News

Comments Sought on Proposal Regarding Unpublished Opinions

A proposed rule by the Tennessee Supreme Court would acknowledge the availability of unpublished opinions on the Internet by ending the requirement that copies of unpublished cases be attached when cited to an electronic database. Dec. 31 is the deadline for submitting comments.

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MTSU Employee Awarded Damages in Retaliation Lawsuit

The Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously reinstated a jury verdict, finding that a former maintenance employee of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) suffered unlawful retaliation through the actions of his supervisor. Jim Ferguson, a Japanese-American, argued that shortly after he filed a discrimination lawsuit against MTSU, his supervisor retaliated against him by requiring him to perform tasks outside his medical restrictions, increasing his work assignments and engaging in other retaliatory conduct. A jury rejected Ferguson’s discrimination and malicious harassment claims, but found MTSU had retaliated against him and awarded him damages. The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the jury award, but on appeal the Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed. Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee authored the opinion for the court. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

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Former Solicitor General Shares Insights with UT Law Students

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who argued many notable cases in front of the Supreme Court, spoke Friday to law students at the University of Tennessee. Clement talked about the challenges faced during his legal career and admitted that regardless of experience he "absolutely" gets nervous every time he goes before the Supreme Court. But nerves, he said, keep him from becoming complacent and force him to continue preparing right up until the day he appears before the justices. Wayne Dillingham, a 1983 graduate of the College of Law and former lawyer for the FBI, who also was at the lecture, said he hopes students came away with a more human perspective of what it is like to practice law at the highest level. The UT Daily Beacon has more.

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Miller & Martin Adds Crisis Management Practice

Miller & Martin last week announced the formation of a crisis management practice at the firm to serve the needs of businesses and organizations throughout all of its markets, the Hamilton County Herald reports. The new practice will involve 13 Miller & Martin attorneys, and will focus on crisis management from preventative planning to management of actual crises. In creating this new practice, Miller & Martin is including Atlanta-based Jackson Spalding, a marketing communications firm with a specialty in crisis management, to add public relations and media relations resources for its clients’ crisis management needs.

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Study: Judges with Daughters Rule More Liberally

Having at least one daughter affects how liberal a judge rules on gender issues, says a Harvard/Emory study. To see how children affect judicial rulings, researchers examined about 1,000 U.S. Court of Appeals cases from 1996 to 2002. The cases were gender-based and dealt with employment discrimination, reproductive rights and Title IX. Then they dug up personal data on the 224 ruling judges to find out about their families. The researchers determined that having at least one girl influenced the male judges and most of the shift was seen among the conservative ones. Knoxnews has more.

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Blumstein Named Solicitor General

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery today named Andrée Sophia Blumstein as the state’s new solicitor general. She succeeds Acting Solicitor General Joe Whalen, who will return to his previous position in the office. In the new role, Blumstein will oversee appellate litigation in state and federal courts, review written opinions and advise the attorney general. “I could not be more pleased that Andrée has accepted this important appointment,” Slatery said. “Her extensive trial and appellate experience and her academic credentials are surpassed only by the type of person she is and the respect she already enjoys in the legal community.” For the past 21 years, Blumstein has been a partner at the Nashville firm of Sherrard & Roe where she focused on appellate litigation, health law, taxation and antitrust matters.

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Special Opportunity for Supreme Court Admission

If admission to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of your career goals, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a reality during the 31st Annual TBA Academy, Dec. 2-3, in Washington, D.C. A select group of Tennessee attorneys will be able to take part in a private ceremony before the court and enjoy other events in the nation's capital. A reception and celebration dinner kick off the Academy, which also includes the opportunity to earn three hours of CLE credit. The group will stay at the Hay Adams Hotel, located across from the White House. Interested candidates should complete the required forms by Oct. 27. For information and a step-by-step guide on how to sign up, visit the TBA website.

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Court Declines to Hear ‘Acquitted Conduct’ Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to take up a case involving so-called acquitted conduct, in which defendants are sentenced based on charges they are acquitted of in trial. In the case before the court, three defendants had been convicted of distributing crack cocaine, but acquitted of more serious charges of being part of a drug conspiracy. When it came time for sentencing, however, the trial judge added at least 15 years to each man’s prison term based on the conspiracy charges. Lawyers for the defendants called the practice “Kafkaesque.” Three of the justices voted to hear the case to decide whether judges have discretion to lengthen prison terms in such circumstances. WRCB-TV has more from the Associated Press.

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Reminder: Supreme Court Historical Society Event Friday

The Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society will hold a cocktail reception this Friday at The Cordelle in Nashville. The event will honor retired Justice William Koch and welcome the newest members of the court. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased on the society’s website or through Linda Knight, (615) 244-4994. The Cordelle is located at 45 Lindsley Ave., Nashville 37210. Download the invitation.

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Retention Election Spending Topped $2.4 Million

Opposing sides in the state's Supreme Court election battle spent a record-shattering $2.4 million, a final tally of expenditures reveals. Justices Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade collectively spent $1.13 million to win another eight years on the bench, while Tennesseans for Fair Courts spent $345,000 to back them, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. On the “no” side, the Tennessee Forum spent nearly $718,000 to defeat the justices, $605,000 of which came from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's PAC. The Republican State Leadership Committee also reported giving money to Tennessee Forum and spent another $196,865 itself. The Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity spent money on radio ads criticizing the justices, but since the ads did not call on voters to retain or reject the justices, the expenditures were not subject to reporting rules.

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Bell Working on Plans in Case Amendment 2 Fails

State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said today that he is working on a legislative contingency plan for how appellate judges are selected in the event that voters reject Amendment 2 in the upcoming election, Chattanoogan.com reports. Bell said he is considering a range of ideas including non-partisan elections and the approval of judges by district rather than statewide election. “I am looking over several proposals to see what would be the best fit for Tennessee.” Bell also said that if Amendment 2 is rejected he would file legislation as soon as possible after the election to give lawmakers time to review it before the General Assembly convenes in January. 

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Court of Appeals Judge Sworn In

The Hon. Brandon Gibson was sworn in yesterday as the newest judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section. Gibson was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam in December to replace Judge David R. Farmer, who retired in August. Gibson’s husband held the Bible as Gov. Haslam administered the oath of office during ceremonies at the Madison County Courthouse Chancery Courtroom. The Tennessee has more.

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Opinion: Ruling Gives Police Too Much Control Over Information

“The Tennessee Court of Appeals in Nashville...kicked the can farther down the wrong road when it expanded police powers so they could keep just about anything and everything they want secret from citizens,” Deborah Fisher writes in the Tennessean. Fisher, who is executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, says the court’s ruling last Tuesday allows law enforcement to keep information confidential if it is relevant to an ongoing investigation. That broad protection, Fisher says, can be used to protect anything. The decision came in a case brought by the Tennessean and a media coalition seeking to access records related to four former Vanderbilt University football players awaiting trial for rape.

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U.S. Supreme Court Lets Gay Marriage Rulings Stand

The U.S. Supreme Court today unexpectedly cleared the way for a dramatic expansion of gay marriage in the United States, the Associated Press reports. In declining to hear appeals from five states seeking to preserve bans on gay marriage, the court effectively made those marriages legal in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia. Couples in six other states should be able to get married in short order as well since those states are covered by the same appellate rulings. Though today’s decision certainly was a boost to the gay marriage movement, the issue is far from settled. Challenges are still pending in 20 states and one appeals court may be poised to rule in favor of state bans, which would set up the first split among the circuits. Nashville lawyer Bill Harbison, who represents plaintiffs in a case from Tennessee pending in the Sixth Circuit, said he expects the Supreme Court to take up the case if the appeals court becomes the first to uphold a state ban. “Obviously we don’t know how the [Sixth] Circuit will rule, but indicators are that the Supreme Court would take a case if it went the other way,” Harbison said in an interview with Knoxnews.

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Register by Oct. 27 for 2014 TBA Academy

If admission to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of your career goals, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a reality during the 31st Annual TBA Academy, Dec. 2-3, in Washington, D.C. A select group of Tennessee attorneys will be able to take part in a private ceremony before the court and enjoy other events in the nation's capital. A reception and celebration dinner kick off the Academy, which also includes the opportunity to earn three hours of CLE credit. The group will stay at the Hay Adams Hotel, located across from the White House. Interested candidates should complete the required forms by Oct. 27. For information and a step-by-step guide on how to sign up, visit the TBA website.

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Retired Chief Justice Reid Honored at Portrait Unveiling

Family, friends and current and retired judges gathered at the Supreme Court Building in Jackson last week to honor retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyle Reid. The event featured the unveiling of Reid's portrait and included remarks from current Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee; retired Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota; Brownsville lawyer Larry Banks; and Nashville lawyer Charles W. Bone. Reid began practicing law in Brownsville in 1957. His long and distinguished career also included service as assistant state attorney general, deputy commissioner of commerce and insurance, member of the state House of Representatives and judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals. He was elected to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1990 and served there for eight years. He now practices law in Covington. The AOC has more on his life.

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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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Supreme Court Historical Society Event Set for Oct. 17

The Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society will hold a cocktail reception Oct. 17 at The Cordelle in Nashville. The event will honor retired Justice William Koch and welcome the newest members of the court. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased on the society’s website or through Linda Knight, (615) 244-4994. The Cordelle is located at 45 Lindsley Ave., Nashville 37210. Download the invitation.

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Appeals Court Upholds Christian-Newsom Torture-Slaying Sentence

A state appeals court has upheld the conviction and sentence of Letalvis Cobbins, one of the men convicted of participating in the kidnapping, torture and killing of Knoxville couple Channon Christian and Chris Newsom in 2007. Cobbins claimed his trial was tainted by the drug use and misconduct of former Knoxville Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, who resigned from the bench and pleaded guilty to official misconduct in March 2011. A three-judge panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals found that the Tennessee Supreme Court already ruled that Baumgartner's conduct outside the courtroom did not prevent Cobbins from receiving a fair trial. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more.

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Ohio Judge Named Chief of 6th Circuit Appeals Court

Ohio-based Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. has been tapped as the new chief judge of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. In his new position Cole will oversee the administrative responsibilities of the Cincinnati-based court. Prior to his nomination to the court, Cole worked as a litigator at the U.S. Department of Justice, as a law firm partner and as a bankruptcy judge. For years, he also taught courses on habeas and the 14th amendment at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. WDEF News 12 has the story.

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Slatery Named New Tennessee AG

Herbert Slatery has been unanimously selected the new Tennessee Attorney General by the state Supreme Court. Slatery is currently chief legal counsel to Gov. Bill Haslam. Prior to that appointment, he was in private practice in Knoxville with Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis PC for 30 years. A Knoxville native, Slatery earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and law degree from the University of Tennessee. The Nashville Post reports Slatery said he was humbled and "profoundly grateful" for the apppointment and promised "no quick wholesale changes" to the office. Soon after the announcement current Attorney General Robert Cooper released a statement congratulating his successor and expressing his gratitude to those who served with him.

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Ramsey Cites Favorites for AG, Comments on Election

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he is monitoring the attorney general selection process and has talked to three of the candidates – Republicans Doug Overbey, Herbert Slatery and Bill Young. “Between those three … I don’t have a favorite. I hope [the justices] just choose the most qualified one.” Speaking to The Nashville Scene and other reporters for the first time since his unsuccessful campaign to unseat three of the state’s Supreme Court justices, Ramsey praised the court for holding an open hearing of the candidates, but was critical that the final decision is going to be made “behind closed doors.” Ramsey also talked about the judicial selection vote, saying, “The people spoke. That’s what it’s all about. Their message that we don’t want partisan politics in the judiciary won out, even though I do think that’s almost comical because I do believe there’s partisan politics in the judiciary.”

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Chief Justice Lee Investiture Sept. 17

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee will be formally installed as chief justice of the court at a ceremony in Knoxville next Wednesday. The investiture will take place at 1 p.m. EDT in the Historic Post Office Building located at 505 Main St. Gov. Bill Haslam will administer the oath. A reception will follow. Justice Lee was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2008 by then Gov. Phil Bredesen. She will be the third woman to serve as chief justice. Download a press release with more details from the AOC.

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Appeals Court Reinstates Defamation Suit Against Campfield

The Tennessee Court of Appeals reinstated a defamation lawsuit against Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield yesterday, finding that the lower court erred in throwing out the $750,000 lawsuit filed by former Roger Byrge, a Democratic candidate for the state House in 2008. The appellate panel also found that the facts of the case might justify a finding of “actual malice” by Campfield, the Johnson City Press reports. The case stems from a blog post Campfield wrote claiming that Byrge had multiple drug arrests and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son. Campfield was defeated in the Republican primary last month but his term does not end until after the general election in November.

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Kirby Installation Ceremony Set for Next Week

The investiture ceremony installing Justice Holly Kirby as the newest member of the Tennessee Supreme Court will take place Sept. 19 from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. in the historic courtroom of the University of Memphis School of Law. The school is located at One North Front St. Parking is available in Brinkley Plaza Parking Garage, 20 S. Front St., and Republic Parking Garage, 35 Monroe Ave. Seating in the courtroom, which is located on the third floor, is limited but overflow seating and live streaming will be provided in the Wade Auditorium and on the first floor. A reception following the ceremony will take place on the first floor. For questions, contact Laura Deakins, (901) 685-3951.

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