News

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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Apply Now For U.S. Supreme Court Admission Program

The annual TBA Academy offers an exciting opportunity for Tennessee attorneys to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The 2015 TBA Academy will take place Dec. 1-3 in Washington, D.C., at The Hay Adams Hotel. Participating attorneys will be sworn in before the court in a private ceremony on Dec. 2. Registration forms and required materials must be submitted by Oct. 26. Learn more online or contact TBA Meetings Coordinator Therese Byrne, (615) 277-3208 with any questions.

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Senators Back Stanton at Confirmation Hearing

Tennessee’s two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, introduced Memphis lawyer Edward Stanton III to the Senate Judiciary Committee today and expressed support for his confirmation, the Commercial Appeal reports. President Obama nominated Stanton in May to serve as U.S. district judge for the Western District of Tennessee. He is currently serving as the U.S. attorney for the Western district. At the hour-long hearing, Stanton promised to be fair and impartial from the bench, endorsed alternatives to incarceration and argued that mandatory minimum sentences can be effective in certain cases. 

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U.S. Supreme Court Meets to Consider New Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court met behind closed doors today to consider which cases to add to the calendar before the new term begins Oct. 5, Reuters reports. The Court has already chosen several high-profile cases for the new term, including challenges to racial preferences in higher education admissions and an appeal by Iran's central bank seeking to prevent nearly $2 billion from being transferred to victims of the 1983 bombings of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut.

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Increasing Workload for Judges Impacting Case Time

The Associated Press reports that federal district courts have seen a rise in recent years in the time it takes to get civil cases to trial and resolve felony criminal cases as judges' workloads have increased. The results include longer wait times in prison for defendants awaiting trial and higher costs for civil lawsuits. 

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Holmes' Investiture Planned for Oct. 6

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee will host the investiture of Barbara D. Holmes as U.S. Magistrate Judge on Oct. 6., 3:30 p.m., in the Estes Kefauver Federal Building and Courthouse, Room 874, located at 801 Broadway in Nashville. A reception will follow the ceremony.

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Outcome of Misconduct Complaints Must Now be Posted Online

U.S. courts are required to publish the outcome of misconduct complaints against judges on their websites under amended rules adopted by the Judicial Conference, The Wall Street Journal reports. “As a practical matter, having them only as paper copies in a clerk’s office meant that they were invisible,” said Arthur D. Hellman, a law professor at University of Pittsburgh. “This is certainly a step forward.” The Judicial Conference also relaxed the standard for disclosing a misconduct investigation.

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Breyer Wants People to Understand How High Court Functions

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer hopes his new book, “The Court and World," will help people who are not lawyers understand the court system, the Associated Press reports. "The best way to preserve our basic American values in respect to democracy, human rights, commerce, and the rule of law itself, is to learn about, participate in and understand what is going on in the world," he said. The 77-year-old said educating the public may be easier if cameras were allowed in the courtroom, but during a recent appearance on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert, The Hill reports Breyer defended the camera ban saying oral arguments only make up for five percent of the court's proceedings.

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Report Says Judges Have 'Too Much Control' in Public Defense System

Judges have too much control over the federal public defense system, according to a new study by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). The group recommends an overhaul of the government’s system for defending the poor. "There's some significant ways we feel the federal system is not measuring up — most importantly, in the area of independence," Bonnie Hoffman, a Virginia lawyer who led the study, said in a NPR report. The study said judges play a role in selecting defense lawyers for the poor and also have the ability to approve or reject the defense lawyers' fee requests. 

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Tenn. Judicial Nominees Wait as Senate Goes on Vacation

Two Tennessee judicial nominees are among the nine awaiting Senate confirmation as lawmakers begin their four-and-a-half week break. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Waverly Crenshaw’s nomination to the Middle District and Travis McDonough’s nomination to Eastern District judgeships. According to the Washington Post, the Senate has confirmed just five judges so far this year. Edward Stanton of Memphis has also been nominated for a federal judgeship in Tennessee, but is still awaiting review by the Judiciary Committee.

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Supreme Court Admissions Ceremony Set for December

Tennessee attorneys interested in being admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court can sign up now for the annual TBA Academy this December. Now in its 32 year, the Academy offers an exciting opportunity to take part in a private swearing in ceremony before the court, along with a reception, Supreme Court tour and celebration dinner. A special block of hotel rooms has been reserved at The Hay Adams Hotel for the Dec. 1-2 event.

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