News

Consumers Seeking Settlement from Western Union Scam Must File Claim by Feb. 12

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III and the Federal Trade Commission are reminding consumers to file claims related to a $586 million settlement between Western Union Company, the FTC, and the U.S. Department of Justice before the approaching deadline. Consumers who lost money to scammers who told them to pay via Western Union’s money transfer system between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017, must file a claim to get their money back before Feb. 12.
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Online Options in Communication Law

With one click, get three CLE updates in communication law. Sessions include broadband legislation, right of publicity and protective orders. Speakers include William Helou of WSMLEGAL PLLC, Brad Lampley of Adams and Reese LLP, Samuel Lipshie of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Paul McAdoo of Aaron Sanders PLLC.
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New York Attorney General to Sue Over Net Neutrality

After the Federal Communications Commission voted to kill net neutrality rules today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he is suing to block the change, The Hill reports. Schneiderman said the new rules would enable internet service providers (ISP) to charge customers more for access to commonly used sites like Facebook and Twitter. He also claims that ISPs would be able to favor certain viewpoints over others. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also announced that he would file suit over the new policy.
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Appeals Court Reverses Order Forcing TV Reporter to Release Documents

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has reversed a ruling that would have required Nashville TV reporter Phil Williams to turn over documents related to his investigation of District Attorney Glenn Funk, The Tennessean reports. In January, Senior Judge William Acree ruled that NewsChannel5’s Williams must turn over the documents as part of Funk’s $200 million libel lawsuit against the reporter. In the appellate ruling, Judge Andy Bennett found that if Williams’ attorneys can show that his stories were “fair and accurate,” “they will be entitled to rely on the fair report privilege as a defense to Mr. Funk’s defamation claims.”

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Scottie Nell Hughes Speaks Out on Rape, Harassment Claims from Tenure at Fox News

Tennessee conservative political pundit Scottie Nell Hughes gave an in-depth interview to the Nashville Scene this week, detailing her lawsuit against Fox News and its anchor, Charles Payne, whom Hughes accuses of harassment and rape. Fox claims it found no evidence of wrongdoing on Payne’s part. Fox and other defendants have yet to file a response to the lawsuit, but are required to do so by next week. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Dec. 18.

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Federal Judge Blocks Google Fiber-Backed Policy on AT&T Poles in Nashville

A federal judge ruled that the Metro Nashville Council’s “One Touch Make Ready” policy, which would allow Google Fiber to expedite its above-ground installation in the city, is preempted by federal law and effectively blocked it, The Tennessean reports. In Nashville, AT&T owns 20 percent of the utility poles, while the Nashville Election Service owns the rest. The One Touch policy would have allowed contractors to move other cables to make room for its own all in one session. U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts in the Eastern District of Michigan issued the ruling.
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FCC Reveals Plans to Dismantle Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai unveiled a plan yesterday to repeal regulations that protect equal access to the internet, The New York Times reports. The rules prohibit internet providers from stopping or slowing the delivery of websites, and prevent companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services. Pai says the new measure will stop the government from “micromanaging the internet.”
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SCOTUS Kicks Off Term Today

The U.S. Supreme Court took the bench today to kick off what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is calling a “momentous” term, CNN reports. This year’s big issues include gerrymandering, voting rights, religious liberty, privacy and immigration issues. Cases up for the Court include that of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, a case of whether investigators need to obtain a warrant for cell tower data and the case of the Trump Administration’s travel ban, which might have to be sent back down to a lower court due to the recent changes made to the order.
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Sessions: Justice Department Will Support ‘Free Speech’ on College Campuses

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today that the Justice Department will ramp up its support for students who sue universities over free-speech rights, the Associated Press reports. Sessions said free speech was “under attack” on campuses. He said the DOJ would be supporting a student from Georgia Gwinnett College who claims his rights were violated when school administrators limited where he could preach Christianity on campus.
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Legal Action Threatened Over Portland’s Proposed Drag Show Ban

Nashville attorney Kevin Teets Jr. says the Tennessee Equality Project will sue the city of Portland if an ordinance that would ban drag shows passes, the Tennessean reports. This comes after the Portland City Council voted earlier this month to amend its adult-oriented business rules, which would ultimately ban Elite Drag Star Productions from holding drag shows. In a letter to the Portland city attorney and the Board of the Mayor and Alderman, Teets claims banning the show is a violation of free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee also wrote the city saying "Because the Ordinance would be adopted to further the city's desire to restrict impersonators from performing or because of its disagreement with the message they convey, the regulations would be content-based and, therefore, unconstitutional." A second vote on the ordinance will be held this evening.

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Privacy Concerns Raised Over iPhone's New Facial Recognition Technology

Users of the new iPhone X from Apple will be able to unlock their phones using facial recognition technology, prompting questions from civil liberties groups about whether or not police can use the new feature to access users' information. The ABA Journal reports that, while the Riley v. California decision established that police would need a warrant to search the contents of a phone, whether they can force you to unlock it is unclear. Read the full story here

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Judge Orders TV Reporter to Release Documents on Nashville DA

A judge has ordered Nashville TV reporter Phil Williams to turn over documents from his investigation into District Attorney General Glenn Funk, The Tennessean reports. Senior Judge William Acree ruled that the NewsChannel 5 reporter must turn over the contents of his investigation as a part of Funk’s libel claim against the reporter. Williams also must testify under oath. The libel claim stems from a February story in which Williams quoted developer David Chase, who claimed Funk blackmailed him. Williams’ lawyer Ron Harris said that the ruling in this case could prompt more public officials to go to court over negative publicity.
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Money Laundering Charges Against Backpage Execs Can Proceed, Judge Rules

A California judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can proceed with money laundering charges against controversial classified advertising site Backpage.com, WSMV reports. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown also tossed out 15 pimping conspiracy charges, saying they cannot be filed because of a federal law protecting free speech that gives immunity to websites that post content created by others. This ruling comes months after another judge dismissed the entire case as violating free speech and federal protections. 

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ABA Fact Check Site Adds 'Free Speech in the Workplace' Resources

The American Bar Association updated its new web-based legal fact check service today by exploring conflicting issues regarding free speech in the workplace. The site, ABA Legal Fact Check, debuted a week ago and is the first fact check website focusing exclusively on legal matters. The new item offers a brief legal history of speech in the workplace and notes that the extent of free speech protection in the workplace depends on many factors, such as whether the employee works in the public or private sector, the state in which the individual works, applicable federal and state statutes and whether the worker is protected by a union.
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Supreme Court Backs UT Football Player’s Bid to See Social Media of Accuser

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the defense team for two University of Tennessee football players accused of rape, allowing them access to the text messages and social media of their accusers, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Defense attorneys for accused players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams argue that the accuser is lying, and what she and her friends said via the Internet will help prove it. The court’s decision has major implications for Tennessee trials of this nature going forward, making digital communication fair game as evidence.
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New ABA President Sworn In, Emphasizes Lawyers’ Role in Protecting Democracy

New American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass was sworn in this week at the ABA annual meeting in New York City, and in one of her first acts, she touted the role of lawyers in protecting American democracy. “Our democracy functions best when there are lawyers prepared to protect it,” Bass said while speaking to the ABA House on Tuesday. The ABA Journal reports that Bass elaborated on a new ABA initiative called ABA Legal Fact Check, which is designed to counteract “alternative news and fake facts.” When incorrect assertions about the law are being made, ABA Legal Fact Check will post a press release with the truth.
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15-Hour Annual Review CLE Set for Knoxville

On Aug. 25, a special Tennessee Bar Association CLE will provide 15 hours of combined live and online continuing legal education. Attend for seven live hours and receive an additional eight online credits to complete at your convenience. Topics for the live portion include cyber security, real estate, unemployment compensation, probate and more.

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Item of Interest

Below is an article that was published in the the Disability Section Connect. We thought it had information that would be of interest to those of you in this section as well.  

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Twitter Users Blocked by President Trump File Suit

A group of Twitter users blocked by President Donald Trump sued him as well as two White House aides today, arguing that his account is a public forum that he cannot bar citizens entry from, The New York Times reports. By blocking people from reading his feed, which the suit calls a “digital town hall,” the president is in violation of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to express views he does not like. Trump, press secretary Sean Spicer and director of social media Dan Scavino are named as defendants in the suit, which was filed in a federal court in New York.
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New Tennessee Open Records Counsel Appointed

The Tennessee Comptroller has announced that Lee Pope will serve as the new Open Records Counsel in the Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel. The office serves as a resource for citizens, media and governmental entities who have questions about Tennessee’s public records and open meetings laws. Pope joined the OORC last year as Deputy Open Records Counsel.
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Judge: Fall Creek Falls Privatization Records Must Be Made Public

The state must release records related to the privatization effort at Fall Creek Falls State Park, a judge ruled today in a case brought about by the Nashville Scene. Chancellor Bill Young ruled that the Open Records Act required the records to be released. The state had argued that because it received no bids on a proposal to rebuild the Inn at Fall Creek Falls, it did not have to release the records associated with the process. Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said in court that the state may ask for a stay of Young's ruling, pending an appeal.
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Trump Outside Counsel to File Complaint Against Comey

President Donald Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, plans to file a complaint with the Justice Department against former FBI Director James Comey, CNN reports. The complaint against Comey stems from his testimony that he passed along memos about his conversations with the president to a friend, a Columbia University Law professor, so that the friend could pass the information to the New York Times. However, the Justice Department has limited options to punish Comey, should any wrongdoing be found, as he is no longer an employee.
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Man Not Guilty by Insanity for Threatening Judge

A man was found not guilty by insanity yesterday for making threatening statements about Madison County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Christy Little, The Jackson Sun reports. Omar Ahmad must now undergo mandatory treatment at Pathways Behavioral Services. He may not leave the county without a responsible adult and his social media accounts will be monitored for potential infractions. He was also ordered to stay off the campus of the University School of Jackson, after he was charged with disrupting an assembly in 2014 for Facebook threats that caused the school to go on lockdown.
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Nashville Publications Sue State Over Records Request

The sister publications Nashville Post and Nashville Scene filed a lawsuit yesterday against the state of Tennessee for an alleged violation of the Open Records Act, the Post reports. The publications made requests for records relating to the outsourcing of concessions management at Fall Creek Falls State Park and the Department of General Services’ refusal to release documents. The suit asks that the court order the department to release the records and pay legal fees and court costs.
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Last Weekend Before Fiction Contest Deadline

With this long weekend ahead of you, it's a good time to whip out that fiction piece you've been pondering so you can send it to the Tennessee Bar Journal's First Annual Fiction Competition. Deadline is next Wednesday, May 31!

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