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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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White House Considers Asking Judicial Nominees to Refuse ABA Interviews

The Trump administration is considering asking judicial nominees to refuse interviews with the American Bar Association and refuse to sign waivers allowing the ABA to access their disciplinary records, the ABA Journal reports. The measure is being considered after the ABA gave a “not qualified” rating to federal nominee Leonard Steven Grasz, who was found by an ABA committee to appear to be affected by a “passionately held social agenda.” The rating was based on interviews with 207 lawyers, judges and others.

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Recent Vandy Law Grad to Clerk for SCOTUS Justice Sotomayor

2016 Vanderbilt Law graduate Samiyyah Ali has been chosen to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Nashville Post reports. Ali will begin working for Sotomayor in October. She is currently the clerk to Judge Sri Srinivasan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington. Ali, a Georgia native, was executive editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review and vice president of the Black Law Students Association while at Vanderbilt.
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Overbey Resigns Senate Seat, Sworn In as U.S. Attorney

Former state Sen. Doug Overbey resigned his seat yesterday, and hours later was officially sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, The Daily Times reports. Overbey was confirmed on Nov. 9 and prior to yesterday was waiting for President Donald Trump to sign off on his commission. The ceremony took place at the Howard H. Baker Jr. United States Courthouse in Knoxville. Overbey said he anticipates a more formal ceremony at a later date.
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DOJ Sues to Block AT&T Acquisition of Time Warner

The U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit yesterday to seek to block the $85 million acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T, the ABA Journal reports. The suit notes AT&T’s ownership of DirecTV, the largest distributor of subscription television, and Time Warner’s ownership of several top cable networks, including TBS, CNN and HBO. AT&T and DirecTV could force rival cable providers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner’s networks, the suit argues.
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New Design Released for Nashville Courthouse; Work to Start in Early '18

The U.S. government has released new designs for the Nashville courthouse to be built and named after late U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The government plans to award the development contract for the project early next year. Three companies have made the shortlist for the project: Clark Construction Group out of Washington, D.C., W.G. Yates and Sons Construction from Philadelphia and Hensel Phelps of Colorado. The project is expected to cost $194.5 million and will be located at 719 Church Street.
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Hardin Takes Up Gavel of National U.S. States Attorneys Organization

Tennessee attorney Hal Hardin was recently sworn-in as president of the National Association of Former U.S. States Attorneys (NAFUSA) at the organization’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Immediate Past President Bart Daniel passed the gavel to Hardin in front of the most well-attended conference in the group’s history. The 2018 conference will be held in Hardin’s home city of Nashville on Oct. 24-26.
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ABA President Defends Judicial Nominee Ratings After GOP Senators Claim Bias

After Republican senators accused the American Bar Association of “liberal bias” in its ratings of federal judicial nominees, ABA President Hilarie Bass is defending the ratings, the ABA Journal reports. Bass said that the ABA is a nonpartisan organization and the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary “has thoroughly vetted thousands of nominees using a fair and nonpartisan process that no other organization can match.” The controversy stems from the ABA rating Nebraska lawyer Leonard Steven Grasz as “not qualified.” Committee chair Pamela Bresnahan argued that the committee had only rated four out of 53 judicial nominees as “not qualified” all year, and added that the ratings are not about personal beliefs but rather about what data is derived from peer reviews.
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Federal Judicial Nominee Who Has Never Tried a Case Wins Senate Panel Approval

A federal judicial nominee in Alabama has won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite the fact that he has never tried a case, has only practiced law for three years and was unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, The Los Angeles Times reports. Brett J. Talley, who was nominated by President Donald Trump for a lifetime appointment, was also criticized for his history as an online blogger with overtly partisan public opinions. Additionally, The New York Times reported today that Talley failed to disclose that he is married to a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office.
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Overbey Confirmed by Full Senate as U.S. Attorney

The full U.S. Senate confirmed State Sen. Doug Overbey as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee last night, Knoxnews reports. Overbey said he was grateful to Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker for recommending him to President Donald Trump, and was “excited about the opportunity to combine my avocation in public service with my vocation as a lawyer.” The appointment will be official once President Trump signs Overbey’s commission documents, which Overbey said he expects should happen by the end of the month.
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Court Rules Sevier Jailers Not Liable for Inmate's Death

A federal appeals court has ruled that Sevier County jailers shouldn’t be held liable for an inmate's death because they were following a nurse’s advice, Knoxnews reports. The family of Samuel M. McGaw IV filed a suit after he fell into a coma in a Sevier County Jail cell in 2014, 24 hours after he was booked into the facility high on alcohol and pills. The jailers knew McGaw was in danger, but trusted a nurse’s trained assessment that he go untreated. The ruling means the case now returns to U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Reeves’ court for a trial with Sevier County leaders as the sole defendants.
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