News

Term for Animals in Bill is 'Courtroom Facility Dogs'

An item in Wednesday’s issue of TBA Today used an incorrect term in identifying courtroom facility dogs, which are currently being debated in a Tennessee Senate bill. A 2014 Tennessee Bar Journal article offers guidance on the use of service animals, therapy animals and assistance animals, along with current laws regarding their use.

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Judge Partially Dismisses Lawsuit Over Treatment of Disabled

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp on Friday partially dismissed a long-standing lawsuit over Tennessee’s treatment of people with disabilities following the state’s fulfillment of obligations outlined in an exit plan, the Associated Press reports. Advocates sued the state in 1995 over conditions at several state institutions. The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Bureau of TennCare have since completed several obligations agreed upon in the exit plan, including developing training for law enforcement and physicians. The state’s last remaining obligation under the exit plan is to close the Greene Valley Development Center.

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Suit Claims Nashville Restaurants Not ADA Compliant

Federal lawsuits filed by Jeffrey Anderson claim four popular Nashville restaurants are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Anderson, who travels in a wheelchair, alleges Bagel Face, Marche, Noshville, and Sitar lack compliant parking, required widths in restaurants and in bathrooms, and handrails. He is requesting that the restaurants be ordered into compliance and that his attorneys’ fees be paid. Read more from the Nashville Post.

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Deaf Couple Sues Johnson City Hospital

Chris and Donna Cantrell, a deaf couple from Virginia, are suing Mountain States Health Alliance in Johnson City for allegedly failing to provide a qualified sign language interpreter while their 21-year-old daughter was dying of cancer. The federal suit, filed Wednesday by Disability Rights Tennessee and the National Association of the Deaf, said the hospital provided an unqualified interpreter on fewer than five occasions. "(Donna) Cantrell saw her daughter burst into tears but had no idea why she was crying. Because her daughter was too upset to explain, (she) did not learn that her daughter was dying until much later,” the lawsuit said. Read more from The Times Free Press.

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State Settles with Parents in Special Education Classroom Suit

A settlement for $185,000 between the state of Tennessee and the parents of a Hamilton County student with down syndrome was approved Tuesday by the Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee, The Times Free Press reports. Deborah and Greg Hyde filed a suit against the Hamilton Count Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education last year when they were told their son would be removed from his normal class and placed in a special education class. The state settled because “it recognized its own administrative complaint process did not meet the court's standards,” according to Hamilton County Schools attorney Scott Bennett.

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Tullahoma School Board to Pay Legal Fees

The Tullahoma City Schools Board of Education was ordered to pay $23,582 in legal fees to the parent of a TCS student who claimed the school stopped providing special education services, Tullahoma News reports. “The board will be paying $11,791 of those fees, and the state will pay the remainder. We have to pay because we followed state regulations and procedures, which conflict with federal regulations and procedures,” TCS Director Dan Lawson said.

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NALSWD to Hold Board Elections

The National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (NALSWD) announced the elections for its 2015-2016 Executive Board and Junior Officer Committees. In addition, there are several Junior Officer positions that are available to pre-law and law students. Application requirements are due Sept. 30.

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UT Law Announces Partnership with Tennessee Human Rights Commission

Beverly L. Watts, executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC), will deliver a free public lecture at the University of Tennessee College of Law, as part of the school's semester-long partnership with the THRC. Watts’s lecture, “Human Rights: Education and Enforcement in the State of Tennessee,” is scheduled for Sept. 16 at noon in room 132 of the College of Law, 1505 W. Cumberland Ave., in Knoxville. Watts will also meet with students enrolled in UT Law’s new human rights practicum, in which students are making complex legal documents easier to understand for the general public.

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Proposed 'Rule 30' Changes Could Impact Hearing-impaired Reporter

In an opinion published in the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, hearing-impaired journalist Brian Mosely asserts the proposed Rule 30 changes, regulating how reporters may use electronic devices in the courtroom, will prevent him from doing his job because he relies on his smart phone to record proceedings. New regulations prohibiting cell phones and the use of any audio or video devices without prior approval from the judge have already taken effect in Sumner County.

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Disability Conference Brings Rights Groups Together

The 13th annual Tennessee Disability MegaConference took place in Nashville last week. A number of groups, including the Special Needs Law Center and The Arc Tennessee, presented awards to those who have made significant contributions to promote community inclusion for people with disabilities. A new Family Support Award was presented to Lloyd and Lillian Finney of Hermitage, who have shown an exemplary commitment in supporting their adult disabled child. Read more about the conference.

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Families of Disabled to Benefit from ABLE Act

Families of those with disabilities are now one step closer to saving more money for medical costs with tax-free earnings, Chattanoogan.com reports. Gov. Haslam on Monday signed the Tennessee ABLE Act into law, giving the state treasurer authority to create tax-advantaged investment plans to help families save money for a variety of qualifying expenses. Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. says the law will go into effect July 1 and his department plans to have the program operational by Jan. 1, 2016.

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UT Law Education Practicum Honored by disABILITY Center

Two of the driving forces behind the University of Tennessee College of Law’s Education Law Practicum were recently honored by the disABILITY Resource Center (DRC) for their work in the community. Distinguished Professor of Law Dean Hill Rivkin, community cooperating attorney Brenda McGee, a 1984 graduate of UT Law, and the Education Law Practicum and its six classes of students were all presented with the Advocate Award at the Spirit of ADA Award Celebration.

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Knoxville Celebrates ADA Anniversary

The disABILITY Resource Center (dRC) and the City of Knoxville are sponsoring a celebration in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on May 14. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Market Square Mall. The Knoxville Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service staff will have a table at the event to answer questions from attendees. For more information or to volunteer contact KBA staff member Tracy Chain.

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Hawkins Judge Seeks More Space for Programs

Hawkins County leaders agreed Tuesday to make more space available for two programs that are helping reduce jail expenses by providing treatment to offenders with addiction and mental health issues. Judge J. Todd Ross addressed the County Commission's Buildings Committee to request that a custodian office in the Justice Center be converted into extra space for his Drug Court. Hawkins County’s Recovery Court and Frontier Health’s Community Justice programs have been sharing an office in the Justice Center across from Sessions Court. The Times News has more.

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Appeals Court Affirms $3 Million Judgment Against MTSU

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has affirmed a $3 million judgment against Middle Tennessee State University after its original decision in the case was reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 2011, Jim Ferguson — an ex-maintenance worker who is of Japanese-American ancestry — sued MTSU for disparate treatment, malicious harassment and retaliation, alleging he was given work that exceeded doctor's orders after he filed a discrimination complaint. The Nashville Post has more (subcription required).

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Obesity Can Be Disability, European Court Rules

Obesity can be a disability, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday in a case involving a Danish childcare worker who said he was fired for being fat. The Associated Press reports that the decision could have employment law consequences across the 28-nation block, where employers might face an "active obligation" to cater to the needs of their obese staff members who are considered disabled, because discrimination on the grounds of disability is illegal under European Union law.

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Disability Group Holds Open House to Unveil New Name, Office Space

The Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee (DLAC) is hosting an open house Oct. 17 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. to celebrate a new name and a new address for its Nashville office. Now known as Disability Rights Tennessee, the organization will continue advocating for the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities to ensure they have an equal opportunity to be productive and respected members of society. The open house will take place at the group’s new Nashville office, which is located at 2 International Plaza, Ste. 825, Nashville, TN 37217. RSVP online.

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Lawmakers Push for Protections for Pregnant Workers

More than 120 members of Congress are urging the Supreme Court to recognize that pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations such as light duty and other protections to ensure expecting mothers are not forced out of their jobs, the Memphis Daily News reports. A friend-of-the-court brief was filed today regarding the case of a pregnant UPS delivery worker who was asked to take unpaid maternity leave, rather than being provided a less strenuous position as her doctors advised. Many of the lawmakers are pushing legislation to make the pregnancy protections explicit in federal law. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in December.

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Two Fired from Mental Health Court

Newly elected General Sessions Judge Melissa Blackburn has fired two Davidson County Mental Health Court employees, the Tennessean reports. Two weeks ago Blackburn asked all court employees to resign and reapply for their jobs. Two of the five were told Tuesday that they would not be rehired. 

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Deadline Extended for Conservatorship Director

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County has announced that the application deadline for the newly created position of director of the Office of Conservatorship Management has been extended to Sept. 2. The goal of the new position is to improve the administration of justice and delivery of legal services to the impaired elderly and persons with disabilities. The director will manage guardianships and conservatorships within the Metro area. The position reports to the Probate Court judge and trial court administrator. Candidates should have at least three years experience as a practicing attorney. Learn more online or download a job description.

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LAET to Hold Senior Handbook Event Thursday

The first of many events featuring the TBA’s new Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors will take place Thursday in Knoxville when Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) holds a training session at the John T. O’Connor Senior Center. The event will begin at 2 p.m. TBA President Cindy Wyrick and Public Education Committee Co-Chair Angelia Nystrom will be joined by representatives from LAET and the Knoxville/Knox County Office on Aging to present the new resource and answer questions. For more information about the event, contact LAET’s Knoxville office at (865) 637-0484. For information on the Handbook, contact TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro, (615) 383-7421.

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TBA Releases Senior Handbook for Lawyers, Public

The Tennessee Bar Association today released The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors to help Tennesseans better understand federal and state benefits, new health care laws and a wide range of other issues of importance to older citizens. It is available for download on the TBA website and will be the subject of presentations across the state starting this week and continuing during March. TBA members also may use the handbook in counseling their clients and may customize the front page to add their own firm’s logo and branding. In addition, the TBA will offer CLE sessions to equip members to make optimal use of the handbook in their practices.

The handbook, a project of TBA President Cindy Wyrick, was produced by the Public Education Committee and a host of volunteer lawyers under the leadership of Knoxville lawyer Angelia Nystrom. “As difficult as it is to fathom, an average of 7,000 Americans are becoming senior citizens each day,” Wyrick said in announcing release of the handbook. “This trend is expected to continue for years, so it is important that we do something meaningful to assist this rapidly growing, but typically underserved, segment of the population.”

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Mynatt Named Manager of Oak Ridge Legal Aid

Janet Mynatt is the new managing attorney of the Legal Aid Society's Oak Ridge office. She replaces Neil McBride, who retired this month after 35 years of service. “Janet is an outstanding attorney and natural leader -- the perfect person to fill the big shoes of Neil McBride, who has managed the Oak Ridge office since 1978,” said Gary Housepian, executive director of Legal Aid Society. Mynatt has served at Legal Aid since 2001 and has been active in the medical and benefits community, editing Legal Aid’s Sixth Circuit Social Security Manual, helping form a medical-legal partnership at a rural health center in Jellico and serving as chair the TBA’s Disability Law Section. The Oak Ridger has more.

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Judge: State Met Conditions of Development Center Suit

A decades-old lawsuit over conditions at a Memphis institution for people with intellectual disabilities has been dismissed after a federal judge found the state met court-ordered improvements, The Tennessean reports. The 1992 lawsuit over conditions at the Arlington Development Center -- originally filed by the Department of Justice and later joined by People First of Tennessee -- was brought after investigators found the facility failed to protect residents from abuse and neglect, provide adequate medical care and properly train staff. After the court found that the problems were so bad they violated the constitutional rights of the residents, the state entered into an agreement with more than 105 requirements and 103 deadlines. This week, U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla ruled the state had complied with all conditions and dismissed the suit.

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