News

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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TBA House of Delegates Seeks to Fill Open Positions

In accordance with Article 29 of the TBA Bylaws, the officers of the House of Delegates will fill 13 open positions in the House. If you would like to be considered for one of these positions, please submit a declaration of candidacy that includes your name, principal place of law practice, district of interest and contact information to TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson by July 15. Read a list of open positions here.
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17-Year-Old Student Announces Bid for Murfreesboro City Council

A high school student in Rutherford County has announced his intention to run for Murfreesboro City Council, the Daily News Journal reports. Zach Ouellette, a 17-year-old student at Central Magnet School, decided to enter the race after the recent tax hike approved by the council in June. Ouellette, who will be 18 next May, said of his campaign: "There's a general trend of spending a ton of money, and there's a huge hole in our budget. Instead of raising taxes, we need to look at spending. We need to find what we do and don’t need." Candidates can pick up their petitions to formally enter the race beginning Feb. 3.

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Clarksville Disputes Ownership of Greenway Portion Where Bicycling Accident Occurred

The city of Clarksville maintains that it does not own the section of greenway where a bicycling accident occurred, which led to a personal injury lawsuit, The Leaf Chronicle reports. The plaintiff in the case maintains that she fell into a ravine after dismounting her bike to push it up a hill, and that the city was negligent by not including guardrails on elevated segments of the greenway. The city hired a surveyor to evaluate the area, and determined that the location where the fall happened is on property owned by the Advance Development Company. City attorney Lance Baker said the case may head to trial in July.

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Hamilton Commission, School Board in a Stalemate Over Budget

The Hamilton County Commission yesterday voted down a 34 cent property tax increase intended to benefit area schools, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The controversial move brings talks regarding the county schools’ and overall fiscal budgets to a stalemate. County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said after the meeting: "The commission will need to wait on the school board now to respond … The whole budget has not and will not be approved until a new item is brought to the commission." The Hamilton County school board will have to present alternatives to the commission by Aug. 31 for consideration, prior to passage of the overall budget. 

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SCOTUS Tosses Tennessee Liquor Store Residency Law

The U.S. Supreme Court today tossed out a Tennessee law that required liquor store owners to live in the state two years before they could open a business here, the Commercial Appeal reports. In a 7-2 decision, the justices said the regulation illegally infringed on interstate commerce protections provided by the U.S. Constitution. Their ruling eliminates a barrier for out-of-state owners trying to get a liquor license and conduct business in Tennessee. It came in the case of a Memphis couple that tried to open a liquor store after they moved from Utah to Tennessee to find better care for their daughter with a disability.
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Use Your Prepaid TBA CLE Credits Before Monday!

TBA members have until June 30 to use the 2018-2019 CLE credits that come with their memberships. Use the credits now to register for any TBA course taking place this summer or fall, or any online course, as long as you register by June 30. Don’t let these valuable credits go to waste! Find more information on how to use your credits, and if you haven’t done so already, remember to renew your TBA membership for the upcoming year to get more CLE credits.
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ACLU Weighs In on Knox Detective's Anti-LGBT Sermon, First Amendment Rights

The ACLU this week weighed in on the matter of a Knox County detective and pastor who maligned members of the LGBTQ community, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Detective Grayson Fritts gave a sermon to the All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville saying the government should arrest and execute members of the LGBTQ community. Sheriff Tom Spangler said he would not fire Fritts to protect taxpayers from a lawsuit that could cost the county millions. "You can look for the ACLU to look for a lawsuit," Spangler said. In response, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee Hedy Weinberg said the government can regulate its employees’ speech if there is a reason that outweighs the employee’s interest in exercising constitutional rights. Fritts is currently on sick leave until a buyout goes into effect on July 19.
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TDEC Commissioner, Worker Testify in Hearing Over Golf Tournament Attended by Industry Insiders

Despite statements to the contrary from the department’s commissioner, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation worker told state lawmakers that he was asked by a top official to manage a golf tournament sponsored by industry insiders, the Tennessean reports. Previously, Commissioner David Salyers claimed the event was privately-run and not a government event. The worker, Charles Burroughs, testified in a House Committee on Government Operations hearing that high-ranking appointees requested in 2002 that he oversee the tournament.
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Full Upgrade to Fastcase 7 Coming July 22

The TBA will be upgrading to Fastcase 7 — the latest in legal research technology — on July 22. Start the transition by reviewing the helpful resource page to learn new and advanced research tools and view training videos and reference guides. Did you know that as a member benefit Fastcase also offers research assistance? Use the LiveChat feature located on the Fastcase website, email support@fastcase.com or call 866-773-2782, Option 2, to speak with a research attorney. 
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Collierville Sues Owner of 'Negligently' Operated Landfill

The town of Collierville has filed a complaint against Norman Brown over his operation of the Frank Road landfill, the Daily Memphian reports. The complaint, filed yesterday in Shelby County Chancery Court, claims the landfill is an odor nuisance, noise nuisance and safety hazard to residents. It says the property has been “negligently” operated. The town hopes a judge will order Brown to remedy the smell, noise and safety concerns. The town also wants a backup plan to be in place in case of “future breakouts.” 
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Coffee Co. Considers Additional Taxes for Bonnaroo

Following the first sold out Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in seven years, questions have risen about its future in Coffee County, The Tennessean reports. The festival and municipality have long been embroiled in a love-hate relationship; however, the recent move by the Coffee County Commission to instill a 2.5 percent tax on hotel room bookings just two days prior to this year’s events —which would also be charged to onsite campers — had organizers up in arms. Bonnaroo staff eventually made a deal with the commission to exclude campers this year, but Coffee County remains resolute in obtaining additional funds to pay for road and bridge upgrades in the county. The festival nets the municipality around $1 million annually in tax money from ticket sales and on-site services, and contributes about 25 percent of the county’s annual sales tax.

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Lee Won't Call On Northcott to Resign, Wants DA to Uphold the Law

Gov. Bill Lee says he isn't prepared to call on a Tennessee prosecutor to resign over his comments about Muslims and same-sex couples, but wants to ensure Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott is upholding the law, the Tennessean reports. Northcott, who is currently under investigation by the state Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility, has received national attention in recent weeks following news reports about his beliefs on Islam and homosexuality. "I don't know the details until investigations are done, so it's premature to make comments about that other than to say we need to make sure we follow the laws in this state," Lee said.
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Open Records Group Says Knox Broke Law by Charging for Records Inspections

The Tennessee Coalition of Open Government is accusing Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler of breaking the law whenever he and KCSO employees fulfill public records requests, Knoxnews reports. This came after lawyers for the county defended its practice of charging residents for public records inspections, which the state comptroller says should be free. The issue came up during lawsuit against the county filed by a University of Tennessee professor, in which lawyers for the county said repeatedly it would cost hundreds of dollars to inspect records that the professor requested. A state comptroller's report written in 2008 says charges can be assessed for the cost of making the copy or duplication and staff time after the custodian has spent at least one hour working on the request if the requester wants copies of the documents. If the requester wants only to inspect the documents, there is to be no charge.
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Hamilton County to Consider Tax Relief Program for Seniors

Facing a tax hike for Hamilton County residents, Commissioner David Sharpe plans to propose an initiative to soften the blow to seniors on a fixed income, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The program will supplement the state’s existing Property Tax Relief Program of 2018 that aids elderly homeowners, disabled homeowners, disabled veteran homeowners and widows of disabled veteran homeowners. Early estimates show that the program will cost the county about $360,000 annually.

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Judicial Redistricting Will be Topic at June 12 Murfreesboro Public Hearing

The Advisory Task Force on Composition of Judicial Districts will hold a public hearing in Murfreesboro on June 12 to receive comments on judicial redistricting in Tennessee. The public hearing will be held at 2:30 p.m. CDT at the Rutherford County Judicial Complex, located at 116 West Lytle Street. In 2018, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that created three new judicial positions. The new positions were in the state’s 19th Judicial District, which serves Montgomery and Robertson counties; the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties; and the 21st Judicial District, which includes Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson counties.
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Woman Reportedly Raped by a Chattanooga Police Officer Alleges Fourth Amendment Violations, Coverup

Attorneys representing a woman in a lawsuit against the city of Chattanooga who alleges former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan raped her filed an amended complaint on Wednesday alleging a coverup and Fourth Amendment violations, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The updated filing contends that Logan has a history of “inappropriate sexual misconduct, including a previous rape incident” and that Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Edwin McPherson conspired with retired Capt. Pedro Bacon to suppress records of that misconduct. At least three women maintain that they were raped by Logan since he began his law enforcement career in 2015. The city has not filed a response to the complaint and has declined to comment on the matter.

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Knox Jail Alternative Seeks Additional Funding

The Knox County program that offers an alternative to jail for nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders is seeking additional funding from the municipality, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The Helen Ross McNabb Center opened last year and signed a three-year contract with Knox County to operate a 16-bed center where law enforcement can place qualifying offenders, who can then be held for up to 72 hours before being given referrals to assistance and a case manager upon release. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse provided the center with $3.4 million for renovations and pay for startup costs; however, that money only covered three-quarters of the initial funds needed. McNabb Center CEO Jerry Vagnier has asked Knox County commissioners for $840,000 and the city for $560,000 to cover operation costs for the fiscal year.

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Online Officiants No Longer Allowed to Perform Marriage Ceremonies

Starting July 1, individuals who become ordained online may no longer perform marriages in Tennessee, Knoxnews reports. Previously, the law didn't specifically address online officiants. Current law states ordination or designation is required to be via "a considered, deliberate, and responsible act." That, according to a 2015 Tennessee attorney general's opinion, disqualified online ordained officiants. "Other than the click of a mouse," the 2015 opinion reads, the online ordination was not a "considered, deliberate, and responsible act."
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Federal Judge Dismisses 'Memphis 3.0' Lawsuit

A pro se lawsuit filed by New Chicago activist Carnita Atwater challenging the "Memphis 3.0" plan was dismissed last week by U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr., the Daily Memphian reports. Atwater sought to stop the long-range land use and development guidelines from being implemented. Since the filing of the lawsuit, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has signed an executive order implementing those parts of the plan that are under the control of the city administration. The City Council has delayed the first of three votes on the land-use provisions of Memphis 3.0 until July 2.
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Nashville Council to Again Consider Banning Short-Term Rentals in Residential Zones

The Metro Nashville Council will again consider new restrictions on short-term rental properties — such as Airbnbs — in residential areas, The Tennessean reports. Nashville moved to issue a similar ban last year; however, the General Assembly nixed it because of concerns regarding the rights of property owners. The council will consider the bill in its July 2 meeting.

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Nashville Metro Council Member Proposes 16% Property Tax Increase

Councilmen Bob Mendes proposed a 16% property tax increase in order to better fund Nashville schools, employee raises and make up for the budget revenue shortfall, the Tennessean reports. The proposal challenges Mayor David Briley’s proposed budget, which does not include an increase in property taxes. Budget talks will continue among the Metro Council, and Mendes’ alternative budget is slotted for a second reading on June 4. The Metro Council will vote on a final budget on June 18.

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Tom Lee Park Redesign Plans on Hold

Mediation between the Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP) and Memphis in May organizers is on hold while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studies MRPP’s redesign proposals for Tom Lee Park, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Corps will analyze the plan for functionality, flooding concerns and any potential impact on commercial river traffic. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland hopes that the Corps' input will help with the mediation. Construction has been pushed back to the fall due to the delays. The approval process takes at least 90 days.

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TSC Denies Nashville Police Union's Appeal Request to Overturn Referendum

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ended the Nashville police union's effort to overturn the results of a 2018 referendum that led to the creation of the Community Oversight Board, the Nashville Scene reports. Yesterday the court denied a request to take up the Fraternal Order of Police's lawsuit on appeal. Two lower courts had already denied the FOP's lawsuit to overturn the referendum, which passed in Nashville last November with 58% of the vote.
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Sullivan Officials to Consider Beefing up Jail Staff

Sullivan County commissioners are tonight scheduled to consider hiring an additional 20 jail employees to staff the overcrowded county jail, the Kingsport Times News reports. “We’ve been over 100 percent capacity since 2011,” Lee Carswell, administrator of the Sullivan Country jail said. “And right now, safety and security of the officers is paramount.” The jail, opened in 1987 to house 619 people, held 935 individuals on Wednesday morning.
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