News

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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Court Grants 4 Cases for Next Term

The court today also agreed to decide four cases in its next term, SCOTUSBlog reports. These cases involve questions of whether federal housing law requires proof of intentional discrimination; the legality of a $1.24 million defamation judgment against a Wisconsin airline that reported a pilot was potentially dangerous; an attorneys fees issue in a district court case; and whether a bankruptcy trustee may surcharge a debtor’s constitutionally protected homestead property. Bloomberg and the AP have stories on these issues.

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Cohen Recommends 3 for Federal Judge

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., has reportedly recommended three Memphis lawyers to succeed U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla, who is taking senior status. The Memphis Flyer reports that Cohen suggested President Obama consider Sheri Lipman, counsel for the University of Memphis; Steve Mulroy, professor of law at the university and member of the Shelby County Commission; and Irma Merrill Stratton, a lawyer in private practice. The paper reports all three have successfully undergone interviews by a screening committee and vetting by the FBI.

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Nashville Developers Coveting Courthouse Site

Some Nashville business leaders are getting impatient with progress on a new federal courthouse and would like to see private development of the land already purchased by the government. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, who has been pushing for a new federal courthouse on the property since he came to Congress in 2002, says he is “very confident” construction will begin within three years, the Nashville Business Journal reports (subscription required). However, recent reports from the Government Accountability Office cast doubts on the $173 million project, suggesting that Nashville doesn’t have a shortage of courtrooms necessitating a new courthouse. While developers drool over the downtown block, Cooper dismisses a possible sale. “Why would we do that? We’ve got $26 [million] to $30 million in it,” Cooper said. “My job is to protect the taxpayer.”

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Obama Nominates 3 to D.C. Court of Appeals

President Barack Obama today nominated three judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and challenged opponents to stop the "political obstruction" holding up his nominees. The three named today are Patricia Millett, head of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and former member of the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office; Cornelia "Nina" Pillard, an experienced Supreme Court litigator who has worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office and Georgetown University; and U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins, a former public defender in Washington D.C. who helped establish the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and spent nine years in private practice. Read more about the nominees in the White House announcement.

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Western District Proposes Local Rules Revision

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee has revised the local court rules and local patent rules. This revision has been drafted for adoption by the court. The proposed changes are available for review and public comment for a 30-day period beginning June 1. View the rule amendments here

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Reeves to be Nominated for Federal District Court

President Barack Obama today announced his intention to nominate Knoxville attorney and former TBA President Pamela Reeves for the federal district court seat currently held by U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips, who plans to retire July 3. Reeves practices with Reeves, Herbert & Murrian PA focusing on commercial litigation, labor and employment law and dispute resolution. She is known statewide for her work as a Rule 31 registered mediator and as an approved mediator for the Eastern and Middle district federal courts. Reeves was the first female to serve as TBA president. She currently serves on the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission and on the Board of Judicial Conduct. She also writes a monthly column on business law for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Reeves earned her law degree in 1979 from the University of Tennessee College of Law. She is married to Charles Swanson, another former TBA president, who serves as Knoxville city attorney.

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Senate Committee Approves 3 Judicial Nominees

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today approved three judicial nominees, including Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Raymond Chen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Jennifer Dorsey to a federal district court in Nevada. Srinivasan, currently the principal deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, was approved on a unanimous vote. If confirmed by the full Senate, he will be President Obama’s first nominee to a court often seen as a stepping stone to the U.S. Supreme Court. WRCB TV3 NBC has the AP story.

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