Links for August 2015

UT Law Dean: Already Feels Like Home

Knoxville already feels like home, new University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Melanie D. Wilson says in a welcome video. Earlier this month Wilson took over leadership of the law school from former dean Doug Blaze who stepped down to return to teaching full-time and to serve as director of the college’s new Institute for Professional Leadership, which he co-founded.

Remembering the Scopes ‘Monkey' Trial

Tomorrow marks the 90th anniversary of the notorious Scopes “Monkey" Trial. During one sweltering week in July 1925, two of the 20th century's most famous lawyers — William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow — squared off in the Rhea County Courthouse to debate the theological and biological origin of man's connection to primates. First-year teacher John Thomas Scopes was 24 when he was thrust into the spotlight for violating the Butler Act, which banned the teaching of evolution in public schools. The publicity stunt went viral, early 20th century style, with the case gaining national coverage. Read more in the Nashville Scene.

CASA to Benefit from GM Foundation Grants

The General Motors Foundation has awarded $75,000 in grant funds to 11 Tennessee organizations including Tennessee CASA, which will use the money to expand and strengthen its statewide network, and Maury County CASA, which will use the funds to train volunteers. This is the fifth consecutive year the Foundation’s Plant City Grants were awarded.

Law Firm Mergers Continue at Blazing Pace

Law firm mergers are taking place at a record rate, according to a survey by Altman Weil Inc. A total of 19 were announced in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2015. Add that to those announced in the first quarter of the year, and the total rises to 48, the highest in the nine years that the Pennsylvania-based legal consultant has been compiling the law firm M&A list. The ABA Journal has the story.

6th Circuit Finds Tennessee’s Ballot Law Unconstitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that Tennessee’s law governing which political parties get candidates on a ballot “imposes a greater burden” on third parties, and thus violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The Green Party of Tennessee and Constitution Party of Tennessee filed the suit, the Tennessean reports.

UT Law Student Receives National Scholarship

University of Tennessee College of Law student Casey Duhart is one of only two recipients nationwide of a prestigious diversity scholarship, the school reports. The 2015 Law Student Diversity Scholarship from the Defense Research Institute (DRI) provides $10,000 toward law school expenses. Duhart will serve as the first black editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Law Review this coming year. She is also a recent graduate of the TBA's Diversity Leadership Institute.

State AGs Call on Congress to Protect Religious Groups

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and 14 other state attorneys general are urging congressional leaders to protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofit religious organizations that disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent same-sex marriage decision. The group says that letter was prompted by comments from the solicitor general that the government might decide certain religious organizations no longer qualify as tax-exempt, and donations to them are no longer deductible. The letter asks Congress to modify the Internal Revenue Code to protect nonprofit religious organizations that disagree with the court’s decision.

New Tool Helps Judges Determine Appropriate Bail

Setting bail is a difficult task for judges, according to Shaila Dewan, who writes about a new tool to aid in that process in the New York Times. After two years of testing, an algorithm developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is being rolled out to 21 jurisidictions. The algorithm gives defendants two scores — one for the likelihood of committing a crime and one for their risk of failing to appear in court. It also flags those with an elevated risk of violence. Many law enforcement groups and defense lawyers support the use of scientifically validated risk assessments, but fewer than 10 percent of jurisdictions use them, partly because of cost. The Arnold Foundation eventually plans to make the tool available to any jurisdiction.

Hardeman County Courthouse Active After Nearly 200 Years

The Hardeman County Commission recently met in its original meeting room at the Little Courthouse in Bolivar for the first time since 1827. The meeting made the site not just the oldest log courthouse in Tennessee, but the oldest active one as well. Bolivar's Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Little Courthouse's restoration. The Jackson Sun has the story.

TBA YLD Elects Officers, Presents Awards at Annual Meeting

Group meets in conjunction with 2015 TBA Convention

NASHVILLE, July 2, 2015 — The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division named new officers and recognized award winners during the TBA’s Annual Convention in Memphis.

YLD to Move to Electronic Voting in 2016

At the TBA YLD Annual Meeting on June 19, members of the division approved several amendments to the group’s governing bylaws, including replacing in-person voting for elected positions at the Annual Meeting in June with electronic voting in the spring.

ABA Releases Ethics Opinion on Client File Materials

The American Bar Association today issued a new Formal Ethics Opinion addressing what file materials belong to client under the ABA Model Rules. The scenario examined for context details a client teminating sevices of a long-time lawyer. The opinion addresses the ethical duties of a lawyer when responding to a former client’s request for papers and property in the lawyer’s possession that are related to the representation. Read the opinion here.

Court Finds Same-Sex Marriage Bans Unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning ruled that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, SCOTUSblog reports. The 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finds that the court has long recognized the right to marry as a fundamental right, and that all of the same principles on which it has relied in cases involving opposite-sex couples should apply equally to same-sex marriages. Chief Justice John Roberts read a summary of his dissent from the bench – the first time he has ever done so.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam said the state will comply immediately with the court’s ruling. Attorney General Herbert Slatery held a press conference this afternoon, in which he expressed disappointment in the ruling but advised clerks to comply with it. Here's a wrapup of the decision’s impact in Tennessee. TBA CLE is presenting a webcast on the case on July 2.

All Tennessee Counties Set to Issue Gay Marriage Licenses

All 95 Tennessee counties are ready to or are already issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning bans on same-sex marriage, the Tennessean reports. Some county clerks are refusing to perform those marriages, however. According to the publication, clerks are legally allowed to refuse to perform the marriages, but must issue the licenses. State Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, announced Tuesday that he plans to introduce state legislation that would allow county clerks across the state to exempt themselves from supporting same-sex marriage if the issue conflicts with their religious beliefs. The Herald News has more.

Law Camp Features Veteran Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray

High school students from across the country learned about the development of key freedoms and the concept of equality under the law during the annual Law Camp held recently at Lipscomb University. The Tennessee Bar Association, the Napier-Looby Bar Association and law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings were among program sponsors. Veteran civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray was the featured guest at the camp, which this year had a special focus on the Civil Rights Movement.

Law Camp Participants Learn About Legal System, Civil Rights

(NASHVILLE, June 8-12) — The TBA partnered with Lipscomb University for its annual Law Camp, held in Nashville June 8-12. Other Law Camp sponsors included the Napier-Looby Bar Association and law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.

DOJ Expands Program to Combat Human Trafficking

The Justice Department is announcing a new phase in efforts to combat human trafficking, the Daily News reports. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says federal officials are looking for more cities to participate in a program aimed at streamlining trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The idea is to build on an initiative from 2011 that officials say has resulted in more trafficking cases and convictions. Cities participating in the first phase were Atlanta, El Paso, Kansas City (Missouri), Memphis, Miami and Los Angeles.

Law Among Careers with Most Psychopaths, Study Says

Lawyers land second only to CEOs on a list of the top 10 careers with the most psychopaths, according to Oxford psychologist Kevin Dutton. Contrary to popular notions, lots of psychopaths aren’t raging lunatics or violent criminals, and research suggests psychopathy can actually be advantageous in certain professions. Salon has more.

ACA Ruling Will Affect Thousands in Tennessee

Tens of thousands of Tennesseans will be able to keep their health insurance in light of today's 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upholds tax subsidies to make insurance more affordable, Knoxnews reports. The decision also solidifies the Affordable Care Act's place in the health care market and may give a boost to Gov. Bill Haslam's controversial health insurance proposal, Insure Tennessee, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, writes in a letter sent to supporters today. House Minority leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, also wants that to happen and today wrote the governor asking for another special session on the issue, the Tennessean reports. The Tennessee Justice Center also will host a press conference Monday to discuss the decision and what it means for Insure Tennessee. The event will be at 11 a.m. at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital, 2000 Church Street.