News

Prosecutors Drop FedEx Prescription Drug Case

Criminal charges alleging FedEx knowingly delivered illegal prescription drugs to dealers and addicts were dropped suddenly last week after prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss all charges. FedEx was indicted in 2014 and the trial began last Monday. In court on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said FedEx was “factually innocent” and had repeatedly attempted to identify the customer in question but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was unwilling or unable to provide the information. The Times Free Press has more.

read more »

ABA Ranks Garland as ‘Well Qualified’

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has finished its peer review of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and has rated him as “well qualified.” In announcing the rating today, ABA President Paulette Brown called on the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to consider and act promptly on the nominee. Read her full statement.

read more »

Federal Judge Bans Court Filings by Prisoner

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan has issued a permanent injunction barring Eric Houston “from filing any motion, letter or civil action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee without first obtaining approval.” The move comes after Houston filed more than 100 civil petitions in federal courts across the United States – all handwritten and filled with profanities, Knoxnews reports. The injunction also threatens to hold the imprisoned drug dealer in contempt if he violates the order. In taking the unusual stance, Varlan explained that “the court has attempted to review the filings to determine the nature of (Houston’s) allegations, but due to the partially indecipherable handwriting, the threatening language, the profanity, and the nature of the filings — some of which were submitted on what appears to be toilet paper — the court has been unable to fully discern (his) allegations.”

read more »

6th Circuit Launches New Website

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will launch a new website next Monday but has released the web link for interested individuals to review the site in advance. The new site is based on a national model template for federal court websites, which some courts are already using. The new format promises to make things easier on practitioners, especially those who practice in multiple jurisdictions, by trying to include a measure of standardization between the various sites. The existing site can be seen here. Comments about the new format can be sent by email to the webmaster.

read more »

Searches Allowed Based on Outstanding Warrants

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-3 that police can seize evidence from what would otherwise be an unconstitutional search if they first discover that the suspect has one or more outstanding arrest warrants. Opponents of the decision cited the fact that, in some cities, thousands of people have arrest warrants pending against them, mostly for traffic violations as insignificant as unpaid parking tickets. In a strongly-worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.” The Commercial Appeal has the story.

read more »

Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Assault Weapon Bans

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a case challenging gun control laws enacted in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The decision, handed down with no additional explanation as to the court’s reasoning, allows assault weapons bans to stand in New York and Connecticut. Gun rights groups had challenged laws in those states banning certain semi-automatic weapons and restrictions on bullet magazines. The Commercial Appeal has more.

read more »

Outgoing Solicitor General Reflects on Career, Criticism

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who is stepping down from his post this month, recalls five years of legal “high drama” in The New York Times. Verrilli’s tenure of 37 Supreme Court arguments includes the 2012 case challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law. Despite a "stunning" win in the case, Verrilli reflects on the scathing reviews of his work. “It’s not a good or healthy thing to have your sense of self-worth determined by what other people are saying,” he said. 

read more »

Report: 10% of Federal Judgeships Are Vacant

Nearly 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant, according to the Washington Post. The number of unfilled judgeships is nearly twice as high as the number of vacancies at this point of President George W. Bush’s presidency. But the report notes that while some judges and lawmakers believe the situation is a “judicial emergency,” a spokeswoman for the Judiciary Committee chairman called it a “made-up crisis.”  

read more »

Who Would Trump Name to Supreme Court? Here's His Short List

Who would Donald Trump appoint to the Supreme Court if he were president? The presumptive Republican nominee for president released a list of 11 potential justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House. News Channel 5 says the list includes Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas. 

read more »

Franklin Man Convicted in Romney Tax Fraud Scheme

A federal jury in Nashville has found Michael Mancil Brown guilty of engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns, the Humphrey on the Hill blog reports. The Franklin man was convicted of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion for his scheme to defraud Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and others, by falsely claiming that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and had stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann D. Romney. A sentencing hearing will likely be in August.

read more »

Roundtable Discussion on Supreme Court Nominee at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos will host a roundtable discussion exploring the U.S. Supreme Court’s current vacancy and the controversy surrounding the nomination of a new justice. The roundtable will include Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial correspondent and author; Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer; and Audrey Anderson, Vanderbilt University general counsel. The one-hour discussion is planned for May 2 at 6:30 p.m. in Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium. A reception will precede the talk at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby. 

read more »

Republicans Again Delay Stanton Judicial Confirmation

Republicans in Congress today blocked a confirmation vote on nearly a dozen judicial nominees, including U.S. District Court nominee Edward Stanton III. The Memphis attorney was nominated by President Obama nearly a year ago and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last October. The Senate voted two weeks ago to confirm Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. to a U.S. District Court judgeship in Middle Tennessee. The Commercial Appeal reports more than three dozen seats on federal appellate and district courts are also vacant awaiting confirmations.

read more »

Op-ed: 'No Sane Judge' Would Pass Sanders' Test

Democratic Presidential contender Bernie Sanders last week said he would demand a public commitment that any U.S. Supreme Court nominee would vote to overturn a precedent Sanders did not like. An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times criticizes Sanders’ approach: "(It) is not just politically stupid; it undermines the independence of the judiciary.” The author adds, “No lawyer in his or her right mind would make such a commitment to a president or to the Senate.”

read more »

Changes to Nashville Courthouse Plan Drop Price Tag

The Nashville Business Journal reports on recent changes to the plan for Nashville’s new federal courthouse, which would now be one story shorter and carry a price tag 8 percent lower. The project is now slated for $167.4 million. It is still unclear when construction will begin or when the government will request bids from architects, contractors and others for the project. Funding for the courthouse cleared its final hurdle in March; Congress must now vote to formally authorize federal agencies to spend that money.

read more »

Senate Approves Crenshaw as U.S. District Judge

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Waverly Crenshaw to be a U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Tennessee, according to a post from Knoxville News Sentinel Washington reporter Michael Collins. The position has been vacant since December 2014. Nashville attorney Crenshaw was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015 and unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee eight months ago. The Associated Press reports 27 of Obama's nominees to district courts and five to the appeals court remain in limbo. Edward Stanton III of Memphis is among nominees awaiting Senate approval; Stanton was nominated by Obama in May 2015 to serve as U.S. district judge for the Western District of Tennessee.

read more »

U.S. Circuit Judge Ted Milburn Dies

U.S. Circuit Judge H. Ted Milburn of Signal Mountain died on April 1. After graduating from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1959, Milburn practiced law in Chattanooga and became a partner at Bishop, Thomas, Leitner, Mann and Milburn. He was appointed by Gov. Winfield Dunn to be a judge in Tennessee Circuit Court, Division III, Hamilton County in 1973 and won re-election to the position for two more terms. Milburn was later appointed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee sitting in Chattanooga; the next year, Reagan appointed him to a newly created seat as a U.S. Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served on the court until 1996 when he took Senior Status. Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers can be sent to Grace Episcopal Church, 20 Belvior Ave, Chattanooga, TN, 37411. Condolences may be posted online or shared with the family via e-mail

read more »

Report Says Crenshaw Vote Will Come Monday

The U.S. Senate today reached an agreement to vote on confirmation of Waverly Crenshaw as a U.S. District Court judge in Tennessee's Middle District, according to a post from Knoxville News Sentinel Washington reporter Michael Collins. Crenshaw was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015 and was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee eight months ago. 

read more »

Portrait Unveiling for Judge Donald Set for April 22

A portrait unveiling ceremony for the Hon. Bernice Bouie Donald, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, is planned for April 22 at 2 p.m., in the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building, 167 N. Main St., in Memphis. A reception will follow the event, according to the Memphis Bar Association. RSVP by Friday via e-mail or by calling 901-495-1239.

read more »

Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

read more »

Texas Republican Blocks Crenshaw's Confirmation

Two Democratic senators from Maryland last week tried to get the U.S. Senate to confirm Waverly Crenshaw as a U.S. District Court judge in Tennessee's Middle District. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn rejected the bid. Crenshaw was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015 and was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee eight months ago. Read more from The Tennessean.

read more »

House Thanks U.S. Senators for Opposing Action on SCOTUS Nominee

The state House last week passed a resolution thanking Tennessee’s U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker for stating they will not vote for anyone nominated by President Barack Obama as a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville criticized the measure (HR178) as "engaging in these partisan games." Read more from The Knoxville News Sentinel.

read more »

Book of Ginsburg's Writings Coming in 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will release a collection of speeches and writings in January 2017, the Associated Press reports. The book, “My Own Words,” will also include introductions and interview excerpts from Ginsburg’s authorized biographers.

read more »

Obama Says Nominee Should Come Quickly

"I think it's important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it's important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices," President Barack Obama said today at a White House news conference. He added that he does not feel “constrained to a pool to draw from” following Senate Republicans’ plan to block the president’s nomination. The Associated Press shares a list of potential nominees.

read more »

Lawyers to Obama: Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

Nearly 250 corporate lawyers sent a letter today to President Barack Obama and U.S. Senators urging the president to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. “…Nearly one third of all presidents have nominated a justice in an election year who was eventually confirmed,” the letter said. Read more from the ABA Journal.

read more »

Appeals Court: Overturning Convictions in Sex-Trafficking Case Correct

In an opinion released today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge William Haynes acted correctly in 2012 when overturning the convictions of three men accused of being in a Somali gang and running a prostitution ring. The appeals court also said the case was based on a false story and "a person who had been diagnosed as insane," according to The Tennessean. The ruling could impact around 20 other cases.

read more »