News

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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Batey Lawyer Asks to be Removed from Appeal

The primary lawyer for Cory Batey, a former Vanderbilt University football player convicted of raping an unconscious woman, is asking to be removed from the case, the Tennessean reports. Worrick Robinson said he made the request because he does not handle appeals. A hearing in the matter has been scheduled for Wednesday. Batey, 22, was found guilty after a trial in April and sentenced last month to 15 years in prison.

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Tennessee Athletes Take ‘Pay for Play’ to 6th Circuit

Tennessee college athletes will be before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this week arguing they should be paid for the use of their names and images in the college sports industry and on television, the Tennessean reports. The athletes are asking a panel of three judges to reopen their case, which a Nashville federal judge dismissed last year. Ten former football and basketball athletes, many of whom attended Vanderbilt University or the University of Tennessee, filed a $5 million lawsuit in 2014 saying their images were used without their permission by the broadcast networks and eight NCAA conferences.

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Law Clerk Tells Story of Knoxville’s Only U.S. Justice

Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge John McClarty’s law clerk, Stephanie Slater, has published an article about Justice Edward T. Sanford’s tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. Sanford is believed to be the only known Knoxvillian and University of Tennessee graduate to sit on the high court. The article is part of an upcoming book, Emerging from Obscurity: Edward Terry Sanford, Tennessean on the United States Supreme Court that is to be published by the University of Tennessee Press in 2017. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

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Attorneys Argue Self-Defense, Poor Policing in Mills Case

Attorneys for Christopher M. Ferrell, the man convicted of killing country musician Wayne Mills, asked the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals this week to grant their client a new trial, arguing that erroneous jury instructions and a botched police investigation tainted his conviction. They also argued that Ferrell acted out of fear and shot Mills in self-defense, the Tennessean reports. Ferrell was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing Mills after a tribute concert to music legend George Jones. The two were drinking in a downtown Nashville bar when they got into an argument and Ferrell shot Mills.

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Memphis Law Alumni to Honor Justice Kirby

The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Alumni Chapter will honor Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby as a “Special Distinguished Alumna” at its 2016 Pillars of Excellence Awards Ceremony and Dinner. The event will be held Aug. 22 at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn. A VIP Meet & Greet will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., and dinner and an awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Kirby graduated from the law school in 1982 and is the first Memphis Law graduate to serve on the state Supreme Court. Others to be recognized by the alumni group are G. Pat Arnoult, Saul Belz, John Dunlap, Jef Feibelman, Philip Kaminsky, Henry Klein and former Memphis Mayor AC Wharton. For more information contact Marina Carrier, 901-678-2461. The AOC has more on Justice Kirby's selection.

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Court to Decide if Grundy Man Gets New Trial

The Tennessee Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday about whether a Grundy County man convicted of murder should get a new trial. Adam Braseel was convicted for the 2006 murder of Malcolm Burrows but was released from prison earlier this year after a circuit court judge found a number of discrepancies in his original trial. WRCB-TV has the latest news.

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Justice Birch Building, Statue to be Celebrated Aug. 27

The Nashville Bar Foundation will hold an event Aug. 27 at 5 p.m. to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Justice A. A. Birch Building and dedicate a new 8-foot bronze statue of Birch, who was the first African American to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Following the ceremony, the foundation will hold an awards dinner inside the Justice A.A. Birch Building. For more information, contact Judge Rachel Bell, 615-862-8341.

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McConnell Renews Vow: Obama Will Not Fill Vacancy

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down Tuesday on his pledge to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from a confirmation hearing and vote this year, CQ Roll Call reports. “On that sad day when we lost Justice Scalia, I made [a] pledge that Obama would not fill his seat,” McConnell said yesterday from the stage of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. When it comes to picking a Scalia successor, McConnell said, “That honor will go to Donald Trump next year.”

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DOJ Asks Court to Rehear Immigration Case

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday asked the Supreme Court for a rehearing of a case challenging President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration as soon as a ninth justice is appointed. The administration said there should be a definitive decision on the merits of the executive actions instead of the 4-4 split by the high court that left an appellate court decision striking the actions in place, but did not set precedent on the issue. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

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Transgender Bathroom Case Lands on Courthouse Steps

A Virginia school board hoping to block a transgender teen from using the boy’s bathroom at his high school took its legal fight to the Supreme Court yesterday, Politico reports. The move marks the first time that the legal battle over transgender students’ bathrooms use has been brought to the court. The board is challenging a federal appeals court decision that (1) directed the school to honor the teen’s preferences and (2) rejected a request to block the ruling while the school appeals to the high court. In response, the school board filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to suspend the decision.

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Court Adopts New Standard for Shareholder Lawsuits

In a case involving claims between siblings who were shareholders in a closely held family corporation, the Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a new standard for when a shareholder can file a direct lawsuit on claims that concern the corporation. The decision overturned a ruling by the Court of Appeals and set aside Tennessee’s prior standard. In its place, the court adopted a standard used in Delaware that “is clear and easily understood” and “should facilitate consistent and predictable outcomes in disputes involving shareholder claims.” Chattannoogan.com has the story.

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Services Set for Weekend for Justice Cooper

 In a statement releasing details of funeral arrangements for former Tennessee Supreme Court justice Robert E. Cooper, Chief Justice Sharon Lee said, “Justice Cooper was highly respected by members of the judiciary and legal community. He diligently served this great state for nearly 40 years as a public servant.” The family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday at East Chapel Funeral Home, 404 South Moore Rd. in Chattanooga. Services will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at Second Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, 700 Pine St., with visitation in the church beginning at 10 a.m. Burial will be at Chattanooga National Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Shriners Hospital for Children, Second Presbyterian Church or Hospice of Chattanooga. The Tennessean has more on his life.

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Services Pending for Former Supreme Court Justice

Judge Robert E. Cooper, who served a long tenure on the Tennessee Supreme Court, died Sunday at his home on Signal Mountain. He was 95. A native of Chattanooga, Cooper studied at the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University. He served as a Circuit Court judge in Hamilton County from 1953-1960 and on the Tennessee Court of Appeals from 1960-1974. Cooper was named to the Supreme Court in 1974 and served there until he retired in 1990. His son, Robert E. Cooper Jr., served as Tennessee attorney general from 2006 to 2014. Funeral details are pending. Chattanoogan.com has more on his life.

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UT Law Students Claim Victory in Appeals Case

University of Tennessee law school students arguing two cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit claimed a victory today. In an opinion issued by the court, the members of UT Law’s Appellate Litigation Clinic successfully argued that their client properly filed a habeas corpus petition under Kentucky state law, reversing the decision of the lower court. The Appellate Litigation Clinic students still await a decision in a second case that the group argued in March.
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