News

AOC Director Honored by Women in Numbers

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Deborah Taylor Tate was recently honored at a reception held by Women in Numbers, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to supporting women in public office. Tate was recognized for her many years of leadership in public service, which has included three-and-a-half years at the AOC, a term as an FCC commissioner, and a term as president of the Court Appointed Special Advocates board, among many other accomplishments.
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After ‘Janus’ Ruling, Mandatory Bar Dues Under Fire

Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down union “fair share” fees, two Oregon lawyers filed a federal lawsuit that’s a First Amendment challenge to mandatory bar dues, Law.com reports. The suit claims the state bar engages in political and ideological activities with which his clients disagree. They are asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to issue an injunction prohibiting the collection of compulsory fees and award damages for fees already paid. 
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Legal Practice Tip: Slander of Title – Clouds on Property Owned by Public Officials

What are your rights if a false lien is filed against property you own

On May 21, Gov. Haslam signed into law Public Chapter No. 1042 which immediately created a cause of action providing for remedies for the successful challenge of the validity of a lien against a property. The real property owner that prevails in challenging the validity of a lien or a slander of title proceeding may recover:
  1. The owner's reasonable attorney's fees; 
  2. Reasonable costs incurred by the owner to challenge the validity of the lien; 
  3. Liquidated damages in an amount equal to ten percent (10%) of the fair market value of the property not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000); and
  4. Any actual damages incurred by the owner.
The provisions of the act do not apply if the lien is based on a loan agreement which lists the property as collateral to secure repayment of the loan. The statute became effective on signing.
 
What if you are a “public official?"
 
A separate act was signed by the governor on May 1, which took effect on July 1. Public Chapter No. 913 provides a way for “public officials” to administratively challenge the filing with the register a cloud on an interest in real property by way of an affidavit by the official which sets into motion a process to remove the cloud. This procedure is reasonably complicated but may provide the local and state officials with alternative methods for removing the clouds in a more expeditious and less expensive way and may force the hand of individuals filing such false claims.

Joseph "Joe" Kirkland is an attorney and senior escrow officer at the East Memphis office of CloseTrak, Closing & Title Services. Kirkland is active in the Tennessee Land Title Association (chair of the standing Legislative Committee 2017-19, director of the Board of Directors 2018-19) and the immediate past chair of the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Law Section.
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Volunteers Needed for YMCA Model United Nations and Youth in Government Programs

The Tennessee Bar Association's Public Education Committee is partnering with the YMCA to help mentor future lawyers in the Model United Nations and Youth in Government programs. The programs are designed to allow students ages 11-19 to experience the processes of government in a hands-on way. Model United Nations conferences occur in the Fall and Youth in Government conferences happen in the Spring. The YMCA is always in need of volunteers to help our young lawyers argue their cases well and to help our youth justices deliberate wisely. The Public Education Committee seeks volunteers for programs all across the state. Volunteers are welcome help serve for one, two or three days during the conferences. Each conference runs a similar program, just with different students from across Tennessee attending each weekend. For more information about the program, please visit the YMCA's website or contact Elise Dugger

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Jefferson County Man Facing Multiple Charges of TennCare Fraud

A Jefferson county man, Howard L. Cagle, has been charged in Hamblen and Greene county with multiple counts of TennCare fraud involving doctor shopping, the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration reports. Investigators have revealed that Cagle used TennCare to acquire hydrocodone prescriptions in at least five distinct instances all within a short period of time. Each felony charge of TennCare fraud is punishable by up to four years in prison. Since 2005, the Office of Inspector General has worked on cases that resulted in the repayment of over $3 million and an estimated cost avoidance of over $136 million for TennCare.

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East Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Owner Admits Tax Evasion

The owner of the East Tennessee Southeastern Provision meatpacking plant, James Brantley, agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and employing unauthorized immigrants, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. In April, I.C.E. agents and I.R.S. investigators conducted the nation’s largest single immigration crackdown in more than 10 years at the plant; they rounded up 97 people on illegal entry charges. This action sparked statewide protests and unsuccessful attempts to toughen punishments for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Brantley’s hiring of undocumented workers allowed him to pocket millions of dollars by ignoring safety regulations, violating federal wage and hour laws and avoiding unemployment and workers’ comp premiums. He will enter a formal plea in court on Sept. 12.

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Program to Help Vulnerable, Elderly Crime Victims Expands Across Tennessee

The Collaborative Response to Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Abuse (CREVAA) program will be expanding to 13 additional counties across the state: Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Maury, Marshall, Moore, Perry and Wayne counties, The Elk Valley Times reports. It will be administered through the South Central Tennessee Development District, and it aims to help vulnerable, elderly and adult victims of crime. CREVAA advocates work closely with victims and provide emergency services as well as personalized long-term support systems. In order for victims to receive services, they must be officially referred to the program by law enforcement agencies, Adult Protective Services, District Attorneys or Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Teams.

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Man Gets 10 Years for Social Security Fraud After Father-in-Law’s Secret Burial

A Sevier County man who took his father-in-law’s Social Security benefits for six years after leaving the man’s body on the side of a road was sentenced to nearly twice the recommended sentencing guidelines for his crimes, Knoxnews reports. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Phillips called the actions of Ricky James Bennefield “disturbing and beyond imagination.” Bennefield pleaded guilty to the crime, and admitted to dumping the body of his father-in-law in a makeshift grave during a family trip to Florida in 2010. The man’s body has never been recovered.
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Annual Bankruptcy Forum Survey

The TBA Bankruptcy Executive Council welcomes opinions about the Annual Bankruptcy Forum. Completing this brief web form will assist in ensuring the forum remains timely and relevant. We welcome feedback regarding subject matter, length, location, etc. Please respond to this survey by Aug. 24. Please also mark your calendars to join us on April 5-7, 2019.  Your help and participation are greatly appreciated!
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Put TBA UPS to Work

Have you enrolled in TBA’s UPS account for members? Visit UPS's TBA page and save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio. Shipping services include next day air, international, ground and express.
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Law Office Management Tips on Shipping

If your law office uses shipping services, your TBA membership team can help you compare those costs to TBA’s UPS member benefit. Your firm office manager can work directly with TBA staff and UPS services to enroll or transfer shipping accounts. Members can save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio of shipping services, including next day air, international, ground and express.
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Murfreesboro City Employee Forced to Resign Over Use of CBD

A Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department was forced to resign after testing positive for cannabinoids due to CBD-containing products she uses to treat her anxiety, the Daily News Journal reports. Even though CBD products — derived from the hemp plant — are legal in Tennessee, they contained a trace amount of THC in the capsules she was taking, violating the city’s regulations to be a Drug-Free Workplace. Though hemp-derived CBD oil has minimal amounts of THC, standard drug tests can’t tell the difference between hemp products and marijuana.

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Destination CLE Survey

Let's take a trip! The TBA CLE Committee would like your feedback on destination CLE events. Taking a moment to complete this brief survey will greatly assist us in developing the best CLE experience for you. Please complete this survey by Aug. 10. We greatly appreciate your help with this endeavor.
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Council of Economic Advisers Releases Report on Work Requirements for Social Programs

The Council of Economic Advisers recently released a report titled "Expanding Work Requirements in Non-Cash Welfare Programs," that addresses controversial work requirement issues according to a Whitehouse press release. In April, President Trump signed an executive order giving states more autonomy over their Medicaid programs, allowing them to request waivers to add stipulations such as work requirements. Kentucky was the first state to try and implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients, however, a federal judge vacated the approval, sending the state’s program back to the federal Department of Health and Human Services for further review. So far, four states' applications have been approved by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and New Hampshire, while seven other states have applications pending: Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Utah, Ohio and Wisconsin. You can read the full report here.

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Trump Changes Hiring Process for Federal Administrative Law Judges

President Donald Trump has issued an executive order altering the hiring process for administrative law judges at federal agencies, removing the examination process and competitive selections, NPR reports. Administrative law judges will now be political appointees. A White House official said that the move was intended to “protect agencies against challenges to the legitimacy of their administrative law judges,” but opponents of the move say it’s an example of executive overreach.
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Applications for TBA Public Service Academy Due July 31

The application period for the TBA’s first-ever Public Service Academy is approaching the deadline, but there’s still time to apply. Visit tbapsa.org to complete the application and submit your resume to TBA staff coordinator Katharine Heriges at kheriges@tnbar.org by July 31. The program will take place over the weekends of Oct. 12-13 and Nov. 9-10 in Nashville. Attorneys of all ages, backgrounds and political affiliations are welcome to apply.
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Trump Administration Freezes Affordable Care Act Payments

In a surprise move on Saturday, the Trump administration announced that it will be temporarily halting billions of dollars of “risk adjustment” payments, designed to help insurers meet the Affordable Care Act requirement of providing coverage regardless of whether a person is healthy or sick, reports NPR. The program assists in determining risk for insurers, transferring funds from those who enroll healthier members for relatively less, to those that take on higher costs to enroll sicker members, insulating insurance companies from the cost of enrolling people with pre-existing conditions. Some critics fear that the recent action could spur a spike in insurance premiums for 2019.

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Schedule Time to Read Email

A Tip from the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee

Rather than checking on every e-mail as it arrives, schedule time in your calendar for reading and managing e-mail (and leave e-mail notifications silent during the other times of the day). This will enable you to have focused time for given tasks without constant interruption and distraction.

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This Week: CLE Federal Practice Seminar 2018

On July 19, the annual Federal Practice Seminar will be held at the The Tennessee Bar Center. Highlights of this year’s CLE include best practices for presenting a case in federal court, analysis of key Local Rules for the three federal districts in Tennessee, best practices for e-discovery, and an update on Federal Probation Office policies and procedures. 
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Nursing Home Chain Settles in Columbia Medicare Fraud Case

Two former occupational therapists at a Columbia nursing home were whistleblowers in a Medicare fraud case that was settled this month for $30 million, The Columbia Daily Herald reports. Kristi Emerson and LeeAnn Holt tipped-off the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, providing documentation that showed the company pressured employees to perform unneeded therapy and manipulated therapist schedules to maximize profit. You can view the complaint here.

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Judge Tosses Kansas' Proof-of-Citizenship Voter Law, Rules that Attorney Must Take Extra CLE

A federal judge on Monday decided that Kansas cannot require people to prove their U.S. citizenship before they can vote, ruling the state's election law is unconstitutional, reports NPR. Chief District Judge Julie A. Robinson blasted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who led President Trump's voter fraud commission — over disclosure violations, stating the violations “document a pattern and practice by [Kobach] of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial.” Kobach was ordered by the judge to take continuing legal education classes on the rules of evidence or procedure in addition to any other CLE education required by his law license. Kobach is running for governor of Kansas, reportedly locked in a tight Republican primary race against the incumbent. You can read the full opinion here.

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SCOTUS Passes on Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has sent back two cases to lower courts that would have blocked states from drawing hyper-partisan electoral maps, USA Today reports. The justices found procedural faults in the two cases, one brought by Republicans in Maryland and the other brought by Democrats in Wisconsin. Chief Justice John Roberts said in one opinion that the case was flawed because it was about group political interests instead of individual legal rights. Justice Elena Kagan wrote that she anticipates the issue to come before the court again.
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A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

Making an effort to notice the positive aspects of your life can have specific and beneficial results. Positive psychologists asked volunteers to each night write down three good things that happened that day and reflect for a few minutes on each one. Benefits resulting from this exercise included increased happiness, increased moments of gratitude and other positive emotion, enhanced capacity for hope and optimism, improved physical health, and decreased depression. Why not give this simple exercise a try? Think of three instances of something that went right during the past 24 hours, write them down, and spend a few minutes reflecting on them (i.e., cause of the good thing, my contribution to the good thing, similar good things can happen in the future if I do X, what this good thing means). Do this for two weeks and see whether you notice a difference!


Julie Sandine is a graduate of Wake Forest School of Law. She serves as the Chair of the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee.

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Antitrust Regulators Focus on Real Estate Data

The real estate sector is getting fresh scrutiny from U.S. antitrust regulators regarding a proposed centralized system, known as Upstream, that is designed to offer a single point of entry for inputting, managing, and distributing listings at the brokerage level, Bloomberg Law reports. The centralized system has been backed by The National Association of Realtors (NAR). Critics — including Trulia and Zillow — argue the project has the potential to impede competition in the market by placing a large share of valuable real estate data in the hands of one entity controlled by NAR and large brokerages. NAR settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 on similar issues.

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