News

Court Overrules State v. Jacumin on Sufficiency of Affidavit to Issue Search Warrant

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 2012 search warrant in the case of Jerry Lewis Tuttle, overruling State v. Jacumin and adopting the totality-of-the-circumstances approach for determining whether an affidavit sufficiently establishes probable cause for issuance of a search warrant. Tuttle had moved to suppress evidence seized from the search, but the trial court denied the motion and admitted the evidence at trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the decision, leading to the state's appeal to the Supreme Court. Nashville defense attorney David Raybin was critical of the ruling, saying "This decision is another instance where the Court is eliminating independent Tennessee Constitutional oversight over police searches."
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Democrats Have Votes to Filibuster Gorsuch

Democrats in the U.S. Senate secured enough votes today to block U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, setting the stage for Republicans to enact the “nuclear option” and change the rules regarding the filibuster, the Washington Post reports. Four Democrats joined the effort to block Gorsuch today. That followed Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings, which Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) characterized as “excruciatingly evasive.” Republicans could confirm Gorsuch by voting to eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
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GOP Could Consider Alternative Strategies to Confirm Gorsuch

Other than taking the “nuclear option” — which would change the rules regarding filibusters — Senate Republicans have other options to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the ABA Journal reports. One option is the “two-speech rule,” in which senators could only give two speeches in a legislative day, and if the Senate doesn’t adjourn for the night, one “legislative day” could go on for weeks. It would limit each Democrat to two speeches and after they are finished, only a simple majority vote would be needed for confirmation. The second option is a recess appointment, in which the president could put Gorsuch on the bench during a recess, but the appointment would only last until the next session of Congress, which would end in late 2018 or 2019.
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Slatery Adds Support to Gorsuch Nomination

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery added his support to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, Humphrey on the Hill reports. In a letter to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Slatery wrote, “In short, Judge Gorsuch is a champion of the structural safeguards that protect state sovereignty and individual liberty, a committed textualist and originalist, and a brilliant jurist.”

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Supreme Court: Indigent Prisoner’s Case Properly Dismissed

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that an indigent prisoner’s petition for parole was properly dismissed when the court found he had outstanding unpaid court costs. Reginald Dion Hughes is serving a 60-year sentence for two 1987 murder convictions, and appealed to the Chancery Court after being denied parole for the third time. In Justice Sharon Lee’s dissenting opinion on the decision, she noted that Hughes’ petition was denied based on only $49.50 in unpaid court costs that a clerk had not attempted to collect.
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Gorsuch Faces First Day of Confirmation Hearings

Hearings to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began in Washington today, the ABA Journal reports. Up for discussion was Gorsuch’s questioning of Chevron deference, as well as Gorsuch’s views on the separation of powers. Many Democrats applauded Gorsuch’s qualifications, while voicing their discontent of the Senate’s refusal last year to allow Judge Merrick Garland a similar hearing. When Gorsuch himself gave his statement, he noted that he does not believe that judges are merely “politicians in robes.”
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Gorsuch Former Colleagues Unite in Support of Nomination

Dozens of former law clerks of federal appeals judge David Sentelle have written to the Senate calling for quick confirmation of their one-time colleague Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, Roll Call reports. The clerks said they hailed from different points on the political spectrum but all endorsed Gorsuch, who clerked for Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1991 to 1992.

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Check Out New 1-Click CLE Offerings

Gain fast and easy access to annual updates with TBA's 1-Click CLE options. New packages offer recent programming in real estate, administrative law, and appellate practice.  
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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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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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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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