News

January TBA BarBuzz Podcast Now Streaming

This month's episode of the TBA BarBuzz podcast is now available. BarBuzz is a monthly show from the TBA Podcast Network that recaps legal happenings from across Tennessee, upcoming events at the bar, attorney shout outs and more. Other shows in the network include Sidebar, a podcast featuring human interest stories from Tennessee attorneys, HealthyBar, which focuses on attorney well being, and TBA YLD Presents: War Stories. All shows are available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and the TBA's website. Simply search the show's title or "Tennessee Bar Association" wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Group Renews Claim that Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Violate State Constitution

The lawyer for a conservative advocacy organization says Tennessee county clerks are violating the state constitution by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Times Free Press reports. In a letter to all clerks and the governor, David Fowler, general counsel for the Family Action Council of Tennessee’s Constitutional Government Defense Fund, said the granting of same-sex marriage licenses violates Title XI Section 8 of the state constitution. That provision of the constitution states that “the relationship of one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract …” in Tennessee. After the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage nationwide, former Gov. Bill Haslam announced the state would follow the federal decision. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery also said Tennessee must follow the decision in spite of the apparent contradiction with its constitution.

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Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2020

The TBA’s highly regarded Estate Planning & Probate Forum will return to the Embassy Suites Cool Springs on Friday, Feb. 21. This annual staple for planning professionals will feature best practices and tips regarding timely topics such as:
 
  • Practical will and trust drafting, including basic forms
  • A panel discussion regarding administration of trusts
  • Testimonials regarding probate litigation and will contests
  • What Tennessee has done to to become a top trust jurisdiction
  • A probate panel with representatives from the three grand divisions
  • Legislative updates
  • Ethics for planners
  • And more
Attendees of the forum who wish to stay at the hotel will receive a discounted TBA rate. You can reserve your room at the TBA rate by using this link, or by calling 1-800-EMBASSY and referencing the group code EPF. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners and top players in the field while being a beneficiary of necessary CLE credits. Missing out is irrevocable.
 
When: Friday, Feb. 21, registration begins at 8 a.m., CST
Where: Embassy Suites Cool Springs, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
 
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Tomorrow: Environmental Law Forum 2020

The TBA Environmental Law Forum will take place at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville tomorrow, Jan. 17. This annual event for environmental lawyers will present timely updates on legal issues involving the TVA Gallatin Fossil Plant lawsuit, the recent VW settlement, ethics in environmental law and more. Do not miss this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field. Here are the key details:
 
When: Friday, Jan. 17, Registration at 10 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
 
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Applications Sought for 16th District Circuit Court Judge

The Trial Court Vacancy Commission is accepting applications for a circuit court judge in the 16th Judicial District, which covers Rutherford and Cannon Counties. The vacancy will be created with the retirement of Judge Royce Taylor on March 3, 2020. Applications should be submitted by noon CST on Jan. 7. The commission will hold a public hearing on Jan. 29 at 9 a.m. CST at the Historic Rutherford County Courthouse in Murfreesboro to consider the applicants. A vote to forward three names to the governor is expected to occur immediately following the hearing. Learn more online or download the notice.

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Supreme Court Seeks New Comments on Rules Changes

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday issued orders soliciting comments on three proposed amendments to its rules. In each case, the court had previously requested comments but made additional changes to the proposed amendments. The amendment to Rule 9 Section 10 addresses annual registration and payment requirements. The amendment to Rule 9 Section 26 addresses payment of the professional privilege tax. And the amendment to Rule 43 deals with interest on lawyers’ trust accounts. All comments are due by Jan. 30, 2020.

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Hearing Set for 15th District Circuit Court Applicants

The Tennessee Trial Court Vacancy Commission will consider six applicants for a vacancy on the 15th Judicial District circuit court on Jan. 8, the Administrative Office of the Courts announced today. The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse, 228 E. Main St., Lebanon 37087. The commission is expected to vote immediately after the interviews and forward three names to Gov. Bill Lee for consideration. The court vacancy was created by the retirement of Judge John D. Wootten Jr. The court serves Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson counties.

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Have Student Loans? TBA’s Credible Can Help

Do you know if you’re overpaying on your student loans? The TBA has partnered with Credible to help you find out. With Credible, you can check competitive loan options from their vetted lenders so you can pay off your student loans faster, lower your monthly payment — or both. It’s fast, it’s real and it’s private. Do it all online here or call Jackie at 866-540-6005 and let her know you are a TBA Member.

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Coffee County DA Won't Seek Charges in Teen Suicide Case

The Coffee County District Attorney’s Office released a statement today that no criminal charges will be brought in the case of a local teen who died by suicide after sexually explicit messages between him and another boy were leaked by other students. Classmates and supporters of Channing Smith have been calling for "Justice for Channing" during protests, the Tennessean reports. District Attorney Craig Northcott, who has come under criticism for saying he would not prosecute domestic violence cases involving same-sex couples, cited the lack of probable cause that any crimes had been committed as reason for not filing charges.

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Ethics Roadshow Coming to a City Near You

The TBA is bringing its Ethics Roadshow to a city near you on multiple days in December. The program will be in Knoxville on Dec. 4, Chattanooga on Dec. 5, Memphis on Dec. 9, Nashville on Dec. 10, Jackson on Dec. 16, and Johnson City on Dec. 18. Sign up today to reserve your spot for this annual event, guaranteed to meet your ethics requirements for the year and enhance your knowledge of crucial changes in the legal profession. The course also is always full of surprises and humor. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit. See the list of all courses.

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U.S. House Hears Testimony Regarding Unfair Housing Practices for Same-sex Couples

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday considered evidence regarding claims of discrimination involving same-sex couples who encounter more denials and higher interest rates when applying for mortgages, the Washington Blade reports. The committee heard testimony that LGBT adults are twice as likely as their non-LGBT counterparts to report having been denied housing, and that same-sex couples experience about three to eight percent lower approval rates in acquiring loans than same-sex couples. This hearing is part of a push for passage of the Equality Act, which passed the House in May. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has refused to advance the legislation for a vote in that chamber.

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Comcast Exec. Files Federal Lawsuit Over Title VII Protections

A senior executive at Comcast Corp. recently filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was routinely discriminated against because of his sexual orientation, NBC News reports. Plaintiff Klayton Fennell claims that while employed with the company he was denied equal pay, passed over for promotions, was subjected to slurs from employees and retaliated against after he filed a discrimination complaint. Comcast claims that it was supportive of Fennell’s participation in LGBTQ initiatives both inside and outside of the company, and that it has a “longstanding commitment to the LGBTQ community and has been widely recognized for its inclusive culture.” Fennell is seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering, emotional upset, mental anguish, humiliation, loss of life’s pleasures and any other remedies provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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St. Louis Police Sergeant Awarded Nearly $20 Million for Discrimination Based on Sexual Identity

A jury in St. Louis last week awarded a gay police sergeant nearly $20 million regarding claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation, The New York Times reports. Plaintiff Keith Wildhaber filed the complaint after he applied for a move from sergeant to lieutenant at the St. Louis County Police Department and was allegedly told he was “way too out there with his gayness” and “needed to tone it down” if he wanted the promotion. Wildhaber said that this was not the only instance of discrimination, claiming he was turned down for 23 promotions over the course of five and a half years. The jury foreman said of the judgment: “We wanted to send a message…If you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price.”

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DOJ Office of the U.S. Trustee Seeks Trustees for Case-by-Case Appointment

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the United States Trustee, is seeking resumes from persons interested in joining a pool of trustees who may be appointed on a case-by-case basis to administer cases filed under the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019. Trustees may be primarily appointed to cases filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, all divisions. Fiduciary and bankruptcy experience is desirable but not mandatory. All resumes must be received on or before Nov. 15. You can find out more information regarding this opportunity and apply using this link.

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This Week: TBA Court of Appeals Boot Camp

The Court of Appeals is unfamiliar territory for most lawyers and success in this court requires not only thorough preparation but mastery of oral and written advocacy as well. This boot camp allows lawyers to observe oral arguments in real cases being presented to the court, followed by analysis and discussion on preparation, tips and considerations for deciding to seek review in the Supreme Court. Lunch will be provided, allowing networking opportunities with colleagues who share this focus. Do not miss this unique learning opportunity!

When: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Supreme Court, 401 Seventh Ave. N. Nashville — Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N, Nashville
 
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Attorneys Needed for High School Law Workshop

Attorney volunteers are needed to help with the iLead Law & Leadership Conference, a free one-day workshop focusing on law and leadership skills for high school students. The Nov. 8 event will be held at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville. Volunteers may choose from three time slots: 10:30 a.m. to noon, 1 to 2 p.m., and 3 to 4 p.m. and may sign up online. During the day, students will participate in leadership and negotiation workshops and networking opportunities. The iLead Conference is hosted by Just The Beginning-A Pipeline Organization. See an agenda for the day or contact Missy O. Jeje at 312-661-5374 for more information.

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Court Hears Oral Arguments in LGBT Employment Cases

Tthe U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in a trio of civil-rights cases involving LGBT employees. The question is whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, also protects gay and transgender employees. The debate included a discussion of whether the court should rule in the case or call on Congress to clarify the statute, National Public Radio reports. Justice Neil Gorsuch also asked if the court should consider “the massive social upheaval” that could follow a ruling in favor of the workers. Attorneys for employers sued in the cases said Congress meant the protections to apply only on the basis of biological gender to protect women in the workplace. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, however, argued that the court has interpreted the law more broadly in the past, sometimes applying its provisions to cases Congress could not have imagined at the time it was passed.

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Prosecutor Weighing Criminal Charges After Teen Suicide

Coffee County teenager Channing Smith committed suicide after two peers outed his sexuality on social media. His family is now worried that beliefs held by the district attorney may impact a decision on whether to seek justice for their son, the Daily News Journal reports. District Attorney Craig Northcott is on tape saying he will not prosecute domestic violence cases involving same-sex couples and that he will not recognize gay marriage. He is reportedly under investigation by the Board of Professional Responsibility for those comments.

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Stonewall Bar Association Holds Mixer & Annual Kickoff Event

The Stonewall Bar Association will hold its 2019 Mixer & Kickoff Meeting on Oct. 8 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by Baker Donelson, will take place at the firm's Event Center, 211 Commerce St. in downtown Nashville. Please RSVP here.

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Family, Classmates Call for Prosecution of Cyberbullying That Drove Coffee County Teen to Suicide

The suicide of a 16-year-old who was outed online is reigniting concerns over cyberbullying and has led a call for the prosecution of those involved in the incident, the New York Times reports. Channing Smith, a junior at Coffee County Central High School, took his own life after sexually explicit text messages shared with a male classmate were revealed on social media. Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott — who reportedly is under investigation by the Board of Professional Responsibility after previously saying he wouldn't prosecute domestic violence cases involving same-sex couples — said his office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation, and that “when all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision.”

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Court to Consider Workplace Protections for Sexual Orientation

On Oct. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court to will consider whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees federal protection from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, the New York Times reports. The case centers on a county employee in Georgia who claims he was fired after he joined a gay recreational softball league, though the employer says the termination was based on “conduct unbecoming of a…county employee.” In addition, the justices will hear a companion case brought by a skydiving instructor who says he was fired for being gay. His firing followed a complaint from a female customer who expressed concerns about being strapped to him during a tandem dive. The instructor died in a 2014 skydiving accident but the case is being pursued by his estate.

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New York City Council Considers Repeal of Conversion Therapy Ban

The New York City Council is considering a repeal of its 2017 law banning conversion therapy, the strongly-condemned practice of attempting to change a person's sexual orientation or gender, NPR reports. The move comes in response to a lawsuit brought against the city by Alliance Defending Freedom, a national group that regularly challenges abortion laws and LGBT protections on freedom of speech and religious grounds. LGBT advocacy groups and council members that support repealing the ban argue the change will not result in any erosion of protections for LGBT New Yorkers and will halt the lawsuit. Those supporting the reversal say that defending against the suit would be a waste of the city’s time and resources and could have national impacts if the courts side against the city. The proposal to repeal the ban was introduced by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay. Johnson said regarding the repeal: "I really struggled with it because I don't want to look like we're retreating in the face of an organization that brought this lawsuit that has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center … Ultimately, I think this is the responsible, strategic and right thing to do."

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Openly Gay Prosecutor Nominated as Judge for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

President Trump last week announced the nomination of an openly gay candidate to preside over the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Boston Globe reports. Patrick J. Bumatay is a federal prosecutor and Harvard Law alumnus who has reportedly served as Counselor to the Attorney General on various criminal issues, including the national opioid strategy and transnational organized crime. The Federalist has described Bumatay as “an originalist in the mold of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.” If confirmed, he would be the first Filipino-American federal judge and the second openly gay federal judge, the first on the Ninth Circuit. 

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U.S. Supreme Court to Consider National Workplace Protections Regarding Sexual Orientation

The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8 will consider whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees federal protection from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, The New York Times reports. The case under consideration — Gerald Lynn Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia — centers around a man who was a county Child Welfare Services Coordinator and claims he was fired after he joined a gay recreational softball league, despite 10 years of employment and receiving positive performance evaluations and professional accolades. The defendant argues that his termination was due to “conduct unbecoming of a Clayton County employee;” however, Bostock maintains that several other employees had made critical comments regarding his sexual orientation and that the defendant conceded to him that he was fired because of sexual orientation. You can view the Petition for Writ of Certiorari using this link.

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New TBA Sidebar Podcast Episode Shares Benefits of Improv Comedy For Lawyers

A new installment of the Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network show, Sidebar, is now available. The episode focuses on improv skills for attorneys and features interviews with the co-owner of the Third Coast Comedy Club in Nashville and Kirsten Jacobson, staff attorney at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and improv student. Sidebar is available on the TBA's website or anywhere you listen to podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and TuneIn. Simply search the show title of "Tennessee Bar Association." Do you have a story lead you'd like to hear on a future episode? Submit your ideas here.

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