News

Voice Command Phone App Facilitates New Interactions with Law Enforcement

More people are using phone apps to quickly record their interactions with law enforcement, which could be utilized as evidence in cases, WSMV reports. Using shortcuts, individuals can program their phone to begin recording by activating a virtual assistant, such as Siri, and informing it that an interaction with police is commencing. 
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TBJ: Social Media in Criminal Cases, the Constitution and Valparaiso

"Social media provides a fertile source for evidence in criminal cases," Wade Davies writes in his column this month in the Tennessee Bar Journal. "Suspects give prosecutors unbelievable gifts with incriminating, threatening and otherwise unbelievably stupid admissions posted online. On the other hand, defense counsel find impeachment gems on witnesses’ social media accounts — even the portions anyone can view." Russell Fowler covers an older topic, World War I and the Constitution, in his column. As you will learn, the subject is timeless. In his column, Bill Haltom writes about the debate leading to that decision against letting Valparaiso merge its law school with MTSU. Read all of the November issue.

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Governor-elect Lee Wants To Overhaul Public Records Law

Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced last week that he intends to overhaul public records and open meetings laws to reduce the number of public records exemptions and address fees and delays in fulfilling public records requests, WTVC reports. According to the Tennessee Comptroller's office the state currently has 538 open records exemptions, that is six time what existed 30 years ago. Tennessee hasn't made any significant changes to its public records law since 2008, when the law was amended to require government agencies to cite state law before they denied access to records.

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Mark Your Calendars!

Facebook Friendship No Reason to Disqualify Judge, Florida Court Says

A Facebook friendship with a lawyer doesn’t automatically disqualify a judge from hearing a case involving that lawyer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 4-3 decision. The ABA Journal reports the Florida court saying that in the most basic sense, a Facebook friendship is a digital connection between people, and they may or may not be friends in the traditional sense of the word. Facebook friendships are more casual and less permanent than traditional friendships, and the connection “may be as fleeting as the flick of a delete button,” the court said, quoting from another case.

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Wayne County Student Sues School for Requiring GOP Campaign Gear

A Wayne County High School student has sued a state representative and the school district after students were instructed to wear shirts advertising the representative’s campaign on a recent trip to the state Capitol, The Nashville Post reports. The student, who filed the suit anonymously in federal court this week, alleges that “the school’s requirement that students wear clothing espousing political opinions is unconstitutional.” Byrd, who earlier this year faced calls to resign his post from fellow Republicans over accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls he coached in basketball, easily won re-election last week.

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New Vandy Law Faculty Member to Launch First Amendment Clinic

Vanderbilt Law School recently hired a new assistant clinical professor of law who’s working to help people understand their First Amendment rights. Funded through a grant from The Stanton Foundation, Professor Gautam Hans is leading the launch of the First Amendment clinic, which aims to give students the opportunity to develop legal strategies and learn how to overcome challenges with diverse clients and cases. The program will launch this semester.
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Ex-Pilot President Denied Christmas Break Before Starting Fraud Sentence

A request from convicted Pilot Flying J former President Mark Hazelwood that he have until after Christmas to begin serving his 12 ½ years in prison for fraud has been denied, Knoxnews reports. "If the court attempted to set (prison) dates that did not conflict with any religious holidays, it would be unable to set any dates at all," U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said. "Easter, the most important Christian religious holiday, would come just a few short months after Christmas." Hazelwood was convicted in a scheme to rip off small trucking companies of more than $50 million.

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Basic Tech Checklist for Firms

Law firms attempting to stay competitive and state-of-the-art need to consistently evaluate their use of technology. In addition to staying competitive, technological competency is required. In 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility to include this obligation. Above the Law presents a simple and straightforward tech checklist for law firms or lawyers seeking guidance in this area.   

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SCOTUS Agrees to Review Public Access First Amendment Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case of whether the operator of a public-access TV channel is a state actor who can be sued by two producers for an alleged First Amendment violation, The ABA Journal reports. The case raises the broader question of whether private property can be a public forum. The producers argue that the Manhattan Neighborhood Network was a public forum, and their First Amendment rights were violated when it stopped airing their video. The network is owned by a private nonprofit, who claims the video included harassing and threatening language. 
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Park Service Proposes New Rules for Protests

Public comments are being sought on a proposal from the National Park Service that would overhaul rules for protests in front of the White House and at other iconic locations in Washington, D.C. The Hill reports that the proposal would close much of the sidewalk north of the White House to protests, limit the ability for groups to have spontaneous protests without permits in that area and on the National Mall, and would open the door to potentially charging some demonstrating groups fees. The NPS cites its mandate to protect land, saying that it wants to “provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted." Opponents say it is an attempt to limit free speech and that those spaces need to remain welcoming for the First-Amendment-guaranteed right to protest.

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Supreme Court Hears Dispute in Reporter Libel Suit

Tennessee Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a $200 million libel case brought against reporter Phil Williams by Nashville’s district attorney, the Tennessean reports. At issue was whether Williams must provide District Attorney Glenn Funk the notes, information and other documents gathered when reporting on the stories involving Funk in order to prove Williams acted with malice. Funk filed the libel case against Williams and the station’s parent company, Scripps Media, in February 2016, following two stories by Williams pertaining to a deal Funk struck with Nashville developer David Chase.

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S.E.C. Sues Tesla CEO Elon Musk

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit in New York Federal Court accusing Tesla CEO Elon Musk of committing fraud by making false public statements on Twitter that had the potential to hurt investors, the New York Times reports. The suit aims to bar Musk from serving as an executive or director of publicly traded companies, such as Tesla; this type of punishment is one of the harshest that the S.E.C. can impose on corporate executives. In the Aug. 7 tweet, Musk said he was considering taking Tesla private and that the financing for this possible conversion was "secured." However, neither Tesla nor Musk had actually secured financing beyond initial conversations with investors. A 2013 S.E.C. policy permits companies to disclose market-moving information via Twitter, provided investors are given advance notice that the corporation may do so. Tesla had given investors notice that Musk’s Twitter account is one venue the company may deliver significant announcements.

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The Final Frontier: Ethics and the Malpractice Risks of Protecting Electronic Information – Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis

Just in time for the end-of-the-year CLE rush, the TBA has a variety of ethics CLE options across the state. As quickly as client information and case management technology evolves, so too does the legal profession’s duty to safeguard it. Join us in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis on Oct. 23, 24, and 25 for this annual event, with three hours of dual CLE, guiding attendees through malpractice risks and how to prevent them from happening in the ever-changing electronic age.

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AOC Director Honored by Women in Numbers

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Deborah Taylor Tate was recently honored at a reception held by Women in Numbers, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to supporting women in public office. Tate was recognized for her many years of leadership in public service, which has included three-and-a-half years at the AOC, a term as an FCC commissioner, and a term as president of the Court Appointed Special Advocates board, among many other accomplishments.
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GDPR Privacy Complaints Filed Against Google in the EU

Privacy complaints against Google have been filed in Ireland and Britain by Brendan Eich, known for being the creator of JavaScript, co-founding the web browser Mozilla and founding the private web browser Brave, Reuters reports.  The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new privacy law that had a two-year lead-in period to provide time for companies to comply. However, the complaint argues that Google and the advertising technology industry are not processing personal data in a way that properly secures it.  Noncompliance with the GDPR carries heavy fines for serious violations. This test case could trigger an article in the GDPR and spur an EU-wide investigation.

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Rapper Not Protected Under Free Speech for Song Encouraging Police Violence

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a rapper that identified Pittsburgh police officers by name and made threats of violence against them in a song is not protected by the First Amendment, The Washington Post reports. The ruling upheld the conviction of Jamal Knox, who was found guilty of making terroristic threats and witness intimidation for his 2012 song, the music video for which included photos of the officers. 
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Memphis Police Official Says He Controlled Undercover Facebook Account

In the first day of the federal trial over Memphis police surveillance of political activists, a Memphis police official acknowledged he controlled a Facebook account he used to make friends with activists, The Commercial Appeal reports. Police Sgt. Timothy Reynolds said his department used undercover accounts to keep track of protest activities. The American Civil Liberties Union claims that the Memphis police’s surveillance of activists is a violation of a 1978 consent decree against such practices. 
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New U.S. Law Targets Tech Giants

President Trump recently signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act into law, effectively banning U.S. governmental agencies from purchasing or using certain telecommunications and surveillance products, according to Mashable. Two specific Chinese technology companies — ZTE and Huawei — were named in the bill. ZTE is the U.S.’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer. Contractors and companies using communication devices with a “substantial or essential component” manufactured by the specified companies will need to replace the technology if they wish to conduct business with the government. National security concerns about both companies have been previously expressed by U.S. intelligence officials. Huawei has expressed disdain and concern about the legislation. This bill will go into effect over the next two years.
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Put TBA UPS to Work

Have you enrolled in TBA’s UPS account for members? Visit UPS's TBA page and save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio. Shipping services include next day air, international, ground and express.
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Law Office Management Tips on Shipping

If your law office uses shipping services, your TBA membership team can help you compare those costs to TBA’s UPS member benefit. Your firm office manager can work directly with TBA staff and UPS services to enroll or transfer shipping accounts. Members can save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio of shipping services, including next day air, international, ground and express.
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TV Station Files Public Records Lawsuit Over Former TBI Boss’ Affair

NewsChannel 5 Nashville has filed a lawsuit after public records requests for documents related to the affair of former Tennessee Bureau of Investigations acting chief Jason Locke were denied. In her denial, Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said the records were of interest to a criminal investigation. The TV station’s attorney said that the request was made prior to an investigation being opened and that the records don’t fit the legal definition of “investigative records.”
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WTVF Files Suit After Denied Access to Records

NewsChannel5 Nashville has filed a public records lawsuit after reporters were denied access to travel reimbursement and phone records related to former acting TBI director Jason Locke’s alleged affair with another state official. The news station’s chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, was also denied access to electronic calendars, purchase card expenditures and text messages and email communications between Locke and the official, Sejal West, who was the deputy commission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

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10 Tips for Filing an Open Records Request

Filing an open records request can sometimes be confusing. These 10 tips from the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) help to make it a little easier to make a request or deal with problems along the way. 

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