News

State Denies Metro's Employment and Wage Records Requests

The Tennessean reports the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied two records requests by Metro Nashville officials for wage and employment data. Metro officials are seeking the information for use in its plans to create a new affordable housing policy. State attorneys argue that the data is confidential information that state labor workers cannot disclose under federal law. “We’re trying to create affordable housing where the jobs are, and for us to really understand where the jobs are, we need the most up-to-date data. And they’re not willing to share that data with us,” Metro Planning Department Executive Director Doug Sloan said.

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Digital Billboard Ruling Ends 15-Year Battle

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled a digital billboard in Brentwood must be converted back into a standard style, ending a 15-year court battle. Brentwood and Metropolitan Nashville teamed up in the lawsuit against Lamar’s Advertising. Metro initially approved construction of the billboard that sits 12-feet north of the city’s border, but then denied Lamar’s request to make the sign digital, citing it was prohibited in its zoning district. Read more from The Brentwood Homepage

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Hendersonville Attorney Faces 20 Years for Wire Fraud

Garry Christopher Forsythe, the former owner of Forsythe Title and Escrow, faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, Hendersonville Star News reports. Forsythe, of Hendersonville, admitted to misusing more than $2.2 million in escrow funding provided by real estate buyers and lenders. His sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2016. The Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended Forsythe from the practice of law in 2009 pending the outcome of this case.

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Metro Airbnb Rule Seeks to Limit Number of Occupants

A new ordinance sponsored by Metro Nashville Councilwoman Burkley Allen would make it illegal for Airbnb and other short-term rental hosts to advertise a rental property for more occupants than is permitted. A violation of the proposed rule would result in a violator’s short-term rental permit getting revoked. “There are now probably somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 [short-term rental properties] in Nashville and I hear very few complaints,” Allen said. “The only complaints I hear are about the large [homes] that are being used for party houses.” Read more from The Tennessean.

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Court Rules Mortgage Service Had No Constitutionally Protected Interest in Land

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld that Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) was not entitled to prior notice of the sale of mortgaged land in Hamilton County because it did not have an interest in the land that is constitutionally protected under the Due Process Clause. Purchasers of the land borrowed money from a MERS member lender but later sold the note to another lender, who failed to pay 2006 property taxes. Hamilton County initiated tax foreclosure proceedings and did not notify MERS of the proceedings. MERS filed a lawsuit to set aside the tax sale. The Court affirmed the trial’s court judgment, saying Hamilton County was not required to give MERS notice before it sold the land. Read the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. v. Carlton J. Ditto opinion, authored by Justice Holly Kirby.

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Multiple Real Estate Firms May be Allowed to Represent State

The state Department of General Services is asking commercial real estate brokers to offer their plans to manage the state’s office leases and will consider allowing multiple firms to represent the state government. Officials will not extend their contract with Jones Lang LaSalle, but the Chicago-based company is free to bid on the new contract. Read more from Nashville Public Radio

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New Case Added to Supreme Court Fantasy Challenge

A new case has been added to the Tennessee Supreme Court Fantasy Challenge. Learn about legal issues involving the purchase of property at a tax sale in the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc v. Carlton J. Ditto, et al case before the Supreme Court. 

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Signs for Airbnb Can Remain in Nashville Yards During Lawsuit

WZTV reports Airbnb signs can remain in Nashville yards while a couple’s lawsuit over Airbnb rules is pending, according to a circuit court judge’s ruling Friday. A Nashville couple sued the city after an ordinance went into effect earlier this year banning Airbnb signs and limiting the number of people who can rent their homes as Airbnbs while they are living out of town.

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Knox County Judges Void 182 Annexation Attempts

Knox County judges voided Knoxville’s 182 annexation attempts due to a 2015 enacted law that prohibits annexation without the consent of property owners, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The court orders require the city to pay court costs in the 182 cases – an estimated $33,943.

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Rights of Property Owners CLE is Thursday

Watch the live presentation of the continuing legal education program, "Rights of Property Owners vs. Luck of Birth Knoxville" Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. Mathew Grossman reviews the recent court opinion regarding the Bailey Farm in Loudon County. This decision bolstered the right of property owners against state claims of distance relatives.

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LAET Attorney Stunned by Knoxville Family's Eviction

Attorney Terry Woods with Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) said she has never seen an eviction like the one that forced Lisa Love and her family out their Knoxville home, WATE reports. Love lost her home due to financial difficulties stemming from Love’s 2009 unemployment and disability application. LAET will host an Open Clinic and InterFaith Legal Advice Clinic in Knoxville during Celebrate Pro Bono Month on Oct. 24, 9:15 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the John Tarleton Gymnasium Helen Ross McNabb Center, 2455 Sutherland Ave. No appointments are necessary and Spanish-speaking interpreters will be available. Contact Woods for more information.

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Hot Topics in Real Estate

Join your colleagues for the TBA's annual Hot Topics in Real Estate Seminar on Nov. 6. This year’s program will offer attendees insight into tax sales, bankruptcy, best practices certification, and the annual legislative report. One session will give special consideration to HOA law. Don’t miss this opportunity to network with attorneys in this practice area.

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Nashville Partners to Chair Practice Groups

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP appointed Nashville partners Emily Hatch Bowman and Ty E. Howard as new practice group chairs within the firm. Bowman represents financial institutions and corporate clients in a variety of commercial and real estate lending matters. Howard represents organizations and individuals in government and internal investigations, compliance matters and related civil or criminal litigation. “Bradley Arant’s practice leaders hold a crucial and respected role, as they work to guide their colleagues in a trajectory that benefits our clients and the firm as a whole,” firm chairman Beau Grenier said.

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Panel Discusses Increasing State's Homestead Exemption

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) wrapped up a two-day meeting Thursday with a discussion of Tennessee’s homestead exemption. Since the 1977 constitutional convention that moved the exemption into statute and increased the homestead exemption to $5,000, there has been no change to the individual homestead exemption, only categories added. Tennessee has one of the lowest homestead exemptions in the nation and the state leads the nation in the highest bankruptcy rate filings per capita. A TACIR research report cited the most common reason for bankruptcy is medical bills. Panelists included Maria Salas, a Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist who represented the Tennessee Bar Association. TACIR will be looking at an approach to increasing and/or perhaps simplifying Tennessee’s complex homestead exemptions and will present a policy recommendation at its meeting in October.

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Court of Appeals Affirms Ruling in Property Lawsuit

The Tennessee Court of Appeals is affirming an Aug. 14 court ruling that determined the statute of limitations did not run out for a Rutherford County resident to sue a gun manufacturer over a land-sale breach-of-contract argument. Brenda Benz sued Ronnie Barrett in 2008 for failing to provide access to her land three years after she sold him the property for the expansion of Barrett Firearms. "It's been a long and arduous process, but the court got it right from the very beginning," Benz said in the Murfreesboro Post. The Court of Appeals also decided Benz never wavered in her request for land to provide access to her property.

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Sign Up Today to be a Mentor

The TBA Mentoring Program is seeking volunteer mentors from across the state within specific practice areas: Nashville, Civil Rights; Brentwood, Environmental; Columbia, Litigation, General Practice, Real Estate and/or Probate and Trust; Memphis, Intellectual Property. Those participating in the program will commit to a formal mentoring relationship for one year, with a requirement to meet face-to-face at least once a month. For more information, visit the TBA Mentoring Program webpage or contact TBA staff member Christy Gibson, (615) 383-7421.

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Learn More About the Post Tanco World

The outcome of the historical case Tanco v. Haslam will continue to have a significant impact on several aspects of the law. Join your colleagues on Sept. 18 for the first annual LGBT Law Forum to discuss how the case will impact family law, estate planning, real estate and health care practices. And in case you missed it, the TBA's one-hour webcast on marriage equality covers the basics of the case.

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Supreme Court Backs Fair Housing Case

The Supreme Court today ruled that claims of racial discrimination in housing cases shouldn't be limited by questions of intent, National Public Radio reports. The court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision in a case in which a nonprofit group, the Inclusive Communities Project, said that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had contributed to "segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods." The 5-4 ruling endorses the notion of citing disparate impact in housing cases, meaning that statistics and other evidence can be used to show decisions and practices have discriminatory effects — without proving that they're the result of discriminatory intentions.

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First Tennessee to Pay Government $212.5 Million

First Tennessee Bank has agreed to pay $212.5 million after admitting to making bad mortgage loans. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the bank kept approving Federal Housing Administration loans for ineligible borrowers through its subsidiary, First Horizon Home Loans Corporation, between January 2006 and October 2008. When many of those loans later defaulted, the banks holding the loans were able to submit insurance claims to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for their losses. News Channel 9 has the story.

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Free Legal Clinic for Residents Affected by Bed Bugs

Chattanooga attorney Emily O'Donnell is offering free advice to residents affected by bed bugs in a low-income housing complex, News Channel 9 reports. People living at Whiteside's Faith Manor said they have been dealing with bed bugs for more than three years, and that management has been little to no help in fixing the problem. Those who need help can call Legal Aid at (423) 756-4013, ext. 1109, before June 8.

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Hamilton County Jury Awards $20 Million to Developers

A Hamilton County Circuit Court jury today awarded $20,599,000 to the developers of Canyon Ridge on Lookout Mountain against a financial firm that allegedly secretly started working on a rival project. The jury also said the plaintiffs are due punitive damages. Attorneys tell Chattanoogan.com that it is believed to be the largest verdict award in Hamilton County history.

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'Swingers Club' Claims it is a Church in Zoning Fight

A "swingers" group relocating to suburban Nashville plans to change its name from The Social Club to the United Fellowship Center — part of a strategy to rebrand itself as a church, according to the ABA Journal. The club’s lawyer, Larry Roberts, tells the Washington Post he came up with the idea of changing the club to a church to afford religious protections to the group, which is still operating in Nashville pending resolution of legal disputes.

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Neighborhood Protection Act Clears General Assembly

A proposal that would help organized residential entities keep repeat offenders out of their communities is headed to the governor for his consideration. SB638/HB843 allows such entities to petition a judge for a restraining order against repeat criminals that target the inside of its boundaries. The offender must have been convicted of three or more offenses that occurred inside the residential area. Knoxblogs has more

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Court Requires Strict Interpretation of Civil Forfeiture Laws

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state must present evidence that it has complied with procedural and substantive requirements in civil forfeiture laws before it can seize property. In the case in question, the court found that that the state failed to present affirmative proof it complied with procedural requirements outlined in the law. It thus reversed the trial court’s decision and vacated the forfeiture in question. The court also used the case as an opportunity to emphasize that forfeiture is disfavored under Tennessee’s constitution, meaning that forfeiture statutes must be strictly interpreted. Read more about the decision or download the opinion.

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Wilson & Associates Names New Shareholders

Real estate default services law firm Wilson & Associates, which has two offices in Arkansas and three in Tennessee, has named three new shareholders and hired a new chief financial officer and chief operating officer, DSNews reports. Randy Bueter, Shellie Wallace and Aaron Squyres have been named shareholders in the firm. The three attorneys have combined for 45 years of service with Wilson & Associates.

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