Links for May 2014

Haslam Names Bivins to Supreme Court

Criminal Appeals Court Judge Jeff Bivins has been chosen by Gov. Bill Haslam to sit on the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Nashville Post reports. “I had the opportunity to appoint Judge Bivins to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and he has served the state extremely well in that role,” Haslam said in a press release. “Tennesseans will benefit from his vast experience as he moves to our state’s highest court.” A Kingsport native and Vanderbilt Law graduate, Bivins practiced at Boult Cummings Conners & Berry in Nashville before making his way onto the bench. He will replace Justice William C. Koch Jr., who is retiring July 15 to become dean of the Nashville School of Law.

Blaze, Eason Now Lead Access to Justice Commission

University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Douglas Blaze is the new chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, while Miller & Martin lawyer and former TBA President Marcy Eason is the new vice chair. Blaze replaces Memphis lawyer and former TBA President George T. “Buck” Lewis, a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. During his time as chair, Lewis implemented a number of initiatives, including programs that utilize technology to help bridge the geographic and logistic barriers that prevent Tennesseans in need from accessing pro bono services. The statewide toll-free line 888-aLEGALz and web-based service Online Tennessee Justice now provide legal information and advice to a greater extent than available in any other state. The court also named Ann Jarvis Pruitt, executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), as a new commission member. She fills the seat of Nashville business leader and human rights activist Francis Guess, who is rotating off the commission. See an updated roster of commission members.

Court Rules Completed Diversion Not a ‘Conviction’

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court today ruled that a guilty plea expunged after successful completion of judicial diversion is not considered a conviction, and should not be subject to review in post-conviction proceedings. The ruling came in the case of Jose Rodriguez, a Mexican citizen, who entered a guilty plea in 2007 for patronizing a prostitute in the Nashville area. He was then placed on judicial diversion. Rodriguez successfully completed his diversion and his criminal record was expunged in January 2010. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that since Rodriguez was not “convicted,” he was not eligible for post-conviction relief, which he had sought to avoid any negative immigration consequences of his guilty plea. The Chattanoogan has more.

TBA Files Petition to Amend Judicial Recusal Rule

The Tennessee Bar Association yesterday filed a petition to amend Supreme Court Rule 10B governing the handling of all motions for the recusal or disqualification of judges. As part of this proposed amendment, the TBA recommends the court clarify that the proper standard of review for any appellate review of the denial of recusal motions is de novo, rather than abuse of discretions.

Veile, Sheppeard Elected to BOG Seats

Tennessee Bar Association members have selected two new members to the Board of Governors in voting just completed. For Middle Grand Division Governor, Position 2, Franklin attorney David Veile of Schell & Davies LLC will fill the post for the upcoming year. For East Grand Division Governor, Position 1, Knoxville attorney Sarah Sheppeard of Sheppeard & Mynatt PLC will fill the position. Both will take office during the TBA Annual Convention in Gatlinburg this June. Voting took place between Feb. 24 and April 1, with results tabulated by an independent accounting firm.

Kingsport Lawyer to Lead YLD in 2016-2017

Kingsport lawyer Rachel Ralston Mancl, an attorney with Hunter Smith & Davis LLP, will lead the TBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) in 2016-2017. Mancl will take office in June as vice president, and then assume the office of president-elect in 2015 and president in 2016. She was deemed elected yesterday after the filing deadline passed with no opposition. Mancl has been active in the YLD for a number of years, serving as District 1 Representative and coordinator of the Wills for Heroes initiative in the eastern division of the state. She also is a member of the current Leadership Law class.

Former U.S. AG to Lead Belmont Law

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been appointed dean of Belmont University College of Law, effective June 1, the university announced today. The news follows founding Dean Jeff Kinsler’s decision to return to a full-time faculty position. Gonzales joined Belmont Law in 2012 as the then-newly established Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law. He has taught courses in Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, National Security Law and First Amendment Law, while also practicing at Nashville’s Waller law firm. Nashville Public Radio reports that Gonzales will resign from the law firm to serve as dean full-time. Read more in a release from the school.

Employment Up Slightly for New Law Grads

Law school graduates last year obtained long-term, full-time legal positions at a slightly higher pace than those from the year before, the American Bar Association reported Wednesday. In data compiled by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, 57 percent of the class of 2013 — the largest graduating class ever — had jobs requiring bar passage compared to 56.2 percent in 2012. Another 10.1 percent of graduates landed jobs where a law degree was an advantage. That is also up slightly. Learn more from the ABA survey.

Report: Special Interest Money Increasing in Judicial Elections

Spending by special interest groups continues to rise in judicial elections, accounting for 27 percent of all the money spent on the races in 2011 and 2012, according to a new report by a Justice at Stake partner organization. This is a sharp increase from the 16 percent seen in the 2003 and 2004 elections, which held the previous high in outside spending. The report has detailed information about judges who raised the most money and donors who gave the most, and it also identifies funding trends. As an example, the report says that during his campaign for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012, Roy Moore raised more out-of-state money than any other appeals court judge running in the country. Moore’s campaign took in $265,440 — or 41 percent of his total campaign contributions — from donors in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Australia and Canada. Gavel Grab has more.