News

Court Grants Review of 4 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review of four cases, which raise issues related to administrative employment appeals, marital property and two wrongful death claims. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews each case and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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Trump Releases New List of Court Picks

Donald Trump has released a new list of possible Supreme Court picks that appears to address criticism that his prior list lacked diversity. The new list includes U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar of the Eastern District of Kentucky, an Indian-American; U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno of the Southern District of Florida, who was born in Venezuela; and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr., who is black. The one woman on the list is Judge Margaret Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. See the full list in the ABA Journal.

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CLE SKI Set for Jan. 22-27 in Snowmass

Mark your calendar for the 32nd Annual TBA CLE SKI, being held Jan. 22-27, 2017, at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colorado. Participants will be able to attend CLE sessions each morning and afternoon with plenty of time to hit the slopes in between programs. Topics will cover entertainment law, social security disability, updates on labor and employment law, ethics and a U.S. Supreme Court case review.

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New Supreme Court CLE Challenges Available

Join colleagues who have been playing TBA’s Supreme Court Fantasy Challenge! The challenge CLEs let you read briefs, hear arguments and predict how the court ruled. See listing of current cases here.

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Supreme Court Admissions Program Filling Up

Only a limited number of spaces remain for the TBA Academy, which includes an opportunity for Tennessee attorneys to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The 2016 TBA Academy will take place Nov. 28-30 in Washington, D.C., at The Hay Adams Hotel. Participating attorneys will be sworn in before the court in a private ceremony on Nov. 29. Registration forms and required materials must be submitted by Oct. 19. Learn more online or contact TBA Meetings Coordinator Therese Byrne, 615-277-3208, with any questions.

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Court Looks at Role of Election Commissions in Resolving Disputes

The Tennessee Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a case that is raising tricky questions about challenging election results. Attorney Tom McFarland brought the suit, challenging the outcome of his 2014 race for Ninth Judicial District Circuit Court judge. He lost that race to Michael Pemberton, but continues to maintain that Pemberton did not meet residency requirements and therefore his election was invalid. A trial judge and the Court of Appeals ruled against McFarland, though, because the Roane County Election Commission had determined that Pemberton did meet those requirements. According to Knoxnews, the justices appeared divided on whether a county election commission should have the final authority in determining a candidate’s qualifications.

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UT Law Reception to Honor Justice Lee

The University of Tennessee College of Law will hold a reception Sept. 23 to honor Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee and her just-completed tenure as chief justice. The event will take place in the rotunda of the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy beginning at 5:30 p.m. All are invited to attend. Register online or contact Rynn Dupes, 865-974-6691.

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Court to Hear 7 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review of seven new cases dealing with a range of issues, including length of jury deliberations, identity of criminal offenses, repairmen’s liens, GTLA liability, ecclesiastical abstention and vicarious liability. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews the cases and offers a prediction as to how each case may be decided.

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State Appeals Sentence in Batey Rape Case

Prosecutors have asked for a new sentencing hearing for former Vanderbilt University football player Cory Batey, who is serving a 15-year prison term for the rape of an unconscious woman more than three years ago. Prosecutors argue they were not given notice of 11 emails and letters sent directly to Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins in support of Batey, and were not allowed to contest the appropriateness of the letters. They also are asking for a new judge to hear their appeal, the Tennessean reports.

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Court to Hear 4 Cases in Knoxville Thursday

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in four cases in Knoxville tomorrow. The cases include Ewin B. Jenkins et al. v. Big City Remodeling et al., William Thomas McFarland v. Michael S. Pemberton et al., Sandra L. Wallis v. Brainerd Baptist Church et al., and State of Tennessee v. Nicole Flowers. Oral arguments are open to the public. Sessions begin at 9:30 am and 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time at the Knoxville Supreme Court Building, 505 Main St. Read more about the cases in this release from the AOC.

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Court Solicits Comments on 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on 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 changes to the Juvenile, Criminal and Evidence rules. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law and Juvenile and Children’s Law – will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 23.

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Birch Statue Unveiled Saturday in Nashville

An eight-foot-tall bronze statue of former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr. was unveiled Saturday at a ceremony in downtown Nashville, the Tennessean reports. The event also marked the 10-year anniversary of the city’s criminal courthouse, which bears Birch’s name. The larger-than-life statue, created by New Jersey artist Brian Hanlon and paid for by donations, sits at the courthouse’s main entrance on Second Ave. Among those speaking at the event were Birch’s son, Adolpho Birch III, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and Davidson County General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell.

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Supreme Court Society Event Set for October

The Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society, in cooperation with the Knoxville Bar Association, will hold its annual cocktail reception and “Night with the Chiefs” on Oct. 13. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a program following at 6:30 p.m. The event, held each year to honor the members of state Supreme Court, will be held at the East Tennessee Historical Center in Knoxville. Seating is limited. Please RSVP to Amanda Messer.

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6th Circuit Strikes Kentucky Rules on Judicial Campaign Speech

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously yesterday that several restrictions on what Kentucky judicial candidates can say while running for office violate the First Amendment. The court struck down a clause that prohibits judicial candidates from campaigning as a member of a political party or organization, a clause that bans candidates from making speeches for or against a political organization or candidate, and a ban on misleading statements. Kentucky judges run in nonpartisan elections and are bound by the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct. The ABA Journal looks at the decision.

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Public Approval of Supreme Court Matches Low Point

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 42 percent job approval rating is down slightly from September 2015 and matches the low point in the Gallup poll's 16-year history. The earlier mark was recorded in 2005 just after the court allowed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development. Among its other findings, the poll indicates that Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to approve of the court, though the differential has narrowed. Read more or view survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

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Paul Ney Named AG Chief Deputy

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today that Paul C. Ney Jr. will join his office as chief deputy. In this role, Ney will coordinate and supervise the substantive legal work of all five sections of the office. “I am delighted Paul will be joining our leadership team,” Slatery said. “His extensive legal and management experience in both the public and private sectors will add immediate value.” Ney has practiced law for 31 years, most recently with Patterson Intellectual Property Law in Nashville. He previously worked as director of the Nashville Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense and acting general counsel of the Department of the Navy. Ney also has served the TBA as treasurer and general counsel. He succeeds Lucy Honey Haynes, who retired after 34 years of service.

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Bivins Swearing in to Take Place at EJU Luncheon

Newly elected Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins will take the oath of office during the upcoming Equal Justice University in Murfreesboro. Justice Connie Clark will present the oath to Bivins at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services' Leadership Luncheon, set for noon on Sept. 1. TBA President Jason Long is the featured speaker and Duncan School of Law is the sponsor of the Leadership Lunch. Those not attending the conference but who would like to attend the lunch should register online by Wednesday.

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Bivins Elected Chief Justice of State Supreme Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court has elected Justice Jeff Bivins to be the next chief justice of the court, the AOC reported today. His term will begin Sept. 1. Bivins was appointed to the court in 2014 by Gov. Bill Haslam. Prior to that he was a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and the 21st Judicial District Circuit Court and an attorney in private practice with the Nashville office of Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Tennessee in this expanded role,” Bivins said. He also praised outgoing Chief Justice Sharon Lee for her efforts to modernize the court system, address the needs of business litigants and improve the state’s indigent defense system.

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Registration Open for Supreme Court Admissions Program

Registration is now open for the TBA Academy, which offers an exciting opportunity for Tennessee attorneys to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. The 2016 TBA Academy will take place Nov. 28-30 in Washington, D.C., at The Hay Adams Hotel. Participating attorneys will be sworn in before the court in a private ceremony on Nov. 29. Registration forms and required materials must be submitted by Oct. 19. Learn more online or contact TBA Meetings Coordinator Therese Byrne, 615-277-3208 with any questions.

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NC Asks Court to Reinstate Voter ID Law

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday evening requested that the U.S. Supreme Court reinstate his state’s voter ID law, which was thrown out by a federal appeals court last month. McCrory wants the law to be in effect for the November general election, Roll Call reports. “Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers, and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections," McCrory argued.

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Opinion: Senate GOP Inaction Puts Judiciary in Crisis

Nashville appellate lawyer Daniel Horwitz writes in the Tennessean that the U.S. Senate’s “unprecedented inaction” on judicial nominees has thrown the American judicial system into crisis. Horwitz argues that “large swaths of the federal judiciary are simply missing – resulting in excessive delays, exploding dockets and inconsistent application of the law in different parts of the country.” Nearly one-third of federal court vacancies are designated “judicial emergencies,” which means filings exceed 600 per judge. 

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Knoxville Appellate Courts to Hold Blood Drive

The Eastern Grand Division of the Tennessee Appellate Courts will hold a blood drive Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the courthouse at 505 Main Street in downtown Knoxville. All donors will receive a free t-shirt and coupons for Chick-fil-A and Texas Roadhouse. The American Red Cross has information about donor eligibility requirements.

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High Court Blocks Transgender Bathroom Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to temporarily block a lower court order that had cleared the way for a transgender male high school student to use the boys' bathroom in a Virginia public school this fall. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan would have left the lower court decision undisturbed, according to CNN. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote separately to say that he concurred in the decision in part because granting the stay would "preserve the status quo" until the court has a chance to consider a petition for cert. "In the short term, this means the relationship between transgender identity and sex discrimination will be left in limbo until the Supreme Court resolves it one way or the other," said Steve Vladeck, CNN contributor and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. "But given that Justice Breyer's vote was only a courtesy, it's hard to see the court being able to settle this matter until a ninth justice is appointed."

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Roy Moore Suit to Be Decided Without Hearing in Alabama

A federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, says he will decide Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's lawsuit against state judicial investigators without a hearing, according the Times Free Press. U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton issued an order Wednesday saying his eventual decision will be based on legal documents alone. Moore sued the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission in May saying it violated his rights by suspending him when it filed ethics charges that could lead to his dismissal. The commission accused Moore of violating judicial ethics with an order to state probate judges about the dispute over gay marriage. Moore is asking the federal judge to let him resume work as chief justice.

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Advisory Panel on Court Rules to Meet Next Friday

The Advisory Commission to the Supreme Court on Rules of Practice and Procedure will meet Aug. 12 to consider comments and proposed revisions to a number of rules and other proposals, including Tenn. R. Crim. P. regarding preliminary hearings, the 2016 Senate Bill 1618 regarding courthouse facility dogs, and Tenn. R. Civ. P. regarding appellate briefs and preliminary hearings. Review the full agenda.

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