News

DOJ: Judges Should Stay Civil Cases During Shutdown

Citing the government shutdown, which started at 12:01 a.m. today, U.S. Justice Department lawyers are urging federal judges to stay civil cases. Federal prosecutors across the country started filing requests for extensions yesterday in civil cases in anticipation of the shutdown and judges agreed to cancel settlement conferences and other hearings scheduled for this week. The Blog of Legal Times looks at the issue and the impact of the shutdown on the D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals.

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Senate Passes Spending Bill; if Gov't Shuts Down Judiciary Would Stay Open 10 Days

The Senate this afternoon approved a bill designed to avoid a partial government shutdown next week, CBS News reports, but the legislation now returns to the House where Republican leaders have already said they won't pass the Senate bill. If that happens and the government partially shuts down on Oct. 1, the federal judiciary says it will remain open for business for approximately 10 days. “On or around Oct. 15, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance," according to a press release from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. "All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised.”

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Reeves To Go Before Senate Judiciary Wednesday

Former TBA President, Knoxville lawyer and federal judicial nominee Pamela Reeves faces a hearing Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Reeves has been nominated to replace Judge Thomas W. Phillips on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Phillips retired on Aug. 1. The committee has announced that in addition to Reeves, it will consider nominations for the Tenth Circuit and two other district courts on Wednesday. Knoxnews also reports that Reeves has already met with Sen. Bob Corker about her nomination.

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Nashville Lawyer Honored for Indigent Defense

Nashville attorney Patrick Frogge, who frequently represents indigent federal defendants, has been selected as Panel Lawyer of the Year by Federal Public Defender Henry Martin and former recipients of the award. He will be honored at the 22nd annual Criminal Justice Act Panel Appreciation Banquet Oct. 9 in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. Speaking about Frogge, Martin said he “represents the underdogs” and “continues to show that he’s a lawyer for the people” having worked on thousands of cases. Frogge earned his law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 1999. He worked as Nashville’s assistant public defender before entering private practice in 2005.

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Groups Urge ‘Necessary’ Resources for Federal Judiciary

The nonprofit group Justice at Stake and 26 other nonpartisan organizations joined together in a letter to members of the U.S. Congress today urging them to provide proper resources for the federal judiciary. The appeal cites data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that sequestration already has resulted in cuts of $350 million. “These cut threaten to erode several core constitutional values, including the right to a jury trial and due process, and threaten to make illusory key statutory rights, such as the right to a speedy trial,” the groups wrote. Read more from Gavel Grab or download a copy of the letter, which includes the list of participating groups.

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Retired Federal Judge Dies in Germantown

Retired federal judge Michael A. Lasher Jr. of Germantown died Sunday (Sept. 15). Lasher, 81, graduated from the University of Louisville School of Law and practiced law in Phoenix before becoming a judge with the Bureau of Mine Safety. His work took him to Washington, D.C., and Denver. Lasher moved to Germantown 20 years ago after retiring from government service. A private graveside service will be held at Calvary Cemetery in Memphis. The family suggests that memorials be made to the Memphis Humane Society, 935 Farm Rd., Memphis, TN 38134. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life.

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Breen Named Chief Judge of U.S. District Court

U.S. District Judge and former TBA President J. Daniel Breen assumed the position of chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee this week. Judge Breen, who has served on the court since March 2003, began his judicial career in 1991 as a magistrate judge in the Western District. He served in that capacity until nominated to the district court by President George W. Bush. Judge Breen earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1975. Read the announcement from the court.

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DOJ Readying New Cases Related to Financial Meltdown

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says he expects to announce new cases related to the financial meltdown in the coming months. Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Holder said, "My message is, anybody who's inflicted damage on our financial markets should not be of the belief that they are out of the woods because of the passage of time. If any individual or if any institution is banking on waiting things out, they have to think again." According to the story, recent disclosures indicate the government is pursuing prosecutions related to suspected wrongdoing in the mortgage-backed securities industry and manipulation of the energy market. (Subscription required)

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Kagan: Justices Have More to Learn about Technology

Members of the U.S. Supreme Court continue to communicate with one another through memos printed on ivory paper even as they face cases related to emerging technology and electronic snooping, Justice Elena Kagan admitted Tuesday. In an appearance at Brown University, Kagan said the justices have a ways to go to understand technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and even email. While clerks email one another, she said, "The court hasn't really 'gotten to' email." When asked how the court will approach issues such as technology and privacy, Kagan said, "I think we're going to have to be doing a lot of thinking about that." WRCB-TV has more from the AP.

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First Wrongful Dismissal Suit Filed Against Vanderbilt

The first of what could be several lawsuits against Vanderbilt University Medical Center in relation to a recent round of job cuts was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. The suit alleges the hospital violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by targeting certain employees to cut. “While VUMC has yet to publicly comment on the precise criteria utilized in selecting employees to terminate, some employees were targeted as a direct result of having exercised their rights pursuant to the FMLA,” argues Nashville civil rights attorney George Barrett and former U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, both with Barrett Johnston LLC, who are representing the plaintiff.

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Federal Courts Cut Pay for Private Defenders

The federal courts say that private lawyers paid to act as federal public defenders will have their salaries cut as part of an attempt to survive government cost-cutting measures, the Associated Press reports. The Judicial Conference of the United States announced Monday it would reduce by $15 an hour the pay of "panel attorneys." The pay for non-capital cases will drop from $125 per hour to $110. The pay for capital cases will drop from a maximum of $179 per hour to $164. The cuts are scheduled to start in September and be in place for the next year. More than 10,000 lawyers serve as panel attorneys, representing defendants financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Scalia: Not Court’s Place to ‘Invent New Minorities’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in a speech before the Federalist Society yesterday that the court is making decisions that should be left to Congress. Citing recent rulings on issues such as wiretapping and gay marriage, he argued it is not the court’s place to “invent new minorities that get special protections." Scalia also addressed what he sees as one of the last remaining issues to be settled with regard to the Second Amendment: determining the scope of armaments that people can keep and bear. Scalia helped launch the Federalist Society more than 30 years ago to fight the perception of liberal bias at the nation's law schools. WDEF has this Associated Press story.

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Justice Kennedy, ABA House Address Human Trafficking

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy spoke out against human trafficking on Saturday after attendees at the ABA Annual Meeting had heard from Minh Dang, a victim of human slavery. In his keynote address, Kennedy recounted statistics indicating there are 27 million people being held as slaves around the world, with at least 100,000 of them in the United States. "Let's stop human trafficking," he said. "I urge you to continue to bring this to the world's attention." On Monday, the ABA House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved model legislation for states to use in adopting new prohibitions against human trafficking. In related news, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission announced it has begun using civil actions -- which require a lesser burden of proof than criminal actions -- against those who traffic or abuse employees, while a federal judge struck down a New Jersey law aimed at fighting the sexual trafficking of minors. The ABA Journal has more on these developments.

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Holder, Clinton Address ABA House of Delegates

The ABA House of Delegates, meeting today and tomorrow in San Francisco, faces a full agenda of resolutions but “the early buzz [was] over two legal superstars" who addressed the House today, the ABA Journal reports. This morning, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder outlined a new crime and prison policy focusing on what the administration believes is an over-reliance on mandatory minimum sentences. Holder said the department would be directing the nation’s prosecutors to avoid these sentences for “low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or drug organizations.” Then this afternoon, Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before the House to receive the ABA Medal, the association's highest award. The Washington Post has more on both of those stories.

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Tennessee Joins Brief Supporting Prayer at Town Meetings

The State of Tennessee has joined with Texas, Indiana and 20 other states in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that prayers by mostly Christian clergy members before legislative meetings are not unconstitutional. The brief cites a history of legislative prayer and the American culture of religious accommodation to argue that, “The establishment clause does not require officials either to edit historically permissible religious expressions or scrub them from the public square.” The brief was filed in response to the court’s decision to hear the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway in its October term. The ABA Journal has more on the story while SCOTUSBlog has details on the case.

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Memphis Lawyer Nominated for Federal Judgeship

President Barack Obama has nominated University of Memphis general counsel Sheryl H. Lipman for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, the White House announced Thursday evening. If confirmed, Lipman would succeed Judge Jon P. McCalla, who is taking senior status later this month. Interim University of Memphis President R. Brad Martin praised the move saying, "Sheri Lipman is an outstanding choice to serve on the federal bench. She has served and continues to serve the University of Memphis and our community with great distinction, and I know she will do so as a federal judge as well. This is a wise choice and the entire University of Memphis community congratulates Sheri on her nomination." The Commercial Appeal has more.

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Ginsburg Claims to be Hardest Working Justice

As Ruth Bader Ginsburg completes her 20th year on the U.S. Supreme Court, she says she is not ready to retire or slow down anytime soon. In an interview with USA Today, the 80 year-old said she was still the hardest-working justice. "As long as I can do the job full-steam, I would like to stay here," she told the newspaper. "Last term was a good example. I didn't write any slower. I didn't think any slower. I have to take it year by year at my age, and who knows what could happen next year? Right now, I know I'm OK. Whether that will be true at the end of next term, I can't say." The ABA Journal has the story.

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McCalla Portrait Unveiling Scheduled Aug. 23

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee will hold a portrait unveiling and recognition of "change of status" in honor of Chief Judge Jon P. McCalla. The event will be held Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. in Courtroom One of the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building in Memphis. The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP by email or phone to (901) 495-1237.

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Opinion: Sequestration Hits PDs Especially Hard

An article from Gavel Grab today suggests that automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration have substantially impacted the judicial branch, but have hit public defenders’ offices especially hard. The article cites a new report by Federal News Radio that defenders are facing a nine percent decrease in their budget this year, which translates into a loss of $51 million and up to 20 furlough days for employees. According to the federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia, the program “faces complete destruction unless both the Judiciary and Congress act very soon.”

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NBA Looks at Revisions to E-Discovery Standard

The Federal Court Committee of the Nashville Bar Association is in the early stages of preparing proposed revisions to the Middle District of Tennessee’s Administrative Order No. 174, the district’s default standard for e-discovery. Riley Warnock & Jacobson lawyer Russell Taber is collecting comments and recommendations for proposed changes to the order through Aug. 15. Taber reports that after the deadline passes, the committee will circulate a draft of proposed revisions, seek input on the draft and plan a meeting to discuss suggested revisions. It will then present a proposal to the court. Email comments and suggestions to Taber at rtaber@rwjplc.com.

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Bone McAllester Launches New Practice, Adds Former U.S. Attorney

The Nashville law firm of Bone McAllester Norton has launched a criminal defense and government investigations practice, and has hired former U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough and current Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Little in the Middle District of Tennessee for the group. They both will start Aug. 1. Current Bone McAllester employee James Mackler, a former senior trial counsel in the Judge Advocate General Corps., also will join the practice group. Yarborough left the Middle Tennessee prosecutor’s office in 2010 and has been working at the Nashville law firm of Walker Tipps & Malone. Read more on the firm’s website and on Nashville Post.com.

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Portrait Unveiling and Reception for Judge Phillips

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee will hold a portrait unveiling and reception in honor of Judge Thomas W. Phillips on July 11, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The event will take place in the courtyard of the Howard H. Baker Jr. U.S. Courthouse, 800 Market Street, Knoxville. Phillips is retiring effective Aug. 1. Knoxville lawyer Pamela Reeves has been nominated by President Obama to replace him.

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Court Saves Gay Marriage Cases for Last

The U.S. Supreme Court has saved two of its most controversial opinions for what is expected to be the last day of this term. The court is expected to issue rulings on the California gay marriage ban and the federal Defense of Marriage Act tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. SCOTUSblog will begin live blogging from the court at 9 a.m.

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New Rules Clarify Protests at Supreme Court

Following Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling last week tossing out as unconstitutional the previous anti-demonstration rules at the U.S. Supreme Court, court officials clarified and revised regulations to the 60-year old law. "The term demonstration includes demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers," says the revised Regulation 7, which was effective last Thursday. "The term does not include casual use by visitors or tourists that is not reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers." WCYB has the story.

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A Round-Up of the Supreme Court Opinions

Although the Supreme Court did not issue opinions on hot button topics such as same sex marriage, affirmative action or Voting Rights Act cases, SCOTUSblog reports that the court did issue rulings in three other argued cases. The decision in Descamps v. United States will make it more difficult for the federal government to use the details of a prior conviction to strengthen criminal sentences. In American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, the court ruled that retailers would need to work through arbitration individually, rather than through class action, to resolve claims with American Express. In the final opinion of the day, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society, the court held that the government could not require aid organizations to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking to receive federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs overseas.

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