News

Judge Donald to Receive ABA Pickering Award

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice Donald will receive the American Bar Association’s 2014 John H. Pickering Award of Achievement during the group’s Annual Meeting in Boston this August. Donald, a native of Mississippi, worked for Memphis Area Legal Services and the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office before being elected the first female African-American judge in Tennessee. She later moved from General Sessions court to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. District Court for western Tennessee. She was appointed to her current position in 2010. In nominating Donald, California attorney Pauline Weaver wrote, “Judge Donald represents the best of the profession. She has consistently demonstrated the kind of integrity, legal ability, access to justice and public service that would make John Pickering proud.”

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Court to Review 1 Criminal, 2 Civil Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted review to two civil cases involving insurance benefits assignments and termination of parental rights, and one criminal case pertaining to due process concerns associated with kidnapping convictions. The Raybin Perky Hot List has a summary and forecast of each case.

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Law Prof: Court Rises Above Partisanship

For the first time since 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed unanimously on more than 66 percent of its cases throughout the term, Georgetown University law professor Neal K. Katyal writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times. Katyal notes that the figure still holds even if Monday’s remaining two cases are not unanimous. “Unanimity is important because it signals that the justices can rise above their differences and interpret the law without partisanship,” Katyal writes. “When the justices forge common ground, it signals to the nation the deep-seated roots of what the court has said and contributes to stability in the fabric of the law."

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Court Strikes Down Obama Appointments; Rules Against Protest Buffers

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down President Obama’s three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, the ABA Journal reports. In his opinion for the court today, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said Obama lacked the power to make the recess appointments during a three-day recess in January 2012 because the time period was too short. The Court also ruled today that a Massachusetts law banning abortion-clinic protests within a 35-foot buffer zone violates the First Amendment rights of protesters. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the opinion for the court, which said the 35-foot buffer zone isn't narrowly tailored to carry out the state's aims of ensuring safety, preventing harassment and keeping clinic entrances free of obstruction. In a major decision yesterday, the Court ruled that police generally must get a warrant before searching the cellphone of a person who is arrested. Several more decisions are expected before the Court wraps up its session on June 30.

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Governor Names Panel to Hear Hooker Case

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a special Tennessee Supreme Court to hear the case of Hooker et al v. Lt. Governor Ramsey et al. All of the court except Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder recused themselves from the case. Named to the special court are Oscar C. “Bo” Carr III of Glankler Brown in Memphis; Rosemarie L. Hill of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel in Chattanooga; Thomas M. Hale of Kramer Rayson in Knoxville; and Melvin J. Malone of Butler Snow in Nashville.

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Court Issues 3 Rulings Today, Others on Tap for Thursday

The religious rights of corporations, the speech rights of abortion protesters, the president’s power to make recess appointments and the privacy rights of those under arrest are among the big issues still unresolved at the Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports. The justices handed down three rulings Monday and will decide more of the 14 remaining cases on Thursday. The story, carried by WRCB-TV Chattanooga, looks at some of the key cases that remain.

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Commission Recommends 5 for Criminal Appeals Court

The Governor’s Commission on Judicial Appointments met today in Nashville to interview and vote on candidates seeking to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals following the appointment of Judge Jeffrey Bivins to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The panel recommended Circuit Court Judge Robert Lee Holloway Jr., Circuit Judge and Chancellor Larry B. Stanley Jr. and Circuit Court Judge Larry J. Wallace. In a rare move, the commission also sent two additional names to the governor “by acclamation.” The pair – Circuit Court Judge Timothy Lee Easter and District Public Defender Roger Eric Nell – previously were nominated for the Court of Criminal Appeals seat being vacated by Judge Jerry Smith. The governor has not yet named a replacement for Smith.

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Deadline Extended for Workers' Comp Board Vacancies

The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments has extended the deadline for applications for three vacancies on the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board to 4 p.m. CDT, June 4. Candidates ultimately chosen by the governor will fill one of three terms: two, four or six years. After the initial terms, each term will be six years and judges are limited to serving two terms. Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Courts. The commission will interview all qualified Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board applicants on June 10 in Nashville. The same day, the commission will also consider applicants for the Court of Criminal Appeals vacancy.

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7 Apply for Court of Criminal Appeals Vacancy

The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments will consider seven applicants when it meets June 10 at Legislative Plaza in Nashville to select nominees for the Court of Criminal Appeals vacancy. The vacancy was created by the appointment of Judge Jeffrey Bivins to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The candidates are: Leslie Anne Collum, assistant district attorney general, Rutherford County; Timothy Lee Easter, Circuit Court judge, Williamson County; Robert Lee Holloway Jr., Circuit Court judge, Maury County; Roger Eric Nell, district public defender, Montgomery County; Larry B. Stanley Jr., Circuit Court judge and chancellor, Warren County; Russell Fletcher Thomas, attorney, Davidson County; and Larry J. Wallace, Circuit Court judge, Stewart County. The meeting will include a public hearing at 8 a.m.

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Investiture for Appellate Judge McBrayer Set for May 29

The investiture ceremony for the state’s newest Court of Appeals Judge, Neal McBrayer, will be held at the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. Gov. Bill Haslam, who appointed McBrayer to the court last year, will administer the oath of office. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

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Commission Sends 3 to Haslam for Appeals Court

The Governor’s Commission on Judicial Appointments, which met in Memphis on Friday, has submitted three candidates to Gov. Bill Haslam to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Appeals. They are Shelby County Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong, Memphis lawyer Oscar C. Carr III and Jackson lawyer Steven Wayne Maroney. The vacancy on the court was created by the appointment of Judge Holly Kirby to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Kirby will move into her new role on Sept. 1. Read more about the three candidates from the AOC.

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3 Advance to Governor for Criminal Appeals Court Post

Timothy Lee Easter of Williamson County, James Winn Milam of Robertson County and Roger Eric Neil of Montgomery County have been selected as the top candidates to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals. The Governors Commission on Judicial Appointments interviewed all nine of the candiates for the post today in Nashville before deciding on the three who will go to Gov. Haslam for consideration. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

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Some Expect Costly, Divisive Judicial Campaign

Tennessee could be facing the costliest state Supreme Court election in its history now that conservatives have targeted three sitting justices on the state's highest court, Knoxnews reports from the Associated Press. While Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has been meeting with business leaders, victims' rights groups and others to make the case that all three should go, supporters of the justices are already trying to raise money to counter the outside money they expect to be coming in to influence the race.

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Nashville Lawyers Share Views on Criminal Appeals Candidates

Nashville lawyers gave their opinions of nine candidates seeking to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in a poll released today by the Nashville Bar Association (NBA). Timothy Lee Easter, a Circuit Court Judge in Williamson County, earned the highest recommendation from the NBA members. The second highest level of support went to Russell Fletcher Thomas, a solo practitioner in Davidson County. The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments will interview all nine applicants on Tuesday in Nashville and recommend three finalists to pass on to Gov. Bill Haslam. Judge Jerry Smith, who currently holds the Middle District position, earlier said he would not seek to retain his seat in the August general election.

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Supreme Court Names New Appellate Courts Clerk

James M. Hivner of Bartlett has been named as the Clerk of the Appellate Court by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Hivner currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Shelby County Chancery Court. He will replace Mike Catalano, who is retiring in early June after more than 10 years as clerk. In his role as Clerk of the Appellate Courts, Hivner will oversee a staff of 29 at offices in Jackson, Nashville and Knoxville. He will serve the Supreme Court as well as the Court of Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

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Investiture Set for New Court of Appeals Judge

The investiture of Neal McBrayer as judge for the Tennessee Court of Appeals is set for May 29 at 10:30 a.m. in the Historic Supreme Court Chambers of the state Capitol. A reception will follow and the public is invited to attend. McBrayer, a Maryville native, most recently served as an attorney in the Nashville office of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada where he handled commercial litigation and bankruptcy law. He was appointed to the court by Gov. Bill Haslam in August 2013 to replace Judge Patricia J. Cottrell, who is stepping down at the end of the current term. The Daily Times has more on McBrayer's background and appointment.

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1 in 25 Sentenced to Death Are Likely Innocent, Study Says

A new study suggests that about one in 25 people who are sentenced to death are likely innocent, the ABA Journal reports. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that while only 1.6 percent of those on death-row are exonerated and released, the actual figure is likely a minimum of 4.1 percent when statistical assumptions are applied to the cases of people who are removed from death row and given life sentences.The new study also refutes a statement made by Justice Antonin Scalia in a concurring opinion in 2007 in which he wrote that American criminal convictions have an error rate of 0.027 percent “or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent.”

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Sotomayor’s Opinion Her First on Race Issue

In a dissent this week to a U.S. Supreme Court opinion on affirmative action, Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- the first Hispanic justice on the court -- addressed race in American for the first time since going on the bench, Gavel Grab reports. While the six-member majority upheld a voter-approved Michigan ban on affirmative action in university admissions, Justice Sotomayor parted ways, writing: “The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat.” She added, “But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Attorney General Eric Holder today applauded Justice Sotomayor’s dissent and called it “courageous and very personal,” the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

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State Supreme Court Added to Historic Register

Six Tennessee sites, including the state Supreme Court Building in Nashville, have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, a list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The court was nominated for the recognition in January by the Tennessee Historical Commission. The other sites are the Grand Guitar in Bristol, Mead and Ross Marble Quarries in Knox County, the Martin-Dobyns House in Kingsport and the Blountville Historic District. WDEF News 12 has the news from the Associated Press.

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Memphis Judges Host Supreme Court Reception

The judges of the 30th Judicial District, in cooperation with the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, will host a reception for members of the Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday. The event will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the 4th Floor Gordon Ball Reading Room of the law school. RSVP to Judge Robert “Butch” Childers at robert.childers@shelbycountytn.gov.

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State Challenges Ruling on Same-Sex Marriages

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper is asking the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a decision granting recognition to three same-sex married couples, the Tennessean reports. The action follows Friday’s preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger allowing the marriage of three same-sex couples -- plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit -- to be recognized as their lawsuit against Gov. Bill Haslam and others progressed. The AG’s argument points to a stay issued in a similar ruling in Utah, and says it won’t irreparably harm the couples not to be recognized.

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Court to Review Whistleblowing and Contiguous State Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases regarding a charge of whistleblower retaliation and the contiguous state requirements for a testifying expert witness. The Raybin Perky Hot List has a summary and forecast of each case.

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3 Recommended for Supreme Court Vacancy

The Governor's Commission for Judicial Appointments today recommended Jeffrey S. Bivins, Linda W. Knight and Larry K. Scroggs as candidates to fill the Tennessee Supreme Court position being vacated this summer by Justice William C. Koch Jr. The three now go to Gov. Bill Haslam for consideration. View each candidate’s application at the Administrative Office of the Courts.

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Bivins Gets Highest Marks in NBA Supreme Court Poll

Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins of Franklin received the highest marks in a poll released today by the Nashville Bar Association in which its members rated candidates seeking appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Five lawyers are seeking to fill a vacancy that will be created when Justice William C. Koch Jr. retires in July to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. The survey asked lawyers to register a vote of highly recommend, recommend, do not recommend or no opinion. Paul C. Ney Jr. of Nashville received the second highest rank, followed by Nashville lawyer Linda W. Knight. See the full poll results.

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Supreme Court Seeks Appellate Courts Clerk

The Tennessee Supreme Court is seeking applications for the Clerk of the Appellate Courts position based in Nashville. The vacancy is being created by the retirement Mike Catalano. Qualified applicants must be licensed Tennessee attorneys, have extensive managerial experience and be knowledgeable about implementation and use of current technologies. The deadline to apply is March 14. Visit the Administrative Office of the Courts for more information. 

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