News

Moreland Will Stay in Custody Until June Trial

Former General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland appeared in federal court Tuesday for a hearing on the charges of obstruction of justice brought against him last week, WKRN reports. Audio tapes were played regarding the accusation that the former judge took money from the drug court program he started. Judge Joe Brown ordered that Moreland will stay in police custody until his trial date on June 19.

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Cost of Truth in Sentencing Bill Lowered

Tennessee state Rep. Bud Hulsey’s truth in sentencing legislation has become less expensive, the Kingsport Times-News reports. The bill, which would prohibit an inmate from using sentencing credits until the inmate has served the minimum sentence, now has a $37 million fiscal impact instead of more than $112 million in incarceration expenses. Hulsey, R-Kingsport, amended the bill to include only violent felons, and it has passed on a voice vote by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

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Federal Judge Recuses Himself from Ooltewah High Rape Case

A federal judge has recused himself from presiding over lawsuits filed against the Hamilton County Department of Education over an Ooltewah High rape incident, The Chattanoogan reports. Judge Travis McDonough gave no reason for the recusal. The incident, in which a student was hospitalized after allegedly being brutalized on a school trip, happened just before Christmas 2015 when the boys' basketball team was staying at a cabin in Gatlinburg.
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Shelby County Transfers 48 Inmates, Citing High Jail Population

Forty-eight defendants have been transferred pretrial from the Shelby County Jail to the Division of Correction to safely manage the inmate population, The Commercial Appeal reports. Jail populations at the beginning of this year were at the highest since 2015, with the exception of last November, according to Shelby County Sheriff's Office records. Three lawyers said they have clients charged with crimes ranging from theft over $1,000 to aggravated assault and attempted aggravated robbery, who were recently transferred because of the population at the jail.
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TSC: Surviving Spouse Can File Wrongful Death Case Even if Survivor Possibly Negligent in Cause of Death

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled the surviving spouse of a person killed in a vehicle accident could initiate a wrongful death action on the decedent’s behalf even though the surviving spouse’s negligence allegedly contributed to the decedent’s death. In an opinion authored by Justice Roger A. Page, the Supreme Court reversed a decision from the Court of Appeals and ruled that based on current wrongful death statutes, the surviving spouse maintained priority to institute the wrongful death action under the circumstances presented in this case.
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Legislation Would Make Autopsy Reports Secret

Two Republican lawmakers have presented a bill in the General Assembly that would make autopsy reports conducted by state and county medical examiners secret, The Tennessean reports. Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, say that public forensic findings can be difficult for the families of the dead, but critics of the bill say those records are vital to those in the criminal justice system. "It's important autopsy reports remain open in cases when there are questions about the death," said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. "This bill closes everything. Things that can be used for accountability." 
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Woodmore Bus Driver Found Guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide

Johnthony Walker, the driver in the deadly Woodmore Elementary bus crash, was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in Hamilton County Court, the Times Free Press reports. The verdict was reached today after only two days of trial. Walker was charged with 32 counts related to the crash, which killed six children and injured several more.
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Former Nashville Judge Charged with Obstruction of Justice

Former Nashville Judge Casey Moreland was arrested today on new charges of obstruction of justice, The Tennessean reports. Moreland allegedly stole money from the Davidson County Drug Court Foundation and then tried to destroy the evidence. According to the charges, he is accused of tampering with evidence against him as recently as Feb. 13. Moreland is currently under FBI investigation over allegations that he assisted those in his court in exchange for sexual favors, travel and lodging.
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Lawyer, Former Stripper Requests Pardon from Missouri Governor Because They Are Accused of Same Crime

A California lawyer, who is a former stripper, has requested a pardon from the embattled governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens, after Greitens was indicted under similar circumstances using the same law. Paul Henreid, who moonlighted as a stripper with the stage name Geno while in law school at Washington University in St. Louis, pleaded guilty of a felony for recording sexual acts with six women without their knowledge. He did this using a camera hidden in a clock-radio casing in his room, which he called "the Geno-cam."
 
"The law under which both the governor and my client have been charged is a law that has commonly been referred to as the 'peeping Tom' statute," Henreid's attorney Albert Watkins told The Washington Post. "It applies to people that would set up a nanny cam in a public bathroom or take photographs of people while they were in a locker room in a state of undress. The plain interpretation of the law, just based on how it's worded, doesn't correspond to the actions of my client. Now you have a sitting governor who is literally arguing the exact same legal rationale that was argued by us," said Watkins. 
 
The governor was indicted on Feb. 22 in connection with a compromising photo he is alleged to have taken, without consent, of his former hairstylist with whom he was having an affair. The woman claims Greitens told her that if she ever exposed their relationship, he would distribute the picture. The governor does not deny that the photo exists, but says the woman involved had no expectation of privacy when it was taken, sparking the question whether what Greitens allegedly did – photographing a semi-nude sweetheart without her permission during consensual sex – can be prosecuted under that law. 
 
Greitens' legal team insists it can't. "[The law] applies to situations such as voyeurs and peeping toms who take photographs in locations such as restrooms, tanning beds, changing rooms and bedrooms," Greitens' attorney, James F. Bennett said in a motion filed just hours after Greitens was indicted and booked. Bennett argues the same law was never meant to apply to situations "where individuals involved were jointly participating in sexual activity."
 
The judge in Henried's case sentenced him to 30 nights in jail saying "Even though [the victims] chose to voluntarily engage in sexual activity with you, they did not choose to have those moments captured on Kodak and to be exploited and have those moments shown to others and ultimately to become an exhibit in this courtroom." The judge continued, "I do not feel you should be allowed to engage in the occupation of attorney at law because you have shown no regard for that law or for the rights of others."
 
Gov. Greitens is currently under an impeachment probe and has a tentative trial date set for May 14.
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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Nashville Police Records Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court will not hear the appeal of a lower court ruling granting a plaintiff access to police accident reports in a timely manner, the Nashville Post reports. Bradley Jetmore sued Metro Nashville two years ago, challenging a policy by the city’s police department that limited access to accident reports within 72 hours. He won and was awarded more than $56,000 in attorneys' fees.
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Next Week: Tort and Appellate Forum 2018

A cross-collaborative CLE forum presented by the TBA’s Appellate Practice and Torts & Insurance Practice sections comes to the Tennessee Bar Center on March 29. This must-see, must-do event will feature timely topics and expert analysis from seasoned professionals, guaranteed to help you up your game and stay on top of trends and advancements relevant to your practice. The forum will feature first-rate programming from speakers and producers such as:

  • Hon. Kyle Hendrick, Hamilton Co. Circuit Court, Chattanooga
  • James Hivner, Supreme Court of Tennessee, Nashville
  • Justice Janice Holder, Private Legal Solutions, Memphis
  • Justice William Koch Jr., Nashville School of Law, Nashville
  • Robertson Leatherman Jr., Attorney, Memphis
  • Morris Ricketts, Consumers Insurance USA a Motorists Insurance Group Company, Murfreesboro
  • Nathan Shelby, Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC, Nashville
  • Hon. Neil Thomas, Hamilton Co. Circuit Court (ret.), Chattanooga

Topics include:

  • Updates on the appellate court’s new e-filing process
  • Updates in tort law
  • A review of the claims evaluation process
  • Practice pointers for insurance coverage and bad faith
  • Effective lawyering in front of juries
  • Ethical considerations and professionalism in appellate practice

Section members receive a discount for the program. Here’s the key info:

When: Thursday, March 29, registration begins at 8 a.m. CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Avenue North, Nashville

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Nashville Councilman Aims to Eliminate Pretrial Jail Fees

Nashville Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell filed a resolution last week to remove pretrial jail fees for defendants in Davidson County, the Nashville Scene reports. Currently Metro charges defendants who can’t afford bail $44 per day to be housed in jail. When paid, those fees go directly into the city’s general fund, but only a tiny fraction of the millions in assessed fees get collected. The resolution must go through a 30-day review period before it can appear on the council’s agenda. 
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Lawsuit: Lethal Injection Drugs Cause Torture

A new lawsuit filed by attorneys representing 33 Tennessee death row inmates claims that the state cannot execute convicts using a controversial three-drug mixture because doing so would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The Tennessean reports that the suit, filed in Davidson County Chancery court today, likely delays any potential executions. The filing comes days after Attorney General Herbert Slatery pushed for the scheduling of eight lethal injections before June 1.
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Top State Attorneys Plan to Appeal DUI Fee Decision

Tennessee’s top prosecutors say they plan to appeal a controversial ruling that threw hundreds of DUI cases into limbo, the Times Free Press reports. The Criminal Court of Appeals last week ruled that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had instituted an “unconstitutional” fee system that required defendants pay a $250 blood test fee if they are convicted. "Because the intermediate court ruling will impact the handling of all pending DUI cases in trial courts, we will do our best to impress on the Court the need for expeditious action on the application," Rachel Willis, deputy attorney general for the state of Tennessee, wrote in an email Monday to local prosecutors. "And if it is granted, we will consider asking for an expedited appeal."
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The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
 
The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
 
Speakers and producers include:
  • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
  • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
  • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
  • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
  • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
 
Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
 
Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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Judge Dalton Continues to Break New Ground

Angelita Blackshear Dalton broke racial barriers in 2006 when she was the first African-American woman elected judge in Davidson County. She blazed another trail this winter when Gov. Bill Haslam appointed her the first African-American woman to sit on the criminal court bench in Davidson County. She will be on the May 1 ballot for election to fill the remainder of the seat's term. WKRN.Com profiles the judge and her path to the bench. 

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TBI Director Announces Retirement

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Director Mark Gwyn said today he will retire after 14 years in charge, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Gwyn, who has spent a cumulative 30 years in law enforcement, said it's the "right time" for both himself and the organization. TBI has faced recent criticism regarding hiring practices, fiduciary concerns that sparked a state audit questioning the financial management of the agency and recent debate over a $250 DUI fee deemed unconstitutional that went into the organization's coffers. Gwyn will remain TBI director until June 1, allowing a special commission that recommends the agency's directors to search for his successor.

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TBI Director Announces Retirement

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Director Mark Gwyn announced his retirement earlier today after 14 years in charge, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Gwyn, who has spent a cumulative 30 years in law enforcement, said it's the "right time" for both himself and the organization. 
 
The organization has faced much criticism of late regarding hiring practices, fiduciary concerns that sparked a state audit questioning the financial management of the agency and recent debate over a $250 DUI fee deemed unconstitutional that went into TBI coffers.
 
"I believe I have done all that I can do to improve our resources, training and equipment for the Bureau family," Gwyn said. "It was my goal to leave the Bureau better than it was when it was given to me."
 
Gwyn will remain TBI director until June 1, allowing a special commission that recommends the agency's directors to search for his successor.
 
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TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

To volunteer for this event, click here.

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Appeals Court Ruling Calls Tennessee DUI Conviction 'Fee System' Unconstitutional

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that a state law giving the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation a $250 fee in DUI convictions is unconstitutional. The ruling is a result of a Hamilton County DUI case of a woman who argued her blood test should be suppressed because the fee system violated her right to a fair trial and gave the TBI a financial motivation to get convictions. The case was consolidated with more than 20 others of defendants who gave blood or breath samples to authorities.

The appeals court said in the 28-page ruling, "Based on the record before us, the TBI, and specifically, the forensic science division is dependent on these BADT (blood alcohol or drug concentration test) fees. Given the upward trend in BADT collections for each successive year, we believe that the TBI will become increasingly reliant on these fees in the future, which only serves to heighten the potential for bias among TBI forensic scientists. The fee system in TCA § 55-10-413(f) also closely resembles cases in which expert witnesses or attorneys have been disqualified for conflicts of interest."

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office is reviewing the decision, which could be appealed, according to the Tennessean. The income from the fee has been increasing and now is above $3 million per year, the paper reports.

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Appeals Court Rules $250 TBI Fee for DUI Convictions is Unconstitutional

The Court of Criminal Appeals in Knoxville ruled a statute that gives the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation $250 for DUI convictions obtained using a blood or breath test is unconstitutional, The Tennessean reports. The decision came from a DUI case in which a woman argued her blood test should be suppressed because the fee system violated her right to a fair trial and gave the TBI financial motivation to rack up convictions. Her case was among more than 20 other cases involving defendants who gave blood or breath samples.
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Eastern District Prosecutors Collected More than $11M in Fines, Penalties Last Year

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Tennessee collected more than $11 million from criminal and civil actions in 2017, the Times News reports. The funds come from fines, restitutions and assessments, and went to victims or into the Crime Victims Fund. $9.3 million was from criminal actions and $1.76 million from civil ones.
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Pilot Flying J Trial: Former President Didn't Testify

As prosecutors wrapped up their case in the trial of former Pilot Flying J executives yesterday, former company president Mark Hazelwood chose not to testify on his own behalf, Knoxnews reports. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trey Hamilton and David Lewen rested their case against Hazelwood, former vice president Scott Wombold and former account representatives Heather Jones and Karen Mann, all accused of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Defense attorney Rusty Hardin said he “strongly believed” that the government had not proved its case. The prosecution declined to summon former vice president John “Stick” Freeman, who pleaded guilty before this trial begin.
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Defense Lawyers Name Lawrence New Executive Director

The Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL) has announced that Denise Lawrence will serve as its newest executive director, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Lawrence brings with her more than two decades of government relations experience having previously served in strategic planning and advocacy roles for the Tennessee Board of Regents, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the state senate Democratic caucus. Lawrence, a grandmother of three, first joined TACDL as interim executive director in August 2017. She assumed her latest role in December.
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Access to Justice Commission Seeking Feedback

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is seeking input from the legal community to help in planning efforts as it develops a new strategic plan in March. A brief survey is available for all who wish to share thoughts and feedback. The survey will remain open through Feb. 7. Please contact Anne-Louise Wirthlin at the Administrative Office of the Courts with questions or for more information. 

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