News

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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Yates Confirmed as U.S. Deputy Attorney General

Sally Quillian Yates, most recently the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, was confirmed yesterday as deputy attorney general. The Senate vote was 84-12. Yates spent 25 years as the lead prosecutor in the Northern District of Georgia. She will join the U.S. Department of Justice as Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s second-in-command. The Atlanta Business Journal has the story.

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Justices Still Oppose Video in High Court

Americans overwhelmingly support filming arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices themselves do not. NewsWorks describes the justices’ arguments: Anthony Kennedy says it sets the Court apart, Antonin Scalia worries about misleading soundbites, and Chief Justice John Roberts is concerned that lawyers will grandstand. Even Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor are opposed to the idea now, although both supported at least considering cameras before their appointment to the high court. Gavel Grab has more.

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Court Enters Interstate Marijuana Dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked for the views of the Obama administration on a dispute between three states over Colorado’s 2012 legalization of marijuana. The action is a sign that the high court may be interested in the dispute, the Blog of Legal Times reports. The suit, brought by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma, does not challenge the legalization of marijuana but questions the manufacture and sale of the drug across state lines.

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New Magistrate Judge Takes Office in East Tennessee

Johnson City attorney Clifton L. Corker was sworn in as U.S. magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee in a private ceremony Thursday in Greenville. A graduate of the College of William & Mary's Marshall-Wythe School of Law, Corker will serve an eight-year term before becoming eligible for reappointment, the Johnson City Press reports.

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Conflict of Interest Keeps Solicitor Off Gay Marriage Case

When it is Tennessee’s turn to present its same-sex marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Associate Solicitor General Joseph Whalen will take the floor, though it normally would be Solicitor General Andree Blumstein. According to a spokesperson, Blumstein has not had any involvement with the case because before she joined the office she was a partner at Sherrard & Roe. Another partner there, Bill Harbison, argued on behalf of gay couples before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Blumstein would have had to argue against the couples and against her former colleague, which would have created a conflict of interest, the Tennessean reports.

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U.S. Senate Approves Lynch Nomination

The five-month battle to choose President Barack Obama’s next attorney general came to a close today when the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Loretta Lynch, CNN reports. Ten Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined Democrats in the 56-43 vote to make Lynch, 55, the first African-American female attorney general in U.S. history. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, was the only senator not to vote. Lynch, a two-time U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will replace Eric Holder.

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Judge OKs Commission’s Opening Prayers

U.S. District Judge Harry Mattice has rejected a constitutional challenge to the prayers that open Hamilton County Commission meetings, though he will allow a local man to sue over his expulsion from a commission meeting. Thomas Joseph Coleman says he was forced to leave a commission meeting in July 2012 after complaining he was not allowed to deliver the opening prayer, WDEF reports.

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Supreme Court: Suspension Too Lenient for Sex-Addicted Lawyer

The Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected as too lenient a 30-day suspension of the law license of Knoxville attorney Robert Vogal, who admitted to a sexual relationship with an indigent addict — an ethical lapse that Vogel blamed on sex addiction, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. In a rare move, the court is stepping in to hold its own hearing on what Vogel’s fate should be. Records from the U.S. District Court in Knoxville and the state Board of Professional Responsibility reveal Vogal continued to practice law in Knoxville and several East Tennessee counties while the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General carried out a secret probe of his actions. The result in both probes kept Vogal’s law license intact, albeit temporarily suspended, and netted him no ban on practicing in U.S. District Court, although he can no longer serve as a court-appointed attorney for the poor.

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Federal Court Speeds up 'Pro Se' Cases

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis sees one of the highest numbers of pro se filings – nearly 41 percent of all cases – and is one of the slowest in the country to close cases. To address these delays, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Diane K. Vescovo has implemented recommendations from a federal team that reviewed the matter, adding a fourth full-time employee and a new part-time person to screen filings for merit among other changes. Read more in the Commercial Appeal.

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Lynch Vote Delayed in Senate Impasse

A vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch has again been delayed as U.S. senators battle over an abortion-related provision in an anti-human trafficking bill, Fox News reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats must help pass the bill before he will schedule a vote on Lynch.

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AG to Call for Lower Proof Standard in Civil Rights Cases

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says that he will soon call on Congress to lower the standard of proof in federal civil rights cases, to allow federal prosecution where local authorities are unable or unwilling to get a conviction. The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it found insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager in Florida. In a written statement, government lawyers said their decision in the case was "limited strictly to the department's inability to meet the high legal standard" in the civil rights statutes. WRCB has more from NBC News.

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