News

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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Investiture Ceremony Set for Overbey

An official investiture and celebration reception for J. Douglas Overbey, United States Attorney Eastern District of Tennessee, has been set for Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m. at the U.S. District Court, 800 Market Square in the Ceremonial Courtroom. RSVP by Monday to jeanne.porter@usdoj.gov, 865-225-1711.

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White Nationalist Claims He Can't Get a Lawyer, Wants Charlottesville Suit Tossed

Richard Spencer— white nationalist and president of the National Policy Institute, an "alt-right" think tank and lobbying group— has filed a pro se motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him as a result of the recent Charlottesville, VA protests over removal of controversial statues honoring Confederate generals which left one dead and dozens injured. The suit, filed in federal district court of Virginia in Oct. 2017, alleges the plaintiffs were injured, harassed, intimidated and assaulted by the white supremacist groups in the city.
 
In the motion, Spencer claims that the blame for violence falls on the anti-fascists, or Antifa, who showed up to protest he and his cohorts' ideas and on the police, who he says did too little to discourage the violence. "Harsh and bold words, as well as scuffles, are simply a reality of political protests, which are, by their very nature, contentious and controversial," Spencer wrote. "Free societies, not only in the United States but around the world, accept this as a cost of free assembly and maintaining a vibrant political culture."
 
According to the document, Spencer maintains that he is unable to find an attorney due to the controversial nature of the case despite "the supposed but apparently illusory ethical obligation lawyers have to represent unpopular clients and to assure at least a semblance of a fair trial." "The plaintiffs, in this case, have enormous resources at their disposal. Several major law firms, likely working pro bono, with probably dozens of attorneys and deep pockets for depositions and other discovery expenses are lined up to represent them." said Spencer.
 
The motion in its entirety can be read here.
 
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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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Medearis Appointed New Eastern District Court Clerk

John Medearis of Chattanooga will serve as clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee starting Feb. 13, the Hamilton County Herald reports. He succeeds Debbie Poplin, who has been appointed a U.S. magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, succeeding retiring Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley. Medearis has served as chief deputy clerk of the district for the past 17 years. The Eastern District of Tennessee covers 41 counties, with offices in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Greeneville.
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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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Congress Delays 'Cadillac Tax' and Other ACA-Related Taxes and Fees

Congress on Monday passed the Federal Register Printing Savings Act, which temporarily continued funding federal government activity and appropriated funds to various health-related programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid and childhood obesity programs.
 
The Act also addressed the effective date for the controversial 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health care, commonly referred to as the "Cadillac Tax," which has been delayed until 2022. At a minimum, the new two-year delay gives employers and plan sponsors more time to adjust health plan design to avoid the Cadillac Tax, legislation that has been unpopular on both sides of the aisle.
 
The Cadillac tax was created as part of the Affordable Care Act largely to help fund benefits to the uninsured under the law. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that delaying the medical device tax will lower revenue by $3.8 billion over a decade, delaying the Cadillac tax will cost $14.8 billion and suspending the health insurance tax will cost $12.7 billion.
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Idaho to Allow Non-ACA Approved Health Insurance Plans

Idaho officials said they will begin allowing insurers to sell new plans that don't meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act. In a bulletin issued Wednesday by state Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, "state-based health benefit plans" or "state-based plans" will not be subject to the federal restrictions applied to"grandfathered" or "transitional" plans.
 
Under these guidelines, insurers who participate are free to deny people coverage or charge more based on a customer's medical history, a practice that's illegal under Obama Care. Officials argue that the state needed to act to allow for cheaper plans that would help attract younger, healthier people back into an ailing market, however, critics say that this will likely mean steep premium increases for middle-class individuals with pre-existing conditions.
 
State officials said they are trying to press forward with the changes on their own without any action from Washington. The move will almost certainly be met with legal challenges by ACA proponents, as it has drastic implications on federal enforcement of individual market requirements.
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Denver Company Wins Construction Bid for U.S. Courthouse in Nashville

Denver-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. has been selected to develop the new U.S. Courthouse planned for downtown Nashville, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The $194.5 million courthouse, planned for 719 Church Street, is scheduled to open in spring 2021. Hensel Phelps was separately also awarded a large expansion project underway at Nashville International Airport.
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U.S. Supreme Court Rules District Courts Should Decide WOTUS Challenges

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that district courts, not the appellate system, should decide legal challenges to what constitutes “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, NaturalGasIntel.com reports. Today, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery applauded the decision, which reversed a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. In a statement, Slatery hailed the decision as a victory for state’s rights.
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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Tomorrow!

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is less than a day away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 

Highlights

  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219

 

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6th U.S. Circuit Judge Hands Down First Published Opinion in a Constitutional Case

Recently appointed 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John K. Bush handed down his first published opinion in a constitutional case, Peffer v. Stephens, last Thursday. The case is a civil suit challenging probable cause in the issuance of a search warrant. 
 
Jesse Peffer served as a caregiver for medical marijuana patients in Michigan, permitting him to grow a limited number of cannabis plants. When his plants produced more marijuana than he needed, Peffer sold the surplus to Tom Beemer, who ran a medical marijuana dispensary. Unbeknownst to Peffer, Beemer was a confidential informant to state and local police. 
 
One day, Beemer asked Peffer to sell him more surplus marijuana than is permitted under state law. The two agreed and police stopped the appellant as he drove to the meeting, finding more marijuana in his car than he was licensed to possess. Peffer was arrested and charged.
 
Eight months later, the local school district and child services agency received typewritten letters purporting to be from one of the police officers who arrested Peffer. These letters accused Beemer of distributing a controlled substance and becoming a confidential informant "in exchange for immunity/leniency in sentencing." Investigators determined it was most likely Peffer who authored and distributed the letters and flyers and obtained a warrant to search for and seize records relating to the activities including in electronic form.
 
To search Peffer's house for evidence, the police needed "probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." A detective submitted an affidavit to the court asserting he had probable cause to believe Peffer's residence "may contain evidence of the crime of Impersonating a Police Officer and Witness Intimidation." The detective asked permission to search Peffer's house for "computer hardware," "computer-related equipment," printers, scanners, any "electronic storage device," and Peffer's personal email.
 
After searching the appellant's house and electronics, law enforcement found nothing incriminating; prosecutors elected not to press charges. Peffer and his wife sued a detective sergeant with the Michigan State Police alleging a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. A lower court threw out their suit, and Bush affirmed its decision in a unanimous decision for a three-judge panel.
 
Prior to his confirmation, Bush came under fire because of a history of making blog comments that have been construed as sexist and homophobic. He has been an outspoken critic of LGBT protection laws and used an offensive anti-LGBTQ slur when giving a speech to the Forum Club of Louisville. Bush co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of a conservative group opposing the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute, asserting that VMI “does not appear to be compatible with the somewhat different developmental needs of most young women.” He has also been criticized for remarks made comparing abortion to slavery.
 
The full decision can be viewed here.
 
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SCOTUS Grants Review of SEC Judicial Appointment Process

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday accepted a challenge to the appointment process for administrative law judges at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the ABA Journal reports. SEC judges are selected by the chief judge and approved by the SEC personnel office. Lucia v. SEC questions whether the judges are actually “inferior officers” under the appointments clause and subject to appointment by the president, the head of a federal agency or a court. 
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Horn Boom Nominated for Seat on Federal Court in Kentucky

Claria Horn Boom, a Vanderbilt Law graduate and a partner at Frost Brown Todd in Lexington, Kentucky, has been nominated to a shared seat on the U.S. Districts of Eastern and Western Kentucky. The seat has been open since 2013, when Judge Jennifer Coffman retired. 
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Senate Confirms New Middle Tennessee Federal Judge

The U.S. Senate today voted to unanimously confirm Nashville attorney William “Chip” Campbell Jr. to become a U.S. District Court judge for the Middle District of Tennessee, The Commercial Appeal reports. President Donald Trump nominated Campbell for the position in July. He will replace Chief U.S. District Judge Kevin H. Sharp, who resigned in January.
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Solicitor General Examines Public Sector Union Case

Tennessee Solicitor General Andrée Blumstein recently served as a guest blogger for the Supreme Court of the United States Blog (SCOTUSblog). The post she wrote, "Symposium: Hijacked riders, not free riders," deals with Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. The court will consider whether an Illinois law allowing public sector unions to charge nonmembers for collective-bargaining activities violates the First Amendment. Read the entire post at SCOTUSblog.
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Sessions Adds 2 New Prosecutors for Middle Tennessee

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is adding two assistant U.S. attorney positions for the Middle District of Tennessee, the Nashville Post reports. The additional prosecutors are among 40 new positions across the country who will focus on violent crime. “I will be meeting with local law enforcement leaders and district attorneys general to formulate a strategy aimed at vigorously pursuing those violent offenders whose criminal behavior disrupts the peace and harmony of our neighborhoods and endangers the lives of innocent citizens,” U.S. Attorney for the Middle District Don Cochran said.
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Revision to Federal Law Clerk Handbook Addresses Sexual Harassment

The federal law clerk handbook was revised on Monday to address sexual harassment complaints against judges, the ABA Journal reports. The revision was made to address concerns that confidentiality rules wouldn’t prevent sexual harassment claims against judges. The new passage, added to the section that covers confidentiality, reads: “However, nothing in this handbook, or in the Code of Conduct, prevents a clerk, or any judiciary employee, from revealing misconduct, including sexual or other forms of harassment, by their judge or any person. Clerks are encouraged to bring such matters to the attention of an appropriate judge or other official.”
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Judicial Nominee Withdraws After Confirmation Video Goes Viral

Matthew Spencer Petersen, the federal judicial nominee who was seen on video unable to define basic legal terms, has withdrawn his name from consideration, the ABA Journal reports. Petersen, a longtime member of the Federal Election Commission, was nominated to the federal court in Washington, D.C., by the Trump Administration. Last week a video of his confirmation hearing went viral, in which he could not define “motion in limine” and “the Daubert standard,” as well as his admission that he hasn’t tried a case to verdict or argued a motion. In a letter to the president, Petersen noted that his nomination had became a “distraction” and it was not fair to the administration for him to continue.
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Federal Judge Announces Retirement Over Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Alex Kozinski, judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, announced today he would retire immediately after allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct surfaced, The Washington Post reports. Kozinski was facing a judicial investigation for the accusations that he subjected 15 women to inappropriate behavior. Kozinski was appointed in 1985, and served as chief of the 9th circuit from 2007 to 2014.
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Nashville Judicial Nominee Appears Before Senate Panel

Eli J. Richardson appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week as it considered him for one of two vacant federal judgeships in Nashville, the Nashville Post reports. The Bass, Berry & Sims attorney introduced his family at the hearing and thanked President Donald Trump for the nomination. He faced few tough questions, other than a line of inquiry about a Rule 11 sanction he received.
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Video of Judicial Nominee Struggling Over Basic Legal Terms Goes Viral

A clip of federal judicial nominee Matthew Spencer Petersen going up for questioning against a U.S. Senate panel has gone viral, the ABA Journal reports. The video depicts Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-Louisiana, asking Peterson about his experience. Kennedy asked Peterson to explain concepts like the Daubert standard and motion in limine. “My background is not in litigation,” Peterson said. “I haven’t had to do a deep dive.” Peterson was an associate for three years at Wiley Rein, worked as counsel to the Republican National Committee and worked for the Federal Election Commission prior to his nomination to federal court.
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Judiciary Chair Asks White House to Reconsider Judicial Nominations

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is asking the White House to reconsider the nominations of controversial judicial nominees Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer, the ABA Journal reports. Senate Judiciary Committee spokesman Taylor Foy said that Grassley was concerned about statements made by Talley and Mateer, who are nominated to judgeships in the Middle District of Alabama and the Eastern District of Texas, respectively.

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Low Number of Female, Minority U.S. Attorney Candidates a Concern to ABA

American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass told Attorney General Jeff Sessions she is concerned with the low percentage of women and minority candidates appointed to U.S. attorney positions, the ABA Journal reports. Of 57 U.S. attorney candidates proposed by the Trump administration so far, one was black and three were women. “A justice system that is not representative of the diverse community it serves risks losing its legitimacy in the eyes of those who come before it,” Bass wrote in a letter to Sessions.
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Senate Judiciary Advances 10 Nominees, Including Grasz

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced 10 judicial nominees, including controversial figure Leonard Steven Grasz, who received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, the ABA Journal reports. Grasz was found to have a “passionately held social agenda” by an ABA committee, which believed Grasz would be unable to respect precedent in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The Judiciary Committee approved the nominees via an 11-9 party line vote.
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