News

Tennessee Infrastructure Needs $45 Billion for Next 5 Years

Tennessee's annual estimate of costs for needed roads, schools, parks and other infrastructure is now $45 billion in the five years between 2016 and 2021 reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. This is an increase of about $2 billion, or 4.7 percent, from last year, according to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, or TACIR, a research institution that explores solutions for state and local governments.
 
In its latest report issued Monday, TACIR hopes that the infrastructure inventory could help local communities to woo federal dollars under President Donald Trump's pending infrastructure plan. The report includes a statewide overview chapter with information by type of infrastructure, the condition and needs of our public-school facilities, the availability of funding to meet reported needs and a comparison of county-area need, including one-page summaries for each Tennessee county.
 
Costs for current infrastructure needs fall into six general categories:
  • Transportation and utilities: $24.8 billion
  • Education: $10.4 billion
  • Health, safety, and welfare: $6.9 billion
  • Recreation and culture: $1.8 billion
  • General government: $767 million
  • Economic development: $360 million
Preliminary discussions of Trump's infrastructure plan indicate states could receive rural infrastructure funds if they have plans for investing the money. The TACIR news release said the report "could provide a foundation for meeting this or similar requirements." The report in its entirety can be found here.
 
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Federal Judge Awards Street Artists $6.7 Million in Milestone Case Against Landlord

On Monday, a federal judge in Brooklyn awarded $6.7 million in damages to 21 artists whose work at 5Pointz — a former factory turned space for artists' studios in Queens, NY — was destroyed according to The Washington Post. This comes after a three-week trial in November 2017 in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. The case marked the first time a court has been asked to determine whether graffiti, with its transitory nature, should be considered art protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), weighing a property owner's rights against the rights of visual artists. 
 
Senior United States District Judge Frederic Block awarded the artists the maximum damages possible, saying the building's owner, Gerald Wolkoff, "willfully" ruined the artwork and showed no remorse for his "recalcitrant behavior." "He was bent on doing it his way, and just as he ignored the artists' rights he also ignored the many efforts the Court painstakingly made to try to have him responsively answer the questions posed to him," Block wrote in his opinion. "Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant."
 
As a final resort one tenant, Johnathan Cohen, tried to prevent the imminent demolition by seeking a preliminary injunction against Wolkoff under VARA. The court denied the plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction but said an opinion would come within eight days. "Rather than wait for the Court's opinion," Block wrote, "Wolkoff destroyed almost all of the plaintiffs' paintings by whitewashing them during that eight-day interim."
 
The landlord and his lawyer have contended that the artists knew for years that the buildings would ultimately be demolished but Block said Wolkoff should have put off demolishing the properties for at least 10 months when he had all his permits. The judge said Wolkoff's "precipitous conduct was an act of pure pique and revenge for the nerve of the plaintiffs to sue to attempt to prevent the destruction of their art."
 
The case is also the first time that a jury decided a VARA claim in court.
 
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The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
 
The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
 
Speakers and producers include:
  • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
  • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
  • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
  • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
  • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
 
Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
 
Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

To volunteer for this event, click here.

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Construction Industry Faces Shortage of Workers Amid Unprecedented Growth

A recent WSMV story highlights concerns of builders in middle Tennessee regarding a shortage of construction workers. The area has seen unprecedented growth, with an estimated 75 people a day moving into the Nashville area alone.
 
"What used to take us about 120 days on average to build a house is now taking us 180 days plus," said Dave McGowan, the owner of Regent Homes, a locally owned home building company in Nashville. "There's a shortage of bricklayers. There's a shortage of different tradesmen from everything, from people who do our carpet work and do our floor work. All the people that really requires skill, there's a true shortage of those people," he continued.
 
This comes at a time when several planned, large-scale construction projects including repaving Interstate 440 and Nashville's proposed metro transit upgrade, will only further exacerbate the problem. Nashville is also on the short list of cities for Amazon's second headquarters, Amazon HQ2, an 8.1-million square foot campus that will create an estimated 50,000 new jobs for the area and a huge need for skilled construction laborers.
 
One way to build the workforce is through high school recruitment. Go Build Tennessee, a nonprofit comprehensive workforce development initiative that seeks to address the problem by getting teens interested in joining the construction workforce, routinely visits area schools to inform young people, parents, educators and influencers about shortages and opportunities in the various construction related trades.
 
"If they are able to go to trade schools and learn that skill set, they would be able to have a job," McGowan said. With only one person replacing every five leaving the construction field, Tennessee will certainly be tasked with finding new and novel ways to address these challenges.
 
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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Just Around the Corner

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is just a couple of weeks away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 

Highlights

  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219

 

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Investor Sues Over Stalled Nashville Property Sale

A New York investor is suing to force the sale of the Gibson Guitar Valley Arts building, a prominent Nashville property that has been vacant for months, the Nashville Post reports. Last week Starguitar LLC became the second investor to file a motion in Davidson County Chancery Court asking to intervene in the legal dispute between Gibson and Somera Road, the investment firm that agreed to purchase the property for $11 million in December. The court will consider the request on Feb. 9.
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Tennessee Department of Revenue Reaches Agreement with Airbnb

Airbnb recently struck a deal with the Tennessee Department of Revenue to collect and remit state and local taxes on behalf of its 7,700 hosts, according to the Nashville Business Journal. This arrangement has been used in other markets to address concerns regarding tax revenue from their short-term rentals not being on par with that of their hotel competitors. Tennessee joins neighboring states of Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas as areas with similar agreements. 
 
This news comes as Metro Council was scheduled to vote on BL-937, an ordinance amending Title 6 and sections 17.04.060, 17.08.030, 17.16.250 and 17.16.070 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws to add a new Chapter 6.83 pertaining to a short-term rental properties advisory committee and to establish regulations regarding short-term rental properties and distinct land uses for "Short-term rental property - Owner-Occupied" and "Short-term rental property - Not Owner-Occupied." The vote, however, was commuted to Jan. 23 because of inclement weather.
 
The company has long been a source of controversy in the area because of various concerns of taxation, noise complaints, even sparking First Amendment debates regarding anatomically correct sex dolls. In fact, problems with Airbnb rentals have become so numerous, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry established a devoted hotline tasked with aggregating and addressing these concerns.
 
The new statewide tax agreement, which will take effect March 1, is the second such deal Airbnb has struck in Tennessee, following an earlier agreement with Memphis. Airbnb has touted the agreements as a revenue generator and a reason for governments to work with — not against — the company.
 
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New AirBnB Regulations Advance on Second Reading in Nashville

Nashville could soon see tougher rules governing AirBnB rentals, thanks to a bill that passed second reading last night at the Metro Council meeting, The Tennessean reports. The bill strengthens caps on non-owner-occupied rentals allowed in suburban parts of Davidson County and creates a new “anti-clustering” rule to prevent concentration. The third and final reading will take place on Jan. 16, when the council will also consider whether to ban non-owner occupied short-term rentals in residential areas outright.
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Supreme Court Affirms Conviction in Theft of House Case

In State of Tennessee v. Tabitha Gentry (AKA Abka Re Bay), the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled the state’s theft statute applies to real property. In the case, the defendant challenged whether Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-103 encompassed theft of a house. The Supreme Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions of Class A felony theft and aggravated burglary. Justice Cornelia A. Clark authored the opinion.

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Hot Topics in Real Estate Coming Next Week

If you do real estate law, you don't want to miss the annual Hot Topics in Real Estate program jointly produced by the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Land Title Association. This year's program will be Nov. 10 at the AT&T Building in downtown Nashville, starting at 8:30 a.m. and offering 6.25 CLE hours credit. Here's what the agenda looks like.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Targeting Affiliated Businesses

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently took action against Meridian Title Corporation (Meridian) for violation of a long-standing provision of the Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act (RESPA). CFPB has been delegated with the enforcement of RESPA.  
 
According to the release, Meridian is a real estate settlement agent and a title insurance agency located in South Bend, Indiana, which was found to have steered “consumers to a title insurer owned in part by several of [Meridian’s] executives without making disclosures about the business affiliation.” 
 
When directed to its affiliated provider, the settlement agent/title agent “was able to keep extra money beyond the commission it would normally have been entitled to collect based on an understanding with the affiliated provider, to add to its bottom line,” according to Director Richard Cordray.
 
Receiving “anything of value” pursuant to a referral agreement has long been a violation of RESPA, but if the referring entity meets the definition of an “affiliated business,” then the referring entity must “generally disclose its relationship to the consumer.” Theoretically, this permits the consumer to exercise independent judgment regarding whether to use that provider. The penalty for Meridian’s failure to disclosure resulted in an order that required the regional company to pay $1.25 million to 7,000 “harmed consumers” and an order to desist from such conduct in the future.
 
Unfortunately, many affiliated providers of services for title agencies and lenders have become lax and brush off this continuing obligatory disclosure to the consumer.
 
This action is noteworthy because the CFPB has identified and taken action against a relatively minor player in the title industry. This should reinforce the importance of compliance by every title agency and lender. Lenders who enjoy affiliated business arrangements with title insurance providers are apt to trivialize this RESPA requirement when dealing with the consumer, especially when the lender views the provider as a business partner through its relationship as a member in the provider’s limited liability company.
 
As with many consumer protection regulations, the consumer often fails to appreciate the value of choosing services through a provider that does not share in the financial interest of the lender. This is especially true when an owners title policy is issued simultaneously with a loan policy. The interest of the consumer and lender are not necessarily the same.
 
Paul "Kelley" Hinsley is an eastern delegate and past chair of the executive council for the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Section. Hinsley holds degrees from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of Tennessee College of Law.

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Global & Tennessee Specific Trade & Investment Perspectives & Policies for 2018 & Beyond

 
The International Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association is sponsoring a free seminar “Global & Tennessee Specific Trade & Investment Perspectives & Policies for 2018 & Beyond” to be held on Thursday, Nov. 2 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Nashville School of Law, Appellate Courtroom, 4013 Armory Oaks Drive, Nashville, Tenn. 
 
The speakers on the panel include:
  • Terry Olsen, Chair of the TBA International Law Section, as Moderator
  • Clay Banks, Regional Director of Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
  • James Forde, Prosperity and Economics Officer of British Consulate General, Atlanta
  • Ms. Joanne Chu, Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (New York)
  • Mr. Michael Kwan, Deputy Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (New York)
The seminar will provide an overview of the global & U.S. trade & investment landscape as it concerns Tennessee for 2018 & beyond, and both policy & legal views of the ever-changing global standard of Tennessee in the international investment environment.
 
Attendees will also have the opportunity to have direct interactive discussions with the speakers at the end of the seminar.
 
The panel discussion will last from 6pm thru 7pm, and then followed with a FAQ session for attendees, along with a light reception of beverage & desserts. 
 
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Hot Topics in Real Estate 2017

The annual Hot Topics in Real Estate program, a collaborative between the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Land Title Association, is right around the corner. This program offers advanced topics in real estate for Tennessee lawyers and the opportunity to network with professionals sharing your focus.
 
This year's program will return with perennial favorites: legislative updates and case law updates, providing you with the important information needed to stay on top of your game. New this year are two innovative sessions focused on pressing issues in cybersecurity, an ever-changing market that often requires a novel approach. Section members receive a discounted rate for the program. For more information and to register for this event, click here.
 
 
• When: Nov. 10, registration begins at 8 a.m., CDT
 
• Where: AT&T Building, Auditorium, 333 Commerce St., Nashville, TN, 37201
 
 
Other topics include:
 
tax sales
commercial underwriting
sovereign citizens and squatters
 
Speakers/producers include:
 
• Scott Augenbaum, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nashville 
• Joshua Denton, Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin PLLC, Nashville 
• Joshua Hopkins, Rubin Lublin, LLC, Peachtree Corners 
• Joseph Kirkland Jr., CloseTrak, Memphis 
• Gerald Morgan, Wilson & Associates, PLLC, Brentwood 
• Mark Rosser, First American Title Insurance Company, Knoxville
• Charles Welch Jr, Farris Bobango PLC, Nashville
 
Course material will be made available online. We hope to see you there.
 
 
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Lawsuit Filed Against Knoxville Developer

A lawsuit alleging misrepresentation has been filed against prominent Knoxville developer Richard E. “Rick” Dover, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Royal Properties, Inc., which represents the owners of the historic Pryor Brown garage building in Knoxville, is suing Dover for alleged dishonesty over the costs of turning the building into condominiums and commercial space. He is also accused in the lawsuit of tricking the owners into deeding him the property and of using the property as his own personal storage. Dover had six felony convictions in Texas related to financial fraud more than 20 years ago, but built a career in Knoxville after that.
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Judge Tosses Lawsuit Against Zillow ‘Zestimates’

A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit claiming real estate website Zillow’s “Zestimates” are in violation of appraisal laws, the ABA Journal reports. The suit was filed by a building company that believed Zillow was undervaluing some properties and publishing Zestimates, automated guesses as to a property’s appraisal value, without permission. The plaintiffs are looking into amending the complaint and pursuing the case further.
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15-Hour Annual Review CLE Set for Knoxville

On Aug. 25, a special Tennessee Bar Association CLE will provide 15 hours of combined live and online continuing legal education. Attend for seven live hours and receive an additional eight online credits to complete at your convenience. Topics for the live portion include cyber security, real estate, unemployment compensation, probate and more.

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Developers of Nashville Twin-Tower Project Head to Trial

The developers of a twin-tower project in Nashville are heading to trial over their controversial effort to buy a small parking lot in the footprint of their development, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The trial is scheduled for January 2018 and will see out-of-state investors clash with the Atlanta-based owner of the lot. The project was approved by the Metro Planning Commission last year and would be among the five tallest buildings in Nashville – 10 to 25 stories above Metro zoning restrictions for the area.
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Appellate Court Rules Landowners May Challenge TDOT Pipeline Permit

A judge found that two landowners do have standing to challenge a Tennessee Department of Transportation permit granted to US Nitrogen, which operates two 10-mile pipelines running along two state highways and could be intruding on the owners’ property, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Appeals Court Judge Brandon O. Gibson’s ruling completely reverses the decision of a lower court. US Nitrogen could be forced to remove the pipelines, which are being utilized in the production of ammonium nitrate, after the case goes back to Chancery Court to determine the legality of TDOT’s permits. 
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Item of Interest

Below is an article that was published in the the Disability Section Connect. We thought it had information that would be of interest to those of you in this section as well.  

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Man Sentenced in Mortgage Fraud Wants Conviction Tossed

A businessman sentenced in 2014 for a mortgage fraud scheme wants his conviction tossed out and a new trial, the Times Free Press reports. Attorney Michael Richardson argued in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court that Joshua Dobson did not make an informed decision when he exercised his constitutional rights and took his case to trial in 2013. Richardson further explained that Dobson’s former attorney allowed his client to turn down a plea deal without properly explaining the amount of time Dobson faced in prison. Federal prosecutors, however, noted that the government never formally offered a deal to Dobson.
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Turn Your Expertise into a Magazine Article

It’s no surprise that some of the best articles in the Tennessee Bar Journal have come from TBA section members. Your membership in this section shows that you have a keen interest in trends, developments and case law in this practice area. Sharing this knowledge with your colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession.

How can you become a Journal author? Think of and refine your topic. It should be of interest to Tennessee lawyers, which is a broad criteria. This could mean you might explain a new state law, explain a complicated area of law, or take a larger issue and connect it to what it means for Tennessee attorneys and the justice system. Find a global issue within your particular experience or knowledge and tell about it and how it affects Tennessee law. Then take a look at the writer’s guidelines at http://www.tba.org/submit-an-article, which will tell you about length, notes and other details. Once it’s in the proper format, send it in! It goes to the editor, Suzanne Craig Robertson, who will then get it to the seven members of the Editorial Board for review.

If you are published, you may apply for CLE credit for your work under Supreme Court Rule 21 Section 4.07(b). For details on claiming the credit, check with the Commission on CLE & Specialization at http://www.cletn.com/.

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State AG Files Suit Against California Company for Imposter Scam

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III has filed a lawsuit against a California company for allegedly mailing invoices to new homeowners requiring payment in order for the homeowners to receive copies of their deeds. The invoices are designed to look like real government documents. The suit names LA Investors LLC, based in Southern California, and its principals, Roberto Romero and Laura Romero. LA Investors conducted business in Tennessee under the names “Local Records Office” and “National Profile Document.”

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Nashville Judge Under Scrutiny for Short-Term Rental Ownership Resigns

The Nashville magistrate who handled complaints and fines involving short-term rental properties has resigned amid reports that he owns mulitple short-term rental properties himself, the Tennessean reports. Jim Todd, magistrate for the Davidson County General Sessions Environmental Court, denies any wrongdoing, but said in his resignation letter to Judge Allegra Walker that he made the decision because “recent misleading media reports could call the court’s fairness into question.” 
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TBA Convention in Kingsport is Just Around the Corner

Registration is open for the 2017 TBA Annual Convention. This years programming offers plenty of opportunities to make new friends and renew acquaintances with colleagues from across the state. The highlight comes Thursday night with the Kingsport Karnival at the downtown Farmers Market. Along with fabulous food and drink, there will be live music from two bands, an aerialist, juggler, magician, body and face painters, caricaturist and more. Plus, you'll have access to the fabulous Kingsport Carousel, the delightful project of community artisans. Special thanks to Eastman for support of this event! 

This years convention also offers 12 hours of CLE programming, highlighted by sessions on the Hatfields and McCoys, The Neuroscience of Decision-Making, and the popular Better Right Now wellness program. It is all set at the beautiful MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. To receive the TBA $129 room rate, you must book your reservation by May 23. Book your room online now or call 423-578-6600.

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