News

Nashville’s New Courthouse Tops Judiciary Wish List

Nashville is again atop the U.S. judiciary's priority list for a new federal courthouse, but whether or how soon construction begins depends on Congress setting aside $182 million for the project, the Tennessean reports. The quest for a new courthouse to replace the Estes Kefauver Federal Building on Broadway has been a two-decade quest for Nashville's federal courts. Already, $26 million has been spent on land acquisition and design. "The many security, space and operational deficiencies of the aging (building) make a new Nashville federal courthouse the number one priority on the Judiciary's Five-Year Plan," said Judge D. Brooks Smith, the chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Space and Facilities.

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Collier to Take Senior Status

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier, the senior federal judge in Chattanooga, is taking senior status, the Times Free Press reports. Collier, a native of Arkansas, is a former federal prosecutor. He has served on the bench for 19 years as the first and only black U.S. district judge in eastern Tennessee. According to the paper, those mentioned as replacements include federal Magistrate Susan Lee, attorneys Celeste Creswell, Lee Davis, Leah Gerbitz and Travis McDonough, chief of staff to Mayor Andy Berke.

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Federal Courts Librarian Dies

Federal courts librarian Joe Daugherty McClure died Friday (May 2) at the age of 64. A Clarksville native, McClure earned his law degree from the Nashville School of Law and was employed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals as the federal courts’ librarian in Middle Tennessee for 28 years. He also was a member of the Tennessee and Montgomery County bar associations and the Tennessee Library Association. Services were held today with internment at the Smith Cemetery in Big Rock. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Smith Cemetery Maintenance Fund, 270 Big Rock Rd., Big Rock, TN 37023. The Tennessean has more on McClure's life.

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City Wants to Use Grant for Federal Prosecutor

The city of Chattanooga is sitting on $300,000 from a federal grant intended to help crack down on crime, WRCB-TV reports. City officials said they plan on using the money to help fund a special federal prosecutor but need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to change the grant’s purpose. Originally, the city applied for and was granted the money to hire a special prosecutor in the district attorney's office. City officials say they will submit the required paperwork in the next few weeks and should hear back from the DOJ within 30 to 60 days.

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New Head Named for Civil Rights Unit

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton has named Brian K. Coleman, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, to lead the civil rights unit of his office. Coleman has been a federal prosecutor since 2008 and was a state prosecutor before that. Stanton created the unit in 2011 to handle traditional civil rights violations, as well as government corruption, human trafficking and hate crime cases. Larry Laurenzi, who previously led the unit, has been named first assistant in the office, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Lipman Confirmed for Federal Judgeship

Nine months after she was nominated, University of Memphis administrator Sheryl H. Lipman has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the newest federal judge for West Tennessee, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Senate today voted 95 to 0 to confirm Lipman, who President Obama nominated for the judgeship last August upon the recommendation of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. She replaces Jon McCalla, who announced last year that he was going on senior status.

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Accused Gang Member Fatally Shot During Trial

An accused street gang member standing trial in federal court in Salt Lake City who was shot by a U.S. marshal this morning has died of his wounds, according to an FBI spokesperson. The defendant was shot when he attacked a witness who was testifying against him, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The defendant, Siale Angilau, 25, who was not handcuffed, lunged at the witness on the first day of testimony in his trial. After the shooting, a group of marshals continued to hold Angilau at gunpoint near the jury box. The incident is being investigated by the FBI. The Chicago Tribute reported.

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Opinion: Public Suffers When Judgeships are Vacant

Americans who use the federal courts to resolve their cases are the ones hurt most by dozens of vacancies on the federal bench, Gavel Grab writes. Quoting heavily from an editorial that first appeared in the Bryan (Texas) Eagle, Gavel Grab points to 10 federal judgeships in Texas that have been vacant for an average of almost two years, and calls the situation “unacceptable.” The piece goes on to point out that there are 85 district court vacancies around the country, but only 48 nominees have been named to fill those posts. The editorial blames both the Obama Administration -- for not nominating more individuals -- and key senators -- for delaying votes on those who have been nominated.

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Court Passes on Range of Controversial Appeals

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to enter the controversy over businesses refusing to serve gay and lesbian customers, Scotusblog reports, turning aside an appeal from the owners of a photography studio who had refused to work with a lesbian couple. The decision leaves intact an appellate court ruling that the studio violated state law prohibiting discrimination. In other significant denials, the court refused to hear a case upholding a ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates, declined to hear a case expediting a challenge to the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s telephone data gathering, refused to hear a case on testing federal court power to overturn an arbitration award, and denied a case assessing whether death-row inmates have a right to know the method of their execution in advance. The justices did grant one appeal to be reviewed in the next term. That case tests what information a party in a state court case must provide to have the case transferred to federal court.

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Retired 6th Circuit Judge Won’t Face Ethics Charges

Former 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Boyce Martin Jr. will not be charged with wrongdoing following a U.S. Justice Department probe of his travel expenses, a spokesperson for the retired judge told Cincinnati-area reporters. The U.S. Judicial Conference dropped its ethics probe of Martin when he announced his retirement last summer, but referred the allegations to the Justice Department. Martin, who had blamed administrative errors for any mistakes that were made, agreed to repay $138,500 in travel expenses for the four-year period in question. The ABA Journal has the story.

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Vanderbilt Launches Program to Train Federal Judges

Vanderbilt Law School and the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) are teaming up to provide mid-career training for federal judges. The first seminar will be offered this fall. Law school dean Chris Guthrie says the unique collaboration solidifies the school’s position as a center for the study of judges and judging. The first seminar will be led by FJC Director and U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel and Vanderbilt professor Terry Maroney, who said the program aims “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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Justices Decline to Re-enter Immigration Debate

A former Pennsylvania coal town and a Dallas suburb lost a lengthy battle to enact anti-immigrant laws Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeals, the Associated Press reports. The high court has held since 2012 that immigration issues are largely a matter for federal agencies, not local governments, to regulate. The ruling Monday involved efforts by the city of Hazleton, in northeastern Pennsylvania, and Farmers Branch, Texas, to enforce housing and employment rules aimed at people in the country illegally, a strategy copied by dozens of other cities that faulted federal efforts to control immigration. WRCB-TV has the story.

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TBA Files Comments on Federal Rules Amendments

The TBA today filed comments on two proposed amendments to federal rules. The first, which contained comments on proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, addresses issues such as time limit for service, discovery scope and limits, protective orders, depositions, interrogatories, requests for admission and preservation of discoverable information. The second, which contained comments on proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy, addresses issues such as notice, plan payments, length of plans, tax refunds, secured claims, trustee’s fees, non-priority unsecured claims, executory contracts, unexpired leases, vesting of property, nonstandard plan provisions and required signatures.

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Court Seeks Pro Se/Death Penalty Law Clerk

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee is seeking a combined pro se/death penalty law clerk in Nashville. The closing date for applications is Feb. 26. The clerk will provide legal assistance to the court in connection with pro se/prisoner civil rights complaints, state habeas corpus petitions (including death penalty cases) and motions to vacate sentences in federal habeas corpus petitions. The clerk will perform substantive review of case records and filings, conduct legal research, draft proposed opinions and orders for each of the district judges, and provide information to chambers staff, court staff and pro se filers. Download the job description.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Chattanooga Federal Bar to Hold Annual Meeting

The Chattanooga chapter of the Federal Bar Association will hold its annual meeting next Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m at the Convention Center. Attorney Gary L. Henry of Gearhiser, Peters, Elliot & Cannon will be installed as president. The chapter also will welcome former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as guest speaker. The Chattanoogan has more.

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Federalist Society Looks at Criminalization of Federal Law

The Memphis Lawyers’ and University of Memphis Law Student Chapter of the Federalist Society will host a discussion Feb. 6 on the topic “Over Criminalization of Federal Law.” Participants include Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee; associate professor Steven J. Mulroy, University of Memphis School of Law; and Paul J. Larkin Jr., senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation. University of Memphis School of Law Dean Peter V. Letsou will moderate the panel. The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free and open to the public. To register, contact Greg Grisham, (901) 462-2616. Download the invitation.

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6th Circuit Offers Appellate Advocacy Training

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit now features a series of video clips providing training on appellate advocacy on its website. In one of the videos, Judge Jeffrey Sutton provides an in-depth discussion on effective appellate advocacy before the court, but many of his comments have equal application to practice in Tennessee appellate courts, according to the TBA’s Appellate Practice Section. Other video resources on the site provide tips for electronic filing, avoiding common billing mistakes and handling Criminal Justice Act cases. Read more in this blog posting from the appellate group at Squire Sanders.

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Federal Court Websites Hacked or Not?

Federal court websites and the document service Pacer shut down for about four hours on Friday but the cause remains unclear, the ABA Journal reports. While a group called European Cyber Army claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet, government agencies gave differing reasons for the shutdown: the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said the problem was due to a denial of service attack; a court clerk’s email said the problem appeared to be a “national cyber attack on the judiciary”; and the FBI said the problem appeared to be caused by technical issues. On Saturday, however, the FBI said it was reassessing that analysis.

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Case of 6th Circuit Judge Referred to DOJ

This past summer, federal Judge Boyce Martin Jr. of Kentucky announced he would retire from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and repay nearly $140,000 in travel expenses to avoid an ethics investigation. But documents just released reveal that his case will be referred to the U.S. Justice Department by the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the U.S. Judicial Conference, the ABA Journal reports. In making the referral, the committee also refused a request that Martin’s name not be disclosed. Commenting on the case, University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman said the referral to the Justice Department was “quite unusual” and "stunning." Others, including Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, praised Martin's legacy. A senior member of the court, Daughtrey said Martin had a “stellar legacy” and that “his character and integrity are beyond question.”

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Lipman Nomination Heads to Full Senate

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of Memphis attorney Sheri Lipman to be the new U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee. Her nomination now goes to the full U.S. Senate for approval. The Memphis Daily News has more. 

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Senate Confirms Wilkins to D.C. Circuit

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, marking the final step in an aggressive push from the White House and Senate Democrats to leave a mark on a key federal appeals court, the Blog of Legal Times reports. With Monday’s confirmation vote, Wilkins became the fourth Obama pick since May to take a seat on the D.C. Circuit. The appointment of Wilkins creates a vacancy on the federal trial bench in Washington.

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Senate Moves Wilkins Nomination to Final Vote

The Senate on Thursday advanced a key judicial nominee of President Barack Obama, voting to move forward with the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A final vote is expected on Monday. Once confirmed, Wilkins will be the third of Obama's nominees to the court to move forward in the past month. In December, the Senate used revised rules to bypass a filibuster and confirm Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard to the court. The Blog of Legal Times reports.

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Services Thursday for Former Federal Prosecutor

Former district attorney and federal prosecutor Carl K. Kirkpatrick died Nov. 26. He was 77. A 1962 graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, Kirkpatrick attended the FBI’s National Law Institute at Quantico, Va., and was a graduate of the Executive Prosecutor Course at the Bates School of Law at the University of Houston. Kirkpatrick was the district attorney general in Tennessee’s Second Judicial District for 28 years and served as president of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. In 1993, Kirkpatrick was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He served in that capacity until 2000. A Celebration of Life will be held Dec. 12 at 11:30 a.m. at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church, 12915 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37934. The family will receive friends immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the church or to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675. Knoxnews has more on Kirkpatrick’s life.

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Alexander Blocks Approval of Judicial Nominations

Knoxville lawyer Pamela Reeves’ nomination to become a federal judge for East Tennessee stalled Monday night after U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander blocked a vote on dozens of appointments, Knoxnews reports. Alexander’s objection did not appear to be directed at Reeves or any particular nominee, but instead at Democrats’ decision to change Senate rules to prevent Republicans from filibustering certain court appointments. Reid had attempted to move the nominations as a group. Now he has begun scheduling votes on individual nominees. Today, that strategy worked with the Senate approving the nomination of Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Blog of Legal Times has that story.

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