News

ABA ‘Disappointed’ by Arpaio Pardon

The American Bar Association has expressed disappointment that a pardon was granted to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to cease racial profiling practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. “Granting Arpaio an expedited pardon sends the wrong message to the public,” said ABA President Hilarie Bass via prepared statement, adding that an individual's own interpretation of justice "cannot be swapped for the rule of law."
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TSC: Double Jeopardy Approach Applies to Multiple Offenses Arising From Same Sexual Assault

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that multiple convictions for sexual offenses arising from a single act of sexual assault should be analyzed under double jeopardy principles, overriding its prior decision in 1999’s State v. Barney, which held that such cases should be reviewed under a due process approach. Chief Justice Jeff Bivins authored the unanimous opinion
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ABA House Supports Ban on Mandatory Minimums

The American Bar Association House of Delegates this week approved a resolution backing a ban on mandatory minimum sentences, the ABA Journal reports. The resolution opposes mandatory minimums in any criminal case and calls on Congress and state legislatures to repeal laws requiring them. Kevin Curtin of the Massachusetts Bar Association told the House that mandatory minimums have produced troubling race-based inequities.
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Supreme Court Backs UT Football Player’s Bid to See Social Media of Accuser

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the defense team for two University of Tennessee football players accused of rape, allowing them access to the text messages and social media of their accusers, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Defense attorneys for accused players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams argue that the accuser is lying, and what she and her friends said via the Internet will help prove it. The court’s decision has major implications for Tennessee trials of this nature going forward, making digital communication fair game as evidence.
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Report Finds Nashville Misdemeanor Defendants Often Not Told of Right to Counsel

An American Bar Association report is claiming that in Nashville, indigent defendants accused of a misdemeanor and facing jail time are not consistently informed of their right to counsel, ProPublica reports. The document, created by the ABA section on civil rights and social justice, was released on Friday, and is based on research conducted by volunteer lawyers in Sept. 2016. It states that this failure by the Metro Nashville justice system is “an extremely serious and pervasive problem that can no longer be ignored or tolerated.” The observations in Nashville are the launch of a larger, national project to review practices in misdemeanor courts in other states throughout the country.
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ABA Files Amicus Brief Challenging Cash Bail System

The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief this week calling the bail system of a Texas county unconstitutional, just before the ABA’s House of Delegates will consider a resolution opposing the use of money bail entirely, the ABA Journal reports. The brief was filed yesterday in O’Donnell v. Harris County, Texas, a case pending in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs argue that the county’s bail schedule is unconstitutional because it effectively conditions freedom on the defendant’s ability to pay. In the brief, the ABA asks the 5th Circuit to affirm the ruling of a federal judge in Texas, which sided with the plaintiffs and found that the county had been using high bail amounts as “preventative detention.”
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Lawmaker to Push for Stronger Bounty Hunting Legislation

In response to a fatal shooting in Clarksville, state Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, will propose legislation to tighten laws governing bounty hunters and bonding agents, the Leaf-Chronicle reports. In April, four bondsmen and three bounty hunters were charged with the murder of 24-year-old Jalen Johnson Milan. An investigation found that none of the men charged had registered with the local sheriff’s office, none provided Clarksville Police with documentation about their fugitive, and some wore uniforms to appear like law enforcement.
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Woman Sues Franklin Police, Williamson Sheriff, Alleging Multiple Civil Rights Violations

An Alabama woman in suing the Franklin Police Department, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Division of Children’s Services (DCS) in federal court alleging civil rights violations, the Tennessean reports. A woman with no priors, Tracy Marie Garth, was arrested by Franklin PD for traffic violations while she was driving with her children in the car. Garth’s complaint alleges that since she wasn’t allowed to bring her purse, she was unable to post bond after her arrest and she wasn’t allowed a phone call until 14 days after her arrest, leading to the loss of her job. Further, DCS allegedly placed Garth’s children in Tennessee foster care without attempting to transfer them to Alabama, where Garth’s family lives.
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After Conviction Overturned, Memphis Woman Works to Rebuild Life

The New York Times dives deep into the tale of Noura Jackson, a woman convicted of killing her mother, who spent nine years in prison before new evidence, previously withheld by prosecutors, led to her freedom. A written statement given by a friend of Jackson’s, which was tucked away in a prosecutor’s notebook and forgotten until after the trial, contradicted his testimony presented in court. The Tennessee Supreme Court called prosecutors Amy Weirich and Stephen Jones’ failure to disclose the statement a “flagrant violation” of Jackson’s constitutional rights, and overturned the verdict. Jackson is now rebuilding her life in Nashville. 
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Nashville Man Served as Foreman to 42 Grand Juries

The Tennessean this week reviewed the work of Stan Fossick, an 81-year-old Nashville businessman who has served as a foreman on more Tennessee juries than anyone named in reports since 1992. Fossick, a longtime friend of many Nashville judges, has been chosen to serve as foreman of at least 42 grand juries. He has also made political contributions to judges in the past, a fact that Fossick denied tarnishes his impartiality. Grand jury reports written from juries that Fossick served as foreman on praised police and the courts above all others.
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TBJ August Issue Features Fiction Contest Winners

The Journal has never published fiction before and certainly not an eerie story about an inmate who is the subject of an experimental drug program designed to keep him alive long enough to serve consecutive sentences -- 100 years for murder, in this case. But in its First Annual Fiction Competition, that's what the winning entry, "The Sentence," is about. It was written by Kristi Wilcox Arth, an attorney with Bradley in Nashville. D. Adam Moore, who is with Pinnacle Financial Partners in Knoxville, earned an Honorable Mention in the contest. Both stories are published in this issue. The submission period for next year's contest will be Jan. 12 through March 12, 2018, so start thinking about what you are going to write. Also in this issue, more fiction by lawyers and judges, as Reelfoot Killins’ by the Hon. Joe G. Riley is reviewed by Covington lawyer J. Houston Gordon.

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Mother of Bus Crash Victim Complicates Trial by Posting Court Documents to Facebook

The mother of a victim of the Woodmore Elementary bus crash uploaded two court documents related to the case on Facebook last month, complicating the trial against the driver and the company that employed the driver in the crash, the Times Free Press reports. An attorney for the driver, Johnthony Walker, said the Facebook post has been shared more than 1,000 times and may have already tainted the jury pool. Attorneys have been circulating proposals for a “protective order” that would prevent future documents from spreading, but nothing has been finalized yet.
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Volunteer Lawyers Help About 250 with Expungements

About 250 people filled the Bloomfield Baptist Church on Saturday morning for a free clinic aimed at expunging criminal records that don't involve convictions. The clinic was the combined effort of the Memphis Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association and the Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association. Eighteen lawyers led by Memphis attorney Amber Floyd were on hand to review cases to determine eligibility for expungement and to help with the paperwork, the Commercial Appeal reports.

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Grand Jury Report Calls for Bigger Role in Investigating Police Shootings

A Davidson County grand jury’s end-of-term report calls for residents to have more authority in investigating police who use deadly force against civilians, the Tennessean reports. Filed last week, the report expresses support for police body cameras, and concern about a deadly police shooting in February. "While we favor the current (agreement) between MNPD and the TBI, we would prefer a binding legal agreement that requires the TBI and a panel of citizens (possibly the grand jury) to investigate police use of force resulting in death," the report reads. 

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Moreland's Trial Set for June 2018

Ex-judge Casey Moreland will stand trial on federal obstruction charges next year, a federal jurist ruled Friday afternoon. The Tennessean reports that Chief U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw said the June 19 trial would occur even if a broader federal corruption investigation is still ongoing, a point of contention between defense lawyers and prosecutors on Moreland's case. Moreland denies wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to five felony counts. He resigned his post as General Sessions judge effective in April.

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Bradley County Opens $3.1M Facility

Bradley County opened its new $3.1 million workhouse recently, WDEF reports. The new facility will be for non-violent criminals who apply for it. "This program will allow them to keep their jobs and still work, provide for their family, their self and pay their child support as they’re required to do by the courts," Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson said.

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Bradley County Opens $3.1M Facility

Bradley County opened its new $3.1 million workhouse recently, WDEF reports. The new facility will be for non-violent criminals who apply for it. "This program will allow them to keep their jobs and still work, provide for their family, their self and pay their child support as they’re required to do by the courts," Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson said.

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Bradley County Opens $3.1M Facility

Bradley County opened its new $3.1 million workhouse recently, WDEF reports. The new facility will be for non-violent criminals who apply for it. "This program will allow them to keep their jobs and still work, provide for their family, their self and pay their child support as they’re required to do by the courts," Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson said.

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DA: Probe Needed for Kingston Coal Ash Workers

A Roane County prosecutor is taking steps to launch a criminal probe of the treatment of workers in the nation’s largest coal ash spill, USA Today confirmed today in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Ninth Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson, whose district includes Roane County, is pushing for a state investigation following the paper's publication of its probe into the treatment of workers in the cleanup of the December 2008 coal ash spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant.

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TBA Young Lawyers Division Seeking Attorney Volunteers for Expungement Clinics

The TBA Young Lawyers Division is seeking attorney volunteers to assist with the following upcoming expungement clinics. If you are interested in volunteering or to find out more information about future opportunities, please contact TBA YLD Public Service Chair, Amber Floyd at afloyd@wyattfirm.com.
 

July 29, 2017 

Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church, 123 South Pkwy W., Memphis, Tenn.

Registration starts at 9 a.m.
 

August 12, 2017

Henry County Courthouse, 101 E Washington St #100, Paris, Tenn.

9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
 

The online registration form is here.

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‘Architect’ of Pilot Flying J Scam, 3 Others Plead Guilty

The man called the “architect” of the Pilot Flying J diesel fuel rebate scam and three other ex-employees of the company have struck a deal with authorities to plead guilty and cooperate in the ongoing investigation, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Ringleader John “Stick” Freeman, John Spiewak, Vicki Borden and Katy Bibee signed plea agreements today admitting to their involvement in the multi-million dollar scam in which smaller trucking companies were promised certain rebates but were paid much less.
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Memphis Prosecutors to Seek Maximum Sentences for Gun Violence

Memphis law enforcement and prosecutors announced a new campaign today to seek maximum sentences for gun violence, The Commercial Appeal reports. The “Fed Up” campaign will use advertising, aggressive investigations and tougher sentencing to attack gun crime in the city, where violent crime is up 9.9 percent in the first six months of 2017. County District Attorney Amy Weirich and U.S. District Attorney Lawrence Laurenzi said federal and county prosecutors will seek maximum sentences of 8-12 years under state law and 15 years under federal law for gun crimes.
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Attorney Wants Sentencing Diversion for Driver in Woodmore Bus Crash

The attorney for Johnthony Walker, the Chattanooga school bus driver behind the wheel of the deadly Woodmore crash, is seeking a diversion for sentencing, WRCB-TV reports. Walker faces six charges of vehicular homicide, and Hamilton County District Attorney plans to present additional charges. Judge Don Poole is expected to rule on the request as early as next month.
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Inmates Allowed Reduced Jail Time for Agreeing to Sterilization

Inmates in White County are being given credit for their jail time for agreeing to have a vasectomy or birth control implant, NewsChannel 5 reports. General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed the order allowing the new measures in May, and since then, 32 woman have received a free Nexplanon implant and 38 men are awaiting to have a free vasectomy procedure from the Tennessee Department of Health. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, says the practice is unconstitutional.
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DOJ to Allow Seizure of Property from People Suspected, Not Charged with Crimes

The U.S. Justice Department announced yesterday new policies that will allow state and local police to seize cash and property from people suspected of a crime who have not been charged, The Washington Post reports. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said the department will include safeguards to prevent local police departments from abusing this ability, such as requiring police to provide probable cause for seizures. 
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