News

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, 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 Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education or access an Affidavit of Sole Authorship or an Affidavit of Joint Authorship from the Commission's website.

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Investigators May Scrutinize Durham Land Deals

Federal authorities likely will scrutinize real estate transactions involving embattled ex-lawmaker Jeremy Durham, former U.S. attorney Jerry Martin told the Tennessean last week. An analysis of property records by the paper reveals that Durham and his wife borrowed $881,800 from a local bank to finance the purchase of three plots of land and construction of three homes in Williamson County. Records also show they transferred the properties in “unusual transactions” to a Spring Hill alderman who built the homes. The Durhams could have made as much as $91,000 in profit, but the deals were not listed on any disclosure statements, the paper reports. Durham’s lawyer Peter Strianse said all real estate transactions were “completely legal and properly reported to the IRS.”

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Judge Revives Nashville’s Airbnb Law

Davidson County Circuit Judge Kelvin Jones had a change of heart last week, the Tennessean reports. Jones previously had ruled that Metro Nashville’s law regulating short-term rental properties like Airbnbs was too vague to be understood by citizens and thus unconstitutional. Metro continued enforcing the law anyway, while asking Jones to stay his decision so better regulations could be written. Last week, Jones agreed with Metro attorneys that his ruling needed to be amended to only apply to Rachel and P.J. Anderson, the couple that filed suit against the rules. That means the city can enforce the law for everyone except the Andersons.

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TBA Activates Disaster Legal Assistance for Wildfires

In response to the wildfire disasters in Gatlinburg and Sevier County, the TBA is partnering with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and the Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission to help those affected with their legal needs. Attorneys who want to help can access training resources and other materials on the TBA's Disaster Legal Assistance page. Legal clinics and outreach related to losses from the fires are anticipated and volunteers will be needed. For more information or to volunteer in the area, contact Kathryn Ellis at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Those who are not in the area but still want to help can volunteer to answer online questions at TN Free Legal Answers or respond to calls on the HELP4TN helpline. The TBA's Young Lawyers Division Disaster Relief Committee has also been activated and will be assisting with volunteer recruitment and coordination efforts. To volunteer, complete the Disaster Legal Assistance Volunteer Form. If you know someone in need of legal assistance, please have them call the legal helpline at 844-HELP4TN, or visit help4tn.org.

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Opinion: Homeless Vets Lack Access to Justice

Gary Housepian with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands writes in today’s Tennessean that there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in America and another 1.4 million at risk of homelessness. This fact, he suggests, complicates efforts to provide legal services to veterans, who often need help with eviction and foreclosure, outstanding warrants and fines and child support issues. Housepian calls on his fellow lawyers to provide critical civil legal services and urges veterans to reach out for help.

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Administrative Law Forum Coming Next Week

The TBA will hold a CLE on administrative law Nov. 18 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Speakers will cover a wide range of topics including updates on Sunshine Laws, state contracts and real property issues such as easements, surveys, title searches and opinions, contracts, memorandums of understanding, leases and negotiations. A final panel will focus on ethics in the context of work/life balance.

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Hot Topics in Real Estate Coming Friday

This Friday the annual Hot Topics in Real Estate CLE – produced by the TBA and the Tennessee Land Title Association – will be held at the AT&T Building in downtown Nashville. The program will offer insight into commercial lending, a summary of the first year of the TILA-RESPA Integrate Disclosure Rule and an annual legislative report. Other sessions will cover advanced title issues, 1031 tax free exchanges and the recent February ALTA survey changes.

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Court May be Delaying Action on ‘Big’ Cases

The short-handed Supreme Court may be showing signs it is having trouble getting its work done, the Associated Press reports. The justices have yet to schedule three cases for arguments that were granted full review in January – an indication they may think the issues involved (separation of church and state, class-action lawsuits and property rights) will lead to a 4-4 split. "It’s much more difficult for us to do our job if we are not what we’re intended to be – a court of nine,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Monday. The justices have divided evenly in four cases since Antonin Scalia’s death last term. WRCB-TV has the story.

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ABA Releases Latest Data on Malpractice Claims

The ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability has issued its latest in a series of studies on the state of legal malpractice claims in the United States and Canada. “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims” has tracked legal malpractice trends for 30 years. This one-of-a-kind data analysis provides attorneys and insurance analysts an in-depth look at current trends as well as comparisons to historical data. The committee chair said this year’s report shows a reduction in real estate claims (which likely stemmed from the economic crisis) but a growth in estate, trust and probate claims, which she attributes to rising numbers of retiring baby boomers.

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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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Lawyers Sought for Women’s Empowerment Conference

Volunteer lawyers are needed for an upcoming Women’s Empowerment Conference organized by Women Overcoming Many Battles Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that seeks to help women overcome life’s challenges. The conference will take place July 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. Attorneys are needed to lead 15-minute presentations on child support enforcement and wrongful eviction and participate in a general question and answer session. Lawyers also are needed to provide brief legal advice in one-on-one meetings with the women. Those interested in helping should contact AOC Pro Bono Coordinator Patricia Mills

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Bass Fights Nashville Skyscraper Plan

Bass Berry & Sims, Nashville’s largest firm, has retained another Nashville firm to help fight a proposed 40-story skyscraper downtown. Todd Rolapp, the firm's managing partner, argues that the plans for the tower “do not comport with city land-use policy,” The Nashville Business Journal reports. Metro’s Planning Commission is set later this week to decide whether to allow developers to build the $325 million project.  

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Mentors in Real Estate Law Needed

The TBA Mentoring Program is looking for volunteer mentors who practice real estate law in and around the Williamson and Davidson County areas. Mentoring is the most effective way to pass along skills, knowledge and wisdom and it is critical to a new lawyer’s success. There are many new attorneys signed up for a mentor in the real estate area, but there is a shortage of mentors to match them with. 

To qualify as a mentor you must have a minimum of eight years' experience with no formal BPR investigation pending or disciplinary action imposed in the last 10 years. 

If you’re interested in signing up, please contact Kate Prince, 615-277-3202.

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Developer Sues Thompson's Station Over Permit

Shaw Enterprises is suing the town of Thompson’s Station and the town's planner for failing to issue a grading permit to the developer, the Williamson Herald reports. Shaw claims the company is losing $22,000 a month in interest costs because the company began grading the land following the project’s approval from the Planning Commission. Thompson’s Station contends the commission simply removed a condition of a tree replacement inventory and has no ability to issue a permit.

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Memphis Attorney's "Blight Fight" Featured

Next City, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire change in cities through journalism, profiles attorney Steve Barlow’s “blight fight” in Memphis. Barlow said he was inspired to begin tackling the city’s blight problem more than a decade ago after attending a conference put on by a national blight elimination nonprofit. He later filed the city’s first ever blight lawsuit under the state’s Neighborhood Preservation Act. “I feel like it is my job to be sure irresponsible owners are held accountable to a very high standard of property maintenance," Barlow said.

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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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