News

Hatch Named DUI Prosecutor of the Year

Philip A. Hatch, assistant district attorney in the 13th Judicial District, was named the state’s DUI Prosecutor of the Year by the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, the Herald-Citizen reports. In presenting the award, Byrant C. Dunaway, attorney general in the 13th Judicial District, praised Hatch for several notable DUI convictions, including one that went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court and set new precedent. Hatch, who previously served on the TBA Young Lawyers Division Board, handles cases from Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam and White counties from the district’s Cookeville office.

Photo: (from left) Tom Kimball, Byrant Dunaway, Philip Hatch, Jimmy Dunn

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UT Legal Clinic Hosts Annual Lecture

The University of Tennessee College of Law’s Legal Clinic will host its 2016 Charles H. Miller Lecture in Professional Responsibility Tuesday at noon EDT. The event will kick off celebrations of the clinic’s 70th anniversary and will feature Zenobia Dobson, the mother of Zaevion Dobson, a Knoxville teenager who was killed last December shielding his friends from gunfire. Dobson will discuss how legal professionals can help their clients in nontraditional ways. She will be joined by her attorneys, Ursula Bailey and Esther Roberts, both of whom are alumni of the law school and its legal clinic. The event is free and open to the public.

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New Family Justice Center to Open Nov. 22

About 100 people attended yesterday’s ribbon cutting at Chattanooga’s new Family Justice Center, which will provide free services for victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse and domestic violence. The center, which has been operating out of another space, will officially open in the new location on Nov. 22, Nooga.com reports. Dignitaries at the ceremony included Mayor Andy Berke, Police Chief Fred Fletcher, Judge Christie Sells and Child Advocacy Center of Hamilton County Executive Director Shelley McGraw.

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Memphis Marijuana Law Goes into Effect

A recently approved ordinance to lessen penalties for carrying small amounts of marijuana is now in effect in Memphis. The measure, which gives police the option of imposing a misdemeanor, fine or community service on those found with the drug, was signed into law Monday, WREG reports. Now, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner wants a similar law adopted by the county to be applied in unincorporated parts of the jurisdiction. He was to propose the ordinance to the county commission today.

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DOJ to Review Memphis Police Department

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings has confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will review his force, from the officers on the streets to the people they protect. Staff from the group were scheduled to be in Memphis this morning to begin mapping out a comprehensive review of the police department. There is “no better partner than the COPS Office coming out of D.C. to do a review of our community outreach, community policing efforts and also to do a review of our use of deadly force,” said Rallings. The review is separate from an inquiry requested by Rep. Steve Cohen for the DOJ to review the death of Darrius Stewart. It is unclear when the review will start and how long it will take, WREG reports.

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Rutherford Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading

Former Rutherford County Attorney James Cope pleaded guilty Friday to insider trading charges in connection with Pinnacle Bank’s 2016 acquisition of Avenue Financial Holdings, according to federal prosecutors. “I made a mistake in the timing of my purchase of stock, and I accept the consequences,” Cope told The Daily News Journal. Under the deal he will serve two years of federal probation, the first nine months to be served on home confinement. He also will pay a fine of $55,000. Cope was released until his sentencing date of Nov. 14. The Securities and Exchange Commission is pursuing a parallel civil case. Anticipating the suspension of his law license, Cope said he would take a temporary leave of absence from his firm Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary. He also resigned as the county’s attorney on Friday. Josh McCreary, who has served as assistant county attorney, will take over as primary counsel.

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Group Calls for Investigation of Nashville Police Practices

Nashville-based Gideon’s Army, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to keeping the city’s children out of the criminal justice system, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over Metro Nashville Police Department’s traffic stop policies and practices. The group based its complaint on a study of nearly two million traffic stops that occurred over a five-year period. It says the review shows severe and institutional racial discrimination by the city’s police force. The group also issued a 200-page report called “Driving While Black” to support its claims. The report outlined 12 key findings and 11 demands. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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Assistant PDs Receive Service Awards

Three assistant public defenders received the President’s Award at this year’s Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference in Knoxville. Collier Goodlett received the award for the Middle Tennessee region. He has served in both the 19th and 21st Judicial Districts. Eighth Judicial District Assistant Public Defender Tina Sloan received the award for the Eastern region. And 25th Judicial District Assistant Public Defender David Stockton received the award for the Western region. Jeffery Harmon, past president of the Tennessee Public Defenders Conference, presented the awards. Read more about each recipient.

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Justice Center Gets Vehicle Attack Barriers

New security measures designed to prevent a potential vehicle attack have been installed outside the Washington County Justice Center, the Johnson City Press reports. Three metal bollards (short vertical posts used as a traffic barriers) are now positioned between the four large columns that form the front entrance to the center. The county commission realized the barriers were needed when a TV news van pulled between the columns and under the covered entrance during a murder trial.

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Wagner Named to 30th District Circuit Court

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Memphis lawyer Mary L. Wagner as circuit court judge for the 30th Judicial District. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Judge Donna M. Fields. Since 2011, Wagner has been with Rice, Amundsen & Caperton, where she has worked in general practice with an emphasis on family law and non-profit/business organization and defense. She also has taught at her alma mater, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, and served on the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission. She was a member of the 2016 TBA Leadership Law class as well. A press release with more details about her background is on the governor’s website.

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ACLU: Police Misconduct Rooted in History, Policy

The use of police to enforce the social order and impose public policy changes has played a key role in fomenting tensions between communities of color and law enforcement officials, a national legal expert said Saturday in Nashville. Jeff Robinson, ACLU's deputy legal director and director of the nonprofit organization Center for Justice, cited historical examples, statistical reserach and public policy in his remarks. “When you look at the history, it’s easy to understand why they’re behaving like this,” he said. “And so now, we have to do something about breaking that connection.” The event, Broken Policing: Windows for Change, marked the launch of the ACLU of Tennessee’s police accountability campaign, which hopes to foster public safety, prevent abuse in encounters between law enforcement and civilians, and improve community-police relations. The Tennessean has more from the gathering.

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Feds: Sheriff Coercing, Manipulating Wife from Jail

A federal magistrate has revoked bond for Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold after prosecutors produced audio tapes of phone calls indicating he was trying to manipulate and coerce his wife from a Kentucky jail cell where he awaits trial on public corruption charges. In one recorded phone call, Arnold appears to encourage his wife to portray herself as the aggressor during an argument between the two. But Megan Arnold says it was her husband who was the aggressor, punching her and pinning her to a bed. In other calls, Arnold says he is considering suicide and has taken her out of his will because she is not doing all she can to get him out of jail. WSMV has the story.

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Stanton to Address Domestic Violence Awareness Event

Men across Memphis were set to gather this evening to take a stand against domestic violence at the second annual Shine Your Light on Domestic Violence event. Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings and U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton were scheduled to address the group. Judicial Commissioner Kevin Reed, who was also on the agenda, told News 5 that it is the “silence of good men that allows domestic violence to persist.” Read more from station.

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Murfreesboro Lawyer Charged with Insider Trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Murfreesboro lawyer and former Pinnacle Financial Partners board member James C. Cope with insider trading related to the bank’s merger with Avenue Financial Holdings the Tennessean reports. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee also filed a parallel criminal case according to the SEC. Federal officials say Cope learned confidential details about the planned merger and then purchased 10,000 shares of Avenue stock prior to the public announcement, making more than $56,000. Cope resigned from Pinnacle’s board in April. He is a partner at Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary.

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ACLU to Hold Discussion on Race, Policing

ACLU of Tennessee is hosting a group discussion Saturday that will focus on the realities of race and policing in America and how law enforcement and community groups can work together for positive change. Broken Policing: Windows for Change will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St. The discussion will be led by Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director of the national ACLU and director of the ACLU Center for Justice. The event is free and open to the public.

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Judge Denies Motion to Disqualify DA

A motion to disqualify Hamilton County District Attorney Neil Pinkston from a case involving a Gatlinburg investigator has been denied, News Channel 9 reports. Rodney Burns is facing aggravated perjury charges after testimony conflicted with his investigation into the Ooltewah rape case. Burns asked that Pinkston be disqualified from prosecuting this criminal case based on a pending civil case in which he claims Pinkston defamed him. Judge Tom Greenholtz denied the motion yesterday.

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DOJ to Webcast Juvenile Justice Event

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs is convening a panel of experts and government officials on Friday to discuss recent research in developmental psychology, the current youth prison model and community-based programs that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation. The event will be held at the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., but also will be available via web video. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time. News 5 has details.

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Federal Agency Extends Contract with CCA

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has extended its contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for the management of a 2,400-bed detention facility in Texas, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The contract, which was criticized by the Washington Post in August, now runs through September 2021. In reviewing the terms of the deal, the Post found that a public-bidding process was not held and the payment structure is more generous than industry norms. Just days after the Post report, the Department of Justice said it would end the use of private prisons.

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Drug Court Hosts Fundraising Breakfast

The 21st Judicial District Drug Court will host its sixth annual Community Breakfast next Monday from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Puckett’s Restaurant on Fourth Ave. S. in Franklin. The drug court provides non-violent offenders with addiction issues an opportunity to complete an extensive two-year, court-supervised program in lieu of traditional sentencing. Funds raised will support the work of the organization. To attend, RSVP to Connie Martin, 615-595-7868. Checks may be sent to the 21st Judicial District Drug Court, 100 Beat Dr., Franklin, TN 37064. The Williamson Herald has the story.

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Knoxville Judge Hits FBI Tactics in Porn Case

Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan of Knoxville has joined at least six other federal judges in opposing the FBI’s tactics in a child pornography sting that allegedly violated the rights of more than 180 suspects, including a Tennessee funeral director. Jordan ruled that the FBI violated both the U.S. Constitution and federal rules of criminal procedure in its efforts to target suspects because it relied on a Virginia magistrate judge’s search warrant to launch the nationwide initiative. However, unlike other judges, Jordan is allowing the government to use the results of the illegal search in the Tennessee case under the so-called federal good-faith exception, according to Knoxnews.

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Nashville Sheriff Calls for Renaming Jail

A tweet by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall urges city leaders to consider renaming the new jail, which is set to open in 2019. For 34 years, the downtown jail was called the Criminal Justice Center or CJC. “It’s unfair and unfortunate to say that they’re criminal,” Hall says. “I don’t have a magic name for it but I know that Criminal Justice Center doesn’t apply.” Detainees housed at the facility will be awaiting trial and therefore have not yet been convicted. Hall also notes that there will not be any courtrooms in the facility. News Channel 5 has more.

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DOJ Addresses Jailing of Domestic Violence Victims

The U.S. Department of Justice has had multiple conversations with state officials about the jailing of domestic violence victims in Washington County, according to  WJHL.com. The federal Office on Violence Against Women confirms that it has provided technical assistance to the state to help improve training. WJHL first brought the issue of jailing victims to light when it reported that the county arrested domestic violence victims more than 12 times last year.

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Florida Supreme Court Strikes State’s Death Penalty

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a newly enacted law intended to fix issues with the state’s death penalty process is unconstitutional. The law would have required the support of 10 out of 12 jurors to recommend a death sentence – a more stringent standard than the majority of jurors required under the previous law. The court said that the decision of a jury to recommend capital punishment must be unanimous. It also concluded that a death row inmate convicted of a 1998 murder deserves a new sentencing hearing. Reuters has the story.

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Why Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Criminal convictions can change the direction of careers and lifetime opportunities. If you were sick, would you do your own surgery? If you are facing a legal issue, does it make sense to try to defend your criminal case? How many times have we heard, "I'll just go to court and see what 'they' offer me?" Time-and-time again, individuals go into court whether charged with driving under the influence (DUI), domestic assault or some other criminal offense, even a violation of probation, and trust his or her own judgment and opinion to know what is best when defending a criminal case. And, yes, DUI is a criminal case.

So, the question is, "why get a criminal defense attorney?" There are more reasons than can be listed in this article, but let's point out a few, just to attempt to stress the importance of being represented by a criminal defense attorney.

If you are pulled over and then arrested for DUI, do you know the reasons an officer must have in order to justify the traffic stop? Do you know what an officer is looking for when conducting field sobriety tests during a DUI investigation in order to justify an arrest? What about a traffic stop on the interstate? Do you know what information an officer needs in order to search a vehicle during a traffic stop? How about what information an officer must have in order to obtain a search warrant for your home, business, cell phone or electronic device?

Whether you are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor drug offense, domestic assault, DUI, theft, or any other criminal offense, whether felony or misdemeanor, it is very important to understand that the government must not only be able to prove specific elements of each criminal offense, but the government must also be able to prove that the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, and even after the arrest, was obtained legally. This is because illegally obtained evidence is subject to being suppressed, or "thrown out," which could have a major impact on the government's ability to prosecute a criminal offense. Why is this so important? Without an experienced criminal defense attorney, how could illegally obtained evidence and a criminal conviction affect custodial rights with children, the ability to rent or lease a home or the ability to continue to pursue opportunities? Even the most insignificant criminal conviction can potentially have the most significant impact on employment opportunities, educational opportunities, travel restrictions, etc. There is no question, occasionally individuals plead guilty to criminal offenses the government cannot prove. Regardless of whether the criminal offense was committed, the government must still be able to prove the evidence and information was gathered lawfully.

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Tommy Santel is a Murfreesboro attorney with Parkerson | Santel PLLC. He is chair of the TBA Criminal Justice Section.

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Prosecutors Need Not Link Firearms Charges to Specific Felonies

In two unanimous opinions issued today, the Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that an indictment that includes a charge for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony does not have to specifically state which underlying felony is tied to the firearms charge. The cases – State of Tennessee v. Rhakim Martin and State of Tennessee v. Willie Duncan – address a Tennessee law that created an additional crime if certain “dangerous” felonies are committed with a firearm. Read more about the cases from the AOC.

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