News

Ethics Programs Planned Across Tennessee

Live programs in The Business of Lawyering Series and other ethics credits programs are planned this month in Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville. The programs offer three hours of dual credit. Sessions include managing yourself and your support staff, engaging clients, ending the client relationship ethically and using social media to advertise. Online courses are also available on accounting basics, the state Department of Revenue and popular financial issues.

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AG Announces Settlement with Mortgage Lender

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced a $470 million joint state-federal settlement with HSBC, a mortgage lender and servicer. The settlement, which includes 48 other states and the District of Columbia, requires the company to provide 2,600 Tennessee borrowers with loan modifications or other relief. It also requires HSBC to change how it services mortgage loans, handles foreclosures and ensures the accuracy of information provided in federal bankruptcy court.

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Waller Acquires 13 Attorneys for its Austin Office

Thirteen lawyers from Austin, Texas, bankruptcy and civil litigation boutique firm Taube Summers Harrison Taylor Meinzer Brown joined the Austin office of Waller, Nashville Post reports. "These are battle-tested trial attorneys who have earned reputations for getting results in high-stakes and high-pressure litigation,” said Waller Chairman Matt Burnstein. The firm now has 225 attorneys in offices in Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham and Austin.

$6M Lawsuit Filed Against Former Miller Energy CEO

Deloy and Sharon Miller, founder of Miller Energy Resources, filed a lawsuit against former president and CEO Scott M. Boruff. The couple claims Boruff borrowed $6 million from them and has not repaid it. The company, formerly of Knoxville but now based in Houston, is going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in Alaska. Read more form the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Ethical Campaign Courses Online

Ethical campaign courses are now available online from the Tennessee Bar Association. The TBA CLE programs offer guidance for state and local lawmakers, judges, candidates for executive, judicial or legislative positions, and campaign chairs and their counsel. Topics include finance compliance, election law and ethics.

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Comments Accepted for Bankruptcy Judge Nominees

Six candidates have been recommended to the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council for appointment to a bankruptcy judge vacancy in the Middle District of Tennessee. The candidates are: Natalie M. Cox of Wilmington, Delaware; Paul G. Jennings of Nashville; Nancy B. King of Nashville; William L. Norton III of Nashville; M. Kimberly Stagg of Nashville; and Charles M. Walker of Nashville. The Sixth Circuit Judicial Council will narrow the list to three recommended candidates. The Judicial Council and the Court of Appeals are accepting written comments regarding the qualifications of the six nominees. Send comments by Dec. 21 to Office of the Circuit Executive, 503 Potter Stewart United States Courthouse, 100 East Fifth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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Judge Parsons Appointed to Advise Judicial Conference

Bankruptcy Court Judge Marcia Parsons of the Eastern District of Tennessee has been appointed as the bankruptcy judge observer to the Judicial Conference of the United States. Appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Parsons will meet regularly with the Judicial Conference to discuss bankruptcy issues. She has served as chief bankruptcy judge for the district since 2012, the Greeneville Sun reports.

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Nashville Bankruptcy Attorney to be Honored

Nashville attorney Robert C. Goodrich Jr. of Burr & Forman will be inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy in its class of 2016. He is one of 31 nominees from around the world to be selected. The ceremony will take place at the Smithsonian Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, D.C.

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Panel Discusses Increasing State's Homestead Exemption

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) wrapped up a two-day meeting Thursday with a discussion of Tennessee’s homestead exemption. Since the 1977 constitutional convention that moved the exemption into statute and increased the homestead exemption to $5,000, there has been no change to the individual homestead exemption, only categories added. Tennessee has one of the lowest homestead exemptions in the nation and the state leads the nation in the highest bankruptcy rate filings per capita. A TACIR research report cited the most common reason for bankruptcy is medical bills. Panelists included Maria Salas, a Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist who represented the Tennessee Bar Association. TACIR will be looking at an approach to increasing and/or perhaps simplifying Tennessee’s complex homestead exemptions and will present a policy recommendation at its meeting in October.

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50 Years of Travel, Plus Columns on Wills, Banking, Uber

To celebrate the Journal’s 50th birthday, travel back through some of the exotic trips the TBA has taken over the years -- Rome, Mexico, the Caribbean and more. This month, columnist Eddy Smith asks (and answers) the question, "Strictly Speaking, When Is a Will Not a Will?" and in her column, Kathryn Reed Edge gives an overview of interest rates. Humor columnist Bill Haltom suggests a slight career concept change … to Uber Attorney. See the entire August Journal here.

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Bank On It: Interest Rates 101

Ask any commercial lawyer or banker about interest rates, and you are likely to get a mixture of inappropriate language, confusion and resignation. Interest rates are complicated. How they are figured sometimes belies all reason, and why you can’t find the various rates all in one place in the Tennessee Code is a mystery.

“Interest rate” is defined as the annualized cost of credit or debt capital computed as the percentage ratio of interest to the principal.

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Bankruptcy Judge Applicants Sought in Nashville

The Sixth Circuit Judicial Council is soliciting applications for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. The position will become vacant with the retirement of Judge Keith Lundin on June 16, 2016. The term of office is 14 years. The council will recommend at least three nominees to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will make the final selection. Apply by Aug. 25 for consideration.

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Bankruptcy Chief Judge Lundin to Retire

Keith Lundin, chief judge of Middle Tennessee’s bankruptcy court plans to retire next summer, the Tennessean reports. Lundin said he plans to step down June 16, 2016, after serving on the federal bench for 34 years. He previously served as a Chapter 13 trustee. Lundin said his post-retirement plans include writing on bankruptcy and teaching in law schools across the country.

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AG Announces $136M Chase Bank Settlement

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, along with 46 other states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced a $136 million settlement with Chase Bank USA N.A. and Chase Bankcard Services Inc. The deal settles claims that Chase subjected consumers to inaccurate credit reporting, unlawful judgments, inaccuracies in debt collection suits, re-sale of uncollectable debts, use of false and deceptive affidavits and robo-signing. As part of the deal, Chase will spend $50 million to make restitution to consumers and will be barred from reselling consumer debts to other purchasers.

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Whittenburg Reflects on 1st Week as Bankruptcy Judge

Judge Nicholas Whittenburg just completed his first week as the newest bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee and tells the Hamilton County Herald that the responsibilities have been overwhelming. “My predecessor, Judge [John C.] Cook, was on the bench for 28 years,” Whittenburg says. “I’m learning how inefficient I am compared to him. It took me a week to do what he could accomplish in a matter of hours.” Whittenburg also says he did not appreciate the sheer number and variety of matters that come before the federal bankruptcy court, but is ready for the challenge.

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Court Rules Against Law Firm in Bankruptcy Fee Fight

The Supreme Court ruled today that one of the nation's biggest law firms is not entitled to recover $5.2 million in legal fees it incurred in the course of a bankruptcy proceeding. The 6-3 ruling said the firm Baker Botts could not collect additional fees it billed during a side dispute over whether the firm should be paid $117 million in fees earned representing Tucson-based copper-mining giant Asarco in the underlying bankruptcy. The court found that federal law does not allow a bankruptcy court to award attorney fees solely for the extra work performed to justify fees in the underlying case. The Daily Times has more from the Associated Press.

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Chattanooga Lawyer Sworn in as Bankruptcy Judge

Nicholas Whittenburg was sworn in Friday as federal bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee during a private ceremony in Chattanooga. He fills the seat vacated by Judge John C. Cook, who retired in March after 28 years on the bench. Whittenburg is from Crossville and has practiced law in Tennessee and Georgia for 25 years. He has been with Miller & Martin since 2004, the Times Free Press reports.

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First Tennessee to Pay Government $212.5 Million

First Tennessee Bank has agreed to pay $212.5 million after admitting to making bad mortgage loans. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the bank kept approving Federal Housing Administration loans for ineligible borrowers through its subsidiary, First Horizon Home Loans Corporation, between January 2006 and October 2008. When many of those loans later defaulted, the banks holding the loans were able to submit insurance claims to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for their losses. News Channel 9 has the story.

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Court Rules on Head Scarf, Internet Threats

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued orders from its May 28 conference and four decisions in argued cases. In Mellouli v. Lynch, the court ruled that a lawful permanent resident may not be deported after a misdemeanor state drug paraphernalia conviction. In Bank of America v. Caulkett, the court found that when a mortgage lien is worth more than the market value of the property, courts may not reduce the lien’s value to the property’s market value. In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, the court found for a job applicant whose faith dictates a personal practice that contradicts the company’s workplace rules, even though the rules are entirely neutral about religion. And in Elonis v. United States, the court overturned a Pennsylvania man’s conviction for making threats over the Internet. SCOTUSblog has more on each of the decisions.

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Report: Foreclosure Rates Trending Down

Foreclosure rates continue to drop across the country, according to the Memphis Business Journal. A recent report by CoreLogic shows the foreclosure rate for the country dropped from 1.86 percent in March 2014 to 1.39 percent this year. In Tennessee, the rate went from 0.75 percent to 0.67 percent. The report also found that the percent of loans more than 90 days delinquent also improved nationwide and in Tennessee.

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Court Clarifies Power of Bankruptcy Judges

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Tuesday that bankruptcy courts have authority to rule on disputes that fall outside the bankruptcy proceedings if the parties to the case consent. The question of the judges’ authority had been an issue since 2011 when the court limited their authority to decide non-bankruptcy issues. The Daily News has more from the Associated Press.

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Holmes Named New Federal Magistrate

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Barbara D. Holmes has been selected to replace Magistrate Judge Juliet Griffin, who will be retiring July 31. Holmes is currently head of h3gm’s Commercial Bankruptcy and Reorganization Practice Group. She has more than 25 years of experience with restructuring and insolvency matters and commercial litigation in state and federal courts.

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Rejected Bankruptcy Plan Cannot be Appealed

A unanimous Supreme Court today ruled that debtors in bankruptcy may not immediately appeal the rejection of a repayment plan, but must wait until a plan is confirmed before appealing to a higher court. Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that only an order confirming a payment plan is immediately appealable, the Associated Press reports. An appeals court had found similarly, that a rejected order was not final because the debtor could still propose another plan. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Steen: Bridge the Generation Gap With Clear Communication

In his Tennessee Bar Journal column about how different generations communicate, TBA President Jonathan Steen points out how important good communication skills are -- and why sending a text late at night to a senior partner may not be the best way to make contact. In the April issue's other columns, Eddy Smith covers IRA beneficiaries and creditor protection; Katy Edge explains how banking works for legal marijuana sales; and Bill Haltom comments on Justice Ginsburg’s recent nap before the president’s speech.

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Tennessee Has Highest Bankruptcy Filing Rate

Data from February shows that bankruptcy filings decreased 13 percent nationwide from last year, down to 65,000 from 72,000. But Tennessee is making news for the opposite reason, the Memphis Business Journal reports. With 5.17 bankruptcy filings per 1,000 people, the state rate is more than double the national rate and puts Tennessee above all other states.

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