News

Norris Faces Same-Sex Marriage Questions During Hearings

State Sen. Mark Norris told a congressional panel on Wednesday that he considers the legality of same-sex marriage to be a settled issue and that he would follow it as a precedent if confirmed to the bench, the Tennessean reports. The State Senate Majority Leader has been nominated for a federal judgeship in West Tennessee. His prior statements on gay marriage have been cited by groups opposing his nomination.

read more »

ABA Explains ‘Not Qualified’ Rating for Federal Judicial Nominee

An ABA committee is explaining the reasons for a federal judicial nominee recently receiving a “not qualified” rating,” the ABA Journal reports. The nominee, Leonard Steven Grasz of Nebraska, received the rating after “an extensive two-part review process,” according to the chair of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. Grasz was nominated for the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and is currently a lobbyist and litigator with Husch Blackwell. The ABA review found that Grasz had a “passionately-held social agenda” that “appeared to overwhelm and obscure the ability to exercise dispassionate and unbiased judgment.”
read more »

Sessions Criticizes Federal Judges Who Block Trump Administration Policies

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today had harsh words for judges who have issued nationwide injunctions that blocked Trump administration policies, the ABA Journal reports. Sessions said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation that the judges are failing to respect the legislative and executive branches, and emphasized that "the judiciary is not a superior or policy-setting branch." American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass issued a statement saying that the ABA is “alarmed” in response to the remarks. “Judges should not be attacked or diminished by another branch of government just because they do not rule in its favor,” Bass said. “Judicial independence is critical to maintaining the rule of law in our nation.”
read more »

Spring Start Likely for Federal Courthouse in Nashville

Long-gestating plans for a new U.S. courthouse in Nashville will finally come to fruition in spring 2018, the Nashville Post reports. Groundbreaking on the courthouse, which will be named for the late U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, is planned for spring of next year, with demolition of a remaining building on the site planned for November. The courthouse is expected to cost $194.5 million to build and will sit on a plot of land downtown on Church Street.
read more »

Judge Campbell: Serving Was 'Greatest Honor'

An overflow crowd gathered Friday afternoon at the Nashville federal courthouse to witness the unveiling of the courtroom portrait of retired U.S. District Judge Todd D. Campbell. Judge Campbell told the crowd that the opportunity to serve the nation, first in the White House as counsel to Vice President Al Gore and then as U.S. District Judge, was the greatest honor of his life. The ceremony was presided over by Chief Judge Waverly Crenshaw and the portrait was painted by Michael Shane Neal.

read more »

Of Trump U.S. Attorney Nominees, Only 1 is Female

President Donald Trump has nominated 42 lawyers to fill U.S. Attorney positions since the start of his term, but only one of those 42 is a woman, the ABA Journal reports. Jessie Liu, nominated to become the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., is the lone female nominee. The analysis comes on the heels of Friday’s announcement of nine new nominees to U.S. Attorney positions across the country. 
read more »

Kevin Sharp Explains Why He Left the Bench

Former Middle District Chief Judge Kevin Sharp spoke to an audience in Nashville this week about why he decided to leave his seat on the U.S. District Court earlier this year, the Nashville Post reports. Sharp told the gathering that he struggled with issues related to mandatory minimums, and it was very difficult to make changes to the justice system from the district court level. Following the presidential election last year, he felt “something is happening” and “I can’t be a part of that if I’m sitting on the bench.”
read more »

Tennessee Judicial Nominees Breeze Through Senate Hearings

Two Tennessee attorneys nominated by President Donald Trump to federal judgeships went before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, the Nashville Post reports. William L. “Chip” Campbell, a member of Frost Brown Todd’s business litigation practice group in Nashville, and Thomas Lee Robinson Parker, a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Memphis office, faced few questions from the panel in their confirmation hearing, as senators focused their attention on other, controversial nominees. Tomorrow Donald Cochran, a Belmont law professor nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, will testify.
read more »

Wildasin Named Acting U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has named Mark H. Wildasin as acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. The appointment was announced this morning, to fill the vacancy created by Jack Smith’s retirement last month. He will serve in the role for 120 days, or until the U.S. Senate confirms a presidential nominee. Wildasin previously served as chief of the office’s Civil Division.
read more »

Engineer Who Bought American Nuclear Tech for China Gets 2-Year Sentence

A federal judge today handed down a two-year sentence for an engineer who bought American nuclear information for the Chinese government, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Chief U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee Tom Varlan said that the case of Szuhsiung Allen Ho is an “atypical” one – this prosecution is the first of its kind in the U.S. Ho insisted that the information he bought for China was to be used exclusively for the production of nuclear energy, not weapons, but Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Atchley and Bart Slabbekorn argued that regardless of Ho’s intent, China cannot be trusted to act responsibly with the information.
read more »

Last Chance to Sign Up for the 2017 TBA Academy

Last chance to sign up! If admission to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of your career goals, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a reality during the 34th Annual TBA Academy, Oct. 10-11. A select group of Tennessee attorneys will be able to take part in this private ceremony before the court and enjoy other events at the court and the capitol. A reception and celebration dinner kick off the Academy, which also includes the opportunity to earn three hours of CLE credit. The group will stay at the Hay Adams Hotel, where the TBA has obtained a special rate for Academy participants. The deadline to submit applications is Sept. 1.
read more »

Sen. Grassley Doesn’t Expect Imminent Supreme Court Vacancy

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chair of the U.S. Senate committee that handles Supreme Court nominations, said he does not expect an imminent court vacancy, Reuters reports. The statement signals that Justice Anthony Kennedy will not retire this year, despite earlier speculation. "Evidently that's not going to happen," Grassley said. "I don't have any expectation we will have a vacancy as I thought there would be" earlier this year.
read more »

U.S. Attorney Jack Smith to Leave Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney Jack Smith announced today that he will leave the Department of Justice, the Tennessean reports. Smith said that he was not looking to leave the department, where he has been for 16 years, but another opportunity came up. He has been leading the Nashville office since David Rivera announced his resignation in March. Belmont law professor Donald Cochran was nominated in June to lead the office. His nomination is currently pending Senate confirmation.
read more »

Be Admitted to Practice Before the U.S. Supreme Court

If admission to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of your career goals, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a reality during the 34th Annual TBA Academy, Oct. 10-11. A select group of Tennessee attorneys will be able to take part in this private ceremony before the court and enjoy other events at the court and the capitol. A reception and celebration dinner kick off the Academy, which also includes the opportunity to earn three hours of CLE credit. The group will stay at the Hay Adams Hotel, where the TBA has obtained a special rate for Academy participants.

read more »

Appeals Court Hears Arguments on 2014 Constitutional Amendment Vote

A federal appeals court today heard arguments on whether a 2014 vote on a constitutional ballot initiative should be recounted or voided entirely, the Tennessean reports. The dispute is rooted in two interpretations of a single sentence added to the Tennessee constitution in 1953. That sentence mandates a different vote counting method than the simple majority vote required for candidates for office. The decision by the court could throw into question the abortion measure known as Amendment 1, as well as all abortion laws enacted in Tennessee since its passage three years ago removed the right to an abortion from the state’s constitution.
read more »

Immigration Lawyers Say They See Changes in ICE Priorities

Several Tennessee immigration lawyers tell the Chattanooga Times Free Press that they are seeing shifting priorities from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Chattanooga attorney Terry Olsen says that in 15 years he has never before seen clients face detainment or removal proceedings when they were applying to become permanent residents. An ICE spokesman declined to comment.

read more »

Sessions Says He’s Staying, Despite Trump Criticism

After being criticized by President Donald Trump in a New York Times interview, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’s staying at the Justice Department, Reuters reports. "We love this job, we love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate," Sessions said. Trump said that Sessions should have never recused himself from the investigation into the administration’s ties to Russia, and that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself prior to choosing him to lead the DOJ, he would have picked someone else.
read more »

How to Sue the Government

The Federal Practice section's annual CLE will be held July 27 in Nashville. This year's program will focus on best practices when you find yourself suing the federal, state or local government. Find out more and register here.
read more »

Trump Taps Sen. Norris, 3 Others to Federal Bench

President Donald Trump today nominated state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Thomas L. Parker, William L. Campbell Jr. and Eli J. Richardson to serve as federal judges, The Tennessean reports. Norris and Parker were picked to serve as judges on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Trump nominated Campbell and Richardson to serve in the Middle District. Nominees must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take their seats on the bench.
read more »

Item of Interest

Below is an article that was published in the the Disability Section Connect. We thought it had information that would be of interest to those of you in this section as well.  

read more »

Former Federal Prosecutor to Open Firm’s New Chicago Office

Former Nashville attorney and Chicago U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon will open a new office in Chicago for the firm King and Spalding, Crain’s Chicago Business reports. Fardon was a public defender and an assistant federal prosecutor in Nashville before serving as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, where he prosecuted gang crime and brought charges against former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Fardon is a 1992 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School.
read more »

Man Sentenced in Mortgage Fraud Wants Conviction Tossed

A businessman sentenced in 2014 for a mortgage fraud scheme wants his conviction tossed out and a new trial, the Times Free Press reports. Attorney Michael Richardson argued in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court that Joshua Dobson did not make an informed decision when he exercised his constitutional rights and took his case to trial in 2013. Richardson further explained that Dobson’s former attorney allowed his client to turn down a plea deal without properly explaining the amount of time Dobson faced in prison. Federal prosecutors, however, noted that the government never formally offered a deal to Dobson.
read more »

18 States File Suit Against Betsy DeVos Over Student Loan Protections

Attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia today sued the U.S. Department of Education and its secretary, Betsy DeVos, over the decision to freeze rules for erasing debt from student borrowers who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently, The New York Times reports. The rules were put into place in October after years of negotiation and were scheduled to take effect on July 1, but DeVos paused the rollout, citing a lawsuit filed by for-profit colleges that seeks to block the rules entirely. The states’ suit claims that the excuse given by the department is “mere pretext” for repealing the rules. Also today, two student borrowers sued the department in the same federal court over the delayed rules.
read more »

Study Finds ‘Astonishing’ Drop in Win Rates for Federal Plaintiffs

Success rates for plaintiffs in adjudicated federal cases declined from 70 percent in 1985 to 33 percent in 2009, according to a study by two University of Connecticut law professors, the ABA Journal reports. The professors say they can’t point to a single reason for the “astonishing” drop. “What our results show is that there’s a need to study the court system to understand what happens in the aggregate,” Lahav said. “There are systemic things going on.”
read more »

Trump Nominates Belmont Law Professor for U.S. Attorney

Belmont University law professor Donald Cochran has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become the next U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. The appointment is pending U.S. Senate confirmation. Before joining the faculty at Belmont, Cochran worked as a federal prosecutor in Alabama, during which he successfully aided in the high-profile prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members that orchestrated the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. 
read more »