News

Lawyer Would be 1st Muslim Federal Judge

Washington, D.C., lawyer Abid Qureshi could become the nation's first Muslim federal judge, National Public Radio reports. President Barack Obama nominated Qureshi for an open seat on the D.C. federal court earlier this week. Qureshi is a partner in the law firm of Latham & Watkins. He was born in Pakistan and is now a U.S. citizen. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law. His clients have included a student loan servicing company, a pharmacy giant, HCA and a private school with ties to the Saudi Arabian government. His pro bono work on behalf of two American Muslim comedians who were told they could not run ads for their show in the New York City subway won him national attention.

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Court Square Series: Sept. 29 in Chattanooga

The TBA’s 2016 Court Square series wraps up with a session in Chattanooga on Sept. 29. The CLE will be held at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. Tonya Cammon and Jeremy Cothern will provide a case review of State of Mississippi v. Byron De La Beckwith, U.S. District Court Judge Travis McDonough will cover lessons from the bench, and Sam Elliott will provide insights from the Hoffa Trial.

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Nursing Home Operator Accused of Fraud

Vanguard Healthcare, a Brentwood-based skilled nursing and rehab company that earlier this year filed for bankruptcy, is now facing a False Claims Act lawsuit from the federal government. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, six Vanguard facilities across the state and a former director of operations are accused of submitting false claims to Medicare and TennCare using forged physician and nurse signatures. The Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Court Blocks Congressional Subpoena of Backpage

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday blocked a congressional subpoena seeking information on how the classified advertising website Backpage.com screens ads for possible sex trafficking, the Associated Press reports. Backpage had asked the high court to intervene, saying the subpoena threatens the First Amendment rights of online publishers. The Senate voted 96-0 in March to hold the website in contempt after it refused to produce documents for a congressional investigation into Internet-based human trafficking. A federal appeals court had directed the website to respond to the subpoena within 10 days. Roberts said the company does not have to comply until further action from the Supreme Court. The Times Free Press has the story.

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Stanton Judicial Appointment Caught in Stalemate

With time running out in this congressional session, Senate Democrats say they will increase pressure on Republicans to hold confirmation votes on judicial nominees, including Edward Stanton III of Memphis. The Senate returns to work today after a seven-week break. Stanton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, has waited almost a year for a floor vote on his nomination to be a U.S. district court judge. President Obama nominated him to fill a vacancy in May 2015 and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously last October to send his nomination to the Senate floor. The Commercial Appeal reports that 27 other nominees, including 18 district court judges, also are waiting for a vote.

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Retirement Reception Planned for 2 Magistrate Judges

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee will hold a retirement reception for Magistrate Judges John S. Bryant and E. Clifton Knowles on Sept. 8 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The ceremonies will take place in Judge Aleta Trauger’s courtroom on the eighth floor of the federal building and courthouse in Nashville.

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Stanford Law Professor to Preview Upcoming Supreme Court Term

The Nashville Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents its Annual Supreme Court Preview on Sept. 13 at noon. The free event will feature remarks by Pamela Karlan, law professor and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The presentation will be held at Bass, Berry & Sims, 150 Third Ave. South, Suite 2800 in downtown Nashville. Learn more or register online.

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FCC Won’t Appeal 6th Circuit Decision on Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said this week it will not appeal a decision from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that reinforced states’ authority to limit the expansion of Internet service provided by cities. The FCC wanted Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board to expand its broadband service into rural counties outside its defined legal service boundaries, despite a state law preventing it from doing so. The FCC had argued that furthering the purposes of federal telecommunications law outweighed the state interest. The ABA Journal links to several news stories.

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Nashville Civic, Political Activist Betty Nixon Dies

Betty Chiles Nixon, a trailblazing woman in Nashville politics and a relentless advocate for neighborhoods, died Sunday (Aug. 28). She was 80. Nixon served on the Metro Council from 1975 to 1987 and was the first woman to chair the Budget and Finance Committee. She also was the first woman to run for Nashville mayor, in 1987 and again in 1991, losing both times. And she was the first woman to run a statewide political campaign: Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign. Nixon, who previously was married to U.S. District Judge John Nixon, worked as assistant vice chancellor for community, neighborhood and government relations at Vanderbilt University until retiring in 2007. A memorial service will be held later this year. The Tennessean has more on her life.

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States File Suit Over Transgender Healthcare Rules

Texas and four other states filed another lawsuit this week seeking to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen transgender rights, saying new federal nondiscrimination health rules could force doctors, hospitals and insurers to act contrary to their medical judgment or religious beliefs. Kansas, Kentucky Nebraska and Wisconsin joined the suit, which argues that the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition procedures against their beliefs. The Associated Press has the story.

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New Magistrate Judges Named for Middle District

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Alistair Newbern and Jeffery S. “Chip” Frensley have been selected to fill the magistrate judge positions being vacated by retiring judges John S. Bryant and E. Clifton Knowles, respectively. Newbern, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, will take office Aug. 31. Frensley has over 20 years of litigation experience in the areas of criminal defense, employment law and civil rights litigation. He will take office on Oct. 9. Read more about the new judges in this announcement from the court.

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Public Approval of Supreme Court Matches Low Point

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 42 percent job approval rating is down slightly from September 2015 and matches the low point in the Gallup poll's 16-year history. The earlier mark was recorded in 2005 just after the court allowed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development. Among its other findings, the poll indicates that Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to approve of the court, though the differential has narrowed. Read more or view survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

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UT Law Professors Named to Civil Rights Committee

Two professors at the University of Tennessee College of Law have been appointed to the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Val Vojdik, the Waller Lansden Distinguished Professor of Law, and Brian Krumm, associate professor of law and director of the college’s Business Law and Trademark Clinic, were selected as Knoxville’s sole representatives on the committee. They join two educators from Middle Tennessee State University, who were announced by that school last week.

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Judge Blocks Obama’s Transgender Directive

A federal judge in Texas yesterday blocked the Obama administration’s order that requires public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. Texas and 12 other states had asked the court to halt the directive from May, the Texas Tribune reports. The move comes just days after the General Services Administration directed federal venues, including courthouses, prisons, Social Security Administration offices and Department of Veterans Affairs offices to let people use the restroom of their choice. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Justice Department sued North Carolina over a state law that requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificates.

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Registration Open for Supreme Court Admissions Program

Registration is now open for the TBA Academy, which offers an exciting opportunity for Tennessee attorneys to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The 2016 TBA Academy will take place Nov. 28-30 in Washington, D.C., at The Hay Adams Hotel. Participating attorneys will be sworn in before the court in a private ceremony on Nov. 29. Registration forms and required materials must be submitted by Oct. 19. Learn more online or contact TBA Meetings Coordinator Therese Byrne, 615-277-3208 with any questions.

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ASCAP, BMI Join Forces to Fight Music Licensing Ruling

The leaders of ASCAP and BMI convened a private meeting Monday for Nashville’s songwriting and publishing community in a historic show of solidarity by the two competitors, the Tennessean reports. The performance rights organizations are banding together to fight a ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding 100 percent licensing, which allows a copyright holder to license a song no matter how small a percentage of the copyright they own. The groups said they expect a protracted battle with the Justice Department. By contrast, the DOJ ruling has been applauded by music tech firms such as Google and Pandora, along with radio broadcasters and restaurants that license music.

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DEA Rejects Downgrading of Marijuana

The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how marijuana is treated under federal drug control laws, National Public Radio reports. The move keeps the drug in the most restrictive category for law enforcement purposes. The DEA said the decision was based on the FDA’s finding that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use and remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug.

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Opinion: Senate GOP Inaction Puts Judiciary in Crisis

Nashville appellate lawyer Daniel Horwitz writes in the Tennessean that the U.S. Senate’s “unprecedented inaction” on judicial nominees has thrown the American judicial system into crisis. Horwitz argues that “large swaths of the federal judiciary are simply missing – resulting in excessive delays, exploding dockets and inconsistent application of the law in different parts of the country.” Nearly one-third of federal court vacancies are designated “judicial emergencies,” which means filings exceed 600 per judge. 

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Judge Trauger Named 2016 YWCA Honoree

The YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee has named eight honorees for its 2016 Academy for Women of Achievement, including Judge Aleta Trauger, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The distinction honors women who, through excellence and leadership in their chosen fields, serve as role models for other women. The honorees will be recognized at a special induction ceremony this fall at the Omni Nashville Hotel. Get more information about the event and how to purchase tickets on the YWCA website.

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Tennessee Athletes Take ‘Pay for Play’ to 6th Circuit

Tennessee college athletes will be before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this week arguing they should be paid for the use of their names and images in the college sports industry and on television, the Tennessean reports. The athletes are asking a panel of three judges to reopen their case, which a Nashville federal judge dismissed last year. Ten former football and basketball athletes, many of whom attended Vanderbilt University or the University of Tennessee, filed a $5 million lawsuit in 2014 saying their images were used without their permission by the broadcast networks and eight NCAA conferences.

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McConnell Renews Vow: Obama Will Not Fill Vacancy

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down Tuesday on his pledge to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from a confirmation hearing and vote this year, CQ Roll Call reports. “On that sad day when we lost Justice Scalia, I made [a] pledge that Obama would not fill his seat,” McConnell said yesterday from the stage of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. When it comes to picking a Scalia successor, McConnell said, “That honor will go to Donald Trump next year.”

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Obama: Failure to Vote on Nominee Undermines Democracy

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, President Barack Obama says the U.S. Senate’s refusal to hold an up-or-down vote on his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland “could weaken our most important institutions, erode public trust and undermine our democracy.” He also argues that subjecting nominees to “an endless cycle of political retaliation” leaves important legal questions unanswered and makes Americans more cynical about government. As of today, Garland has been waiting 125 days for a vote. He now ties Justice Louis Brandeis for the longest wait. Obama also used the editorial to call on the Senate to agree to terms for considering future nominees within a set period of time. The ABA Journal has more on the proposal.

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DOJ Asks Court to Rehear Immigration Case

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday asked the Supreme Court for a rehearing of a case challenging President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration as soon as a ninth justice is appointed. The administration said there should be a definitive decision on the merits of the executive actions instead of the 4-4 split by the high court that left an appellate court decision striking the actions in place, but did not set precedent on the issue. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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Criminal Justice Overhaul on Tap for September

The U.S. House of Representatives will take up six bills designed to overhaul the criminal justice system in September, Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday. The Wisconsin Republican says that both parties went too far on the criminal code in the 1990s. “We’ve learned that there are better ways to dealing with these problems than locking up someone for 20 or 30 years. You end up ruining their lives, ruining their families, hurting communities. And then when they try to reenter into society, they’re destitute,” Ryan told National Public Radio. Roll Call has more on the story.

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Crenshaw Joins Middle District Court at Ceremonies

Nashville attorney Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. was sworn in as the newest member of the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee during an investiture ceremony today in Nashville. Appearing before several hundred supporters, Crenshaw spoke of his journey to the bench and the important mentors and other figures in his development as an attorney. U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, as well as U.S Rep. Jim Cooper, Judge Richard Dinkins and Nashville attorneys Aubrey Harwell and Robert Boston addressed the audience before Crenshaw was administered the oath by Chief Judge Kevin Sharp. TBA President Jason Long presented Crenshaw a gavel to welcome him to the bench. See photos from the event.

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