News

Trump Promises Court Nominee in 2 Weeks

President-elect Donald Trump says he expects to announce a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court within two weeks of his inauguration. According to Above the Law, Trump has met with 11th Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, reportedly the leading candidate for the post. The ABA Journal also reports that the president-elect has identified Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and a number of Republican lawmakers as advising him on the choice.

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Court Weighs Education Benefits for Disabled Students

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed willing to put more teeth into a law that requires public schools to help learning-disabled students, the Associated Press reports. Most of the justices indicated that school districts must offer more than the bare minimum of services to children with special needs. But they struggled over how to clarify the law without inviting more litigation between frustrated parents and cash-strapped schools. The court is considering an appeal from the parents of an autistic teen who say his public school did not provide sufficient services and are seeking reimbursement for the costs of sending him to a private school.

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Court Declines to Hear Backpage Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided not to hear the case of Jane Doe v. Backpage.com, a civil suit filed by sex-trafficking victims that contends the website helps facilitate sex trafficking of minors. That decision leaves in place a ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that the company is covered by the Communications Decency Act and protected from claims against third-party content. Despite that win, Backpage.com announced Monday it is shutting down its adult advertising section, the ABA Journal reports. The move appears to be a response to a report from a Senate subcommittee accusing the company of editing ads to remove evidence of child sex trafficking.

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Groups Plan Ad Campaign to Help Court Nominee

A number of conservative groups are launching a coordinated effort to build support for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, the ABA Journal reports. The plan includes ad buys in states that supported Trump in the presidential election and also will have moderate Democrat senators on the ballot in 2018. The Judicial Crisis Network says it will spend up to $10 million on the effort after having spent $7 million in efforts to prevent the Obama administration from filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. “We are preparing to launch the most robust campaign for a Supreme Court nominee in history,” JCN’s chief counsel said.

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Fact Check: Ginsburg Not Resigning Over Trump

A widely shared story that claims U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told The Associated Press that she plans to resign from the Supreme Court in protest of Republican President-elect Donald Trump is false. According to the AP, the false story was posted by several websites in December and versions of it have been in circulation since last July. The false story includes one accurate quote but also several paragraphs of fabricated quotes attributed to Ginsburg. At age 83, Ginsburg is the court’s oldest justice, but has announced no plans to retire. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Court to Hear Case Against Knox Judge

The Tennessee Supreme Court was set to hear arguments today in the case of Knox County Circuit Court Judge Bill Ailor, who is being sued for firing his predecessor’s judicial assistant before he took the oath of office. The court’s ruling will shape judicial employment law, determining who judicial assistants work for, when a person elected judge actually becomes one and whether judicial assistants enjoy employment protections, Knoxnews reports. Both a lower court judge and a mid-level appellate court found that Ailor did not have the authority to fire anyone before taking office. The court is hearing three cases while sitting in Knoxville today.

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Proposed Bill Would Expedite Death Penalty Appeals

A bill filed Friday in the state House aims to eliminate a step in death penalty appeals, sending cases directly to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Tennessean reports. The legislation, filed by Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, would provide for direct appeal to the state Supreme Court of any death penalty case heard by a trial court. Lamberth notes that Tennessee is just one of a handful of states that requires intermediate appellate courts to hear these cases. He says defendants and victims’ families alike deserve an expedited process.

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Court to Hear 2 Free Speech Cases This Month

The U.S. Supreme Court’s January oral argument calendar includes two major cases about freedom of speech and how far the First Amendment extends to limit government regulation. Erwin Chemerinsky writes about the cases of Lee v. Tam and Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman in the ABA Journal.

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Schumer, Democrats Prepared to Block Trump Court Pick

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer says he is prepared to block President-elect Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee if he or she is not in the “mainstream.” In an interview yesterday, Schumer said it is “hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we could support.” Asked if he would do his best to hold the seat open, Schumer responded, “Absolutely.” Schumer also said Democrats will push for a mainstream nominee, according to Roll Call.

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Roberts Praises Lower Court Judges in Annual Report

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts devoted his annual report on the state of the judiciary to the role of lower court judges he calls “selfless, patriotic and brave individuals.” The report, which sheds light each year on an issue identified by the chief justice, maintains that the lower court judges play a “crucial role” but are not often the focus of public attention. Roberts asks why any lawyer would want a job that requires long hours, exacting skill and intense devotion, while promising high stress, solitary confinement and guaranteed criticism. But finds that many of those willing to make that sacrifice are motivated by the “rewards of public service.” Local Memphis has the story from CNN.

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Court Clarifies Evidence for Criminal Stalking Convictions

The Tennessee Supreme Court today clarified that the criminal offense of stalking contains both an objective element and a subjective element of significant mental suffering or distress that must be met to sustain a conviction. The court emphasized that the state must present evidence that a victim actually experienced significant mental suffering or distress. The ruling came in a case in which the court concluded that the evidence presented was insufficient to sustain the conviction.

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Court Overturns Precedent on Ex Post Facto Protections

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that the state constitution’s prohibition against ex post facto laws provides no greater protection than that provided by the U.S. Constitution. The ruling came in a case testing whether application of the exclusionary rule to evidence seized prior to the law’s enactment violates constitutional bans on ex post facto laws. The court found that federal law prohibits retroactive application in four specific scenarios, none of which were involved in this case, and that nothing in the state constitution or history supports a conclusion that the state ex post facto clause is more expansive than its federal counterpart, overturning prior precedent.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Court Agrees to Hear 6 Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently agreed to hear six cases. Issues to be considered include statutes of limitations, self-defense and theft of property. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews the cases and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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Photos Posted from Wade Portrait Unveiling

The official portrait of former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade was unveiled Monday in the Supreme Court courtroom in Knoxville. Photos from the event are now available online courtesy of Lincoln Memorial University.

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Court Adopts 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the 2017 amendments to its rules of procedure and evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and other changes to the rules of appellate procedure, civil procedure, criminal procedure and juvenile procedure, as well as the rules of evidence. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law, and Juvenile and Children’s Law reviewed the rules when proposed and either found no objections or supported the changes. The proposals now go to the legislature for ratification before becoming effective on July 1.

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Court Rejects Attempt to Force Action on Garland

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts yesterday denied an attempt to get the court to force the Senate to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, WRCB-TV reports. Roberts rejected the emergency appeal without comment. The lawyer bringing the case, Steven Michel of New Mexico, had argued that Senate obstruction of the nomination violated his rights as a voter under the Constitution. For his part, Garland is preparing to return to the bench of the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., where he serves as chief judge. He is set to start hearing arguments on Jan. 18 according to that court.

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Judges Consider Social Media Access in UT Rape Case

A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments today on whether former University of Tennessee football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams can use subpoenas to force their accuser to turn over social media posts, messages and texts. The pair are accused of raping a female athlete during a post-football game party in 2014. They insist the encounter was consensual. Police did not try to get the information and prosecutors have been trying to block  defense access it to, Knoxnews reports. Neither man will be tried until the social media issues are decided, the newspaper says.

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Court Upholds Conviction for Christian-Newsom Murders

The Tennessee Supreme Court today affirmed the convictions and death sentences imposed on Lemaricus Devall Davidson for the 2007 kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. In 2009, a Knox County jury convicted Davidson on multiple counts and imposed two death sentences. In 2015, the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the jury’s actions. During Supreme Court review, Davidson raised a number of issues, including the legitimacy of an unsigned search warrant. The court agreed that the search warrant was invalid but applied its newly adopted good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule to validate the evidence that led to the convictions. Read more from the court.

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Lawyer Asks Court to Force Action on Garland Nomination

A lawyer from New Mexico is mounting a longshot challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to order the Senate to consider the high court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, WRCB-TV reports. Lawyer Steven Michel argues that senators’ obstruction of President Barack Obama’s nomination violates his rights as a voter under the provision of the Constitution that provides for popular election of senators. Lower courts have dismissed the case, which was filed this past summer. The vacancy, created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, has remained unfilled for almost 10 months.

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Breyer Renews Call for Death Penalty Review

Returning to a subject he addressed last year, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Monday said death sentences are arbitrary and their constitutionality should be examined. In a dissent filed in one of three death penalty cases the court chose not to hear, Breyer said the cases involved “especially cruel and unusual circumstances.” He also argued that individuals who are executed are not the “worst of the worst” but rather are “chosen at random” perhaps based on geography, views of individual prosecutors or race. The ABA Journal looks at the three cases denied by the court.

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Court Rejects Challenges to NFL Concussion Settlement

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected the final two challenges to an estimated $1 billion settlement between the NFL and more than 20,000 former players who have been diagnosed with brain injuries linked to repeated concussions. Players who already have been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia now could begin receiving payments in 90 to 120 days, CBS News reports. The remaining lawsuits had accused the league of hiding what it knew about concussion risks but the NFL denied those claims. WREG TV has the story.

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Internet Tax Case Could Change Online Shopping

States can require Internet retailers to tell customers how much they owe in sales taxes thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision yesterday that could help officials recoup billions of dollars lost to online retailers. The court declined to hear a challenge to a Colorado law requiring online sellers to notify customers and the state how much they owe in taxes. At least three other states – Louisiana, Oklahoma and Vermont – have passed similar laws. Though the court did not rule on the merits of the case, states are likely to see the move “as a green light to step up collection efforts,” WRCB TV reports

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Court Plans SCALES Event for 2017

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hold its SCALES program next November at Lane College in Jackson. The program, which is designed to educate high school students about the judicial branch of government, has served more than 25,000 students from more than 460 high schools across the state. Lane College, founded in 1882 by one of the nation’s early African American church denominations, is a small, private, co-educational institution that provides a liberal arts curriculum.

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Alabama Executes Man Who Had Challenged State Law

Alabama inmate Ronald B. Smith was put to death by lethal injection yesterday after a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay his execution, the New York Times reports. Smith had been sentenced to death by a judge despite a jury’s recommendation of life without parole. He had challenged Alabama’s death penalty system, the only one in the nation that allows such judicial overrides. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s capital sentencing system, which also allowed judicial overrides of jury-recommended life sentences. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in September that state laws were sufficiently different from Florida’s to be upheld.

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