News

Democrats Blast Calls to Block Clinton Court Picks

Three U.S. senators have mentioned the possibility of blocking any Supreme Court candidate nominated by Hillary Clinton if she were to become president. The comments from Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have angered the White House and Senate Democrats, Roll Call reports. Senate Judiciary ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont said such a move would amount to a “piecemeal evisceration of the Constitution.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said such calls threaten “the same kind of dysfunction that has infected Washington for the last six years.”

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6th Circuit to Hold Session at Memphis Law

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hold oral arguments in the historic courtroom at the University of Memphis School of Law Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. The panel, consisting of Senior Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, Senior Judge Eugene E. Siler Jr. and Memphis Law alumna Judge Bernice B. Donald, will hear arguments in the death penalty case of Andrew Thomas Jr. v. Bruce Westbrooks. Following oral arguments, attorneys in the case will conduct a post-argument debriefing and the judges have agreed to stay for a reception in the school’s Scenic Reading Room.

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Justice Thomas: Confirmation Process is ‘Broken’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says the current Supreme Court confirmation process is an example of how the nation’s capital is “broken in some ways.” Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Thomas reflected on his 25 years as a justice, including his own bruising confirmation process and his fondness for Justice Antonin Scalia. Commenting on the state of discourse in America today, he said, “I think we have decided that rather than confront disagreements, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don't think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.” Yahoo has the Associated Press story.

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Training Offered to Help Lawyers Help Veterans

The University of Tennessee College of Law will hold a two-hour training session on Nov. 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. EST for those interested in learning more about volunteering at a Project Salute event or assisting veterans with legal issues in any setting. A “meet and greet” will follow the program. Register online.

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U.S. Attorneys Outline Plans for Election Complaints

Following news yesterday on how the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville will handle election-related fraud and abuse complaints, federal prosecutors in Memphis and Knoxville have made similar announcements. In Memphis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reagan M. Taylor will lead the Election Day effort. She can be reached at 901-544-4231. The Memphis FBI field office also will be open and can be reached at 901-747-4300. In the Eastern District, Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry H. Piper will take the lead. He can be reached at 423-385-1332. The Knoxville FBI field office also can be reached at 865-544-0751. Anyone with complaints about possible violations of federal voting rights law may also contact the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division directly by calling 800-253-3931, emailing voting.section@usdoj.gov or filling out an online complaint form.

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Prosecutor Outlines Process for Voter Complaints

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville has announced plans for handling complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses during the upcoming general election, Williamson Source reports. U.S. Attorney David Rivera has designated Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Jordan and Henry Leventis to lead local efforts in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program. Members of the public can report violations to them by calling 615-289-8574. Local FBI agents also will be on hand on Election Day and can be reached at 615-232-7500. Complaints about possible violations of federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., by calling 800-253-3931, emailing voting.section@usdoj.gov or filling out an online complaint form.

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Murfreesboro Lawyer Charged with Insider Trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Murfreesboro lawyer and former Pinnacle Financial Partners board member James C. Cope with insider trading related to the bank’s merger with Avenue Financial Holdings the Tennessean reports. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee also filed a parallel criminal case according to the SEC. Federal officials say Cope learned confidential details about the planned merger and then purchased 10,000 shares of Avenue stock prior to the public announcement, making more than $56,000. Cope resigned from Pinnacle’s board in April. He is a partner at Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary.

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Grassley: GOP Has Responsibility to Consider Court Nominees

Republicans “can’t just simply stonewall” nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court even if the president making that choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday. The senator, who is chair of the Judiciary Committee, was responding to comments from fellow Republican Sen. John McCain that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. “I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet…whoever nominee that person puts forward. We have the same responsibility for [Donald] Trump,” Grassley said. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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Federal Law Forum Sessions Now Live

Sessions from the TBA’s recent federal law forum are now available online. A session on expert disclosures features Memphis lawyer Frank Day of Ford Harrison and focuses on using the rule to gain an advantage in litigation, while a second session with arbitrator and mediator Mark Travis focuses on practice tips for those interested in alternative dispute resolution.

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Some VW Owners Slam Emissions Deal

Several angry Volkswagen owners told a federal judge yesterday that a proposed $10 billion settlement does not adequately compensate them for the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal. One owner, for example, demanded the full purchase price of his car as well as part of his registration fee, the Associated Press reports. The settlement calls for the car maker to spend up to $10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 Volkswagens and Audi vehicles with 2-liter diesel engines and pay owners an additional $5,100 to $10,000 each. The deal also requires the company to pay $4.7 billion for environmental mitigation and to promote zero-emissions vehicles. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Federal Agency Extends Contract with CCA

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has extended its contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for the management of a 2,400-bed detention facility in Texas, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The contract, which was criticized by the Washington Post in August, now runs through September 2021. In reviewing the terms of the deal, the Post found that a public-bidding process was not held and the payment structure is more generous than industry norms. Just days after the Post report, the Department of Justice said it would end the use of private prisons.

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Elder Law Programs Now Online

If you missed the TBA's annual Elder Law forum, the courses are now available online. Sessions focused on ABLE TN (a program that helps disabled individuals save for their health care), federal issues related to elder law, emergency conservatorships and a panel addressing TennCare. Watch one or all four!

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Knoxville Judge Hits FBI Tactics in Porn Case

Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan of Knoxville has joined at least six other federal judges in opposing the FBI’s tactics in a child pornography sting that allegedly violated the rights of more than 180 suspects, including a Tennessee funeral director. Jordan ruled that the FBI violated both the U.S. Constitution and federal rules of criminal procedure in its efforts to target suspects because it relied on a Virginia magistrate judge’s search warrant to launch the nationwide initiative. However, unlike other judges, Jordan is allowing the government to use the results of the illegal search in the Tennessee case under the so-called federal good-faith exception, according to Knoxnews.

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Senate Hires Michigan Legal Group for Refugee Lawsuit

The Tennessee Senate has hired the conservative Christian Thomas More Law Center to represent it in a federal lawsuit attempting to block refugee resettlement in the state after state Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III declined to take the case. The House is likely to approve the hire, but nothing has been formalized yet, the Tennessean reports. The Michigan-based legal group will represent the state for free in the nation’s first lawsuit to challenge the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980 based on the 10th Amendment. The move comes after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution earlier this year in support of a lawsuit.

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Underground Railroad Center to Honor Obergefell

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that led to legalization of same-sex marriage across the county, will be honored with an award given to those that better their communities. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati will present him its Everyday Freedom Hero Award at a ceremony on Oct. 22. The center’s president has praised Obergefell as “a champion of civil rights.” The Greeneville Sun has the Associated Press story.

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Investiture Ceremony Set for Newbern, Frensley

Alistair E. Newbern and Jeffery S. Frensley will take the oath of office as U.S. Magistrate Judges for the Middle District of Tennessee during a Joint Investiture Ceremony, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the United States District Court, 801 Broadway, Room 874 in Nashville. A reception will follow.

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Walker Sworn In to U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Hon. Charles M. Walker was sworn in to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee today. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Marian F. Harrison administered the oath in a courtroom at the U.S. Customs House in Nashville, and Chief District Judge Kevin H. Sharp of the U.S. District Court gave remarks welcoming Walker to the court.

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Bankruptcy Court Adopts Changes to Local Rules

Local Rules for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee have been amended and will become effective Nov. 1. You can download a copy of the new rules from the court or see the redline version showing the changes.  

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Labor Department Issues Sick Leave Mandate

In the latest move by the Obama administration to expand benefits for workers, the Department of Labor today issued a new rule requiring federal government contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave to employees. The move is estimated to benefit 1.15 million workers, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The rule follows an executive order Obama issued last year. The rule applies only to contracts resulting from government solicitations after Jan. 1, 2017.

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State AG Joins Multi-State Opioid Treatment Suit

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III joined with attorneys general from 35 other states last week to file suit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. The suit alleges that the companies engaged in an anti-competitive scheme to block generic competitors and cause consumers to pay artificially high prices. “Opioid abuse is a serious problem and we need to make sure those addicted to opioids have treatment available,” Slatery said. “Putting a stop to anticompetitive and deceptive practices is one way to accomplish that.” Read more in this release from the attorney general's office.

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Trump Releases New List of Court Picks

Donald Trump has released a new list of possible Supreme Court picks that appears to address criticism that his prior list lacked diversity. The new list includes U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar of the Eastern District of Kentucky, an Indian-American; U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno of the Southern District of Florida, who was born in Venezuela; and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr., who is black. The one woman on the list is Judge Margaret Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. See the full list in the ABA Journal.

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CLE SKI Set for Jan. 22-27 in Snowmass

Mark your calendar for the 32nd Annual TBA CLE SKI, being held Jan. 22-27, 2017, at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colorado. Participants will be able to attend CLE sessions each morning and afternoon with plenty of time to hit the slopes in between programs. Topics will cover entertainment law, social security disability, updates on labor and employment law, ethics and a U.S. Supreme Court case review.

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Service Tomorrow for Federal Prosecutor

Robert C. Anderson, 64, died Saturday (Sept. 24) in Woodstock, Georgia. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, Anderson served in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps as an assistant district attorney in Fairbanks, Alaska, and as an assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville and Chattanooga. He spent 20 years with the Justice Department, retiring only because of his diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy. A graveside service with military honors will take place tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. The Times Free Press has more on his life.

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Lawmakers Propose New Courthouse be Named for Fred Thompson

Nashville’s new federal courthouse, set to open in 2021, would be named for lawyer and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson under legislation introduced today by the state delegation. The Tennessean reports that Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander introduced a bill to name the courthouse after Thompson on the Senate side, while the entire House delegation, except for Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, introduced the bill in the House. Cooper declined to sign on to the bill saying he favors a “naming contest” that would allow Middle Tennesseans to choose the name.

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Another Bid to Advance Judicial Nominees Fails

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., urged the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to agree to vote on seven district court nominees who have been waiting the longest for full Senate consideration. But Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky objected and instead proposed a shorter list that included Ed Stanton from Tennessee but omitted a  nominee from New Jersey. Booker objected, proposed a vote on just Stanton and the New Jersey nominee -- who have been waiting the longest for votes -- and McConnell once again disagreed. It was the latest effort to break a partisan logjam and confirm judicial nominees, Gavel Grab reports.

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