News

AG Files Suit Against Law Firm Targeting Grieving Families

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has filed a lawsuit against the Witherspoon Law Group in Texas, attorney Nuru Witherspoon and two investigators for unlawfully soliciting victims of the Chattanooga school bus crash. The AG’s office received reports that through investigators, the firm contacted victim’s families as they made funeral arrangements, despite state law prohibiting attorneys from solicitation within 30 days of a tragedy. The suit alleges that the investigators, Alphonso McClendon and Glen Smith, presented themselves as attorneys and pressured families to sign contracts.
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ABA Discrimination Model Rule Draws Fire in Montana

The recently passed ABA Model Rule 84(g) dealing with discrimination has been condemned by the Montana state legislature, which says it is a violation of Montanans’ First Amendment rights, the ABA Journal reports. The model rule — which makes it a violation of professional responsibility to discriminate or harass on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law — was passed by the ABA House of at its 2016 Annual Meeting. The Montana Supreme Court adopted it later that year.

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Learn the Neuroscience of Decision-Making at the TBA Convention

At the TBA Convention in Kingsport, a special joint Bench/Bar CLE will examine the role neuroscience plays in our decision-making skills and judgment. The session will include exercises, tools and specific strategies for increasing impartiality and integrity in decision-making. The course will identify ways to increase fairness guided by science. The convention will be June 14-17 at the MeadowView Marriott Resort.
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Tennessee Supreme Court Amends Rule 8

The Tennessee Supreme Court has amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility following a Tennessee Bar Association request in July 2016. The Knoxville Bar Association and the Board of Professional Responsibility both provided comments on the proposal. The new amendments provide new language in regards to technology and contracting with other lawyers; updates to confidentiality of information and detection of conflicts of interest; and more.

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Hendersonville Attorney Charged with Theft

Hendersonville attorney Andy Allman, who has been under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since December, was arrested and booked into the Davidson County jail yesterday afternoon. His house was also searched, WKRN reports. Allman was charged with theft between $60,000 and $200,000. The indictment alleges that he knowingly obtained money and property from a client while acting as a personal representative of an estate without the victim’s consent. 

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Court Sets Oral Arguments for Knoxville Session

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear four cases in Knoxville on Jan. 10. The cases involve issues of whether a person who has been elected judge, but not yet assumed office, may act as a state officer or employee and whether a judicial administrative assistant is an at-will employee whose employment can be terminated by the judge; whether the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in finding that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a conviction for aggravated stalking; whether the signature of a trustee agreeing to arbitration binds the minor beneficiary; and whether a trial court erred in affirming a BPR decision.

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Receiver Attorney Appointed for Andy Allman

The Sumner County Chancery Court entered an order on Dec. 22 appointing Dennis Powers as receiver attorney for Andy Allman. The order, requested by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, allows Powers to take custody of files, records, bank accounts and other property connected to Allman’s law practice; review files to determine the status of pending legal matters; notify all clients and courts as to the appointment of a receiver attorney; and return documents and fees to clients as necessary.

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AG to Chattanooga Families: Beware of Predatory Firms

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is asking Chattanooga residents to be aware of predatory law firms seeking to profit from the Woodmore Elementary school bus tragedy. While communities and families deal with the heartache and stress associated with tragedy, out-of-state law firms have been known to solicit business and coerce families into signing legal agreements that are difficult to understand, Slatery says. Often, these firms use misleading or inaccurate information, offer incentives such as paying funeral costs in exchange for using their services, and promise millions in civil lawsuit awards. In some cases, salesmen hired by the law firm will portray themselves as licensed attorneys when they are not. In a warning released today, Slatery outlines four signs of a suspicious solicitation, and pledges to prosecute anyone taking advantage of the situation.

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Preventing Legal Malpractice Courses Now Online

If you missed the three-city tour of this year’s Preventing Legal Malpractice series with Chris Stiegemeyer, the videos are now available online. Use your TBA prepaid credits to reduce the cost or to register at no cost. This year’s program focused on sample fee agreements and helping lawyers identify vital malpractice and ethics issues.

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Ethics Roadshow Sessions Available Online

If you missed the six-city tour of this year’s Ethics Roadshow, the videos are now available online. Use your TBA prepaid credits to reduce the cost or to register at no cost. This year’s program focuses on technology, artificial intelligence and other hot topics in the world of lawyer ethics.

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Police Chief: DA Spokesman Released Info on Rape Victim

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson publicly rebuked Ken Whitehouse, a spokesman in the district attorney’s office, on Monday, saying he committed an “unconscionable” act that was a “violation of trust and human dignity” when he released the name and personal information of a rape victim to the media. Anderson says that Whitehouse sent an incident report that included the names of the alleged victim and suspect to a local television station. The district attorney’s office said the information was mistakenly released. Whitehouse will retain his job, but Anderson says he has blocked him from further access to confidential police files, the Tennessean reports.

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ABA Opinion: Protect Confidentiality When Ending Representation

The American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued Formal Opinion 476, which addresses confidentiality issues that arise when a lawyer moves to withdraw from a civil case because of a client’s failure to pay legal fees. The opinion recommends a process for the lawyer and the trial judge to follow and how much, if any, confidential client information should be disclosed in a motion to withdraw. The opinion notes that sticky situations can arise, and that “this requires cooperation between lawyers and judges.” Read more about the opinion.

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Online CLE Explores Trust Account Handbook

A two-hour online ethics CLE offers a tour of Tennessee Attorney’s Trust Account Handbook. The course covers best practices for day-to-day reconciliation, recordkeeping and how to avoid errors that often lead to ethical violations.

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Cope to Pay $200,000 Fine for Insider Trader

Former Rutherford County attorney Jim Cope will pay a $200,000 fine and serve two years on probation, the first nine months at home, after pleading guilty to insider trading as a Pinnacle bank director. U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger handed down the sentence Friday, nearly quadrupling a fine of $55,000 Cope initially agreed to pay in a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office. At an earlier hearing, Trauger had said Cope should pay a greater fine given his net worth of $12 million and monthly income of $37,000. The Murfreesboro Post reports that Cope still faces potential penalties from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has filed a civil complaint, and the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which is investigating his case.

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Ethics Roadshow Continues Next Week

The 2016 Ethics Roadshow continues next week with stops in Jackson, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City. Make plans to attend one of these programs. Memphis lawyer Brian Faughnan with Lewis Thomason is back for his 12th year. In honor of that milestone, this year’s tour will focus on the 12 most important developments impacting ethics and lawyering in 2016. Check out the full schedule of dates and locations on the TBA CLE website.

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ABA Issues Opinion on Fee Sharing Between Lawyers

The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued Formal Opinion 475, which details how a lawyer who receives a payment that should be shared with another lawyer should handle and distribute the money. Model Rule 1.5(e) allows lawyers who are not in the same firm to divide a fee under certain circumstances. The new opinion directs the receiving lawyer to deposit funds in a separate account and safeguard the funds. The opinion also calls for prompt delivery of the agreed-upon portion of the fee to the other lawyer, and, if requested, a full accounting of the funds. Read more from the ABA.

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Get Multiple Courses with TBA’s New '1Click CLE'

This month the TBA is launching a new way to purchase CLE courses. The 1Click series allows lawyers to sign up for multiple course with one click. Look for sets of programs in a variety of categories, including ethics programs and courses by practice area. Current offerings include two three-hour ethics series, an eight-hour general practice series and a five-hour tax law series.

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TBA President Urges Unity, Consensus Building in Profession

In the new Tennessee Bar Journal, President Jason Long discusses our divided country after the recent election, urging lawyers to be “united now more than ever in our commitment to the profession and its bedrock principles.” He writes that “we can provide that opportunity in a controlled and structured environment, operating within the framework of our democratic institutions. If there is an opportunity for consensus building and unity in today’s political climate, the legal profession can and should facilitate that.” Also in this issue, learn if you are protecting your clients’ electronic information enough, in the cover article by Trey Forgety. Brian Dobbs writes to help you understand the law of construction in Tennessee. Read the December issue.

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Court Adopts Amendments to Rules 7 and 9

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order amending Rule 7, section 16.01, and Rule 9, section 30.3, which deal with reinstatement of a law license after a disciplinary or administrative suspension, disbarment or inactive status designation. The court notes that only one comment from the Tennessee Bar Association was filed. The court originally proposed the amendments in September.

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Court Tackles Vehicular Homicides, Malpractice, Liquor Store Fees

The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear four East Tennessee cases, including a Claiborne County vehicular homicide case in which a lower appellate court set the admittedly guilty driver free. Another vehicular homicide case looks at whether a police officer should have sought a warrant before seeking a hospital blood draw from the defendant. The third case looks at whether a legal malpractice claim should have been dismissed for being filed too long after the alleged wrongdoing. And the fourth case explores whether the city of Morristown overcharged liquor stores with fees totaling a half-million dollars. Knoxnews reviews each case.

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Report: Nashville Prosecutor Withheld Evidence in Murder Case

Kathy Morante, director of the Nashville police division that investigates officer conduct, has been reprimanded for misconduct in her prior job as an assistant district attorney general in Nashville. The Tennessean reports that while prosecuting a 16-year-old on a murder charge, Morante failed to provide to the defense a TBI report showing a key witness for the state had been arrested in another matter with the murder weapon in question. The conviction and 19-year prison term of Terry L. Reed Jr. was vacated by a judge last year. Morante says she shared the report but could not provide proof of the action. She joined the police department in 2013 after serving 14 years as a prosecutor. She reportedly was issued a private reprimand by the Board of Professional Responsibility in October.

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Ethics Roadshow Starts Next Week

The 2016 Ethics Roadshow kicks off next week with stops in Memphis on Dec. 6 and in Nashville on Dec. 7. Make plans to join attend one of these two cities or any of the other four cities on this year’s tour. Memphis lawyer Brian Faughnan with Lewis Thomason is back for his 12th year. In honor of that milestone, this year’s tour will focus on the 12 most important developments impacting ethics and lawyering in 2016. Here's a full schedule of dates and locations.

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California Considers Banning Sex Between Lawyers, Clients

The nation’s largest state bar association is overhauling ethics rules for attorneys for the first time in 30 years, and some lawyers are unhappy about a proposal that would open them up to discipline for having sex with clients, the Associated Press reports. State rules currently bar attorneys from coercing a client into sex or demanding sex in exchange for legal representation, but an all-out ban would be new. Opponents argue such a ban is an unjustified invasion of privacy. Supporters of the ban say the relationship between a lawyer and client is inherently unequal, so any sexual relationship is potentially coercive. Model rules proposed by the American Bar Association call for a complete ban as well. News Channel 5 has the AP story.

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Weirich Responds to BPR Charges

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich responded to the Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) on Friday over charges brought in connection with the Noura Jackson murder case. Weirich said she never saw nor knew about a key witness statement in the case because the Memphis Police Department “failed to deliver” it to her, Memphis Flyer reports. The BPR has alleged that Weirich either had actual knowledge of the witness statement and hid it from defense attorneys, or she was negligent in failing to fully familiarize herself with the case.

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Make Plans for December’s Ethics Roadshow

Make plans now to attend this year's Ethics Roadshow at one of six cities. The tour starts Dec. 6 and runs through Dec. 12 with stops planned in Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City. Memphis lawyer Brian Faughnan with Lewis Thomason is back for another round. This year, he will focus on the 12 most important developments impacting ethics and lawyering in 2016. Find a city near you.

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