News

'Browser Act' Would Bring Back Internet Privacy Rules

This week Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced the “Browser Act,” a bill that would reapply internet privacy rules to internet service providers (ISPs), as well as to search engines, social networks and other websites. It would put millions of websites in a position to have to ask consumers for the right to sell their data, turning what traditionally has been an opt-out mechanism into an opt-in mechanism. The bill would also prevent states from passing their own privacy rules. Earlier this year, the passage of legislation targeted at revoking Federal Communications Commission oversight on online privacy for ISPs drew a major outcry from online observers. AssociationsNow.com has the story.

read more »

Survey: Lawyers Are Underperforming, Slow to Change

A recent survey of nearly 400 managing partners and chairs nationwide suggests that changes in the legal market are continuing to affect performance, Bloomberg Law reports. In response to survey questions posed by legal management consulting firm Altman Weil, 88 percent of respondents said they have chronically underperforming lawyers, 61 percent said overcapacity is diluting their profitability, and 65 percent said their partners resist most efforts to change how to they do business. This comes at a time when most (72 percent) law firm leaders said the pace of change in the legal industry will only continue to increase in the coming years. Join the TBA's Evolving Legal Market Discussion Forum to weigh in on this.

read more »

New Online CLE Focuses on Tennessee Public Records Act

The Tennessee Public Records Act, originally one of the broadest in the country, now has hundreds of exceptions. Attorney Robb Harvey addresses the substantive and procedural aspects of this act in an online CLE available at the TBA website.

read more »

Turn Your Expertise into a Magazine Article

It’s no surprise that some of the best articles in the Tennessee Bar Journal have come from TBA section and Young Lawyers Division members. Your membership in this group shows that you have a keen interest in trends, developments and case law in this practice area. Sharing this knowledge with your colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession. Readers want to learn what you know, from your unique perspective.

How can you become a Journal author? Think of and refine your topic. It should be of interest to Tennessee lawyers, which is a broad criteria. This could mean you might detail a new state law, explain a complicated area of law, or take a larger issue and connect it to what it means for Tennessee attorneys and the justice system. Find a global issue within your particular experience or knowledge and tell about it and how it affects Tennessee law. Then take a look at the writer’s guidelines at http://www.tba.org/submit-an-article, which will tell you about length, notes and other details.

The Journal is always looking for excellent articles, so send yours in!

And as a bonus, if you are published, you may apply for CLE credit for your work under Supreme Court Rule 21 Section 4.07(b). For details on claiming the credit, check with the Commission on CLE & Specialization at http://www.cletn.com/.

read more »

TBA Convention in Kingsport is Just Around the Corner

Registration is open for the 2017 TBA Annual Convention. This years programming offers plenty of opportunities to make new friends and renew acquaintances with colleagues from across the state. The highlight comes Thursday night with the Kingsport Karnival at the downtown Farmers Market. Along with fabulous food and drink, there will be live music from two bands, an aerialist, juggler, magician, body and face painters, caricaturist and more. Plus, you'll have access to the fabulous Kingsport Carousel, the delightful project of community artisans. Special thanks to Eastman for support of this event! 

This years convention also offers 12 hours of CLE programming, highlighted by sessions on the Hatfields and McCoys, The Neuroscience of Decision-Making, and the popular Better Right Now wellness program. It is all set at the beautiful MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. To receive the TBA $129 room rate, you must book your reservation by May 23. Book your room online now or call 423-578-6600.

read more »

Call For Submissions — Law Practice Pointers

One of the benefits of being a TBA Section Member is having access to information from experienced practitioners to assist in your day-to-day practice. The sharing of this information amongst colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession. It is also a way of helping each other to maneuver the evolving legal market and strengthen your legal practice.

How can you help your fellow Section Members?  If you have some Law Practice Pointers you would like to share with your fellow section members, write an article between 300-500 words and submit it to the Section Coordinator for review and approval. These Law Practice Pointers can be related to a court opinion, piece of legislation, or current event or industry trend that affects the practice of law as it relates to the specific Section. The main requirement is to make sure the article gives lawyers practical tips, based on experience, to include in their day-to-day practice.

read more »

Journalist Arrested for Repeatedly Questioning Federal Official

A journalist was arrested at the West Virginia Capitol yesterday for repeatedly questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, the ABA Journal reports. Dan Heyman of Public News Service was charged with willful disruption of state government processes and released on $5,000 bail. Heyman said he was wearing a press badge and no one told him he was in the wrong place. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia called the incident “a dark day for democracy.”
read more »

Court Considers What’s Real, What’s ‘Fake News’ in Jones Child Custody Case

Lawyers for Alex Jones, conservative radio and YouTube host, and his ex-wife are battling in a child custody case about whether his online persona is who he really is, the ABA Journal reports. Jones, the personality behind Infowars, is famous for promoting conspiracy theories, but his attorney is arguing that the views presented on his show are all an act, calling him a “performance artist.” Attorneys for his ex-wife have submitted multiple Infowars videos as evidence to prove that Jones is “not a stable person.”
read more »

Court Allows Social Media History as Evidence in UT Rape Case

The defense of two former University of Tennessee football players will be allowed to go after the social media history of the woman they allegedly raped, a state appellate court ruled today. Knoxnews reports that the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision may aid the case of A.J. Johnson and Michael William, and also open the door for defense attorneys to directly seek social media history from witnesses without relying on prosecutors or police to do so.
read more »

Media Law, One Touch/Make Ready on the Docket for 2017 Communication Forum

The 2nd annual Communication Law Forum will be held at the Bar Center on May 4. This year's program will focus on media law and other communication issues. Topics will address open courts, protective orders in civil cases, document leaks and writing and publicity. Speakers will also cover legislative updates, reviewing broadband legislation and pending issues before the court challenging the One Touch/Make Ready ordinance passed in Nashville last fall. Read more and register here.

read more »

Twitter Withdraws Lawsuit Against Homeland Security

Twitter has withdrawn a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after the agency withdrew its order asking Twitter to reveal the user behind a critical account, NPR reports. The department had demanded the login information, phone number, mailing address and IP address of the user behind the “@ALT_uscis” account, which is allegedly run by Citizenship and Immigration Services employees. The agency had threatened legal action against the social media company if it did not comply. 
read more »

Reporter Files $1 Million Suit Against UTC

The WUTC public radio reporter who was fired after state lawmakers complained about her is suing her former employers, the Times Free Press reports. Jacqui Helbert is seeking $1 million in damages as well as her old position from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Helbert’s suit claims that the real reason she was fired was that university officials had been warned by state lawmakers that they would withhold funding for the school unless Helbert was disciplined. Earlier this week, National Public Radio officials released a statement criticizing Helbert’s firing. 
read more »

Bill to Increase Protesting Fines Heads to Governor's Desk

A state bill to quadruple the fine for protestors who block emergency vehicles during demonstrations is heading Gov. Bill Haslam, the Times Free Press reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City), was approved in the House almost unanimously, 93-1. Under the current law, the maximum fine for someone who blocks traffic is $50, while this legislation would make it $200 if the protestor was found to have blocked an emergency vehicle.
read more »

AG: 'In God We Trust' License Plates Constitutionally Suspect

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said in a legal opinion that a bill requiring “In God We Trust” on license plates is “constitutionally suspect,” the Tennessean reports. Slatery’s opinion, released Friday, said despite the historical context of the phrase, it “clearly has religious overtones” and would violate the Constitution if it was added to all license plates. He adds, however, that having the option to include it on a plate would be more defensible. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) and Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta). The AG’s office issued the opinion at the request of Sanderson.
read more »

Public Radio Reporter Fired After Legislator Complains

A 32-year-old journalist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s public radio station WUTC-FM was reportedly fired after a legislator complained about her, the Nashville Scene reports. Jacqui Helbert was traveling with the Cleveland High School Gay-Straight Alliance as they attended the Tennessee Equality Project’s Day on the Hill. The group met with Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), who both later complained to Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) that they didn’t know they were being recorded for a story. Gardenhire complained to the UTC chancellor’s office about Helbert, who was later fired. Helbert said she was wearing full gear and had visible press credentials for the entire day.
read more »

Summar to Leave Arts and Business Council

Longtime Executive Director Casey Summar is leaving the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville (ABC), citing a move to California as the reason for the change. Summar was the co-founder of the Tennessee Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in 2006, which later merged with the ABC in 2009. The ABC board will begin searching for a new Executive Director in the coming weeks. Among other services to the Nashville arts community, the ABC provides pro bono legal help to low-income artists, as well as legal assistance to nonprofit arts organizations.
read more »

Charges Dropped for Driver with Crude Bumper Sticker

Metro Nashville attorneys conceded this week that a driver with an obscene bumper sticker on his car was protected under the First Amendment, Nashville Patch reports. Attorneys for Dustin Owens, who was ticketed in February for the crude sticker, filed a request for an injunction, arguing that the sticker failed to meet obscenity standards set by the Supreme Court. Metro attorneys dismissed the $50 ticket.
read more »

Citizens File Federal Suit Over Memphis ‘Blacklist’

Four of the 81 people on a list of individuals who require a police escort in Memphis City Hall filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Memphis, the Commercial Appeal reports. The suit seeks answers from the city about why people were included on the list, reasoning which the city has not yet revealed. Most of the names on the so-called “blacklist” are those of known political activists, which could put the city in violation of a federal decree.
read more »

TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

read more »

Crime Victims’ Private Records, Elder and Labor Law in This Issue

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s majority opinion in The Tennessean v. Metro last year was a victory for law enforcement and a significant setback for the state’s news media, writes Daniel Horwitz in this month's Tennessee Bar Journal. How the ruling will affect crime victims’ ability to protect their private records from public disclosure after criminal proceedings have concluded is uncertain. Also in the February Journal, Monica Franklin writes about The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2016, Edward G. Phillips and Brandon L. Morrow’s column discusses times when protected activities provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for termination, while Bill Haltom enumerates the reasons why your valentine should be a lawyer. Read the entire issue.

read more »

Breitbart Editor Inspires Tennessee ‘Free Speech’ Bill

Inspired by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, Tennessee lawmakers held a press conference today to tout a bill that they believe will protect “free speech” on college campuses, Knoxnews reports. Called “the Milo bill” by House sponsor Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, the legislation is said to be “designed to implement oversight of administrators’ handling of free speech issues.” Senate sponsor Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said it would defend students with conservative views.
read more »

City of Erin Faces Lawsuit in Free Speech Case

A man who was arrested for writing a taunt to the Erin police chief on his truck is suing the city in retaliation, the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports. Joe Southard was charged with criminal harassment last year because of the statement, but the charges were dropped in December. Southard is seeking $850,000 in damages from the city for violating his First Amendment rights and placing him under false arrest.
read more »

Obama Cuts Sentences for Hundreds More

President Barack Obama today reduced or eliminated the sentences of hundreds more drug offenders, CNN reports. The move brings his total commutations to 1,385 individuals, the vast majority of whom have been serving mandatory minimum sentences for crimes related to distribution or production of narcotics. The group approved today also included Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of passing classified information to WikiLeaks, and James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was convicted of making false statements to investigators when questioned about leaking classified information to two journalists. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Justice Department officials have been working nonstop to complete their review of more than 16,000 clemency petitions filed by federal prisoners.

read more »

Judge Orders TV Reporter to Release Documents

A judge on Friday ordered Nashville television reporter Phil Williams to turn over documents from his investigation of District Attorney General Glenn Funk, the Tennessean reports. After a nearly two-hour hearing, Senior Judge William Acree agreed with Funk’s lawyers that the documents will shed light on whether Williams acted with malice in publishing stories about Funk and his relationship with Nashville developer David Chase. Despite arguments by Williams’ legal team that the documents should be protected, Acree said no protections apply because the state’s shield law includes an exception for defamation cases.

read more »

Funk’s Libel Suit Gets Hearing

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk was in court today for a hearing on his libel lawsuit against NewsChannel 5 and its reporter Phil Williams. The suit stems from a story Williams did about an alleged deal Funk made with Nashville developer David Chase to close two cases. Williams refused to reveal his sources for the story, but the person who released the information, lawyer Brian Manookian, has admitting doing so, the Tennessean reports. Earlier today, Tennessean reporter Stacey Barchenger posted live reports from the hearing.

read more »