of organizations and individuals including the Tennessee Bar Association, Knoxville Bar Association, two law school professors from the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the Federal Trade Commission and others. TBA Ethics and Professionalism Committee Chair Brian Faughnan authored the TBA comment.

Legal Sector Jobs Reach 4-Year High

Jobs in the legal sector are at their highest level in four years according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Details released Friday show gains in the last two months as the legal sector added 2,100 jobs in April and 3,500 jobs in March (up from a predicted increase of 2,000 jobs). The total number of legal jobs now stands at 1.13 million, up by 10,000 from April 2012. At its pre-recession high in May 2007, the legal sector had 1.18 million jobs. AM Law Daily summarizes the findings.

TBA Announces Law Day Contest Winners

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has announced this year's Law Day Art & Essay Competition winners. Winchester eighth grader Jonathan M. Brewer from South Middle School took first place in the art contest, while Knoxville 10th grader Caroline Julie Rogers of Bearden High School won first place in the essay contest. This year’s theme "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All,” asked students to explore civil and human rights movements in America and the impact they have had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law.

Other winners were Jackson Ahern, a fourth grade student at Cedar Bluff Elementary School in Knoxville, who took second place in the art competition; Zee Marie Schumacher, a fourth grader at Immaculate Conception School in Clarksville, who placed third in the art contest; Savannah Oliver, a junior at Forrest High School in Chapel Hill, who won second place in the essay contest; and Delaine Lorio, a ninth grader at Tennessee High School in Bristol, who took third in the essay contest. Winners will receive cash awards and have their work displayed at the TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15. This year's competition was coordinated by Chattanooga lawyer Ellie Hill with Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway.

TBA Honors 2013 YouTube Video Contest Winners

Students challenged to produce videos on the importance of a fair and impartial judiciary are being honored by the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) as a part of the national Law Day celebration. Middle and high school students from across Tennessee produced three-minute videos exploring the role of the judiciary, with a focus on issues related to separation of powers and protection of individual rights. The 2013 theme, “The Least Dangerous Branch: The Importance of a Fair & Impartial Judiciary,” centered on Alexander Hamilton’s premise in Federalist Paper No. 78 that judiciary is “the least dangerous” branch of government because it “has no influence over either the sword or the purse.”

First place in the Middle School category goes to Alyssa Neuhoff of Signal Mountain, who was sponsored by Walden Home School. First place in the high school category goes to Jeff Carter from Memphis, who was sponsored by White Station High School. Neuhoff, Carter and their sponsoring groups each will receive a cash award of $500. The first-place winning videos also will be shown during the Lawyers Lunch at the TBA Convention in Nashville this June.

Winner Selected for 2013 Jon E Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition

Wyatt Sassman, a third-year student at Vanderbilt University Law School, has won first place in the TBA Environmental Law Section’s 2013 Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition. His article “Administrative Compliance Orders and Due Process after Sackett” looks at the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed an Idaho couple to challenge an EPA order requiring restoration of a wetland before the agency enforced the order with penalties.

Sassman argues three points: that the court disregarded precedent and legislative history in finding for the Sacketts, that administrative orders do not violate due process rights, and that federal agencies should be free to use such orders without judicial interference. He will collect a cash award and his article will be published in an upcoming section newsletter.

LAET Launches New Online Program

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has launched an innovative web-based system to improve access to applicants for civil legal services. The system allows persons seeking legal assistance to be able to apply for legal aid 24-hours a day, seven days a week. “Legal Aid of East Tennessee is very aware that eligible persons facing civil legal crisis cannot always contact us during normal business hours without risking loss of wages or even employment itself,” says David R. Yoder, LAET Executive Director. “Other personal conflicts they might have, as well as LAET’s constantly busy phones, can make it extremely difficult to apply for services.” To access the new system, users should visit

Social Media Use At an All Time High for Counsel

According to a study released by Greentarget, Zeughauser Group, social media use by in-house counsel is at an all time high, the National Law Journal reports. The study confirmed findings suggested by surveys conducted since 2010. LinkedIn remains the top social media site used, with more than 67 percent of in-house counsel reporting having used it either during the past 24 hours or past week. Wikipedia also ranked highly, with 69 percent using it during the past day or week for personal reasons and 49 percent for professional reasons.

Conservatorship Overhaul on Way to Governor’s Desk

The state Senate today gave final unanimous approval to the bill (SB 555/HB 692) sponsored by lawyer legislators Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Rep. Andy Farmer, R-Sevierville, making changes to governing conservatorships after hearing a report from the Tennessee Bar Association. Among the proposed changes, the recommendation establishes a uniform emergency placement process, clarifies the role of guardians ad litem, requires court orders to specify rights being taken away, and calls for more frequent financial reports. The recommendations follow a series of hearings held across the state at which members of the TBA Special Committee on Conservatorship Practice and Procedure, chaired by Jackson lawyer Pam Wright, heard from witnesses who lost all of their assets as victims of conservatorships. The legislation will be one of the topics in the Legislative Update CLE at the TBA Convention in Nashville in June. The Tennessean has more.

Tennessean Credits TBA with Conservatorship Reform

The Tennessean’s coverage of the legislature’s final passage of conservatorship reform gives the TBA credit for laying the groundwork for the bill with a series of public hearings across the state on the issue. In the article, Executive Director Allan Ramsaur expresses his appreciation for the opportunity to review the legislation, saying the changes "should bring some clarity to the way the process works." The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

House Rejects Judicial Redistricting Plan

The state House today failed to pass a plan pushed by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey to enact the first judicial redistricting in the state since 1984. Richard Locker, Nashville bureau chief for The Commercial Appeal, writes today that opponents of the bill moved to kill it for the session but House Speaker Beth Harwell ruled that a motion to reject must wait one day. House members whose districts were directly affected by the plan persuasively argued against it and convinced a majority of their colleagues to join them on a 28-66 vote to oppose the bill. One lawmaker also expressed a common sentiment that the bill was "crammed down" their throats by the Senate, which had approved it 27-4 on Tuesday.