News

Appeals Court Rules State Wrongly Withheld Public Records

TheTennessee Court of Appeals on Friday ruled the state wrongly kept routine public records from multiple agencies secret, the Tennessean reports. The ruling came after the state attorney general's office refused to release state travel records, emails and other public documents related to Jason Locke, former acting director of the TBI, and another public official while multiple agencies investigated allegations that the two were having an affair. The appeals court embraced and strengthened the state's public records laws and said public documents stay public even when they are ensnared in an ongoing criminal investigation.
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Madison County to Increase Budget for Lawsuit Against Sheriff

Madison County Commissioners are expected to vote on a budget amendment that would increase its attorney budget to $90,000 to pay for its lawsuit with Madison County Sheriff John Mehr, the Jackson Sun reports. Mehr sued the county in July for a lack of funding after the commission approved a $22.2 million budget for his office, while he wanted $25 million to pay for salary increases and to cover rising costs at the jail. The vote will take place at the commission's Aug.19 meeting.
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Tomorrow is Final Day to Apply for Public Service Academy

Considering a run for office? Tomorrow is the final day to apply for the 2019 Public Service Academy, the TBA's bipartisan training program designed to teach attorneys the skills they need to run for city council, county commission, school board and other local public offices. Last year's program included presentations from legal and political leaders like former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and U.S. Attorney (and former state senator) Doug Overbey, as well as political campaign professionals from both sides of the aisle. Apply now at www.tbapsa.org.
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Hamilton County Attorney's Office Accused of 'Willfully' Violating Open Records Laws

The Hamilton County Attorney's Office is under fire for its handling of multiple recent public records requests, the Times Free Press reports. Two records requests filed with the office have been initially denied or had illegal fees imposed by county general government public records coordinator Dana Beltramo. According to attorney and Tennessee Coalition of Open Government board member Rick Hollow, Beltramo's actions threaten not only a newspaper's ability to do its job, but more importantly, citizens' right to keep tabs on the elected officials that serve them.
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Johns Hopkins Health Policy Expert, White House Health Policy Advisor to Speak at TBA Health Law Forum

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Health Law Section has selected Johns Hopkins health policy expert and New York Times bestselling author Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H. along with health care policy advisor Larry Van Horn as the keynote speakers for its 31st Annual Health Law Forum to take place on Oct. 17-18 in Franklin. Makary has written for The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, TIME, Newsweek and regularly appears on various news networks as a health care expert. Van Horn has advised the state of Tennessee on health policy and is currently working with the White House on issues related to price transparency in health care markets — regularly meeting with the White House, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Federal Trade Commission on the topic. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear from the preeminent voices in today’s health care sector and enjoy other exceptional programming from top players in the field. Here are the key details:

When: Oct. 17-18; registration begins at 7 a.m., CDT on Thursday, Oct. 17

Where: Embassy Suites Cool Springs, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin, TN 37067

REGISTER NOW

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Property Owners in Chattanooga's BID Sue the City

Six owners of property in Chattanooga's Business Improvement District filed suit against the city today to nullify the ordinance establishing the district, the Times Free Press reports. Five siblings and a fellow property owner are listed as plaintiffs on the suit, which claims an ordinance passed on July 30 violated state statute for establishing such a district. 
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Aug. 30 Deadline: 36th Annual TBA Academy & U.S. Supreme Court Admissions Ceremony

If admission to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of your career goals, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a reality during the 36th Annual TBA Academy on Nov. 3-4 in Washington, D.C., where a select group of Tennessee attorneys will be able to take part in a private admissions ceremony at the court. Prior to the private swearing-in ceremony, admittees are invited to attend a President's Reception and special dinner to celebrate with colleagues and bar leadership. The registration deadline to participate in this opportunity is Aug. 30. You can learn more and register here.

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Cocke County Looks at Options for New Justice Center

The Corrections Partnership Committee hosted a public hearing in Newport this week to discuss two potential locations for a new Cocke County justice center — one at the current courthouse site and the other at an industrial property off of Cope Boulevard called the Jack Farm. The county already owns both sites, the Newport Plain Talk reports. There is limited space at the courthouse site, which would result in lost parking spaces or building a facility that is six or seven stories high.

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Mayor, Council Candidates Headed for Runoff in Nashville

Nashville voters will return to the polls on Sept. 12 for runoff elections to select a new mayor and several at-large and district council members, the Tennessean reports. In Thursday’s voting, Nashville lawyer and incumbent Mayor David Briley trailed challenger John Cooper by 10 percentage points. Another lawyer, Bob Mendes, was the only candidate to escape a runoff in the race for one of five at-large seats on the council. The next eight candidates from the 15-person field will duke it out for the four remaining seats.

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Justice Lee Presents Smith with Award of Excellence

City of Clarksville Municipal Court Judge Charles W. Smith was named the 2019 recipient of the Sharon G. Lee Award of Excellence at the most recent meeting of the Tennessee Municipal Court Judges Conference. The award, named in honor of Tennessee Supreme Court Justice and former Madisonville Municipal Court Judge Sharon G. Lee, is given each year to “a municipal judge who has made a significant contribution to the conference over the course of his or her service on the bench.” Justice Lee presented the award to Judge Smith, who has served as Clarksville’s Municipal Court Judge for nearly two decades.
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Meet Local Event is Thursday in Memphis

An item in Monday's TBAToday about an upcoming meet up event for government lawyers in Memphis gave an incorrect date. The Meet Local social event will be held Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at Blind Bear Speakeasy. Share news and updates from your department, enjoy time with colleagues and make new connections. RSVP for Meet Local in Memphis. This event is paired with Friday's Tennessee FastTrack CLE program.
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Woman Suing Johnson City Asks Court to Strike Physician's Testimony

The attorney for the plaintiff in a personal injury case against Johnson City where a city-owned tractor collided with the woman’s car causing her shoulder injuries is now asking that her physician’s testimony be struck from record, the Johnson City Press reports. The lawyer for Theresa Doty argues that Dr. Gregory Stewart, who performed Doty's shoulder surgery following the accident, is being used by defense attorneys to circumvent Tennessee’s collateral source rule, muddying the waters between the plaintiff's medical expense calculations and those proffered by a consulting firm for the city. Doty is suing the municipality for up to $300,000, including $204,196 in hospital charges, while the defense argues that medical expenses — based on estimates from the city’s consulting firm — should be around $39,952.
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Member Access to Solo Practice Toolkit

The TBA offers a user-friendly guide for new solo and small firm attorneys opening their own practices. The information contained in the TBA Solo in a Box Toolkit was gathered from numerous existing TBA resources, practitioners from across the state and input from TBA Sections. Start with exploring business structures most often used for solo and small firm practice.

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Tune in to TBA Podcast Network

The Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network is home to a collection of podcasts for the Tennessee attorney. Sidebar features human interest stories from attorneys across the state. BarBuzz is a monthly rundown of TBA news and upcoming events at the local and state bar levels and HealthyBar offers tips and guidance on attorney well being. All three shows are now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and the TBA's website. Simply search the show title or "Tennessee Bar Association" wherever you listen to podcasts. Do you have a story lead you'd like to submit for a future episode? Submit your ideas here.

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Better Research Support at No Additional Cost

Your TBA membership includes full access to Fastcase for your legal research needs. As your legal research ninja, Fastcase tracks recent searches and documents so you can monitor your work. Attorneys also are available to assist with research or navigating the database. Start using your member benefit now. You can contact Fastcase for support by email, using the LiveChat feature located on the Fastcase website, or by phone at 866-773-2782 to speak with a research attorney.

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Despite Lawsuit, TVA to Meet with Roane Leaders

Tennessee Valley Authority officials were scheduled to meet today with Roane County leaders at its Kingston power plant, a move that attorney Jim Scott, who represents the county leaders, met with trepidation, Knoxnews reports. The elected officials are suing TVA and its contractor, Jacobs Engineering, alleging they knew about the health risks posed to workers hired to clean up the Kingston coal ash spill. “I hope officials at TVA involved in the attempted arrangement of this meeting with Roane County officials have discussed this thoroughly with their attorneys because I have certain issues of concern as their attorney in that action,” Scott said. TVA claims the sit down is a routine meeting with county leaders.
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Dickson Takes First Step in Developing ADA Transition Plan

The City of Dickson is planning renovations to city-owned properties in order to guarantee federal ADA guidelines are met by the municipality, The Tennessean reports. On July 8 the Dickson City Council unanimously approved a contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates to prepare a transition plan that “identifies barriers to access in programs and activities” and “provide(s) equivalent access to the maximum extent feasible.” The Federal Highway Administration requires all cities and counties to submit a transition plan by Dec. 31 in order to continue receiving federal funding for improvement projects.

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Tennessee Rep. Karen Camper Brings 'Our Community, Our Solutions' Tour to Jackson

Tennessee Representative Karen D. Camper, D-Shelby, took her “Our Community, Our Solutions” (OCOS) campaign to Jackson where she discussed concerns and answered questions from community members, the Jackson Sun reports. Among the issues raised to Camper by attendees were how the General Assembly plans to deal with unemployment, Medicaid block grant funding and hospital closures in rural communities — which Camper said is the “No. 1 issue” for the state’s Democratic Party. You can contact Camper and inquire about future OCOS dates using Facebook.

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Memphis Councilwoman Sponsors Resolution to Study How Memphis 3.0 Will Affect Minority Communities

Memphis City Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson has sponsored a resolution which recommends hiring a consultant to study the long-term impact of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s Memphis 3.0 initiative, specifically involving its effect on communities of color, the Commercial Appeal reports. Johnson contends that the mayor’s plan does not advance certain minority neighborhoods in the city, rather designates them as a “nurture” area — which means a focus on growing existing business but not accelerated development. Johnson said “I think part of it is not understanding how (accelerate or nurture) was used. Nurture may mean you might feed them a little … but accelerate means we’re going to take care of you.” Memphis 3.0 was recently on the agenda for a reading, and on Aug. 6 at 3:30 p.m., CDT in the Council Chambers on the first floor of City Hall.

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Knoxville Council to Consider Zoning Ordinance Overhaul Today

The Knoxville City Council could decide today if it will take the next steps in its Recode Knoxville initiative, which would drastically overhaul the city’s zoning ordinances, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Initially proposed in 2016, Recode is intended to revise land use divisions and clear up confusing or redundant regulations, particularly involving mixed-use commercial and residential developments. The zoning ordinance applies only within Knoxville city limits and excludes county, state and federal properties. The city council will vote on the initiative in its meeting tonight at 6 p.m., EDT in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.

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Fastcase 7 New Features

A new Fastcase 7 update provides highlighting for your search terms when viewing the full text of a document. Each term is highlighted with a different color so that you can see the occurrence of each item separately. You can also turn off the highlighting function for both, and each term individually by choosing the highlight dropdown option, then selecting the ‘x’ across from the term. See this and all new features of TBA’s member benefit Fastcase 7 here.

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Report: TennCare Dropped At Least 220,000 Kids Due to Incomplete or Errant Paperwork

Between January 2016 and December 2018, at least 220,000 Tennessee children lost or are slated to lose health insurance because of late, incomplete or unreturned TennCare eligibility forms, The Tennessean reports. Most participants in TennCare are automatically renewed for coverage each year; however, when important plan changes or updates are necessary, the organization until recently required families to mail hard copy forms in lieu of filing or updating their information online. Some families maintain that the process was needlessly confusing and hard to navigate, with research by the Tennessean showing that TennCare representatives were rarely able to determine if the children even qualified using the now replaced model. TennCare Commissioner Gabe Roberts said that the numbers also reflect families who likely did not complete the paperwork because they are no longer eligible for the program.

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Man Files Lawsuit Claiming Former KPD Officer Used Excessive Force

A fired Knoxville Police Department officer faces a federal civil rights lawsuit over his arrest of a man caught huffing in the bushes behind a store, Knoxnews reports. Brent Edward Cox says former KPD officer Geraldo Orta shocked him with an electric stun gun and stomped on his neck in May 2018. He filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court this spring accusing Orta of excessive force and of violating Cox's constitutional rights. Orta wore a badge for less than a year before Police Chief Eve Thomas fired him for lying about whether he answered a burglary alarm at a West Knoxville bicycle store. Investigators at the time of the incident determined he used excessive force but couldn't verify whether he stomped on Cox.
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Feds OK Memphis Public Schools' Operations Under Catholic Landlord's Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Education said a charter school network’s lease prohibiting it from teaching anything considered “gravely immoral” by the Catholic Church does not violate federal guidelines, the Daily Memphian reports. The federal guidance removes the final hurdle for Compass Community Schools to open its six campuses across Memphis on July 31 in former Catholic school buildings. The opinion also confirms the new network’s eligibility to receive $600,000 per school in federal grants for “promising” new charter schools.
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Monitoring Team Aims to Keep Public Informed About MPD Surveillance Case

The public will have a chance to ask questions about a court-ordered plan to bring reform to the Memphis Police Department after officers were found conducting illegal surveillance of protesters, violating a 40-year-old consent decree barring such surveillance, The Daily Memphian reports. In addition to the public meeting on July 11, former U.S. attorney and independent monitor Ed Stanton announced that his team has launched a website, memphispdmonitor.com, to provide updates to the public about the progress of reform efforts involving the city police department.
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