News

Lawmakers Propose New Courthouse be Named for Fred Thompson

Nashville’s new federal courthouse, set to open in 2021, would be named for lawyer and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson under legislation introduced today by the state delegation. The Tennessean reports that Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander introduced a bill to name the courthouse after Thompson on the Senate side, while the entire House delegation, except for Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, introduced the bill in the House. Cooper declined to sign on to the bill saying he favors a “naming contest” that would allow Middle Tennesseans to choose the name.

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Another Bid to Advance Judicial Nominees Fails

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., urged the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to agree to vote on seven district court nominees who have been waiting the longest for full Senate consideration. But Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky objected and instead proposed a shorter list that included Ed Stanton from Tennessee but omitted a  nominee from New Jersey. Booker objected, proposed a vote on just Stanton and the New Jersey nominee -- who have been waiting the longest for votes -- and McConnell once again disagreed. It was the latest effort to break a partisan logjam and confirm judicial nominees, Gavel Grab reports.

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Sentencing Reform Bill Stalls in Senate

A sentencing reform bill that once attracted bipartisan support appears to have stalled in the U.S. Senate, the New York Times reports. The bill, which sought to reduce federal mandatory minimum sentences and give nonviolent offenders a second chance, died in “a stunning display of dysfunction,” according to the paper. Senate leaders declared the bill dead after some who initially supported the measure became concerned about appearing soft on crime in an election year.

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Nashville’s New Federal Courthouse Coming in 2021

Twenty-three years elapsed from the time federal officials first deemed Nashville’s courthouse "inadequate" to the moment when Congress finally authorized all the money necessary to build an upgrade. Nashville will now need to wait another five years before that courthouse will open on a prime city block downtown. The Nashville Business Journal looks at the process to date and what to expect in the new facility.

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Comments Sought on Federal Public Defender

The term of Doris Randle-Holt, the federal public defender for the Western District of Tennessee, will expire on April 21, 2017. She is eligible for reappointment, and the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is seeking comments from those in a position to evaluate her performance.  A special Evaluation Committee will be appointed to review and assess Randle-Holt’s work and make a recommendation on her reappointment to the court. Written comments should be sent to the committee by Oct. 18. Get additional details in this announcement from the court.

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Supreme Court Admissions Program Filling Up

Only a limited number of spaces remain for the TBA Academy, which includes an opportunity for Tennessee attorneys to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The 2016 TBA Academy will take place Nov. 28-30 in Washington, D.C., at The Hay Adams Hotel. Participating attorneys will be sworn in before the court in a private ceremony on Nov. 29. Registration forms and required materials must be submitted by Oct. 19. Learn more online or contact TBA Meetings Coordinator Therese Byrne, 615-277-3208, with any questions.

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Regions Bank to Pay $52M in Mortgage Loan Case

Alabama-based Regions Bank has agreed to pay more than $52 million to resolve allegations that it improperly handled mortgage loans, federal officials announced this week. The bank was accused of approving mortgage loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, that failed to meet requirements designed to protect homeowners. As part of the settlement, Regions acknowledged it failed to follow several federal guidelines. Authorities said that as a result, the government insured hundreds of loans approved by Regions that were not eligible for mortgage insurance. WRCB-TV has the AP story.

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Court: States Cannot Require Proof of Citizenship for Federal Elections

State laws that require voters to show proof of citizenship before voting in federal elections were knocked down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the ABA Journal reports. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court opinion nixed a similar Arizona law that required proof of citizenship for federal voter registration applicants. The latest suit was filed by voting rights groups after the U.S. Election Assistance Commission allowed states to request citizenship information for residents who used federal forms for mail-in voter registration. The ruling does not impact state laws that require applicants to swear they are U.S. citizens but do not require proof. It also does not prohibit states from asking for proof of citizenship in state and local elections.

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Man Charged with Threatening Federal Officials, Courthouse

A Murfreesboro man appeared in federal court Friday afternoon to face charges that he threatened to shoot up a courthouse and kill a U.S. congresswoman and senator from Hawaii, the Tennessean reports. Kaehiokahouna Stewart was arrested at his home. Court documents indicate Stewart went so far as to buy a plane ticket to Hawaii to carry out his plan. The government also alleges that Stewart sent threatening emails and posted threatening videos on Instagram specifically targeting the legislators.

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Reynolds: Why We Should Elect Supreme Court Justices

University of Tennessee College of Law professor Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today that the nomination and confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court justices has become too political, with even the presidential election centering on who the candidates would name to the high court. He also argues that with lifetime appointments, the court has become extremely powerful and thus, the stakes on filling vacancies are huge. His answer? Elect the justices for fixed terms. Reynolds acknowledges this is not a popular idea but lays out his reasons why he thinks an elected court would be more accountable, less political and possibly more diverse.

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Special Master Seeks Hearing in Mississippi Water Case

Eugene E. Siler Jr., the special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to oversee Mississippi’s $615 million water-rights lawsuit against Memphis and the state of Tennessee, says the case could be decided by a limited hearing on the issue of whether an aquifer connected to the Memphis Sand is an interstate resource. Siler has filed a memorandum of decision calling for such a hearing, the Commercial Appeal reports. David Bearman, an attorney representing Memphis, said he was heartened by the arguments made in the memorandum, saying Siler “appears to agree with the basis of our position.” Attorneys for Mississippi also appeared pleased, saying a hearing would give them the chance to prove that the aquifer is not an interstate resource.

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Pressure Growing on Garland Appointment

Increasing pressure for a vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, says he will object to committee meetings until the Judiciary Committee schedules a session to consider Garland. New Mexico lawyer Steven Michel is attacking on another front, filing in federal court to have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, be told that the Senate cannot ignore a Supreme Court nominee. Current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also speaking out, saying this week that lawmakers should “wake up and appreciate” that a president can appoint justices anytime during his term. She later said she thinks “cooler heads will prevail” in deciding whether to consider Garland’s appointment. The ABA Journal and CBS News have more.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on 20 Court Nominees

ABA President Linda Klein is calling on Senate leaders to schedule a floor vote on 20 nominees for district judgeships whose nominations are stalled. In a letter to leaders this week, Klein says the Senate Judiciary Committee found all 20 nominees to be fully qualified and sent them to the floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. “With over 10 percent of authorized judgeships now vacant, the prompt filling of vacancies is becoming a matter of increasing urgency,” Klein wrote.

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Lawyer Would be 1st Muslim Federal Judge

Washington, D.C., lawyer Abid Qureshi could become the nation's first Muslim federal judge, National Public Radio reports. President Barack Obama nominated Qureshi for an open seat on the D.C. federal court earlier this week. Qureshi is a partner in the law firm of Latham & Watkins. He was born in Pakistan and is now a U.S. citizen. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law. His clients have included a student loan servicing company, a pharmacy giant, HCA and a private school with ties to the Saudi Arabian government. His pro bono work on behalf of two American Muslim comedians who were told they could not run ads for their show in the New York City subway won him national attention.

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Court Square Series: Sept. 29 in Chattanooga

The TBA’s 2016 Court Square series wraps up with a session in Chattanooga on Sept. 29. The CLE will be held at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. Tonya Cammon and Jeremy Cothern will provide a case review of State of Mississippi v. Byron De La Beckwith, U.S. District Court Judge Travis McDonough will cover lessons from the bench, and Sam Elliott will provide insights from the Hoffa Trial.

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Nursing Home Operator Accused of Fraud

Vanguard Healthcare, a Brentwood-based skilled nursing and rehab company that earlier this year filed for bankruptcy, is now facing a False Claims Act lawsuit from the federal government. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, six Vanguard facilities across the state and a former director of operations are accused of submitting false claims to Medicare and TennCare using forged physician and nurse signatures. The Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Court Blocks Congressional Subpoena of Backpage

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday blocked a congressional subpoena seeking information on how the classified advertising website Backpage.com screens ads for possible sex trafficking, the Associated Press reports. Backpage had asked the high court to intervene, saying the subpoena threatens the First Amendment rights of online publishers. The Senate voted 96-0 in March to hold the website in contempt after it refused to produce documents for a congressional investigation into Internet-based human trafficking. A federal appeals court had directed the website to respond to the subpoena within 10 days. Roberts said the company does not have to comply until further action from the Supreme Court. The Times Free Press has the story.

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Stanton Judicial Appointment Caught in Stalemate

With time running out in this congressional session, Senate Democrats say they will increase pressure on Republicans to hold confirmation votes on judicial nominees, including Edward Stanton III of Memphis. The Senate returns to work today after a seven-week break. Stanton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, has waited almost a year for a floor vote on his nomination to be a U.S. district court judge. President Obama nominated him to fill a vacancy in May 2015 and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously last October to send his nomination to the Senate floor. The Commercial Appeal reports that 27 other nominees, including 18 district court judges, also are waiting for a vote.

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Retirement Reception Planned for 2 Magistrate Judges

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee will hold a retirement reception for Magistrate Judges John S. Bryant and E. Clifton Knowles on Sept. 8 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The ceremonies will take place in Judge Aleta Trauger’s courtroom on the eighth floor of the federal building and courthouse in Nashville.

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Stanford Law Professor to Preview Upcoming Supreme Court Term

The Nashville Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents its Annual Supreme Court Preview on Sept. 13 at noon. The free event will feature remarks by Pamela Karlan, law professor and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The presentation will be held at Bass, Berry & Sims, 150 Third Ave. South, Suite 2800 in downtown Nashville. Learn more or register online.

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FCC Won’t Appeal 6th Circuit Decision on Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said this week it will not appeal a decision from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that reinforced states’ authority to limit the expansion of Internet service provided by cities. The FCC wanted Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board to expand its broadband service into rural counties outside its defined legal service boundaries, despite a state law preventing it from doing so. The FCC had argued that furthering the purposes of federal telecommunications law outweighed the state interest. The ABA Journal links to several news stories.

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Nashville Civic, Political Activist Betty Nixon Dies

Betty Chiles Nixon, a trailblazing woman in Nashville politics and a relentless advocate for neighborhoods, died Sunday (Aug. 28). She was 80. Nixon served on the Metro Council from 1975 to 1987 and was the first woman to chair the Budget and Finance Committee. She also was the first woman to run for Nashville mayor, in 1987 and again in 1991, losing both times. And she was the first woman to run a statewide political campaign: Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign. Nixon, who previously was married to U.S. District Judge John Nixon, worked as assistant vice chancellor for community, neighborhood and government relations at Vanderbilt University until retiring in 2007. A memorial service will be held later this year. The Tennessean has more on her life.

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States File Suit Over Transgender Healthcare Rules

Texas and four other states filed another lawsuit this week seeking to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen transgender rights, saying new federal nondiscrimination health rules could force doctors, hospitals and insurers to act contrary to their medical judgment or religious beliefs. Kansas, Kentucky Nebraska and Wisconsin joined the suit, which argues that the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition procedures against their beliefs. The Associated Press has the story.

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New Magistrate Judges Named for Middle District

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Alistair Newbern and Jeffery S. “Chip” Frensley have been selected to fill the magistrate judge positions being vacated by retiring judges John S. Bryant and E. Clifton Knowles, respectively. Newbern, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, will take office Aug. 31. Frensley has over 20 years of litigation experience in the areas of criminal defense, employment law and civil rights litigation. He will take office on Oct. 9. Read more about the new judges in this announcement from the court.

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Public Approval of Supreme Court Matches Low Point

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 42 percent job approval rating is down slightly from September 2015 and matches the low point in the Gallup poll's 16-year history. The earlier mark was recorded in 2005 just after the court allowed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development. Among its other findings, the poll indicates that Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to approve of the court, though the differential has narrowed. Read more or view survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

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