News

UT Gender Discrimination Suits Drawing National Attention

For nearly 40 years, the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols were a role model for college athletics while former coach Pat Summitt and sports medicine director Jenny Moshak provided examples of how women can succeed in sporting. But as two discrimination lawsuits filed last year work their way through the system, new filings and exhibits lead sex discrimination lawyers to believe they could become a model for similar cases nationwide. And there is plenty of fertile ground, Northern Virginia attorney and Title IX specialist Kristen Galles says, alleging that there is “massive sex discrimination in college sports.” Read more on govolsxtra.com.

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Humor: Football Game Prayers and '1st Church of Neyland'

Prayers in Knoxville's Neyland Stadium were never more needed, especially after last Saturday's Auburn game, and Bill Haltom is ready. In this month's humor column, Haltom gives a testimonial about football-game prayers and the First Church of Neyland, where its 100,000 members "pass the orange offering plate seven times a year." Read "Meet me at the 50 … and bring your lawyer" in this month's Journal.

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Court Accepts 8 Cases; Likely Will Work During Shutdown

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted review of eight new cases, including one from Tennessee seeking to clarify when an individual commits a crime for having a gun after being convicted of domestic violence. Other cases involve questions about the award of attorneys' fees in patent cases; whether it is unconstitutional for a state to require home-care providers to pay a union to represent them before state agencies; whether the federal government has a right to reclaim lands abandoned by a railroad; whether shuttered businesses must pay Social Security and Medicare tax on severance checks; and whether police, after receiving an anonymous tip, must observe drunken or reckless driving before stopping a vehicle. The final case seeks to resolve a long-running copyright dispute in Hollywood over the screenplay for the 1980 movie Raging Bull. Although much of the government is closed because of the budget impasse, the Supreme Court is going ahead with its work, SCOTUSblog reports.

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DOJ Wins 'Zero Dark Thirty' Freedom of Information Suit

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled in favor of the Department of Justice yesterday, saying it does not have to disclose the full names of the Navy SEALs and CIA officers who were key in the raid that would end in the death of Osama bin Laden. Allowing the filmmakers behind “Zero Dark Thirty” inside access to interview key players did not render the names of those officers public record, the judge ruled. The Blog of the Legal Times has the story.

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Attorney for Vandy Football Player Says DA Has Been Fair

"The DA's office has been fair and truthful in its dealings with us throughout its dealings in this case," Roger May told the media Wednesday. Boyd is representing Vanderbilt student Chris Boyd, who is charged as an accessory after the fact and accused of taking part in an attempted cover-up of the sexual assault by helping one of the defendants indicted on the rape charges. May said he was "setting the record straight" after Boyd's father earlier this week made claims that the Metro District Attorney’s Office had done "irreparable damage to his son's character and integrity, and that the indictment was unnecessary." The Tennessean has the story and video.

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Players Ready to Sue Over Jock Tax

Pro athletes say they are ready to go to court over Tennessee’s tax on hockey and basketball players, Nashville Public Radio reports. At a hearing Thursday, lawmakers listened to arguments for and against repealing the state’s so-called “jock tax,” which is the highest in the nation by most measures. Twenty states tax professional athlete salaries, but most use a percentage. Tennessee’s levy is a straight fee – $2,500 per game with a cap of $7,500. That goes for both home and visiting teams. According to the NHL Players Association, 43 percent of athletes don’t even make $2,500 per game. The money has effectively gone to the respective team ownership groups, which have management organizations to run their city-owned arenas. The funding is supposed to go toward attracting concerts to the facilities through subsidies, though lawmakers note there is very little public accountability for how the money gets spent.

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Lawyer, Former Congressional Aide Dies

Macon County attorney Fletcher “Keith” Adkinson died June 19 at the age of 69. Adkinson, a 1969 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, represented corporations and entertainers in Beverly Hills and later in Washington, D.C. From 1974 to 1979, he was counsel to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations where he managed probes into organized crime, labor racketeering and government corruption. Adkinson was national director of Democrats for Reagan/Bush in 1980 and after the election, served on the Department of Justice Transition Team. In 1984 he took on a case to prove Jett Williams was the daughter of Hank Williams. He married her in 1986 and the couple lived for many years in Lafayette. He died while undergoing heart surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center. The Macon County Times has more on his life.

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Court Will Not Consider Challenge to Copyright Board

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to the authority of the Copyright Royalty Board, which sets royalty rates for musical works. The high court today refused to hear an appeal that the panel – made up of three copyright judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress – should be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The company bringing the suit also wanted to overturn the panel’s decision that noncommercial educational webcasters pay an annual fee of $500 per channel for a license authorizing the webcasting of unlimited amounts of music. The Memphis Daily News has this Associated Press story.

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Event to Benefit Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts

Arts Immersion, presented by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, will take place June 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the W.O. Smith School. The event will feature live performances, visual art and a silent auction – including opportunities to co-write with top songwriters. All proceeds benefit Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts, which has provided $1 million worth of free legal and business help to over 1,000 low-income artists and 300 nonprofit arts organizations over the past five years. Tickets are $40 and are available at the door or online. Food, beverages and valet parking will be provided.

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'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Sues Literary Agent for Royalties

Acclaimed author Harper Lee is suing her literary agent Samuel Pinkus, alleging that he tricked her into signing a document transferring the royalties from her 1960 novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 87-year-old was recovering from a stroke and says she did not understand what she was doing. “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” her lawyer, Gloria Phares, wrote in the suit. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright.” The ABA Journal has the story.

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Home Studios to Remain in Limbo

After months of effort to legalize home music studios in Nashville, the Metro Council yesterday deferred action on the ordinance indefinitely. Currently, codes officials look the other way as hundred of musicians run professionals studios out of their homes. The proposal was intended to give them a way to operate within the law. Councilmember Megan Barry says she had just enough votes to approve her ordinance, but she chose to put it off. “I believe that a measure like this – balancing neighborhood concerns with business interests and the city’s music-oriented DNA – should be enacted by a large margin, not a narrow one.” She told Nashville Public Radio.

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Armstrong Sued by DOJ

The Justice Department formally filed suit against cyclist Lance Armstrong and his company, Tailwind Sports, for approximately $40 million that the U.S. Postal Service spent to sponsor the cycling team from 1998 to 2004. In the wake of Armstrong’s doping confession, the government charges that the use of prohibited drugs constitutes a break of contract with the Postal Service. CNN Justice reports that the government could recover triple the amount of the sponsorship under the False Claims Act, which could bring a total of more than $100 million in damages.

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Bill Plans to Lower 'Jock Tax' for Pro Athletes

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, has sponsored a bill to repeal the “jock tax,” a 2009 tax on professional athletes that is one of the highest in the country. The National Hockey League Players Association is behind the legislation. The union called out Tennessee’s privilege tax in the most recent contract and committed to getting the levy repealed. The tax generates roughly $3.5million a year and affects NHL and NBA players. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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Ticketing Bill Loses Support

Four lawmakers who had been listed as co-sponsors of House Bill 100, the Fairness in Ticketing Act, have pulled their support from the measure, the Tennessean reports. Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, and David Hawk, R-Greenville, have removed their names from among the bill’s 26 co-sponsors. Rep. Lynn said in a release, “I think many of us signed on as sponsors before realizing what it would do to citizens’ ownership rights or its negative impact on small business. In my case, I have not only decided to be removed as a sponsor, but to become a vocal opponent.” The act seeks to impose stricter regulations on event ticketing practices and the ticket resale market.

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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Tim McGraw-Curb Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has refused to hear Curb Record’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that Tim McGraw was free to record with whomever he wished while his legal fight with his longtime label continued through the court system, the Tennessean's music blog reports. McGraw recently released “Two Lanes of Freedom” with Big Machine Records, the first album of his career not to be released on Curb.

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Bill Calls for Crackdown on Ticket Scalpers

The Fairness in Ticketing Act was filed in the Senate Friday by sponsors Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, the Nashville City Paper reports. The legislation aims to minimize illegal ticket scalping by requiring ticket brokers -- defined as anyone who resells more than 60 tickets in a year -- to register with the state and pay sales tax on transactions. The bill also requires brokers to disclose certain information about the tickets they are selling such as face value. Supporters of the bill believe requiring increased disclosure by the reseller would cut down on the deceptive practices rampant in the secondary market.

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Court Asked to Review Landmark File-Sharing Case

Infamous file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review a jury’s conclusion that she pay the recording industry $222,000 for downloading and sharing two dozen copyrighted songs on the now-defunct file-sharing service Kazaa. Thomas-Rasset, the first person to defend herself against a file-sharing case, said the damages were unconstitutionally excessive and were not rationally related to the harm she caused to the labels. The court previously declined two other file-sharing cases brought before it. Learn more about the case on Wired.com

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Bill to Ease Restrictions on Home Music Recording Hits Snag

Language in a bill aimed to simplify the city’s code to accommodate home recording studios has turned into a source of consternation for some Nashville musicians, the Tennessean reports. The legislation would add a new accessory use dubbed “home recoding studio” to the city’s home occupation code. Council members Megan Berry and Ronnie Steine proposed the ordinance in order to authorize a practice many are already doing, even though it technically violates Metro’s codes. However, the bill’s vague language and definitions of aspects such as “home studio” have drawn some concern.

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Legal Arts Group Partners with Belmont

The Arts & Business Council, a nonprofit serving Nashville's arts community, and its Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts (VLPA) program, has partnered with Belmont University to be a nonprofit-in-residence. As part of the arrangement, the council will physically move its offices to the university campus. Casey Summar, director of the VLPA, said the partnership will provide marketing, development and technological support that have been a challenge for the small organization. The Nashville Business Journal reports

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Ticket Scalpers to Face Tighter Regulations

A joint study committee of the Tennessee General Assembly on Tuesday will discuss the proposed Fairness in Ticketing Act and a competing proposal related to ticket regulation sponsored by state Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and state Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin). The Fairness in Ticketing Act, sponsored by state Rep. Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) and state Rep. Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill), would require ticket brokers to register with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and to disclose the face value of tickets, exact location of seats, and refund policy, among other things. The Tennesseean has the story.

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3 Settle in DOJ E-Book Lawsuit

Three companies involved in an e-book pricing lawsuit have settled and agreed to fund a $69 million pool to pay 30 cents to $1.32 per book credit to consumers who bought qualifying e-books between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. Apple, Mcmillan, and Penguin opted not to settle and will go to trial next June in the suit filed in April by the Department of Justice,  WCYB News reports.

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Judge Dismisses 'Bachelor' Discrimination Suit

A federal judge in Nashville has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Christopher Johnson and Nathaniel Claybrooks against the ABC television show The Bachelor for racial discrimination, NPR reports. The African American plaintiffs alleged that the show discriminates against people of color in casting the bachelor, bachelorette and other contestants. The court ruled that under the First Amendment, the show’s producers and casting directors were free to cast or reject whomever they please. Read the full court decision here.

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Summitt Says in Affidavit She Felt Pressure to Resign

Was Pat Summitt forced to step down as the Lady Vols' basketball coach? University of Tennessee athletic officials say no, but an affidavit from the coaching legend filed Wednesday suggests she had initially felt that way. The statement was filed in federal court by lawyers for former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings, who is suing the university alleging unlawful discrimination and retaliation, the Tennessean reports. In the affidavit, Summitt says she initially felt she was being forced to step down, but that athletic director Dave Hart later told her she had misinterpreted his comments.

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Songwriter Loses Home Over Outstanding Legal Fees

Songwriter Danny Tate’s Belle Meade home was auctioned to cover more than $150,000 in fees amassed during a two-year legal battle with his brother, WSMV Nashville reports. Tate’s brother alleged Tate was a drug addict and sought a conservator to safeguard his wealth. Tate fought the conservatorship but was ordered to pay his own and his brother’s legal fees.

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Twitter Turns Over Tweets in 'Occupy' Case

Twitter today agreed to hand over about three months' worth of tweets to a judge overseeing the criminal trial of an Occupy Wall Street protester, the Associated Press reports. The case has become closely watched in the fight over how much access law enforcement agencies should have to material posted on social networks. The social networking site had been threatened with steep fines if it did not comply with Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr.'s order to turn over the records in the case of Malcolm Harris. The judge said he would keep the records sealed until after a Sept. 21 hearing challenging his ruling on the messages.

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