News

Bivins Sees Both Sides of Death Penalty Legislation

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins told WCYB that there are pros and cons to the legislation that has been proposed that would take death penalty appeals directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals. "It would probably speed up the process by six months or so," Bivins said. "But it also is helpful to have the court of criminal appeals review it because they are able to narrow down the issues and it's another set of eyes on that." Shortening the time spent on the process is one goal, but Bivins points out that something may be overlooked in the rush. "It's an incredibly important decision. It's a critical decision," he said. "It's a life or death decision, literally."

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Bivins Sees Both Sides of Death Penalty Legislation

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins told WCYB that there are pros and cons to the legislation that has been proposed that would take death penalty appeals directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals. "It would probably speed up the process by six months or so," Bivins said. "But it also is helpful to have the court of criminal appeals review it because they are able to narrow down the issues and it's another set of eyes on that." Shortening the time spent on the process is one goal, but Bivins points out that something may be overlooked in the rush. "It's an incredibly important decision. It's a critical decision," he said. "It's a life or death decision, literally."

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Federal Appeals Court Rules in Death Penalty Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Andrew Thomas in his death penalty appeal for the 1997 killing of an armored truck guard, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court agreed with Thomas’s claim that the state of Maryland violated his rights and suppressed evidence in his case. Thomas is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, where he still maintains his innocence in the crime.
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Federal Appeals Court Rules in Death Penalty Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Andrew Thomas in his death penalty appeal for the 1997 killing of an armored truck guard, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court agreed with Thomas’s claim that the state of Maryland violated his rights and suppressed evidence in his case. Thomas is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, where he still maintains his innocence in the crime.
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Supreme Court Seeking Comments on Rule 34

The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering amending Rule 34, which deals with judicial records and requesting public records. The deadline for submitting written comments is March 24.
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Mother of Deceased Teen Seeks Rehearing of Suit Against School

The lawyer for a Nashville mother who sued Father Ryan High School after her son committed suicide has asked an appeals court to rehear the case, the Nashville Post reports. In January, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a District Court decision to dismiss the mother’s lawsuit, which alleged that her son was bullied repeatedly with homosexual slurs and the school did not do enough to prevent it.
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Pilot Flying J Informant Claims Company Cheated Feds

The Pilot Flying J diesel rebate fraud scheme cheated not just trucking companies across the U.S. but also the federal government, according to a former Morgan Stanley broker who claims he helped the FBI in the original case. Knownews reports that John Verble, who is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a request for federal whistleblower protection, alleges that Pilot Flying J swindled the U.S. Postal Service out of large sums in promised fuel rebates. Pilot’s attorney said the accusation is not true.
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Appeals Court Upholds Travel Ban Suspension

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the suspension of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order, CNBC reports. A panel of three judges in San Francisco decided the case, brought before the appellate court after U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban. The states of Washington and Minnesota initiated the suit. Read the full opinion here.
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Gorsuch Calls Trump Attacks on Judiciary 'Demoralizing'

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch expressed consternation at President Trump’s negative remarks towards the judiciary, the New York Times reports. A White House advisor confirmed that Gorsuch had called Trump’s remarks “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” Via Twitter, Trump had earlier attacked a Seattle judge who temporarily blocked his travel ban, calling him a “so-called judge” whose ruling was “ridiculous.” Trump also  complained that judicial review of the ban was “disgraceful” and “so political.” 
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Chattanooga VW Employee Files Brief Against NLRB Decision

A Chattanooga Volkswagon employee is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit to overturn a National Labor Relations Board decision that allows the United Auto Workers to bargain on behalf of maintenance employees at the plant, Nooga.com reports. A spokesperson from the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal help to the employee, said the decision forced workers “into a monopoly union.”
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Death Penalty Bill Heads to Committee This Week

A bill that would remove appellate review from death penalty cases, sending them straight to the Tennessee Supreme Court, will head to committee tomorrow, according to the Tennessean. The legislation is scheduled to be taken up in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee at 1:30 p.m. and the Senate Judiciary Committee at 3:30 p.m.

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Tenn. Supreme Court Will Hear Case of Lawyer Denied Bar Exam

Last week, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Maximiliano Gabriel Gluzman, an Argentinean attorney who last year was denied the opportunity to take the Tennessee bar exam, according to the Nashville Post. The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners denied Gluzman the chance to sit for the test due to new rules governing the eligibility of applicants with foreign law degrees, which took effect Jan. 1 of last year. Vanderbilt and University of Tennessee’s law schools issued a joint petition supporting Gluzman’s right to take the exam.
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Neil Gorsuch Selected as SCOTUS Nominee

Judge Neil Gorsuch, from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch, considered a reliable conservative, is a former Washington, D.C. lawyer educated at Harvard and Oxford. Gorsuch may face challenges to his confirmation, however, as Congressional Democrats consider seeking reprisal after Republicans blocked Obama nominee Merrick Garland last year, according to the New York Times. The American Bar Association issued a response to the pick, which can be read here.
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SCOTUS Pick Expected Tomorrow

Multiple sources are reporting that President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court will be announced live on television tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST, according to the ABA Journal. Three finalists confirmed to replace Judge Antonin Scalia are Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Philiadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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SCOTUS Pick Expected Tomorrow

Multiple sources are reporting that President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court will be announced live on television tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST, according to the ABA Journal. Three finalists confirmed to replace Judge Antonin Scalia are Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Philiadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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Judges Block Trump Travel Ban, Tennessee Delegation Split

At least five judges over the weekend partially blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, the ABA Journal says. Federal judges in Brooklyn, Boston, Alexandra, Los Angeles and Seattle issued injunctions. In Tennessee, Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen both say they will join fellow Democrats in sponsoring legislation that would bar the use of federal funds to enforce the travel ban, the Commercial Appeal reports. Tennessee Republicans in Congress defended the actions, calling them a "necessary step" to strengthening national security. Some also admitted the actions were sometimes poorly carried out.
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Trump Promises Court Nominee in 2 Weeks

President-elect Donald Trump says he expects to announce a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court within two weeks of his inauguration. According to Above the Law, Trump has met with 11th Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, reportedly the leading candidate for the post. The ABA Journal also reports that the president-elect has identified Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and a number of Republican lawmakers as advising him on the choice.

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Court Weighs Education Benefits for Disabled Students

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed willing to put more teeth into a law that requires public schools to help learning-disabled students, the Associated Press reports. Most of the justices indicated that school districts must offer more than the bare minimum of services to children with special needs. But they struggled over how to clarify the law without inviting more litigation between frustrated parents and cash-strapped schools. The court is considering an appeal from the parents of an autistic teen who say his public school did not provide sufficient services and are seeking reimbursement for the costs of sending him to a private school.

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Court Declines to Hear Backpage Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided not to hear the case of Jane Doe v. Backpage.com, a civil suit filed by sex-trafficking victims that contends the website helps facilitate sex trafficking of minors. That decision leaves in place a ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that the company is covered by the Communications Decency Act and protected from claims against third-party content. Despite that win, Backpage.com announced Monday it is shutting down its adult advertising section, the ABA Journal reports. The move appears to be a response to a report from a Senate subcommittee accusing the company of editing ads to remove evidence of child sex trafficking.

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Groups Plan Ad Campaign to Help Court Nominee

A number of conservative groups are launching a coordinated effort to build support for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, the ABA Journal reports. The plan includes ad buys in states that supported Trump in the presidential election and also will have moderate Democrat senators on the ballot in 2018. The Judicial Crisis Network says it will spend up to $10 million on the effort after having spent $7 million in efforts to prevent the Obama administration from filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. “We are preparing to launch the most robust campaign for a Supreme Court nominee in history,” JCN’s chief counsel said.

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Fact Check: Ginsburg Not Resigning Over Trump

A widely shared story that claims U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told The Associated Press that she plans to resign from the Supreme Court in protest of Republican President-elect Donald Trump is false. According to the AP, the false story was posted by several websites in December and versions of it have been in circulation since last July. The false story includes one accurate quote but also several paragraphs of fabricated quotes attributed to Ginsburg. At age 83, Ginsburg is the court’s oldest justice, but has announced no plans to retire. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Court to Hear Case Against Knox Judge

The Tennessee Supreme Court was set to hear arguments today in the case of Knox County Circuit Court Judge Bill Ailor, who is being sued for firing his predecessor’s judicial assistant before he took the oath of office. The court’s ruling will shape judicial employment law, determining who judicial assistants work for, when a person elected judge actually becomes one and whether judicial assistants enjoy employment protections, Knoxnews reports. Both a lower court judge and a mid-level appellate court found that Ailor did not have the authority to fire anyone before taking office. The court is hearing three cases while sitting in Knoxville today.

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Proposed Bill Would Expedite Death Penalty Appeals

A bill filed Friday in the state House aims to eliminate a step in death penalty appeals, sending cases directly to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Tennessean reports. The legislation, filed by Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, would provide for direct appeal to the state Supreme Court of any death penalty case heard by a trial court. Lamberth notes that Tennessee is just one of a handful of states that requires intermediate appellate courts to hear these cases. He says defendants and victims’ families alike deserve an expedited process.

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Court to Hear 2 Free Speech Cases This Month

The U.S. Supreme Court’s January oral argument calendar includes two major cases about freedom of speech and how far the First Amendment extends to limit government regulation. Erwin Chemerinsky writes about the cases of Lee v. Tam and Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman in the ABA Journal.

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