News

Reentry Center Seeks to Expand Beyond Shelby County

When the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Reentry (MSCOR) opened its doors last year, the mission was to equip Shelby County residents being released from prison with the tools they need to return home. But since the facility opened, many who could benefit are not taking part of the program, says County Mayor Mark Luttrell. To address that gap, the office is working with officials at other state prisons and the state parole board to help direct inmates into pre-release re-entry programs while incarcerated and eventually to MSCOR. The Commercial Appeal looks at plans for the program’s future.

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Law Firm Hackers Accessed Networks, Made Insider Trades

Federal prosecutors have charged three Chinese nationals with securities fraud, insider trading, computer intrusion and other offenses after they hacked into the networks of multiple international law firms with offices in New York City. According to the Associated Press, the three made more than $4 million in profits by buying stock in companies that were about to be acquired and then selling the shares after the acquisitions were announced. The firms affected were working on the deals but have not been identified. The Memphis Daily News has more on the story.

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Year-old Trousdale Facility Still Needs Work

The rollout of Tennessee’s newest private prison, the largest in the state, has not gone well, acknowledges CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger. “We've got work to do,” Hininger told the Tennessean during an interview. In the year since it has opened, the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has been marred by safety, security and staffing concerns, according to the paper. These issues “boiled over” in May when the state Department of Corrections advised the facility to stop accepting new inmates. Since then, problems have persisted with the facility going into “lock down” mode several times.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Family Center Aims to Improve Post-prison Life

The Tennessean profiles the Nashville Family Reconciliation Center, a non-profit that provides a variety of services to the formerly incarcerated and their families. The center offers support groups to help prevent recidivism, youth outreach programs to help the youngest offenders receive fair treatment in the criminal justice system, and free therapy to help ex-inmates heal from past traumas. The center is recruiting new volunteers and board members. To learn more visit the group's website or contact director Malinda Davenport-Crisp.

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Wrongful Arrest Prompts Calls for Investigation

For more than eight weeks last fall, Rachel Heffner was prohibited from returning home because she had been designated an “aggressor” and “defendant” in a domestic violence case. In fact, she was not the aggressor but the victim. But that was not acknowledged by prosecutors or the police until criminal charges against her were dismissed when her older son failed to appear in court. Now, police confirm charges against the teenager are pending. According to the Tennessean, Heffner’s lawyer is raising a host of issues such as why the two children were not separated before being interviewed by police and why they were allowed to remain home alone after their mother’s arrest. He also has asked the department to conduct a review as to why Heffner’s side of the story was never investigated.

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Obama Signs Bill to Review Civil Rights-Era Killings

Racially motivated, civil rights-era killings that are now cold cases will get a fresh look under legislation signed by President Barack Obama, PBS reports. The measure, signed last week, extends a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which have been closed for decades. It also provides federal resources to help local jurisdictions look into the cases, extends the time frame of cases to be considered and requires the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities and others who had been gathering evidence on these deaths.

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Turn Your Expertise into a Magazine Article

It’s no surprise that some of the best articles in the Tennessee Bar Journal have come from TBA section members. Your membership in this section shows that you have a keen interest in trends, developments and case law in this practice area. Sharing this knowledge with your colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession.
 
How can you become a Journal author? Think of and refine your topic. It should be of interest to Tennessee lawyers, which is a broad criteria. This could mean you might explain a new state law, explain a complicated area of law, or take a larger issue and connect it to what it means for Tennessee attorneys and the justice system. Find a global issue within your particular experience or knowledge and tell about it and how it affects Tennessee law. Then take a look at the writer’s guidelines, which will tell you about length, notes and other details. Once it’s in the proper format, send it in! It goes to the editor, Suzanne Craig Robertson, who will then get it to the seven members of the Editorial Board for review.
 
If you are published, you may apply for CLE credit for your work under Supreme Court Rule 21 Section 4.07(b). For details on claiming the credit, check with the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education or access an Affidavit of Sole Authorship or an Affidavit of Joint Authorship from the Commission's website.

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Town of Mason to Begin Holding Court in Gallaway

The city of Gallaway has granted approval for the town of Mason to temporarily use its courthouse to hold municipal court beginning Jan. 17, the Covington Leader reports. Mason will pay Gallaway $100 per court session as well as $25 per hour for a Gallaway police officer to be present during court, with a minimum of $50 for the officer per session. The town will hold hearings on the third Tuesday of the month and will continue to use the Gallaway courthouse until another suitable facility is located. Court proceedings will be conducted by Judge Price Harris with attorney Kevin Reed serving as the city prosecutor and Lureatha Harris as the city court clerk.

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31 Complete Federal ‘Smart on Crime’ Program

The federal “Smart on Crime” initiative was announced in 2013 and implemented in East Tennessee by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chattanooga and the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office in conjunction with local law enforcement, social service organizations and churches. The program focused on ways to make the district safer by providing federal ex-offenders with the resources necessary to successfully re-enter the community and reduce recidivism. U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr recently announced that 31 ex-offenders completed the program in 2016. “As a result, these ex-offenders are in a better positon to become productive members of our communities, making east Tennessee a safer and better place to live,” Harr told Chattanoogan.com. She also announced that a special emphasis will be placed on juvenile offenders in 2017.

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Court Amends Pro Se Divorce Forms

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order revising pro se forms to be used in uncontested divorce cases with minor children. The court reports that its Access to Justice Commission requested the change to make it clear that spouses with orders of protection may use the forms. The documents released today replace the forms published by the court in October. The forms can be used beginning Jan. 1.

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AG to Chattanooga Families: Beware of Predatory Firms

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is asking Chattanooga residents to be aware of predatory law firms seeking to profit from the Woodmore Elementary school bus tragedy. While communities and families deal with the heartache and stress associated with tragedy, out-of-state law firms have been known to solicit business and coerce families into signing legal agreements that are difficult to understand, Slatery says. Often, these firms use misleading or inaccurate information, offer incentives such as paying funeral costs in exchange for using their services, and promise millions in civil lawsuit awards. In some cases, salesmen hired by the law firm will portray themselves as licensed attorneys when they are not. In a warning released today, Slatery outlines four signs of a suspicious solicitation, and pledges to prosecute anyone taking advantage of the situation.

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State’s Prosecutors Taking on Elder Abuse

District attorneys throughout Tennessee will be going after elder abuse cases more aggressively in 2017 thanks to a law that goes into effect Jan. 1, WJHL reports. In one district, the work is underway to form a Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team (VAPIT), which will be made up of law enforcement, prosecutors and protective services employees. Like other teams, the Sullivan County team will educate the public about elder abuse, encourage people to report abuse and prosecute those who abuse the elderly and disabled adults. Under the program, law enforcement officers will be trained to spot abuse and prosecutors will be given access to closed protective services cases for possible prosecution.

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Court Agrees to Hear 6 Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently agreed to hear six cases. Issues to be considered include statutes of limitations, self-defense and theft of property. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews the cases and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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East Nashville Site Approved for Sheriff’s Headquarters

The Nashville Metro Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a proposal from Mayor Megan Barry to build a new headquarters for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in East Nashville near the Cayce Place public housing community, the Tennessean reports. Earlier this year, the council allocated $20 million for the headquarters. Sheriff Daron Hall originally wanted to build on property his office owns on Harding Place, but area neighbors objected. 

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Court Adopts 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the 2017 amendments to its rules of procedure and evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and other changes to the rules of appellate procedure, civil procedure, criminal procedure and juvenile procedure, as well as the rules of evidence. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law, and Juvenile and Children’s Law reviewed the rules when proposed and either found no objections or supported the changes. The proposals now go to the legislature for ratification before becoming effective on July 1.

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Shelby County Launches New Prosecution Program

The Shelby County District Attorney announced a new community protection plan yesterday, News 5 reports. Under the plan, all cases from a designated area will be handled by the same prosecutor and judge in an attempt to build relationships between the courts and the community and expedite the consideration of cases. A pilot of the Community Prosecution Program will begin Jan. 3 at the Old Allen precinct in Frayser.

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Police Chief: DA Spokesman Released Info on Rape Victim

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson publicly rebuked Ken Whitehouse, a spokesman in the district attorney’s office, on Monday, saying he committed an “unconscionable” act that was a “violation of trust and human dignity” when he released the name and personal information of a rape victim to the media. Anderson says that Whitehouse sent an incident report that included the names of the alleged victim and suspect to a local television station. The district attorney’s office said the information was mistakenly released. Whitehouse will retain his job, but Anderson says he has blocked him from further access to confidential police files, the Tennessean reports.

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Judges Consider Social Media Access in UT Rape Case

A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments today on whether former University of Tennessee football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams can use subpoenas to force their accuser to turn over social media posts, messages and texts. The pair are accused of raping a female athlete during a post-football game party in 2014. They insist the encounter was consensual. Police did not try to get the information and prosecutors have been trying to block  defense access it to, Knoxnews reports. Neither man will be tried until the social media issues are decided, the newspaper says.

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Lawyers Report Frigid Temps at Juvenile Detention Center

After hearing reports that underage detainees in the Shelby County Juvenile Court detention center had inadequate clothing to guard against frigid temperatures outside and inside, the criminal justice reform advocacy group Just City donated 80 sweatshirts for residents. Just City’s founder, Josh Spickler, said he learned through attorneys that detainees were speaking to their legal representatives through chattering teeth, while wearing only short-sleeved t-shirts. In response, a detention center official said the building was adequately heated and he was not aware of complaints. Memphis Flyer reports the story.

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Obama Grants 78 Pardons, 153 Commutations

President Barack Obama granted 78 pardons and 153 commutations today – a single-day record for the use of presidential clemency power, USA Today reports. With just 32 days left in office, today’s action more than doubled the number of pardons granted in the previous seven years. In addition, today’s commutations brought Obama’s total to 1,176. The previous one-day record for commutations was 214 in August. Overall, including both pardons and commutations, Obama has granted more acts of clemency than any president since Harry Truman.

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Court Upholds Conviction for Christian-Newsom Murders

The Tennessee Supreme Court today affirmed the convictions and death sentences imposed on Lemaricus Devall Davidson for the 2007 kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. In 2009, a Knox County jury convicted Davidson on multiple counts and imposed two death sentences. In 2015, the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the jury’s actions. During Supreme Court review, Davidson raised a number of issues, including the legitimacy of an unsigned search warrant. The court agreed that the search warrant was invalid but applied its newly adopted good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule to validate the evidence that led to the convictions. Read more from the court.

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Law Firm Invests in UTC Criminal Justice Program

Chattanooga lawyer Jerry Summers and the law firm he founded, Summers, Rufolo & Rogers, has given $100,000 to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to fund scholarships for students in the criminal justice program, Chattanoogan.com reports. Student awards will be made annually and will alternate each year between students interested in becoming prosecutors and those interested in becoming defense attorneys. Summers earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee and has worked as assistant district attorney, criminal defense attorney, personal injury lawyer and labor lawyer.

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Ooltewah Coach Cleared of Charges in Student Assault Case

Charges were dismissed Friday against a former Tennessee high school basketball coach who was accused of failing to report child sexual abuse after a freshman player was assaulted by older teammates during a tournament in Gatlinburg, the Johnson City Press reports. Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole ruled that the underlying law prosecutors used to charge the coach did not apply because it targets abuse by parents or other residents living in the same household as the victim. The district attorney’s office said it would ask the state attorney general to review the decision for potential appeal.

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School Bus Crash Case Goes to Grand Jury

Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Lila Statom found probable cause for formal charges to be brought against Johnthony Walker, the 24-year-old driver in a school bus crash that killed six children in Chattanooga. She sent the case to a grand jury yesterday. Prosecutors have changed Walker with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. A sixth vehicular homicide charge will soon be added for a child who died several days after the crash. Chattanoogan.com looks at recent developments in the case.

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