News

Human Rights Day in Nashville Focuses on Child Trafficking

Human Rights Day will be celebrated around the world Saturday, but in Nashville an event focused on child trafficking in Tennessee will happen tomorrow evening, the Tennessean reports. The program will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the First Amendment Center at 1207 18th Ave. South, No. 200. In addition to a discussion about the issues associated with child trafficking, the Tennessee Human Rights Commission will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Charles Kimbrough; its Rising Star Award to Anna Carella, Justin Jones and Mohammed Shurki; and its Outstanding Service Award to Juan Canedo and Derri Smith. RSVP online.

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Juvenile Justice Task Force Working Toward Report

The state Juvenile Justice Task Force is working toward a final report and is expected to make a number of recommendations to lawmakers on how juveniles should be treated in the legal system. That makes it likely that the legislature will consider some form of juvenile justice reform in the next session, the Tennessean reports. The task force, chaired by state Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is focused on a number of issues, including the youth probation system, inconsistent court practices across the state and use of valid court orders, which put the weight of the court behind directives for school attendance and curfews.

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Former Knox County Assistant PD Killed in Texas

Denise Faili, who previously served in the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, died Nov. 26 in Texas. She was 33. Faili had moved to Alpine, Texas, earlier this year to be closer to her mother and work for the federal public defender’s office. Days after Thanksgiving, Faili and her mother were driving from Corpus Christi to Austin when a car crossed the center line. The head-on collision killed Faili, her mother and the other driver. Faili earned her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and clerked for the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals before joining the public defender's office. Donations in her memory can be made to Gideon’s Promise, a training and advocacy organization for public defenders. Read a moving tribute to Faili from a former coworker in Alpine.

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Online CLE for General Practitioners Now Available

Sessions from the TBA’s annual General Practice CLE are now available online. Topics include child welfare laws, domestic assault cases, law office dynamics, wrongful termination, writing skills and more. See the full listing here.

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Computer Company Facing Issues in Other Locations

Tyler Technologies, the company responsible for installing a new computer system at the Shelby County jail and courthouse, faces criticism not just from leaders in Memphis but from a number of other jurisdictions that bought its product, Local Memphis reports. The paper indicates that justice systems in California, Florida, Indiana, Texas and Washington have reported troubles with the company’s Odyssey computer system. Tyler has had six people in Memphis working to fix problems but they were expected to leave at the end of this week, even though court officials estimate the system is only working at 85 to 90 percent capacity.

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Man Faces New Charge for Threatening Judge

Omar Ahmad is in custody at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex after new charges were filed against him in an ongoing harassment case, the Jackson Sun reports. Ahmad previously was charged with retaliation for past action and harassment of Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Christy Little. He was arraigned on those charges yesterday morning in Madison County General Sessions Court and released on bond. After he was released, authorities took him into custody again on new harassment charges brought in Jackson City Court. Prosecutors have requested that his bond be revoked based on the new charges. A hearing is set for Tuesday on that issue.

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Services This Weekend for Former U.S. Attorney

Ernest Wilson “Ernie” Williams died Nov. 30 at the age of 69. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, with a tour of duty in Vietnam, Williams earned his law degree from the Nashville School of Law. He practiced law in Franklin until being appointed U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee by President George H.W. Bush. He held that post from 1991 to 1993. He later served as a Williamson County commissioner and general sessions judge. Visitation will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Williamson Memorial Funeral Home and from 1 to 2 p.m. on Sunday at Bethlehem United Methodist Church. Funeral services will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the church. Burial will follow in Williamson Memorial Gardens.

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Expungement Clinic Planned for Memphis

Building on the success of expungement clinics in Nashville, Memphis lawyers Amber Floyd and Dean DeCandia are organizing an expungement clinic and resource fair in their city on Dec. 10. The clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church, 3900 Tchulahoma Rd. Representatives from the General Sessions Criminal Court and clerk’s office will be on hand to facilitate the process. Volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students are needed to assist clients with paperwork. Those interested in volunteering are invited to a training session on Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the church. For more information contact Floyd, 901-537-1054, or DeCandia, 901-378-0203.

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Court Tackles Vehicular Homicides, Malpractice, Liquor Store Fees

The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear four East Tennessee cases, including a Claiborne County vehicular homicide case in which a lower appellate court set the admittedly guilty driver free. Another vehicular homicide case looks at whether a police officer should have sought a warrant before seeking a hospital blood draw from the defendant. The third case looks at whether a legal malpractice claim should have been dismissed for being filed too long after the alleged wrongdoing. And the fourth case explores whether the city of Morristown overcharged liquor stores with fees totaling a half-million dollars. Knoxnews reviews each case.

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County Explores Legal Options to Fix Computer Ordeal

Shelby County Commissioners yesterday talked about possible legal action against Tyler Technologies, the company that supplied a new computer system to the local criminal justice courts, according to the Memphis Daily News. During the meeting, General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton told commissioners he is under court order by judges to print their dockets and any other documents needed each day. He said he will need overtime pay “indefinitely” for employees to handle these additional duties. Commissioners questioned the planning that led up to installation of the new system.

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New Rule Expands Judges’ Authority for Digital Device Warrants

Congress had a full seven months to block a rule change for federal courts that lets judges authorize the hacking of digital devices beyond their districts. But after an attempt in the Senate to vote on the measure failed, opponents waited until the day before the rule change was to take effect to introduce three motions aimed at delaying its implementation. They were not successful, so as of today, the change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, goes into effect. Opponents of the change question its impact on privacy rights while supporters say digital devices make jurisdiction-specific search warrants impractical. Nashville Public Radio looks at the issue.

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Report: Nashville Prosecutor Withheld Evidence in Murder Case

Kathy Morante, director of the Nashville police division that investigates officer conduct, has been reprimanded for misconduct in her prior job as an assistant district attorney general in Nashville. The Tennessean reports that while prosecuting a 16-year-old on a murder charge, Morante failed to provide to the defense a TBI report showing a key witness for the state had been arrested in another matter with the murder weapon in question. The conviction and 19-year prison term of Terry L. Reed Jr. was vacated by a judge last year. Morante says she shared the report but could not provide proof of the action. She joined the police department in 2013 after serving 14 years as a prosecutor. She reportedly was issued a private reprimand by the Board of Professional Responsibility in October.

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Memphians Share Policing Concerns with DOJ

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) were in Memphis yesterday to meet with residents and discuss their concerns about the Memphis Police Department. Comments at the forum were plentiful and included complaints such as not being able to reach 911 operators, police not identifying themselves before taking action, and a general sense of disconnect between officers and the community. The meeting, one of two that will be held, is the first step in a three-part review by DOJ. The second step will be a published report of recommendations for improvement. The third and final step will entail the DOJ helping the police department make needed changes. News Channel 5 has more from the meeting.

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Nashville Mayor Proposes New Site for Sheriff’s Office

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has proposed an East Nashville location for the new headquarters of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. The Tennessean reports that Barry’s office has filed a resolution with the Metro Council that would have the $20 million facility built at the site of the Jerry Newson Center, at 710 S. Fifth St., near the James A. Cayce Homes public housing development. The new headquarters would not hold inmates but would be used for operational, administrative and training functions. 

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Justices Appear Sympathetic to Intellectual Disability Issues

A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared ready to side with a man sentenced to death for a 1980 Houston murder who is challenging how Texas gauges whether a defendant has intellectual disabilities that would preclude execution, Reuters reports. The court ruled in 2002 that execution of the intellectually disabled violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At issue in this case is whether Texas is using an obsolete standard to assess whether the defendant is intellectually disabled.

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Tennessee Waltz Defendants Get Rights Restored

Three former elected officials made infamous for their involvement in the Tennessee Waltz corruption sting have had their rights restored, the Tennessean reports. Former state senators John Ford and Roscoe Dixon and former Shelby County Commissioner Michael Hooks Sr. all served federal prison time, but have received orders from two judges that restored their rights as citizens. Dixon and Hooks participated in a press conference Monday to discuss the challenges of becoming full citizens again and to encourage others to seek restoration of their rights. The men may vote, serve on a jury and obtain professional licenses, but may not hold public office or own a gun. The FBI’s undercover operation “Tennessee Waltz” ensnared 12 legislators, lobbyists and local officials across the state.

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Former Prosecutor Selected as Alumna of the Year

Dr. Jamie Carter was named the 2016 Lee University Department of History, Humanities and Political Science Distinguished Alumna of the Year. Carter serves as the assistant attorney general for the District of Columbia, but was instrumental in establishing a so-called “good-faith exception” in Tennessee, which allows unconstitutionally-obtained evidence to be presented in court if collected “in good faith” by law enforcement. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, Carter has also held positions as Knox County assistant district attorney and acting assistant district attorney in Davidson County. The Cleveland Banner has the story.

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Report: More Than 800 Staff Vacancies in State Prisons

There are more than 800 staff vacancies at Tennessee’s public and private prisons, accounting for a significant portion of the workforce that is supposed to keep these facilities safe and running smoothly, the Tennessean reports. The staffing issues persist after many months of complaints about pay, benefits, hours and safety from correctional officers, inmates and their families. The Tennessee Department of Correction says a stronger economy has increased competition for workers. To respond, it says it is looking at new methods to recruit and retain the best staff.

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Man Incarcerated on False Allegations Granted Parole

The Tennessee Board of Parole has voted to release Robert E. Polk, a Nashville man who has been in prison for two years on false allegations, the Tennessean reports. The board said a release plan, which includes information such as where Polk will live, must be finalized before he can be released. Polk was previously released from prison on parole in 2012 in a drug case. The board revoked parole after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in 2014. Soon thereafter, prosecutors learned that Polk’s wife made up the domestic violence allegations and dropped the charges. Polk has been waiting for release ever since.

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Obama Hits 1,000 Mark for Commutations

President Barack Obama surpassed the 1,000 mark for commutations granted during his presidency after shortening sentences for another 79 people yesterday. Obama has been granting commutations at rapid-fire pace in his final months in office. All told, he has commuted more sentences than the past 11 presidents combined, according to the White House. Most of those who have received clemency are nonviolent drug offenders, though many were also convicted of firearms violations related to drug crimes, the Associated Press reports. Though Obama is expected to grant more commutations in his final weeks, officials acknowledge a large number of applications will be pending after the president leaves office. WRCB-TV has the story.

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DOJ Announces ‘Listening Sessions’ in Memphis

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has announced its first two community listening sessions to be held in Memphis. On Nov. 29, a session will be held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown from 6 to 9 p.m. The second meeting will be Nov. 30 at the Hickory Hill Community Center from 5 to 8 p.m. The meetings are part of a lengthy review of the Memphis Police Department’s community policing and use of deadly force policies, according to Memphis Flyer.

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Chattanooga Hosts Drug Court Conference

The city of Chattanooga will host the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals conference Dec. 7-9 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. A highlight of this year’s conference will be an art exhibit featuring works by recovering addicts and staff members, according to Kevin Batts, president of the association. The keynote address will be given by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark, a strong supporter of the Drug Court model. The new commissioner of mental health also will speak at the event, Chattanoogan.com reports.

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Neal & Harwell Move Unearths Watergate Files

As the Nashville law firm Neal & Harwell was preparing to move to the new Eakin Building, it discovered files connected to the Watergate scandal. The late James Neal, a co-founder of the firm, had been hired by the U.S. solicitor general to prosecute President Richard Nixon and his top aides. He achieved convictions of the U.S. attorney general and two of Nixon’s closest advisors, and delivered “what some call one of the finest closing arguments in the history of trial law,” WKRN reports in a story on the discovery. The firm moved into its new offices at 1201 Demonbreun St., Suite 1000, Nashville 37203, on Monday. Its phone number remains the same.

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Judge Rejects Cope’s Insider Trading Plea Deal

U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger yesterday rejected a plea deal agreed to by Murfreesboro lawyer and former Pinnacle Financial Partners board member James Cope. Trauger said the fine was too low compared to how much Cope is worth, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Under the deal, Cope was to pay a $55,000 penalty and serve two years of probation. He pleaded guilty in October to buying shares of Avenue Financial Holdings shortly before the Nashville-based bank announced its merger with Pinnacle, making more than $56,000 in the process. “What seems more appropriate to me is $200,000,” Trauger said about the penalty.

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Criminal Law Forum to Focus on Digital Forensics

The TBA Criminal Law Forum will take place Dec. 9 at the Bar Center in Nashville. This year’s forum will focus on digital forensics with sessions on computer forensics data recovery;  processes and procedures used to collect cell phone evidence; recent case law on the issue; and ethical considerations when using digital forensic evidence. Learn more or register online.

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