News

ABA Ranks Garland as ‘Well Qualified’

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has finished its peer review of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and has rated him as “well qualified.” In announcing the rating today, ABA President Paulette Brown called on the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to consider and act promptly on the nominee. Read her full statement.

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Federal Judge Bans Court Filings by Prisoner

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan has issued a permanent injunction barring Eric Houston “from filing any motion, letter or civil action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee without first obtaining approval.” The move comes after Houston filed more than 100 civil petitions in federal courts across the United States – all handwritten and filled with profanities, Knoxnews reports. The injunction also threatens to hold the imprisoned drug dealer in contempt if he violates the order. In taking the unusual stance, Varlan explained that “the court has attempted to review the filings to determine the nature of (Houston’s) allegations, but due to the partially indecipherable handwriting, the threatening language, the profanity, and the nature of the filings — some of which were submitted on what appears to be toilet paper — the court has been unable to fully discern (his) allegations.”

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6th Circuit Launches New Website

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will launch a new website next Monday but has released the web link for interested individuals to review the site in advance. The new site is based on a national model template for federal court websites, which some courts are already using. The new format promises to make things easier on practitioners, especially those who practice in multiple jurisdictions, by trying to include a measure of standardization between the various sites. The existing site can be seen here. Comments about the new format can be sent by email to the webmaster.

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Searches Allowed Based on Outstanding Warrants

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-3 that police can seize evidence from what would otherwise be an unconstitutional search if they first discover that the suspect has one or more outstanding arrest warrants. Opponents of the decision cited the fact that, in some cities, thousands of people have arrest warrants pending against them, mostly for traffic violations as insignificant as unpaid parking tickets. In a strongly-worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.” The Commercial Appeal has the story.

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Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Assault Weapon Bans

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a case challenging gun control laws enacted in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The decision, handed down with no additional explanation as to the court’s reasoning, allows assault weapons bans to stand in New York and Connecticut. Gun rights groups had challenged laws in those states banning certain semi-automatic weapons and restrictions on bullet magazines. The Commercial Appeal has more.

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Montgomery Takes Reins of Judicial Conference

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Robert Montgomery of Kingsport was installed last week as the 64th president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference during the group's annual meeting in Nashville. He succeeds Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeff Bivins. Others taking office at the meeting included Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft of Memphis, who was named president-elect, and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tim Easter of Williamson County, who was named moving vice president.

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TBA Members Give Strong Support to Justices

Nine out of 10 lawyers recommend that Tennesseans vote to “retain” the three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices on the Aug. 4 ballot, according to a TBA Candidate Evaluation Poll conducted over the last four weeks. The TBA asked its members to indicate whether they highly recommended, recommended, did not recommend or had no informed opinion on the retention election of Justices Jeffrey S. Bivins, Holly Kirby and Roger A. Page. More information, including data tables of the results, is available on the TBA website

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New Data: Male Justices More Likely to Interrupt

Even the nation’s High Court is not immune to “gender dynamics” when it comes to men cutting off women, Mother Jones reports. Research on the legal blog Empirical SCOTUS revealed male justices are more likely to cut off their colleagues. The data also showed the court's two youngest female justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, were the most likely to be interrupted. Justice Clarence Thomas never interrupted or got interrupted during this term’s oral arguments. 

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Who Would Trump Name to Supreme Court? Here's His Short List

Who would Donald Trump appoint to the Supreme Court if he were president? The presumptive Republican nominee for president released a list of 11 potential justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House. News Channel 5 says the list includes Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas. 

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Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Nashville This Week

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Nashville at the end of this week in several criminal cases and one civil case. The court will consider whether a conviction for facilitation of possession with intent to deliver warrants the application of the sentence enhancements under the Drug Free School Zone Act, whether aggravated sexual battery is a lesser-included offense of rape of a child, and more. Oral arguments will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Nashville Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Ave N. This is the first time Justice Roger A. Page will hear oral arguments as a member of the Supreme Court.  

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Op-ed: 'No Sane Judge' Would Pass Sanders' Test

Democratic Presidential contender Bernie Sanders last week said he would demand a public commitment that any U.S. Supreme Court nominee would vote to overturn a precedent Sanders did not like. An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times criticizes Sanders’ approach: "(It) is not just politically stupid; it undermines the independence of the judiciary.” The author adds, “No lawyer in his or her right mind would make such a commitment to a president or to the Senate.”

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Investiture for Justice Page Set for April 25

The investiture of Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger A. Page by Gov. Bill Haslam will be held April 25 at 2 p.m. at the Mifflin Community Mall, 5330 Clifford Rd., in Luray. Page was sworn in during a private ceremony in February following his confirmation by the General Assembly. RSVP via email

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U.S. Circuit Judge Ted Milburn Dies

U.S. Circuit Judge H. Ted Milburn of Signal Mountain died on April 1. After graduating from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1959, Milburn practiced law in Chattanooga and became a partner at Bishop, Thomas, Leitner, Mann and Milburn. He was appointed by Gov. Winfield Dunn to be a judge in Tennessee Circuit Court, Division III, Hamilton County in 1973 and won re-election to the position for two more terms. Milburn was later appointed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee sitting in Chattanooga; the next year, Reagan appointed him to a newly created seat as a U.S. Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served on the court until 1996 when he took Senior Status. Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers can be sent to Grace Episcopal Church, 20 Belvior Ave, Chattanooga, TN, 37411. Condolences may be posted online or shared with the family via e-mail

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4 New Cases to Get State Supreme Court Review

The Raybin-Perky Hotlist reviews and offers predictions in four new cases for which the Tennessee Supreme Court has recently granted review. Cases include: child custody, election disputes and return of seized property in criminal cases. The Hotlist offers a prediction as to how each case may be decided. 

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Portrait Unveiling for Judge Donald Set for April 22

A portrait unveiling ceremony for the Hon. Bernice Bouie Donald, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, is planned for April 22 at 2 p.m., in the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building, 167 N. Main St., in Memphis. A reception will follow the event, according to the Memphis Bar Association. RSVP by Friday via e-mail or by calling 901-495-1239.

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Court Upholds Judicial Selection Plans

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld the Tennessee Plan for judicial selection and validated the new process for selecting judges this week when it affirmed a trial court’s verdict in a suit filed by Sherrie L. Durham of Mount Juliet. The ruling, delivered by Special Judge Patricia Cottrell, also upheld the statutes providing for the appointment of special and senior judges. The judges agreed with the trial court that Durham lacked standing to challenge the general laws relating to the selection of judges, and that Executive Order 34, which established the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments, was properly promulgated.

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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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Lawyers Break Down Ruling on Public Access

Tennessee attorneys break down last week’s state Supreme Court decision on access to public records in The Tennessean, and suggest it was not a big step toward less disclosure, but instead a reinforcement of the status quo. "The wrinkle that makes this case a slight extension of the court’s previous decisions is the explicit summary of the records sought, which includes 'text messages received from third parties by Metro Police in the course of its investigation,' TBA Communications Law Section Chair John Williams told the newspaper.

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Bill Requiring Biologic Evidence Preservation Advances

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a bill (SB 2342 / HB 2377) that would require biologic evidence collected in cases involving a death sentence to be preserved for the duration of defendant's life or incarceration, Nashville Scene reports. Senate committee members previously heard testimony from a man who was sentenced to death and spent more than 10 years in an Arizona prison for murder before biological evidence proved his innocence. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, is scheduled for a vote in a House subcommittee today.

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'Scalia-isms' Found in Vanderbilt Records Case

“Jiggery-pokery” and “pure applesauce” are what The Tennessean refers to as “Scalia-isms” in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that barred the newspaper and other media from requested evidence in the Vanderbilt rape case. Tennessee Justice Gary Wade, who authored a dissent, also cited a book co-authored by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his argument that the majority overstepped its role.

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Book of Ginsburg's Writings Coming in 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will release a collection of speeches and writings in January 2017, the Associated Press reports. The book, “My Own Words,” will also include introductions and interview excerpts from Ginsburg’s authorized biographers.

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Obama Says Nominee Should Come Quickly

"I think it's important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it's important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices," President Barack Obama said today at a White House news conference. He added that he does not feel “constrained to a pool to draw from” following Senate Republicans’ plan to block the president’s nomination. The Associated Press shares a list of potential nominees.

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Lawyers to Obama: Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

Nearly 250 corporate lawyers sent a letter today to President Barack Obama and U.S. Senators urging the president to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. “…Nearly one third of all presidents have nominated a justice in an election year who was eventually confirmed,” the letter said. Read more from the ABA Journal.

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Court Reverses Dismissal of Suit, Says Claim Was Timely Filed Under Savings Statute

The Tennessee Supreme Court today reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a professional negligence lawsuit filed by Circle C Construction LLC against the Kentucky firm of Furman, Nilsen & Lomond PLLC. The firm represented Circle C in a case brought by the United States under the False Claims Act. Circle C appealed the federal court’s decision in the case and entered into an agreement with the firm that included a deadline for it to file a lawsuit against the firm that would extend 120 days after the appeal’s court issued a decision. Circle C voluntarily dismissed the negligence suit against the firm in 2012, but later refiled it in 2013 after the the decision was issued by the appeals court. The firm’s attorneys claimed that Circle C’s case was filed too late; the trial court and Court of Appeals agreed, dismissing the suit. Circle C appealed to the state Supreme Court, where justices ruled that the savings statute applies to the claim and it can proceed. Read the majority opinion in Circle C Construction, LLC v. D. Sean Nilsen et al., authored by Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee, and the separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, authored by Justice Holly Kirby.

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Harbison: Remembering Justice Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia "counted among his close friends fellow Justices Ruth Ginsberg and Elena Kagan, members of the court with whom he often disagreed," TBA President Bill Harbison writes in the new issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. "The ability to disagree without having the disagreement become personal is of immense importance in our system of justice." Read this and more in the March issue.

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