News

Second Travel Ban Blocked; Trump Responds with Attack on Judiciary

President Donald Trump criticized the judiciary while on a visit to Nashville yesterday, saying that a federal judge in Hawaii struck down his second travel ban for “political reasons,” the Nashville Post reports. He made comments citing “unprecedented judicial overreach” and said that the Hawaii ruling “makes us look weak.” In addition to the order from Hawaii, a second federal judge in Maryland ruled overnight against a core provision of the ban, the New York Times reports.
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Former State GOP Officials Lobby for Congressional Term Limits

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairmen Chris Devaney and Bob Davis are lobbying state legislators to advocate for term limits for U.S. Congrees, Knoxnews reports. A resolution currently in the legislature would declare Tennessee’s support for a national constitutional convention to create an amendment to impose term limits. The proposed limits are three two-year terms for U.S. House representatives and two six-year terms for U.S. senators.
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Class Action Litigation Bill Passes Despite ABA Opposition

Despite the American Bar Association’s opposition, the U.S. House yesterday passed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, the ABA Journal reports. The bill requires federal courts to deny class-action certification unless every one of the proposed class members affirmatively demonstrated they have “suffered the same type and scope of injury” as the named plaintiffs. This morning the House also passed the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017, which amends Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require judges to sanction attorneys who file lawsuits deemed to have no merit. 
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Former U.S. Attorney Joins Butler Snow

Former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Edward L. Stanton III has joined the Butler Snow Memphis office, the Nashville Post reports. Stanton will practice with the firm’s white collar, compliance and government investigations team and its commercial litigation practice group. Stanton just stepped down from his federal law enforcement position earlier this year. He was nominated by former President Barack Obama to a federal judgeship in 2015, but was not confirmed before President Donald Trump was elected in November.
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SCOTUS: Jury Deliberations Not Guaranteed Secret if Bias Involved

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that courts must make an exception to jury deliberation secrecy if evidence shows that those discussions involved racial bias, the New York Times reports. The case stems from a 2010 sexual assault trial in which a juror reportedly said of the defendant, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican.” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that jury selection and reports from jurors alone are not always effective in determining racial bias. 
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SCOTUS: Jury Deliberations Not Guaranteed Secret if Bias Involved

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that courts must make an exception to jury deliberation secrecy if evidence shows that those discussions involved racial bias, the New York Times reports. The case stems from a 2010 sexual assault trial in which a juror reportedly said of the defendant, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican.” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that jury selection and reports from jurors alone are not always effective in determining racial bias. 
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Supreme Court Comes Down Against Race-Based Testimony

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a death-row inmate whose expert witness testified he is more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black, the ABA Journal reports. The inmate had been convicted in Texas in 1995 during a time in which a death sentence couldn’t be imposed unless jurors believed the convicted presented a future danger. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 6-2 majority opinion.
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Accused Knox County Rapist Free on Bond

A man who fled the country after child rape accusations in 1994 is now free on bond, Knoxnews reports. Jahangir John Shafighi, who was accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in 1992 while attending graduate school at the University of Tennessee, was captured last year in Atlanta and nailed with a passport fraud charge, but was released on bond. Knox County Assistant District Attorney Joanie Stewart has fought to keep Shafighi behind bars to guarantee he will show up at trial in the rape case.
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Tennessee Man Found Guilty of Plotting Attack on Muslim Community

Robert Doggart, the Sequatchie County man who was accused of plotting to attack a Muslim community in New York, was found guilty of all charges by Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court today, the Times Free Press reports. The former engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority faced federal charges including one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, one count to commit arson of a building and two counts of threats in interstate commerce. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 31.
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Right-wing Extremist Will Not Be Labeled ‘Terrorist’

Classifying the crimes of Robert Doggart, the Tennessee man charged with planning to attack a Muslim community in New York, is drawing controversy, the Times Free Press reports. Attorneys representing the Muslim community of Islamberg said that Doggart meets the qualifications of domestic terrorism, but federal prosecutors are using nonterrorism charges because the current statutes are largely aimed at foreign radical groups, and not homegrown extremists like South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof or Doggart.
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Company Claims No Federal Liability in Bus Crash Lawsuit

Durham School Services, the company contracted to provide busing services to Hamilton County Schools, said it should not be held liable in federal court for its role in the November bus crash that killed five students, the Times Free Press reports. The company responded to a federal class-action lawsuit filed against it in December, saying that the plaintiffs have “a proper and adequate remedy in a state court tort action.”
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Appeals Court Upholds Travel Ban Suspension

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the suspension of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order, CNBC reports. A panel of three judges in San Francisco decided the case, brought before the appellate court after U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban. The states of Washington and Minnesota initiated the suit. Read the full opinion here.
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Jeff Sessions Confirmed as U.S. Attorney General

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed last night as U.S. Attorney General, NBC News reports. The final vote was 52-47, straight across party lines with the exception of Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who voted in favor. This was the Sessions' second attempt at a Senate confirmation. His first attempt, in 1986, was for a federal judgeship, which failed after he was accused of racial insensitivity. 
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Gorsuch Calls Trump Attacks on Judiciary 'Demoralizing'

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch expressed consternation at President Trump’s negative remarks towards the judiciary, the New York Times reports. A White House advisor confirmed that Gorsuch had called Trump’s remarks “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” Via Twitter, Trump had earlier attacked a Seattle judge who temporarily blocked his travel ban, calling him a “so-called judge” whose ruling was “ridiculous.” Trump also  complained that judicial review of the ban was “disgraceful” and “so political.” 
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Chattanooga VW Employee Files Brief Against NLRB Decision

A Chattanooga Volkswagon employee is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit to overturn a National Labor Relations Board decision that allows the United Auto Workers to bargain on behalf of maintenance employees at the plant, Nooga.com reports. A spokesperson from the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal help to the employee, said the decision forced workers “into a monopoly union.”
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SCOTUS Pick Expected Tomorrow

Multiple sources are reporting that President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court will be announced live on television tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST, according to the ABA Journal. Three finalists confirmed to replace Judge Antonin Scalia are Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Philiadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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SCOTUS Pick Expected Tomorrow

Multiple sources are reporting that President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court will be announced live on television tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST, according to the ABA Journal. Three finalists confirmed to replace Judge Antonin Scalia are Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Philiadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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Judges Block Trump Travel Ban, Tennessee Delegation Split

At least five judges over the weekend partially blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, the ABA Journal says. Federal judges in Brooklyn, Boston, Alexandra, Los Angeles and Seattle issued injunctions. In Tennessee, Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen both say they will join fellow Democrats in sponsoring legislation that would bar the use of federal funds to enforce the travel ban, the Commercial Appeal reports. Tennessee Republicans in Congress defended the actions, calling them a "necessary step" to strengthening national security. Some also admitted the actions were sometimes poorly carried out.
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Chief Judge Sharp to Resign, Launch New Practice

Chief U.S. District Judge Kevin H. Sharp resigned today, the Tennessean reports. The Nashville judge confirmed to the newspaper that he has submitted his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, whose administration will now need to nominate two people to federal judgeships in the Middle District of Tennessee. Judge Todd Campbell announced last fall that he would be taking senior status. The Nashville Post reports that Sharp will shift his focus to opening a Nashville office for Sanford Heisler, an employment and public interest law firm that has two offices on each coast.
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Burst Pipe Floods Memphis Federal Building

A pipe burst over the weekend at the Federal Building in Memphis, leading to the closure of the clerk's office through Wednesday. Courtroom proceedings for Memphis judges will continue as scheduled, and the grand jury session scheduled for Tuesday will go forward. Counsel will be notified of scheduling changes. 
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Obama Cuts Sentences for Hundreds More

President Barack Obama today reduced or eliminated the sentences of hundreds more drug offenders, CNN reports. The move brings his total commutations to 1,385 individuals, the vast majority of whom have been serving mandatory minimum sentences for crimes related to distribution or production of narcotics. The group approved today also included Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of passing classified information to WikiLeaks, and James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was convicted of making false statements to investigators when questioned about leaking classified information to two journalists. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Justice Department officials have been working nonstop to complete their review of more than 16,000 clemency petitions filed by federal prisoners.

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Trump Promises Court Nominee in 2 Weeks

President-elect Donald Trump says he expects to announce a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court within two weeks of his inauguration. According to Above the Law, Trump has met with 11th Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, reportedly the leading candidate for the post. The ABA Journal also reports that the president-elect has identified Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and a number of Republican lawmakers as advising him on the choice.

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USDA Tightens Rules on Training Tennessee Walking Horses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday announced several changes to the Horse Protection Act aimed at ending the practice of soring, the Tennessean reports. The new rule, which would go into effect on Jan.1, 2018, bans much of the gear used in the process, including chains that are placed around a horse’s ankles and weights that are attached to the front hooves during training. The rule also directs industry inspectors to become trained and licensed through the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, based in Shelbyville, said it plans to challenge the regulatory action.

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Takata Workers Indicted Over Air Bag Defects

A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former employees of Takata Corp., charging them with concealing deadly defects in the Japanese company’s automotive air bag inflators, the Associated Press reports. The indictments on six counts of conspiracy and wire fraud were unsealed Friday, just hours ahead of a Justice Department news conference to announce a corporate penalty against the company. The FBI has been investigating allegations that the company deceived federal regulators and tried to cover up the air bag problems.

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