News

NEW LAWS

Tennessee Civil Rights Cold Case Act Signed by Governor 
A bill that would create a legislative committee to study unsolved civil rights cold cases was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam on June 6.

The Tennessee Civil Rights Cold Case Act will see a joint legislative committee of six: three appointed each from the House and Senate, which will research the cases and report to the legislature in 2018.

Haslam Signs Law to Cheapen Price Tag of Expungements 
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law legislation that will lessen the costs of expunging criminal conviction records. Effective immediately, the cost of expunging records will be $270, down from $450.

The law was backed by a bipartisan coalition and was sponsored in the state legislature by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

COURTS

Court Orders Minor Changes to Certain Divorce Forms 
The Tennessee Supreme Court has approved minor modifications to the plain language forms for uncontested divorces with no minor children, as recommended by the Access to Justice Commission. These changes were necessary to ensure that the plain language forms adopted in 2011 for uncontested divorces with no minor children are consistent with the same forms that were adopted in 2016 for uncontested divorces with minor children, according to the court documents.

SCOTUS Allows Band to Call Itself by Disparaging Name 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June in favor of the Asian-American rock band The Slants, which had previously been denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent Office due to the disparaging nature of its moniker. The ruling could have major implications for other trademark cases and disputes, like the Washington Redskins football team. ”The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion.

BOOKS

Attorney-Author Seeks Info on Early African-American Lawyers
Nashville attorney Lewis Laska is collecting information for a book he is writing about African-American lawyers in Tennessee (1868-1968). He seeks information regarding experiences, anecdotes, documents, cases and memoirs regarding black lawyers during this era. Although he has already identified 206 names, he requests any other available information so the list will be complete. Contact him at P. O. Box 252, Madison, TN 37116, (615) 491-2928 or at llaska@verdictslaska.com.

GROUPS FORMED

Task Force on Juvenile Justice Formed 
Members of the Tennessee legislature announced last month the formation of a new task force focusing on the state’s juvenile justice system. Called the Joint Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice, it will be chaired by Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

The task force will “undertake a comprehensive review” of the juvenile justice system and develop policy recommendations.

Slatery Leads Investigation into Opioid Crisis 
After a lawsuit was filed in Sullivan County against drug makers last month, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced he is leading a coalition of Attorneys General from across the country in comprehensive investigations into the roots of the opioid epidemic, the Nashville Post reported.

The group will examine the role “parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioids may have played in creating or prolonging this problem.”

Pera Sworn in as President at TBA Convention

Memphis lawyer Lucian T. Pera was sworn in as president of the Tennessee Bar Association June 17 during the annual convention in Kingsport, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins administering the oath of office. Pera said his goals will be to ensure a smooth transition and successful first year for incoming Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson; to focus on the recommendations from the recent Indigent Representation Task Force; and the changes facing the market for the delivery of legal services.

“We are in the midst of the largest sweeping changes that the practice of law has seen in 100 years,” he said in his first address as president.  Pera, a partner with Adams and Reese LLP in Memphis, practices in the areas of commercial litigation, media law, and legal ethics and professional responsibility. Pera has practiced law in Memphis since 1986, practicing 20 years with Armstrong Allen PLLC before joining and helping open the Memphis office of Adams and Reese in 2006. Pera graduated from Princeton University with honors and earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1985.

Pera has been active in the TBA since his first year of law practice, beginning in the bar’s Young Lawyer Division and rising to serve as YLD president in 1993-1994. For almost a decade starting in 1995, he led the bar’s legal ethics committee, which wrote and successfully proposed to the Tennessee Supreme Court a completely revised set of lawyer ethics rules patterned after the American Bar Association’s model rules. He also served on the ABA “Ethics 2000” Commission, which overhauled the model rules for the entire United States in 2002. Pera has also served in the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates since 1990 and served as ABA treasurer from 2011-2014. Currently, he is chair of the ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility, the home of the ABA’s core lawyer ethics and professional responsibility committees. He also serves as president of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

Knoxville lawyer Jason H. Long ended his term as president at the convention. Nashville lawyer Jason Pannu, a shareholder in the Nashville office of Lewis Thomason, is now president-elect. Sarah Y. Sheppeard, a shareholder with Lewis Thomason in Knoxville, is now vice president.

New executive director Stevenson was introduced, and Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur was given a standing ovation in recognition of his contributions and long-time service.

Members who retired from the Board of Governors are Scott Sims, David Veile, Nathan Shelby, Rob Montgomery, Tony Clark and Joe Atnip. Members named to new positions on the board during convention are Mary Dohner Smith. Tasha Blakney, Mary Beth Maddox, Rachel Moses, Ramona DeSalvo, Shelly Wilson, Sherie Edwards, John Farringer, Chris Craft and Donna Hargrove.

AWARDS

The luncheon also featured recognition of Senior Counselors and the outstanding work of several members throughout the past year:

  • Amy Amundsen, Jeffrey Levy and Benjamin Raybin were honored with the Justice Joe Henry Award for Outstanding Legal Writing for the best article published in the Tennessee Bar Journal in 2016.  Raybin wrote “Pardon Me: How Executive Clemency Works in Tennessee (and How It Doesn’t).” Amundsen and Levy wrote the point / counterpoint article, “Confusion / Clarity: Two Family Law Attorneys on How to Balance Best Interests of Children and Doctor-Patient Privilege”;
  • The Hon. Charles D. Susano was given the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award;
  • The Hon. Robert “Butch” Childers was given the Young Lawyers Division Fellows’ William M. Leech Public Service Award; and
  • Three President’s Awards were given. Jonathan Steen was honored for his service as chair of the Executive Director Search Committee; Steve Cobb for his work this year, and the past 20 years lobbying on behalf of the association; and Larry Bridgesmith for his work on the Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market.

MEETINGS, CLE, EVENTS

The convention also included meetings of the House of Delegates, Board of Governors, Sections and Committees, Local Bar Leaders Caucus, a luncheon for “seasoned members of the bar,” Law School Alumni Breakfasts, and many hours of CLE.

Members of the TBA Young Lawyers Division held their annual meeting, with Memphis lawyer Ahsaki Baptist becoming president. Nashville lawyer Christian Barker took office as president-elect and Troy Weston of Knoxville is vice president. Rachel Ralston Mancl of Kingsport is the immediate past president.

Also during convention, the TBA Leadership Law class held its graduation, naming Memphis lawyer Gabe McGah as the recipient of this year’s Larry Dean Wilks Leadership Award. McGaha is an attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP in Memphis where he focuses on labor and employment law.

The Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI) held graduation ceremonies as well as participating in a service project with the American Red Cross in Kingsport to install smoke alarms in homes. Tennessee has been one of the worst states in the nation for death or injury from fires in the home, so Red Cross branches across the state have been taking part in an effort to curb that statistic by 25 percent by 2020. The DLI split into small groups and canvassed neighborhoods across the city, especially targeting high-risk areas, checking homeowners’ smoke alarms, replacing batteries and installing 95 new ones for free where needed.

CHAIRS NAMED TO LEAD TBA GROUPS

TBA committees and sections leadership for 2017-18 include: 

Committees

  • ABA Resource: Jonathan Cole
  • Access to Justice: John Farringer
  • Attorney Well Being: Julie Sandine
  • CLE: Ian Hennessey
  • Ethics and Professional Responsibility: Brian S. Faughnan
  • Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct: Sam Elliott
  • Committee on the Judiciary: Matt Sweeney
  • Long-Range Planning: Sarah Y. Sheppeard
  • Public Education: Curtis Bowe
  • Tennessee Bar Journal Editorial Board: Andrée S. Blumstein
  • TBA Leadership Law: Hon. Brandon Gibson and Loretta Cravens, co-chairs
  • Committee on Racial & Ethnic Diversity (CRED): Terica Smith
  • Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market (ELM): Gail Vaughn Ashworth

Sections

  • Administrative Law: David Grimmett
  • Animal Law: Dusty King
  • Appellate Practice: Buck Lewis
  • Bankruptcy Law: Joel Giddens
  • Business Law: Matt Lyon
  • Communications Law: Rob Harvey
  • Construction Law: Josh Jenkins
  • Corporate Counsel: Brad Hendrix
  • Creditors Practice: Charlotte Rhodes
  • Criminal Justice: David Veile
  • Disability Law: Beth Bates
  • Dispute Resolution: Debra Fulton
  • Elder Law: Jay Barry
  • Entertainment and Sports Law: Molly Shehan
  • Environmental Law: Lauran Sturm
  • Estate Planning and Probate: Jennifer Exum
  • Family Law: Roger Maness
  • Federal Practice: Frank Day
  • General Solo and Small Firm Practitioners: Jim Romer
  • Health Care Law: Brian Roark
  • Immigration Law: Stephen Simerlein
  • Intellectual Property: A. J. Bahou
  • International Law: Terry Olsen
  • Juvenile and Children’s Law: Stacie Odeneal
  • LGBT: Deborah Yeomans-arton
  • Labor and Employment Law: Greg Grisham
  • Law Office Technology and Management: Mary Griffin
  • Litigation: Andy McCall
  • Local Government: Shauna Billingsley
  • Real Estate Law: Joe Kirkland
  • Tax Law: Michael Goode
  • TBASCUS: Frank Grace
  • Tort and Insurance Practice: Parke Morris
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