News

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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Sentencing Reform Bill Stalls in Senate

A sentencing reform bill that once attracted bipartisan support appears to have stalled in the U.S. Senate, the New York Times reports. The bill, which sought to reduce federal mandatory minimum sentences and give nonviolent offenders a second chance, died in “a stunning display of dysfunction,” according to the paper. Senate leaders declared the bill dead after some who initially supported the measure became concerned about appearing soft on crime in an election year.

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Nashville’s New Federal Courthouse Coming in 2021

Twenty-three years elapsed from the time federal officials first deemed Nashville’s courthouse "inadequate" to the moment when Congress finally authorized all the money necessary to build an upgrade. Nashville will now need to wait another five years before that courthouse will open on a prime city block downtown. The Nashville Business Journal looks at the process to date and what to expect in the new facility.

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Comments Sought on Federal Public Defender

The term of Doris Randle-Holt, the federal public defender for the Western District of Tennessee, will expire on April 21, 2017. She is eligible for reappointment, and the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is seeking comments from those in a position to evaluate her performance.  A special Evaluation Committee will be appointed to review and assess Randle-Holt’s work and make a recommendation on her reappointment to the court. Written comments should be sent to the committee by Oct. 18. Get additional details in this announcement from the court.

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Supreme Court Admissions Program Filling Up

Only a limited number of spaces remain for the TBA Academy, which includes an 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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Regions Bank to Pay $52M in Mortgage Loan Case

Alabama-based Regions Bank has agreed to pay more than $52 million to resolve allegations that it improperly handled mortgage loans, federal officials announced this week. The bank was accused of approving mortgage loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, that failed to meet requirements designed to protect homeowners. As part of the settlement, Regions acknowledged it failed to follow several federal guidelines. Authorities said that as a result, the government insured hundreds of loans approved by Regions that were not eligible for mortgage insurance. WRCB-TV has the AP story.

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Court: States Cannot Require Proof of Citizenship for Federal Elections

State laws that require voters to show proof of citizenship before voting in federal elections were knocked down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the ABA Journal reports. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court opinion nixed a similar Arizona law that required proof of citizenship for federal voter registration applicants. The latest suit was filed by voting rights groups after the U.S. Election Assistance Commission allowed states to request citizenship information for residents who used federal forms for mail-in voter registration. The ruling does not impact state laws that require applicants to swear they are U.S. citizens but do not require proof. It also does not prohibit states from asking for proof of citizenship in state and local elections.

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Man Charged with Threatening Federal Officials, Courthouse

A Murfreesboro man appeared in federal court Friday afternoon to face charges that he threatened to shoot up a courthouse and kill a U.S. congresswoman and senator from Hawaii, the Tennessean reports. Kaehiokahouna Stewart was arrested at his home. Court documents indicate Stewart went so far as to buy a plane ticket to Hawaii to carry out his plan. The government also alleges that Stewart sent threatening emails and posted threatening videos on Instagram specifically targeting the legislators.

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Reynolds: Why We Should Elect Supreme Court Justices

University of Tennessee College of Law professor Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today that the nomination and confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court justices has become too political, with even the presidential election centering on who the candidates would name to the high court. He also argues that with lifetime appointments, the court has become extremely powerful and thus, the stakes on filling vacancies are huge. His answer? Elect the justices for fixed terms. Reynolds acknowledges this is not a popular idea but lays out his reasons why he thinks an elected court would be more accountable, less political and possibly more diverse.

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Special Master Seeks Hearing in Mississippi Water Case

Eugene E. Siler Jr., the special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to oversee Mississippi’s $615 million water-rights lawsuit against Memphis and the state of Tennessee, says the case could be decided by a limited hearing on the issue of whether an aquifer connected to the Memphis Sand is an interstate resource. Siler has filed a memorandum of decision calling for such a hearing, the Commercial Appeal reports. David Bearman, an attorney representing Memphis, said he was heartened by the arguments made in the memorandum, saying Siler “appears to agree with the basis of our position.” Attorneys for Mississippi also appeared pleased, saying a hearing would give them the chance to prove that the aquifer is not an interstate resource.

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Pressure Growing on Garland Appointment

Increasing pressure for a vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, says he will object to committee meetings until the Judiciary Committee schedules a session to consider Garland. New Mexico lawyer Steven Michel is attacking on another front, filing in federal court to have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, be told that the Senate cannot ignore a Supreme Court nominee. Current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also speaking out, saying this week that lawmakers should “wake up and appreciate” that a president can appoint justices anytime during his term. She later said she thinks “cooler heads will prevail” in deciding whether to consider Garland’s appointment. The ABA Journal and CBS News have more.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on 20 Court Nominees

ABA President Linda Klein is calling on Senate leaders to schedule a floor vote on 20 nominees for district judgeships whose nominations are stalled. In a letter to leaders this week, Klein says the Senate Judiciary Committee found all 20 nominees to be fully qualified and sent them to the floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. “With over 10 percent of authorized judgeships now vacant, the prompt filling of vacancies is becoming a matter of increasing urgency,” Klein wrote.

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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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