News

New Magistrate Sworn in, Starts This Week

Christopher H. Steger has been appointed to the position of U.S. magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Times Free Press reports. Steger was sworn in Sunday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan during a private ceremony at the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Chattanooga. He will take office Thursday.

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Poll: Public Supports Supreme Court Term Limits, Camera Access

Public support for life tenure for U.S. Supreme Court justices is decreasing, while the notion of allowing cameras in the court is more popular than ever, according to a new poll sponsored by C¬SPAN that was released Tuesday. Only 40 percent of adults agree with the Constitution’s requirement of lifetime appointments according to the poll, compared to 48 percent in 2010. Seventy-nine percent favor 18-year terms for justices, with the possibility of reappointment. A Reuters poll also released this week found 66 percent of respondents favoring 10-year limits for justices. The National Law Journal has more (sub. req.).

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Senate Panel OKs $181M for New Nashville Courthouse

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve $181.5 million in funding for a new federal courthouse in Nashville today, according to Sen. Lamar Alexander. The funding passed the committee by a vote of 16-14 and “includes what is intended to be all the funding needed to build the new courthouse in one fiscal year instead of being spread out over several years,” Alexander said in a press release

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Cruz Pushes Retention Elections for Supreme Court Justices

Sen. Ted Cruz today told a Senate committee he wants to amend the Constitution to subject Supreme Court justices to periodic, public retention elections. The Presidential hopeful from Texas has been an outspoken opponent of the high court rulings that upheld federal subsidies under Obamacare and legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Cruz called the hearing of the Judiciary subcommittee he chairs on oversight, agency action, federal rights and federal courts to discuss what options the American people have to “rein in judicial tyranny.” The Hill has more.

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Committee Set to OK $181.5M for Nashville Courthouse

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to approve $181.5 million for a new federal courthouse in Nashville when it meets Thursday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said. Nashville has been pursuing a new courthouse for more than 20 years, and last year then-TBA President Jonathan Steen reiterated the TBA's long support for the project, writing the White House concerning the “significant operational, space and security deficiencies” in the Estes Kefauver Federal Building. The funding must still win House approval, which might have to come through a conference committee agreement, since the House currently does not have money budgeted for the project. The Tennessean has the story.

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Senate Approves 1st Latina Judge for D.C. Appeals Court

After a lengthy nomination process, the U.S. Senate has voted to approve Kara Farnandez Stoll as the first Latina judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, according to the Latin Post. Stoll was nominated by President Obama in November 2014 but was not approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee until this past April. The vote of the full Senate last week was unanimous, though five members did not participate.

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Judge Says He Will Stop Blogging, Ted Cruz Post Isn't the Reason

A federal judge says he is pulling the plug on his blog, but the reason isn’t due to the controversy over his blog post last week declaring Ted Cruz to be unfit for the presidency. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf said his decision to end his Hercules and the Umpire blog was made after learning that employees of his federal court felt the blog had become an embarrassment. The ABA Journal has the story.

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Investiture for New Magistrate Judge Set for July 31

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee will install Clifton L. Corker as a new magistrate judge on July 31 at 2 p.m. in courtroom 420 of the U.S. Courthouse in Greeneville. A reception will follow in the atrium outside the courtroom. RSVP online or by phone at (423) 783-2534 by July 20. View the invitation.

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Reminder: Reception July 31 for Judge Griffin

The U.S. District Court, in coordination with the Federal Courts Committee of the Nashville Bar Association, will honor retiring Magistrate Judge Juliet Griffin at a reception July 31 from 3 to 5 p.m. Please plan to drop by and wish Judge Griffin well on her retirement from the bench. The reception will take place in the courtroom of Judge Aleta Trauger, Room 873, Estes Kefauver Federal Building and Courthouse, 801 Broadway in Nashville. Wine and light refreshments will be available.

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Judge Extends Order, Allows Abortion Clinics to Stay Open

Two abortion clinics will remain open for at least another month after U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp yesterday stopped enforcement of a Tennessee law requiring them to meet new standards. Sharp extended a temporary restraining order and directed the clinics and state licensing board to work out a resolution outside of court. The law, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in May, requires all clinics providing surgical abortions to become licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers. The Tennessean has the story.

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Senate Panel Confirms Crenshaw, McDonough

The nominations of Waverly Crenshaw as U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee and Travis McDonough as U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed, McDonough, who now serves as the chief of staff to Mayor Andy Berke, will take the place of Judge Curtis Collier who is moving to senior status, the Chattanoogan reports. Crenshaw would replace U.S. District Judge William Joseph Haynes Jr., who took senior status in December.

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Former AG Returning to Previous Firm

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is returning to private law practice, rejoining the firm of Covington & Burling where he once worked. Holder left the Justice Department in April after more than six years as attorney general. He rejoins the firm as a partner based in the Washington, D.C., office where he will focus on complex investigations and litigation, an Associated Press story in US News & World Report says.

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New Study Finds Court Leaning Left

The U.S. Supreme Court may finish this term with a greater percentage of liberal decisions than any since 1969, according to an article in The New York Times. Using data from The Supreme Court Database, which codes decisions on “widely-accepted” standards, the authors found that the court issued liberal decisions in 56 percent of the cases this term. “If that trend holds, the final percentage could rival the highest since the era of the notably liberal court of the 1950s and 1960s led by Chief Justice Earl Warren,” the authors write.

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Justices’ Finances Not Public Yet

Supreme Court justices' annual reports on investments, paid travel and other financial matters remain shielded from public view more than five weeks after they were filed, the Associated Press reports. The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, the central repository for federal judges' disclosure forms, said Wednesday that the reports should be released before July 4. For the first time since John Roberts became chief justice in 2005, the justices probably will leave town for their summer break before the reports are released. ABC News has more.

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Scalia Mangles Ginsburg’s Name

A brief burst of humor today broke the starchy formality of the Supreme Court as Justice Antonin Scalia mangled the name of his friend and colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Scalia called Ginsburg "Goldberg" while announcing from the bench that she was dissenting from a court ruling on immigration, sparking a ripple of laughter from lawyers and members of the public in the courtroom. WCYB has more from CNN.

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Nashville Attorney Gets Bipartisan Support for Judgeship

Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing today, and his appointment to the federal bench seems likely to receive strong bipartisan support, the Tennessean reports. Crenshaw, a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis, was nominated in February by President Barack Obama to become a U.S. district judge in Tennessee's Middle District. If confirmed by the full Senate for the lifetime post, Crenshaw would replace U.S. District Judge William Joseph Haynes Jr., who took senior status in December.

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Reception to Honor Magistrate Griffin

The U.S. District Court, in coordination with the Federal Courts Committee of the Nashville Bar Association, will honor retiring Magistrate Judge Juliet Griffin at a reception July 31 from 3 to 5 p.m. Please plan to drop by and wish Judge Griffin well on her retirement from the bench. The reception will take place in the courtroom of Judge Aleta Trauger, Room 873, Estes Kefauver Federal Building and Courthouse, 801 Broadway in Nashville. Wine and light refreshments will be available.

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Federal Judges Share Insights at July CLE

Hear from a panel of U.S. District Court judges at this year’s annual Federal Practice Seminar, set for July 10 in Nashville. In addition to the judicial panel, the program will cover the fundamentals of jury selection, opening and closing statements and direct and cross-examination. Learn more or register online.

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Sotomayor: Court 'Sorely Missing' Professional Diversity

Diversity of professional experience is an element the U.S. Supreme Court is “sorely missing,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently told attendees at the ABA Section of International Law's spring meeting. Sotomayor suggested that when justices do not have experience with small or medium-sized firms or with a variety of practice areas it can “hurt the perception of the court.” Read more at Gavel Grab.

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Initiative Asks Justices to Adopt Voluntary Term Limits

A new effort to limit the tenure of future U.S. Supreme Court justices launched Wednesday, with the aim of urging any would-be nominee to pledge to serve a single 18-year term. The initiative, called Come to Terms, asserts that term limits are needed to increase accountability and reduce the politicization of the court. It is being pushed by Fix the Court, a group formed last year to “promote transparency and accountability on the high court.” The Blog of Legal Times has more on the effort.

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Memphis U.S. Attorney Nominated to Federal Bench

President Barack Obama has nominated U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III to be a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The nomination of Stanton, who has been the chief federal prosecutor for West Tennessee for five years, was announced yesterday by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, who recommended Stanton to the White House after convening a screening committee of local attorneys. Memphis Daily News has more.

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Community Forum Explores Social Security Issues

The year’s first Community Legal Forum – a joint initiative of the Bradley County Bar Association, the Bradley Governmental Law Library Commission and the Cleveland/Bradley Public Library – will take place June 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the library. Cleveland attorney Jack Tapper will lead the session, which is free and open to the public. The program will look at the basics of processing Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income claims as well as ways to increase Social Security benefits for married, divorced and widowed spouses, the Cleveland Banner reports.

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Water Wars Return to the High Court

Water wars return to the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit Mississippi hopes to bring against Tennessee, SCOTUSblog reports. The dispute centers on water pumped by the city of Memphis from an aquifer that spans the states’ borders. Mississippi is seeking rights to the water and $615 million in damages. The U.S. solicitor general weighed in last week with a recommendation that the court deny Mississippi’s motion to file the suit, arguing that until the water is apportioned, there can be no claim of inequitable apportionment.

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Holmes Named New Federal Magistrate

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Barbara D. Holmes has been selected to replace Magistrate Judge Juliet Griffin, who will be retiring July 31. Holmes is currently head of h3gm’s Commercial Bankruptcy and Reorganization Practice Group. She has more than 25 years of experience with restructuring and insolvency matters and commercial litigation in state and federal courts.

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Senate Has Confirmed Just 2 Judges in 2015

The Senate has confirmed just two of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the federal courts in 2015, a remarkably slow pace even by the standards of Congress, the New York Times law blog reports. The minuscule number of confirmations this year follows a burst of Senate approvals in the back half of 2014, a moment when Democrats still controlled the Senate and were no longer hindered by the Republican power to filibuster after deploying the so-called “nuclear option.”

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