News

Grassley: GOP Has Responsibility to Consider Court Nominees

Republicans “can’t just simply stonewall” nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court even if the president making that choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday. The senator, who is chair of the Judiciary Committee, was responding to comments from fellow Republican Sen. John McCain that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. “I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet…whoever nominee that person puts forward. We have the same responsibility for [Donald] Trump,” Grassley said. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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LAET Inducts 2 into Pro Bono Hall of Fame

The Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has inducted two longtime members of the judiciary into its Chattanooga Pro Bono Hall of Fame. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William M. Barker and retired Hamilton County Chancellor Howell N. Peoples were recognized at a reception and ceremony this week at the group’s Chattanooga office. The pair was selected for the honor because of their early work in the access to justice movement. According to LAET, Barker was the first chief justice of the state Supreme Court to make access to justice a priority for the court, while Peoples was the first legal aid attorney in Chattanooga to be funded through the federal legal aid program.

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Prosecutors Need Not Link Firearms Charges to Specific Felonies

In two unanimous opinions issued today, the Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that an indictment that includes a charge for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony does not have to specifically state which underlying felony is tied to the firearms charge. The cases – State of Tennessee v. Rhakim Martin and State of Tennessee v. Willie Duncan – address a Tennessee law that created an additional crime if certain “dangerous” felonies are committed with a firearm. Read more about the cases from the AOC.

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Court Upholds Method of Charging Lesser Offenses

The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that the state legislature did not nullify a practice long used in state courts when it enacted a statute that outlines methods for determining lesser-included offenses for which a defendant can be convicted. The court’s decision means that a defendant can continue to be convicted of a lesser offense if it contains the same elements, but requires a lesser mental state or less risk of harm to others, than the offense being charged. Read more from the court.

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Death Row Inmate Gets New Hearing

Nashville Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins has ordered a new hearing to determine if prosecutors discriminated against potential jurors based solely on race in the case of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, who has been on death row since 1987. Abdur'Rahman was convicted of first-degree murder and other counts in the robbery, attack and stabbing of Patrick Daniels and Norma Jean Norman. Watkins cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, which potentially created a new precedent that warrants an evidentiary hearing. A date for the hearing has not yet been set, the Tennessean reports.

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Reminder: Supreme Court Society Event Thursday

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 Thursday. 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 take place at the East Tennessee Historical Center in Knoxville. RSVP to Amanda Messer.

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4 Vying to Redevelop Former Supreme Court Building

Four companies have submitted bids to redevelop the former Tennessee Supreme Court building in downtown Knoxville, Knoxnews reports. The building has been empty since 2003 when the state moved the court to its current site on Main Street. Plans for redevelopment call for an “exciting urban lifestyle” where residents will want to live, shop and play. The request for proposals also asks the bid winner to preserve portions of the original Supreme Court courtroom and reuse materials found in the courthouse.

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Walker Sworn In to U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Hon. Charles M. Walker was sworn in to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee today. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Marian F. Harrison administered the oath in a courtroom at the U.S. Customs House in Nashville, and Chief District Judge Kevin H. Sharp of the U.S. District Court gave remarks welcoming Walker to the court.

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Deadline Nearing for Supreme Court Admissions Event

The deadline to take part in the TBA Academy and be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is just weeks away. 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 Corrects Order Dealing with Chief Justice’s Term

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a correction this week to an order originally filed on Aug. 30 to note that Justice Sharon Lee dissented to adoption of an order that amended Supreme Court Rule 32, which made several changes to the way the court’s chief justice is selected. Specifically, the order (1) removed the deadline of Sept. 1 for selecting a new chief justice, (2) extended the initial term of the chief justice from one to four years, (3) allowed the chief justice to serve additional unlimited consecutive two-year terms, and (4) allowed three justices to remove the chief justice for cause (down from the previous requirement of four).

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Ceremonial Swearing-in Thursday for Chief Justice Bivins

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins will have a ceremonial swearing in with Gov. Bill Haslam at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the historic Supreme Court chambers in the state Capitol. The event is open to the public. Bivins was unanimously elected chief by the other members of the court last month. He was officially sworn in by Justice Connie Clark during the Equal Justice University conference in August. Read more from the court.

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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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