News

Lawyers to Obama: Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

Nearly 250 corporate lawyers sent a letter today to President Barack Obama and U.S. Senators urging the president to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. “…Nearly one third of all presidents have nominated a justice in an election year who was eventually confirmed,” the letter said. Read more from the ABA Journal.

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Appeals Court: Overturning Convictions in Sex-Trafficking Case Correct

In an opinion released today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge William Haynes acted correctly in 2012 when overturning the convictions of three men accused of being in a Somali gang and running a prostitution ring. The appeals court also said the case was based on a false story and "a person who had been diagnosed as insane," according to The Tennessean. The ruling could impact around 20 other cases.

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Funding for Nashville Courthouse Clears Final Hurdle

The new Nashville federal courthouse, a $182 million project, cleared its final hurdle today after passing through the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The announcement comes from the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, who said the city has needed a new courthouse for more than 20 years for safety reasons. WKRN reports it is unclear when work will begin on the project. 

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Republican Nevada Governor Emerges as Possible Next Justice

The Washington Post reports President Barack Obama is considering Brian Sandoval, the centrist Republican governor of Nevada, as his pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the nation’s High Court. The review process is in its initial phases and White House press secretary Josh Earnest has not commented on the consideration of Sandoval, a former federal judge.

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The Unlikely Friendship of Ginsburg and Scalia

“We were best buddies,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a tribute to her longtime friend, Justice Antonin Scalia. The two shared more than opposite political leanings; they shared international trips, family holidays and a mutual respect for one another, Vox explains. “…When I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation,” she wrote.

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No Home for Justice Scalia's Papers

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia did not specify a home for his official papers before his death, according to the National Law Journal (sub. req.). Preservation of such documents is not governed by any law, and Scalia’s family and Library of Congress have not commented on the fate of the files. Scalia’s papers could include writings on landmark cases from Bush v. Gore in 2000 to decisions that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

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Killian Joins Polsinelli’s Chattanooga Office

William C. Killian, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, joined Polsinelli’s Chattanooga office as a shareholder. He will work within the national Government Investigations and Compliance-Civil and Criminal Practice. “Joining the firm allows me to have a platform to focus on critical health care and fraud issues, and I look forward to working with Polsinelli’s highly recognized team of attorneys,” Killian said. Read more from The Chattanoogan

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McDonough Confirmed by Senate as U.S. District Judge

Travis Randall McDonough was confirmed 89-0 today by the U.S. Senate as U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee. McDonough was nominated to fill the vacancy created by Judge Curtis Collier, who took senior status on Oct. 31, 2014. He previously served as counselor and chief of staff for Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. Two other Tennessee District Court nominees – Edward Stanton III and Waverly Crenshaw Jr. – have won Judiciary Committee approval for the West and Middle Districts, respectively, but are still awaiting a Senate vote.

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Eastern District of Tennessee Collects $42.7M in 2015

The Eastern District of Tennessee collected about $42 million in criminal and civil actions in 2015, according to an announcement today by U.S. Attorney William C. Killian. The Johnson City Press reports the biggest chunk of that -- $38.4 million -- came as part of the massive civil settlement by Pilot Flying J for the company’s role in a complex rebate fraud scheme.

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9 Sworn In at TBA Supreme Court Admission Ceremony

Nine Tennessee attorneys were admitted to practice today before the U.S. Supreme Court at the 32nd Annual TBA Academy and Admission Ceremony in Washington, D.C. TBA President Bill Harbison led the activities leading up to admission of: Rebecca Wells Demaree of Cornelius & Collins in Nashville; Calvin Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley; incoming TBA president Jason H. Long of Lowe, Yeager and Brown in Knoxville; Shane Kelvin McNeill of Tellus Law in Thompson’s Station; C. Creed McGinley of Savannah; Charles McIver Molder of Mounger and Molder in Columbia; J. Britt Phillips of Sutter O’Connell in Franklin; Steven Wilson of The Steve Wilson Firm in Memphis; and Rachel Lea Zamata of Nashville. See more photos.

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Proposed Nashville Courthouse in Jeopardy

Tennessee’s congressional delegation is pleading with House leaders to fund the proposed $182 million Nashville courthouse, even as gridlock over budget negotiations threatens to delay the project for at least another year. “Conditions have been deteriorating in federal courthouses for decades. Nowhere is this more apparent than Nashville, where we've reached a critical situation," the members argue in a letter to leaders, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Although the courthouse proposal has cleared major funding hurdles this year, if a budget agreement is not reached by Dec. 11, the project will be in jeopardy.

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Study says Roberts Favors Justices When Assigning Major Decisions

A new study says U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. plays favorites when assigning the court’s most important decisions. “Not surprisingly, Roberts calls his own number more than anyone else’s and assigns the second-highest number to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the pivotal justice on the ideologically divided court,” The Washington Post writes about the new study published in the Harvard Law Review. The article also says Roberts pays "little regard to seniority" in assigning major decisions. 

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Chattanooga Attorney Named to Federal Bar Foundation

Chattanooga attorney Tonya Kennedy Cammon, with the firm of Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison PC, was named a fellow of the Federal Bar Foundation, the Chattanoogan reports. There are currently 216 fellows of the Foundation across the country. Cammon’s practice focuses primarily on employment matters, health care and litigation.

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ACS Nashville Chapter Presents Supreme Court Preview

The American Constitution Society's Nashville chapter today hosted its annual U.S. Supreme Court preview at Waller. More than 100 lawyers attended the presentation by Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, previewing cases to be heard in the 2015-16 Supreme Court term. The Court’s November sitting will begin on Nov. 2 and will include cases involving legislative districts and the principle of “one-person, one-vote” in Evenwel v. Abbott and the constitutionality of public-sector “agency shop” agreements in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Others involve mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders, abortion access and ACA-related coverage issues for contraceptives.

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Deadline Near for TBA Academy and Admission Ceremony

You can still take part in the TBA Academy and U.S. Supreme Court Admission Ceremony, but the deadline is almost here. Sign up by Monday so you don’t miss this opportunity to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The Academy will take place Dec. 1-3 in Washington, D.C.

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Event to Honor Justice Terry Sanford is Next Week

The U.S. District Court Historical Society and the East Tennessee Historical Society will host a symposium to honor former Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Eastern District Judge of Tennessee Edward Terry Sanford on Oct. 29 at 4 p.m. The speaker will be Dr. John M. Scheb II, a professor in the University of Tennessee Department of Political Science. The event will be at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street in Knoxville. See the invitation for more details.

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Lawmaker Calls for Supreme Court Code of Conduct

In an op-ed for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, calls for placing U.S. Supreme Court justices under a code of ethical conduct. Slaughter argues that “many Americans would be surprised to learn that the nine justices on the Supreme Court are the only federal judges in the nation not bound by a code of ethical conduct.” Slaughter has introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act to apply to the justices the same code of conduct that applies to other federal judges. 

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Justice Department Creates New Post to Fight Domestic Terrorism

The U.S. Justice Department has created a new position to coordinate domestic terrorism cases and identify ways to battle homegrown terrorists, the ABA Journal reports. John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, announced yesterday that the position has been filled. The new person, who is a lawyer, will serve as a main point of contact for U.S. attorneys working on domestic terrorism matters, identify trends to help shape strategy and analyze legal gaps and enhancements to increase effectiveness.

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Court Holds Oral Arguments in 2 Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders from its Oct. 9 conference yesterday, but did not add any new cases to its docket for this term. The court also heard oral arguments yesterday in the cases of Montgomery v. Louisiana and Hurst v. Florida. In the first case, the court is considering whether states should be forced to retroactively apply a ban on mandatory sentences to juveniles convicted decades ago. The Tennessean reports that the justices appeared skeptical of their standing to decide the matter as well as the merits of the case. SCOTUSblog has more details.

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Retirement Party for Law Clerk Carol Sullivan

A retirement celebration for Carol Sullivan, law clerk for Greenevile’s District Court Judge J. Ronnie Greer, is planned for Oct. 28, 2 – 4 p.m. at the James H. Quillen Courthouse. 

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Federal Judges Attend Seminar at Vanderbilt Law School

Thirty federal judges attended the 2015 Mid-Career Seminar for U.S. District Judges at Vanderbilt Law School last week. "This is a perfect time for them to reengage with their aspirations in becoming judges," Terry Maroney, Vanderbilt professor of law, said.  "We aim to create space for them to reflect and recharge in a deep way, something their daily work pressures can make difficult.”

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Congress Attempts to Lift Supreme Court Video Ban

New bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress Thursday is attempting once again to allow broadcast and video coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal appeals courts, Legal Times reports. "How is it possible that we can keep up with the Kardashians, but we cannot keep up with the Supreme Court?" Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, said. The “Eyes on the Courts Act 2015” would allow the chief justice of the United States and chief judges of the appeals courts to close particular proceedings to cameras if broadcast would "violate the due process rights of a party to the proceeding or is otherwise not in the interests of justice."

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Holmes Takes Oath in Nashville Ceremonies

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharpe today administered the oath of office to Barbara D. Holmes during ceremonies at the Estes Kefauver Federal Building and Courthouse. Holmes is the new Middle District U.S. Magistrate Judge, replacing Juliet Griffin, who retired July 31.

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6,000 Federal Prisoners Set for Early Release

The Justice Department will hold the largest one-time release of federal prisoners – about 6,000 inmates – between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 in an effort to reduce overcrowding and free drug offenders who now qualify for early release, The Washington Post reports. The announcement follows a U.S. Sentencing Commission ruling that reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and made the change retroactive. The commission estimates the change could eventually result in 46,000 of the country’s drug offenders qualifying for early release.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Highlight Changes in Released Opinions

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that its website will identify and highlight changes in the text of the opinions after they are released to the public, the Associated Press reports. Both the old and new material will be shown when readers place their cursor over highlighted sections.

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