News

Court Opens Term with Case on Police Actions

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its new term Monday with a case questioning whether a police officer’s misunderstanding of the law can justify a traffic stop that led to the seizure of illegal drugs. A divided North Carolina Supreme Court said the mistake was reasonable enough to justify the routine traffic stop and refused to toss out the drug evidence. Other actions today included decisions to leave in place the conviction of a Massachusetts man who argued his online activities were free speech, not support for al-Qaida; reject an appeal to South Carolina’s redrawn state house and congressional maps; and not hear an appeal from a lawyer/activist who claimed a federal judge ruled against him because of personal bias.

The court did grant review in a number of cases, including a challenge to Abercrombie & Fitch’s decision to not hire a Muslim teen because her hijab was deemed inconsistent with the company’s dress code; a question of federal litigation fee awards; a case involving ERISA plan fiduciaries; and whether discrimination claims brought under the Fair Housing Act can be based on proof of disparate impact rather than intentional discrimination. WATE News 6, WRCB News 3, Bloomberg News and the ABA Journal have more on each of these cases.

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Group Granted Class Action Status in HCA Lawsuit

Plaintiffs who filed a securities fraud case against HCA Holdings Inc., the Nashville-based hospital giant, on Monday were granted class-action status in a suit stemming from the company’s $4.3 billion initial public offering in 2011, the Tennessean reports. The claim, brought by New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund as lead plaintiff, alleges HCA failed to disclose the company was experiencing a decline in Medicare and Medicaid revenues and had improperly accounted for previous reorganizations in a “false and misleading” initial public offering registration statement. The list of defendants includes HCA’s top executives as well as several high-profile investment banks and a private equity group.

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Court Seeks Comments on Rule Change Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to suspend rules; requirements for electronic copies of transcripts; specification of the color of application responses and amici in TRAP 9 and 11 matters; and refinement of criminal contempt provisions. Four TBA sections — Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, and Criminal Justice — will review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 27.

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Court: Unlimited Surety Bond Not Required to Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that an unlimited surety bond is not required for an appeal of a civil case from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court. Ruling in a 2007 Shelby County case, the court found that a cash bond covering the amount of court costs and litigation taxes is enough to permit an appeal. The unanimous ruling also noted that courts can request additional security under state law if necessary. The AOC has more on the decision.

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Chattanooga Lawyer Sues Phone Book for Wrong Listing

Chattanooga attorney Charles Dupree, who has practiced in the city since 1974, has sued YP Southeast Advertising & Publishing LLC and Yellowbook after his name was listed backward -- with Charles being listed as his last name and Dupree being listed as his first name -- in both the white and yellow pages. Dupree said he was contacted last spring by the directory sales staff to confirm his 2014 listing. He advised that the listing should remain the same. In his complaint, Dupree says the mix-up suggests he has gone out of business and that lawyers and clients have remarked about him 'not being in the telephone book.’ The suit seeks $65,000 in damages.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Columns Cover Statute of Repose, Reproductive Rights, Don Paine

In this issue, President Cindy Wyrick and columnist John Day each give different views of the Statute of Repose, and Marlene Eskind Moses's column this month covers a little-known area of reproductive rights, assisted reproductive technology. Don Paine, who died in November, is remembered by editor Suzanne Craig Robertson and columnist Bill Haltom, who also gives tribute to John Smartt. You can also read a "Paine on Procedure" column written by Paine before his death.

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Memphis Litigation Support Firm Announces Merger

Memphis-based Alpha Legal Solutions announced this week that it has merged with Litigation Resource Group, a legal technology company founded by Robb Helt in Fort Smith, Ark. According to Kathy May, founder of Alpha Reporting Corporation and CEO of Alpha Legal Solutions, the merger will widen the company’s trial technology client base and heighten the level of capability demanded by attorneys to better service their clients in trials, mediations and arbitrations. Helt has relocated to Memphis and will serve as president of Alpha Legal Solutions. He brings significant experience to the table having supported 500 jury trials, mediations and arbitrations including the massive BP oil spill litigation and serving as lead trial technology consultant for Halliburton.

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2014 Rules Package Published

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published its 2014 package of amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, including changes to the Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Appellate Procedure. The amendments, which would be effective July 1, 2014, if approved by the General Assembly, include new authority for appellate courts to suspend rules; requirements for electronic copies of transcripts; specification of the color of applications, responses and amici in TRAP 9 and 11 matters; and refinement of criminal contempt provisions. The court adopted the single recommendation from the TBA and Public Defenders Conference that trial court discretion to substitute a statement of evidence for a verbatim transcript on appeal not apply to criminal cases.

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Memphis Lawyer, Former TBA Governor Dies at 67

Memphis lawyer and former TBA Board of Governors member Fred Moseley Acuff Jr. died Friday (Dec. 6) at the age of 67. Acuff earned his law degree from the University of Alabama in 1971 and began his legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In 1973, he moved to Memphis to begin private practice, and from 1979 to 2004, he was a partner with the law firm of Humphreys Dunlap Wellford Acuff & Stanton. After the firm merged with Farris Bobango, Acuff remained a partner and was working there at the time of his death. Acuff also served as chair of the TBA Litigation Section and was a member of the board of governors in the late 1990s. He also was active in the Memphis Bar Association, serving for seven years as board chair of Memphis Legal Placement. Visitation will be Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Canale Funeral Directors, 2700 Union Ave. Extended, Memphis 38112. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Grace St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 1720 Peabody Ave., Memphis 38104. Memorials may be sent to the church or to Wesley Senior Ministries Foundation, 1615 Appling Rd., Cordova, TN 38016.

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Former Circuit Court Clerk Arrested for Theft

The TBI has arrested a former deputy clerk accused of stealing money from the Hardin County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, the Jackson Sun reports. Amber Renee Terry, 32, of Savannah was indicted by a Hardin County grand jury Monday on one count of theft of property over $10,000 and one count of official misconduct. Terry admitted to taking between $13,500 and $14,000 from the clerk’s office. She surrendered to authorities and was booked on a $5,000 bond.

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Humor: Football Game Prayers and '1st Church of Neyland'

Prayers in Knoxville's Neyland Stadium were never more needed, especially after last Saturday's Auburn game, and Bill Haltom is ready. In this month's humor column, Haltom gives a testimonial about football-game prayers and the First Church of Neyland, where its 100,000 members "pass the orange offering plate seven times a year." Read "Meet me at the 50 … and bring your lawyer" in this month's Journal.

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Paine Explains Lay Opinion, Reviews Lindbergh Book

In the November issue, Tennessee Bar Journal columnist Donald F. Paine explains lay opinion, using as his example the trial of current death row inmate Jerry Ray Davidson. Paine also reviews the book The 16th Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist and the Lindbergh Kidnapping, by Adam J. Schrager, which Paine heartily recommends.

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UT Law Profs Author New Book on Civil Procedure

University of Tennessee College of Law professors George Kuney and Donna Looper have authored a new book: A Civil Matter: A Guide to Civil Procedure and Litigation, both as a print edition and an e-book. Published by West, the book is a concise overview of the civil litigation process under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and follows a diversity car accident case from the district court to post-trial proceedings and settlement before retrial. The authors report that the book is intended as an introduction and overview for those unfamiliar with civil litigation and who need to develop a detailed understanding of the nuts and bolts of the process quickly and efficiently.

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AG Reviewing Proposed Pilot Settlement

The Tennessean reports that state Attorney General Robert E. Cooper is reviewing a proposed settlement of multiple suits filed against Pilot Flying J, alleging that the company withheld millions of dollars in promised rebates to trucking customers. The “fairness review” comes as lawyers for some of the affected trucking firms have charged that the offer, with an estimated $40 million price tag, is far from adequate. The review is mandated under the federal Class Action Fairness Act. The proposed settlement, filed with a court in Arkansas, would pay trucking firms the amount that Pilot withheld plus six percent interest. Under the deal, the lawyers for the trucking firms could earn up to $14 million in fees.

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2014 Rules Package Published for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to suspend rules; requirements for electronic copies of transcripts; specification of the color of applications; responses and amici in TRAP 9 and 11 matters; and refinement of criminal contempt provisions. Four TBA sections -- Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law and Criminal Justice -- will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 27. 

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Court Updates Technology Provisions Rule

The Tennessee Supreme Court updated Rule 26 regulating the use of recording equipment in light of technological advances. The rule outlines procedures for recording trial court proceedings and includes provisions for designating the recording as the transcript under the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. “The use of electronic recording has proven to be an exceptionally accurate and economical method of preserving the trial record and the response from litigants and lawyers in my courtroom has been universally positive,” said Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Brothers.

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Jury Scam Back After Run in 2009

Reports of a telephone scam threatening prosecution and fines for not fulfilling federal jury service are prompting courts around the country to remind the public that they rarely contact jurors by phone. “Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call,” David R. Herndon, chief judge of the Southern District of Illinois, wrote in a recent release. “Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for social security numbers, credit card numbers or any other sensitive information.”  Anyone receiving a scam call should contact the clerk's office of the U.S. district court. This is not the first time that scammers have targeted potential jurors. The U.S. courts released a video in 2009 warning of similar schemes.

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Federal Judges Reject Request to Consolidate Pilot Lawsuits

In a two-page decision issued today, a panel of federal judges has rejected a request to consolidate multiple lawsuits filed against Pilot Flying J for an alleged fuel rebate scheme. The panel concluded that it would be best to allow an Arkansas court to continue its deliberations on a proposed settlement, which already has won initial approval from a district court judge in Little Rock. “Centralization at this time could delay settlement proceedings,” the panel concluded, noting that truckers who don’t agree to the settlement terms can opt out. The Tennessean has the story.

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Nelson Mullins Moves into New Nashville Office

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has moved into a 17,000-square-foot office space at One Nashville Place at Fourth Avenue and Commerce Street. Although about the same size in square footage as the firm's previous office at the Regions Center, managing shareholder Larry Papel noted that the new space is "lighter and brighter and newer and nicer." The new space can accommodate up to 25 attorneys. Nelson Mullins, which opened in 2012 with six attorneys, added two more in April of this year and expects to add at least three more attorneys within the next few months. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.

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Review: 'Zubulake's e-Discovery' a Must-Read for Lawyers

If your practice involves e-discovery at all, you know the name Laura Zubulake. Read a review of her new book, Zubulake's e-Discovery: The Untold Story of My Quest for Justice, in this issue. "Her lawsuit resulted in a historic jury verdict and landmark e-discovery opinions that have proven influential not just nationally but also in Tennessee, having been cited by courts across the state," Nashville lawyer Russell Taber writes in his review. "While the Zubulake decisions are well known, her book reveals for the first time what really happened behind the scenes and how she did what she did."

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Knoxville Lawyer Calls for New Approach to Jury Trials

In a recent opinion piece on Knoxnews, Knoxville lawyer Wayne A. Ritchie suggests that civil jury trials are becoming endangered as the resources and time needed to navigate the legal system increase. One solution being used in other jurisdictions is the Short, Summary and Expedited (SSE) trial model. Ritchie writes that a study of courts using this model reveals that locally-tailored approaches can successfully streamline litigation. Ritchie, who is serving as president of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) Southeastern Chapter, says the organization has endorsed the concept and will be advocating for SSE trials in Tennessee. Read more about the concept in his article.

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Miller & Martin Appoints New Leaders

Miller and Martin attorney James T. Williams has been appointed to serve as chair of the firm’s litigation department, the Chattanoogan reports. Alison B. Martin will take the role of vice-chair. “We are excited to have James and Alison lead our Litigation team as the department continues to grow. Their depth of expertise and dedication to the firm makes them invaluable to the future success of the department,“ said Jim Haley, chairman of the firm.

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Nashville Attorneys Appointed to Key Roles in Meningitis Case

Mark Chalos of Leiff Cabraser Heinmann & Bernstein has been appointed federal-state-liaison counsel for the large product liability lawsuit against the New England Compounding Pharmacy. He will coordinate communication with attorneys handling cases against the company, which filed for bankruptcy late last year after it shipped to hospitals and other care providers tainted materials that led to an outbreak of fungal meningitis. The Nashville Post reports that Chalos has also been named to a seven-members plaintiff’s steering committee, joining Nashville lawyer Gerard Stranch, a member at Branstetter Stranch & Jennings. That committee, which will coordinate the pretrial discovery on behalf of the plaintiffs, also includes attorneys from Boston, Atlanta, Michigan and Virginia.

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Unions Fight Workers’ Comp Overhaul

Union groups on Monday blasted Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to create a new workers’ compensation office and place it under the troubled the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessean reports. “We are calling on the governor to put the brakes on moving such a vital process for injured Tennessee workers into the most dysfunctional department in the state,” the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council said in a statement. The bill, which has already cleared the Senate and is progressing in the House, would completely overhaul the workers’ comp program by moving claims out of the courts.

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