Court: Bankruptcy No Shield for GM Ignition Switch Claims

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals today struck down bankruptcy decisions that shielded General Motors from liability related to ignition switch defects, Reuters reports. The court found that a 2009 sale of the automakers’ assets, which provided the company with legal cover, violated potential victims’ rights to due process. The ruling effectively rebuffs GM’s attempts to block hundreds of customer lawsuits over faulty ignition switches that led to criminal charges and prompted the recall of 2.6 million vehicles in 2014.

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Bar Foundation to Get $8.5M from Mortgage Settlement

The Tennessee Bar Foundation is slated to receive $8.5 million as part of the settlement between Bank of America and the U.S. Department of Justice, WMC-TV reports. The funds are to be used to provide legal assistance in foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment. Eric D. Green, the independent monitor of the settlement, announced the news today. The foundation is one of 56 state-based legal-assistance organizations receiving funds under the deal, which settled legal claims arising from mortgage-related activities by Bank of America and its subsidiaries. Learn more about the settlement.

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Annual Bankruptcy Forum Kicks Off Later This Month

The 13th annual TBA Bankruptcy Forum is planned for April 29 – May 1 at the Buckberry Lodge in Gatlinburg. Speakers include four U.S. Bankruptcy judges and advanced practitioners, who will provide an in-depth look at bankruptcy case developments in the Sixth Circuit and around the country. Ten hours of CLE credit are available, including three hours of ethics.

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Haslam Names Dyer to Court of Criminal Appeals

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Shelby County Attorney J. Ross Dyer to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Section. His appointment will require confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly. Dyer has been the chief counsel for Shelby County since 2014. He previously served as senior counsel and managing attorney for the Memphis office of the Tennessee Attorney General from 2004-2014. Dyer would replace Roger Page, who is now a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice. 

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Judge Rules Law Grad Can Dismiss Bar Study Loan

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge last week issued an opinion permitting a law school graduate, who failed to pass the bar exam, to discharge her $11,000 bar study loan, The National Law Journal reports. Lesley Campbell filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after making payments on the loan and sought to have the loan discharged. Citibank, the loan provider, argued the type of loan could not be discharged "absent undue hardship" and that the loan was an “educational benefit.”

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Bankruptcy Court May Be Forced to Relocate

The lease for Middle Tennessee’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court, located in Nashville’s Customs House, is set to expire at the end of April and could result in the court having to relocate. The Tennessean reports negotiations have been ongoing between landlord Customs House Associates and the U.S. General Services Administration. The landlord has reportedly said they'd like to use the space for events.

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Call For Nominations - 2016 NCBJ Next Generation Program

Nominations for the 2016 NCBJ Next Generation Program will be accepted on May 4, 2016 from noon5 p.m. EST. Participants will be selected from a lottery of qualified applicants nominated during this period.  

The Next Generation program is an important part of NCBJ’s Annual Meeting, held this year in San Francisco from October 26-29, 2016.  The program includes 40 up-and-coming bankruptcy practitioners each year. Participants engage in a judicial roundtable, providing a unique opportunity to meet with judges in a small-group setting. In addition, they are invited to a networking reception hosted by the American College of Bankruptcy, and a reception and dinner with NextGen participants from prior years. 

Qualified candidates for the NextGen program:

  • have five to 10 years of experience practicing law (including clerkships);
  • devote at least 50 percent of his/her practice to bankruptcy cases;
  • demonstrate legal excellence in the practice of bankruptcy law;
  • display a serious commitment to principles of civility, ethics and professionalism; and
  • demonstrate commitment to the continued educational development of bankruptcy professionals and to professional activities that will benefit the public, members of the bar and the court system.

Only one attorney from any single law firm or agency may participate. The costs of the participant’s attendance at the Annual Meeting must be borne by the participant, but no additional cost will be incurred to attend the Next Generation events, other than an optional dinner following the reunion reception. NCBJ registration fee waivers, as well as grants from the NCBJ Endowment to defray part of the cost are available to the first five eligible participants. 

Additional information and instructions on how to nominate a participant are available on the NCBJ website. For more information, you may also contact

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NCBJ to Accept Nominations for Next Generation Program in May

The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges will accept nominations for the 2016 NCBJ Next Generation Program on May 4 from noon – 5 p.m. (EST). Qualifications for candidates include five to 10 years of experience practicing law and devotion of at least 50 percent of their practice to bankruptcy cases. Only one attorney from any single law firm or agency may participate. Nomination instructions are available online.

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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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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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