News

Sheriff’s Office Responsible for ICE Checks

A story in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today indicated that metro Nashville officers are responsible for checking arrestees’ immigration records under the Secure Communities program. Instead, it is the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department that is participating in the federal program and is responsible for conducting the checks.

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FedEx Could Face New Drug Charges

FedEx could face new charges related to the alleged distribution and conspiracy to distribute drugs for illegal Internet-based pharmacies, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Last Friday, federal prosecutors in California said they intend to present a "superseding indictment" by Aug. 28, which would modify or add to the original indictment. The first indictment, filed July 17, included 15 counts of shipping or conspiracy to ship drugs to questionable online pharmacies.

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DA Praised for Work at Retirement Reception

Colleagues and friends of 23rd Judicial District Attorney General Dan M. Alsobrooks gathered last week at the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in Dickson for a reception to honor his work. Local attorneys Jerry Smith and David Wolfe, along with state Rep. David Shepard, Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and TBI Director Mark Gwyn spoke about Alsobrooks’ character and work ethic. State Rep. Mary Littleton also presented Alsobrooks with a proclamation from the General Assembly recognizing his service. Alsobrooks will retire from office Aug. 31, after 24 years as the district attorney general. The Tennessean has more on his career and the reception.

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Free Conference Focuses on Death Scene Investigations

The Forensic Institute for Research and Education (FIRE) is hosting a free two-day conference on death scene investigations Aug. 13-14 on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The program, sponsored through a federal Department of Justice grant, will address topics such as the role of the medical examiner, forensic anthropology, mass fatalities, drug overdose cases and child death investigations. Speakers include representatives from area district attorney and medical examiners’ offices. Download an agenda or handout for the event.

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Nashville Magistrates Using Summonses for Domestic Violence Suspects

Some domestic violence suspects in Nashville are no longer being arrested, being ordered to stay away from victims or being subjected to 12-hour “cooling off” periods, the Tennessean reports. The reason, according to the paper, is a change in state law that went into effect on July 1, which has led judicial commissioners to begin issuing court summonses instead of warrants to domestic violence suspects. It is unclear who is responsible for the shift in how the suspects are being managed. A spokesman for the commissioners blamed the new law. The legislator who wrote the law says the magistrates are not following it properly. Meanwhile, prosecutors warn that victims may be in danger as there are no meaningful consequences for ignoring a summons.

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Fedex Names Lawyers for Drug-Shipping Case

FedEx has named two law firms as its representatives in its coming drug trafficking case, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Both of the firms — Arguedas, Cassman & Headley LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — have offices in Northern California, where the charges were filed. The company was indicted last week for allegedly having lax controls on pharmaceutical shipments.

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TACDL Meeting to Feature Judge Fowlkes

The Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL) will hold its 41st Annual Meeting Aug. 1-2 at the University of Memphis School of Law. Speakers include TACDL President Mike Whalen, 30th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee, Kansas District Court Judge Joe D. Johnson and U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes, who will give a presentation on the importance of judicial independence. Learn more on the association’s website.

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Lawyer with Shelby Public Defender’s Office Dies

Lawrence Russell “Rusty” White died July 12. White, 55, was a criminal defense attorney with the Public Defender's office in Shelby County. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made to the Mid-South Make A Wish Foundation, 1780 Moriah Woods Blvd. Suite 10, Memphis, TN 38117. Read tributes to White on the Memorial Park Funeral Home’s website. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life.

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Commission OKs Early Release for Drug Felons

Tens of thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug crimes may be eligible for early release under a cost-cutting proposal adopted Friday by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The panel, which earlier this year voted to substantially lower recommended sentences for drug-dealing felons, voted unanimously to retroactively apply that change to prisoners now behind bars. That could affect more than 46,000 inmates, the Associated Press reports. Under the proposed process, a judge would review the case of each prisoner to decide if release would jeopardize public safety. Releases would start in November 2015 and be phased in over a period of years. Congress has until this November to voice opposition to the plan. WATE has the story.

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Families of Victims Meet to Discuss Justices' Opinions

Several family members of murder victims gathered in Knoxville yesterday to discuss opinions issued by the three State Supreme Court Justices up for a retention vote. The group is pushing for more rights for crime victims, and one woman said she was upset that justices weren't in support of showing a photo of a murder victim during a trial and felt that their decisions limited victim impact statements. WATE has the story.

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Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled yesterday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the LA Times reports. Carney called the California death penalty system “dysfunctional," with the result being an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding an actual execution.

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First Mom Charged Under Prenatal Drug Law

A 26-year-old Tennessee woman has become the first mother to be charged under a state law that criminalizes drug use by pregnant women, MSNBC reports. Mallory Loyola was arrested and charged Tuesday with simple assault after she and the baby girl she gave birth to on July 6 both tested positive for methamphetamine, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said. Loyola told police she smoked the drug a few days before she gave birth. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of one year. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to allow such charges.

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Prosecutors Counter Claims Justices Are ‘Soft on Crime’

A bipartisan group of 13 district attorneys has come forward in support of Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee, saying they have “outstanding records and deserve to be retained.” The spokesperson for the group, 15th Judicial District Tom P. Thompson Jr., said though “prosecutors may not agree with every decision made by this court...the fact is these justices…have upheld almost 90 percent of death penalty cases. They are not soft on crime.” Thompson also said the three are fair and impartial, and protect Tennesseans’ rights under the state and federal constitutions.

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Pilot to Pay $92M, Avoid Prosecution

Pilot Flying J has reached a deal with federal prosecutors to avoid criminal charges against the company, Knoxnews reports. Under the deal made public today, Pilot must pay a $92 million penalty over two years and cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation into diesel fuel rebate fraud. Federal prosecutors said in a news release that the Criminal Enforcement Agreement “expressly states that it provides no protection from prosecution to any individual” in connection with the case. A criminal investigation against individual employees is ongoing with 10 already pleading guilty to charges.

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Senators File Complaint Against Judge Moreland

Three state senators have filed a complaint with the Board of Judicial Conduct against Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland in the wake of his decision to waive a 12-hour "cooling-off" period and release a man accused of abusing his girlfriend. In the complaint, Sens. Mike Bell, Randy McNally and Brian Kelsey say Moreland's actions promoted “distrust, suspicion and a belief that the 'good ole boy' system pervades the judiciary” and he should be “severely sanctioned.” Moreland told The Tennessean he regrets his actions, but did what he thought was right at the time. “I regret it. I apologize for it, and I will make sure to get more information next time."

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Mergers, 'Kaley' Ruling, Seersucker and More Covered in July TBJ

Kathryn Reed Edge gives the details of what a merger entails in the July issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. Enjoy TBA Convention photos and stories in the printed version -- and read new TBA President Jonathan Steen's column, "If Not Us, Then Who?" Wade Davies explains the recent Kaley ruling about criminal defendants using their earnings to retain counsel (spoiler: they can't). And if you are wavering about buying a Seersucker suit this summer, read Bill Haltom's column for a nudge in favor of the cool, cotton ensemble.

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Obama Seeks $3.7 Billion to Deal with Border Crisis

Calling the situation a humanitarian crisis, President Barack Obama today asked Congress to provide $3.7 billion to cope with a tide of minors from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States. The funds would be used to provide shelter and medical care for unaccompanied children, hire additional immigration judges, increase prosecution of smugglers, increase surveillance along the border and help countries repatriate those sent home. The president also said he wants to provide the secretary of homeland security additional authority to speed up the removal of the children though he did not include that policy change in his request. Obama plans to discuss the crisis with faith and local leaders during a visit to Texas on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. More than 50,000 children have arrived in the United States since October. WRCB has the AP story.

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Legal Aid Lawyer Sought for Domestic, Sexual Abuse Cases

West Tennessee Legal Services is seeking a staff attorney with a strong commitment to the delivery of quality civil legal assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking in rural west Tennessee. Experience representing domestic violence victims is preferred and proficiency in Spanish is a plus. Applicants must possess a Tennessee law license as well as excellent writing and oral communication skills and the ability to manage multiple tasks, build collaborative relationships, travel as necessary and use case management software. Interested candidates should send a cover letter, resume, writing sample and references to Hiring Committee, West Tennessee Legal Services Inc., P.O. Box 2066, Jackson, TN 38302 or by email to jane@wtls.org.

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Prescription Drug Summit Thursday in Chattanooga

Top state substance abuse officials will meet in Chattanooga this Thursday to discuss the problem of prescription drug abuse in Tennessee, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. E. Douglas Varney, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will join Criminal Court Judge Caroll Ross of the 10th Judicial District Recovery Court, Paul Fuchcar of the Council for Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services and others at the event, set for 2 p.m. at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s University Center, 642 E. Fifth St. In announcing the summit, which is open to the public, Varney said, “The abuse of prescription drugs, specifically opioids, is an epidemic in Tennessee, with disastrous and severe consequences to Tennesseans of every age.”

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UT Health Science Center to Operate Forensic Center

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has been awarded a one-year $3.1 million contract to operate the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center and the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office, Memphis Daily News reports. Under the contract, the university will oversee medico-legal death investigation services for 20 counties that send autopsies to the facility. It also will provide staffing and management of the forensic center, including supplying forensic pathologists and technicians, support staff and a physician eligible for appointment as the Shelby County medical examiner. Read more about the history of the forensic center and the role the university will play in this Memphis Daily News article.

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Gideon’s Promise Recruits 2 Vanderbilt Law Grads

Gideon’s Promise has signed two Vanderbilt University Law School graduates to participate in its Law School Partnership Program. Jose Costales and William Howell join 13 other recent graduates who will work in underserved public defender offices with the promise of a full-time position after one year. The program is a partnership between Gideon’s Promise, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, participating law schools and public defender offices in the southeast. See the full list of participants.

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Public Defenders Conference Elects Middle Tennessee Rep

The Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference has elected Donna Orr Hargrove to serve as the Middle Tennessee Representative on its Executive Committee. Hargrove is the District Public Defender for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties. The Elk Valley Times has more.

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Prosecutors Seek Contempt Charges in Vandy Rape Case

Monday's hearing in the Vanderbilt University rape case was “heavy on bluster, light on results,” the Tennessean reports. In the ongoing battle between prosecutors and attorneys for Brandon Vandenburg, one of four former football players accused of rape, an assistant district attorney “upped the ante” by accusing the defense of “outrageous, egregious" violations of court rules and privacy laws, and calling on the judge to hold all four defense attorneys in criminal contempt.

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New State Laws Take Effect July 1

Beginning on July 1, some 180 new Tennessee laws will take effect, WBIR.com reports. Among them is an anti-meth bill that limits the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy to less than six grams a month. Two laws named in memory of a Knoxville couple murdered in 2007 will remove the state's 13th juror rule, which requires a judge to sign a unanimous verdict, and prevent attorneys from bringing up allegations of a victim's past that are not related to the case. Another, known as “Amelia's Law,” will allow judges to order offenders and parolees to wear a monitoring device that tests blood every 30 minutes if alcohol or drugs played a role in the underlying crimes. And finally, prosecutors will be allowed to charge mothers caught abusing drugs while pregnant. The Sparta Expositor also offers a list of new laws.

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Training for Advocates Fighting Violence Against Women

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is offering an advocacy training July 9-10 in Memphis. The event, which is free, will take place at The Urban Child Institute, 600 Jefferson Ave., Memphis 38105. The training will focus on the history of violence against women, practical advocacy techniques, prevention, vicarious trauma and more. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The program will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday. Register online to attend.

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