News

Roberts Surprises as Court Upholds Health Care Act

The high court today let stand, in a 5-4 decision, the centerpiece of President Obama's health care legislation, with Chief Justice John Roberts surprising many by casting the deciding vote and writing the majority opinion. His rationale is that Congress under the Commerce Clause does not have the authority to require people to buy insurance — but it does have the authority to tax people who do not have coverage. The so-called individual mandate embedded in the health care legislation, Roberts wrote, "must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable." Read more from NPR and the National Law Journal. Relive the action as it unfolded, from the Blog of Legal Times or read what Tennessee business, health care and political leaders had to say in the Nashville Post.

The Tennessee Bar Association will explore what the next steps will be for the legislation in a July 12 webcast featuring John Voigt of Sherrard & Roe. Learn more or register now.

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Court Grants Cert in Key Class Action Case

Potentially lost in the flurry of news coverage about the Supreme Court's upcoming  health care decision was the court's action on Monday granting certiorarii in 11 cases. Among those to be considered during the next term is one that could make it more difficult for plaintiffs to bring class actions in federal courts, according to the ABA Journal. "The issue here," according to one observer, "is whether the plaintiffs have to show at the class-certification stage that they have a method of proving damages that is admissible at trial and common for all plaintiffs." Antitrust lawyer Ankur Kapoor says this could “be the big one” and "whatever the [court] says about this, the legal journals will be writing about it for years."  SCOTUSBlog has the list of all petitions granted.

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Clement Named Appellate Judge of Year

The Tennessee Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) recently recognized Judge Frank Clement as Appellate Judge of the Year. Clement currently serves on the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Courts

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Court Strikes 3 Parts of Arizona Law; Lets Police Check Stand

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected key provisions in Arizona's tough anti-immigration law, but let stand controversial police checks of immigration status. In Arizona v. U.S., a 5-3 majority, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, held that three of four provisions in the law challenged by the Obama Administration were preempted by federal immigration law. Kennedy said the three provisions were preempted because they either conflicted with federal law or because Congress has "occupied the field" with federal regulation, and "even complementary state regulation" is impermissible.

But the majority held that Section 2(B) was not preempted -- at least not until there has been experience with its application. Under that section, state officers are to make a "reasonable attempt" to determine the immigration status of any person they stop, detain or arrest on some other legitimate basis if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is unlawfully in the country. Anyone who is arrested also must have his or her immigration status determined before being released. In light of this decision, the American Bar Association called on authorities "to avoid unnecessary, prolonged detention of individuals who are lawfully present in the United States." The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association also weighed in with its reaction, saying it is concerned that "communities of color throughout our nation will be negatively targeted as a result, and that community policing efforts on the part of law enforcement will also suffer."

Read more about the decision in the Blog of Legal Times

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4 Down, 5 to Go for Supreme Court

With decisions ranging from broadcast indecency to union fees and corporate fines, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for the term's biggest and likely most controversial rulings to come next week. After these four rulings, five cases remain, including health care and life without parole for juvenile murders. The court will return on Monday and may schedule an additional decision day later in the week. Learn more from the National Law Journal

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Group Asks High Court to Allow Live Broadcast of Health Care Decisions

A coalition of news organizations is asking the Supreme Court to permit live broadcast coverage of the upcoming announcement of its historic health care decisions. In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., the group wrote, "There is a strong interest nationwide in the Court’s opinion and any comments by a member of the Court that may accompany its announcement. Such access would allow the public to be informed of the Court’s ruling in a timely manner." The Court announced today it would be sitting on Monday and Thursday of next week to issue decisions, and several sittings are also expected the following week, at the end of which the Court is likely to adjourn for the summer. But the Court never lets it be known in advance which decisions will be issued on which days. The Court's current practice is to release the audio of oral arguments at the end of the week in which they occur, thereby limiting their news value. The Blog of Legal Times reports

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'Section Cup' Winners Named at TBA Convention

News from the Appellate Practice, Criminal Justice and Health Care Law Sections
Recipients of the 2012 Section Cup were announced recently at the Section Chairs Roundtable, kicking off the TBA Convention in Memphis. TBA President Danny Van Horn created the Section Cup to encourage service to section members. Over the past year, sections accumulated points for holding meetings and CLEs or providing new services to members. Sections of like size competed against each other for the honor. 

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2 Nominated for Appeals Court D.C. Circuit

President Barack Obama has named two prominent appellate attorneys to fill long-standing vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the White House announced today. Obama chose Srikanth Srinivasan, principal deputy solicitor general of the United States, and Caitlin Halligan, general counsel for the New York County District Attorney’s office. The Blog of Legal Times reports

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Section Accomplishments Recognized

TBA President Danny Van Horn today recognized the work of three TBA sections by presenting them with Section Cup awards during the Section Chairs Roundtable at the TBA Annual Convention in Memphis. Over the past year, sections accumulated points for holding meetings and CLEs or providing new services to members. Sections of like size competed against each other for the honor. The TBA Appellate Practice Section was named the Section Cup recipient for smaller TBA sections, with Executive Council member Buck Lewis accepting the award on behalf of the section.

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Federal PD Sought for Memphis Office

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is soliciting applications from persons interested in appointment as federal public defender for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. This is a vacancy created by the retirement of the previous incumbent. Applications are due by June 15. Download information from the court

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Judge Says Mosque Construction Can Proceed

Construction of a controversial mosque in Murfreesboro can continue according to a ruling out today. Earlier this week, Chancellor Robert Corlew III found that county commissioners did not give proper notice before approving the new Islamic center, but a footnote in the order issued today said that does not mean work has to stop on the mosque, and that such a matter would have to be taken up separately. WPLN reports

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County Won't Halt Mosque Construction

Rutherford County has no immediate plans to revoke the building permit for an embattled Murfreesboro mosque, says county attorney Jim Cope. “The county is going to look at all the possibilities" and "this could take weeks.” Construction at the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was set to continue today, despite a judge’s decision that voided the county planning commission’s approval of the project. County officials say they will wait for a court order from the judge to stop the construction. The Tennessean has more

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Justices' Teaching Jobs a Clue to End of Session

U.S. Supreme Court justices' summer travel schedules are a clue that blockbuster health care and immigration cases will be decided by the end of June. Several of the justices have teaching gigs that begin in July, including Chief Justice John Roberts who will be in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta; Antonin Scalia who will teach in Innsbruck, Austria; Samuel Alito is teaching in Florence; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will take part in programs in Venice and Vienna. Justices can accept roughly $25,000 in additional income for teaching and speaking, beyond their salary of $213,900 a year. The chief justice earns about $10,000 a year more. TriCities.com has the AP story

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Court Grants Review of 4 Criminal, 1 Civil Case

Five new cases were granted review by the Tennessee Supreme Court last week. This includes four criminal cases addressing constructive possession of drugs, pretrial diversion, the failure of trial court to inform jury of judgments of acquittal, and suppression of statements. The civil case concerns invalidation of a marriage for want of sufficient mental capacity. The Raybin-Perky Hot List details the cases and offers predictions of how the Supreme Court may act.

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High Court: Families Cannot Sue Quicken Loans Over Fee

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that three families cannot sue a mortgage company for allegedly charging them a loan discount fee without giving them a lower interest rate. The high court's decision tosses out lawsuits filed in 2008 against Quicken Loans Inc. in Louisiana. The Times-News has this AP story

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Interpretation and Translation Different in Eyes of Court

The U.S. Supreme Court says interpretation and translation are not the same thing when it comes to paying fees associated with federal civil lawsuits. The high court ruled today that Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd. did not deserve compensation for interpreters for fighting off a lawsuit from a Japanese professional baseball player. The company argued that translating written documents was the same as "compensation of interpreters," which can be charged to losing parties, but the court disagreed. TriCities.com has this AP story

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Low Number of Judicial Nominations, Confirmations Fuel 'Emergency'

Since President Obama took office, he's had a chance to make nominations for 241 federal judgeships. Fifty-five of them  were vacant slots held over from the Bush administration. Obama has nominated 188 judges, and the Senate has approved 147 of them. That leaves a current total of 94 vacancies — 77 vacant slots and 17 held by judges who have said they plan to retire. Some law professors and advocacy groups say Obama could have had more judges confirmed to the bench had he simply made more nominations over his first three-plus years in office. The National Law Journal looks at what some are calling a judicial emergency.

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Senate Confirms 3 to Federal Bench, First Asian-American Woman

The U.S. Senate confirmed three judges to federal courts late Monday afternoon, including the first Asian-American woman on any federal appellate court. The Senate voted 91-3 to confirm Vietnam-born Los Angeles federal Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, filling a vacancy that had remained open since 2009. The Senate also confirmed two judges by voice votes: Kristine Gerhard Baker to be district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and John Lee to be district judge for the Northern District of Illinois. The Blog of Legal Times has details

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St. Andrews Wants Rehearing in Church Property Case

On the heels of a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a state trial court decision in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, St. Andrew's Church has filed a petition for rehearing. The case stems from the Nashville church's efforts to break away from the diocese. NashvillePost.com reports

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6th Circuit Affirms Convictions of Lawyers in Fen-Phen Settlements

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has affirmed the convictions of two disbarred Kentucky lawyers for a scheme to bilk clients of settlement money in the "fen-phen" diet drug litigation. The case, which alleged that the drug caused heart valve problems, settled for about $200 million, plus an extra $450,000 to settle new claims. The  lawyers' retainer agreements with their individual clients called for each client's lawyer to collect about one-third of what the client recovered. According to the Sixth Circuit ruling, the clients ultimately received a total of about $73.5 million — less than 37 percent of the total settlement. Meanwhile, these lawyers and several others got $106.5 million. The National Law Journal has the story

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How to Participate in the Tennessee Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Program

In January 2011, the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) and Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) launched the Tennessee Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Program, a pilot initiative that provides pro bono representation to litigants appearing in the Tennessee appellate courts who otherwise could not afford counsel. 

The Tennessee Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Program has three primary goals:

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Prosecutor: Cost was Factor in West Memphis 3 Deal

Speaking at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law, Scott Ellington – the former prosecuting attorney of the West Memphis Three – said that future legal costs of a retrial factored into his decision to agree to a plea deal with Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley. Ellington also said he was worried what an acquittal could cost the state, including potential damages the men could seek for false imprisonment. Ellington appeared at the school as part of a daylong symposium on the case. Read more in the Memphis Business Journal

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State's Appeal Denied in Christian/Newsom Case; Accusations Fly from DA's Office

A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals voted 2-1 on Friday to deny the state Attorney General's Office's application for extraordinary appeal of Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood's decision to grant new trials in the slayings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Blackwood ordered new trials for all four defendants in the case, but the state sought to appeal his rulings in only three, conceding there was proof former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was impaired during Vanessa Coleman's trial. Appellate judges Alan E. Glenn and Thomas T. Woodall ruled the state fell short in its argument that Blackwood's decision was "fundamentally illegal" or "without legal authority." Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer disagreed with his colleagues, saying he would have granted the emergency appeal. Read more in the News Sentinel

In a March email obtained recently by the News Sentinel under the Tennessee Open Records Act, John Gill, special counsel to District Attorney General Randy Nichols, complained to the state Attorney General's Office about Blackwood, saying he "hates the News Sentinel, and I fear he is playing fast and loose with off the record emails and communications he states are to avoid the newspaper from knowing." Blackwood denied the allegations when asked by the News Sentinel.

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Comment on 6th Circuit Proposed Procedure Changes

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is proposing comprehensive amendments to the Sixth Circuit Rules and Internal Operating Procedures. Send your comments to the proposed changes to Clerk Leonard Green by July 12 to ca06-rules_comments@ca6.uscourts.gov

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Court Wraps Up Health Care Arguments

On the third day of oral arguments on legal challenges to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the justices first tackled the question of what would happen if they ruled that the heart of the law, the individual mandate, is unconstitutional. A second session this afternoon looked at whether states would be "coerced" by the federal government to expand their share of Medicaid costs or risk losing federal funding. Wednesday's session also gave Solicitor General Donald Verrilli a chance to regain the rhetorical offensive many said he lost on Tuesday. The questioning of his performance was so widespread that the White House issued a statement today defending him. Read more from the day at WCYB.com and get access to transcripts and legal analysis on SCOTUSblog

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