News

Hawk Joins Race for House Speaker Post

Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville is running for speaker of the House, hoping to succeed Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) who gave up the post to seek the governorship, TNJ: On the Hill reports. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) earlier announced his bid for the post and will likely be joined in the race by Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin).

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Oral Arguments Heard in Jeremy Durham Case

Three federal judges from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from attorneys in ousted lawmaker Jeremy Durham’s appeal to continue receiving benefits from the state, The Tennessean reports. Durham’s attorney Bill Harbison argued that that his client was deprived of due process after U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed his case back in December. Janet Kleinfelter, representing the state’s Department of Finance and Administration commissioner, Treasurer and Director of Legislative Administration, argued that Durham’s lawsuit was inappropriate because he did not adequately say why he should still receive state benefits. 
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Early Voting Ends Saturday for Tennessee Primary

Early voting for the Aug. 2 primary election ends Saturday, so head to the polls now or wait for election day. So far about a half million Tennesseans have cast their ballots, 292,971 in the Republican primary and 147,246 in the Democratic primary, according to the Secretary of State's website, where you can also find your polling place.

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Outside Groups Set to Spend Millions in Tennessee Senate Race

Spending in Tennessee's upcoming senatorial election is expected to ramp up soon. Citing a report in The Hill, the Nashville Post reports that the Senate Leadership Fund, a group that backs Republican Senate candidates, will start placing ads the week of Sept. 11, with more than $4.4 million in airtime already booked. The newspaper further reports that Senate Majority PAC, a group supporting Democrats, has booked $3.4 million in airtime beginning in October.

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Former Tennessee House Minority Leader Dies at 83

Tom Jensen, a community leader and a Republican who served in the state House of Representatives as House Minority Leader, died today, Knoxnews reports. He was 83. Jenson served in the legislature from 1966 to 1978, after which he ran for the East Tennessee seat on the then-Public Service Commission. He also was a former president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, a group representing the nation’s 8,000 state lawmakers. Jenson became a member and chair of the board of commissioners of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, where he helped McGhee Tyson Airport become a testing site for prototype devices for safety and security. Eventually the National Safe Skies Alliance, a consortium of organizations involved in the aviation security industry, was born, and Jenson remained there until his retirement in 2012.

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Appellate Court Upholds DUI Conviction for Former State Rep.

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville has upheld the 2015 DUI conviction of a former Rhea County lawmaker, the Rhea Herald News reports. The appellate court upheld the decision of the Rhea County Circuit Court in finding former State Rep. Jim Cobb guilty of driving under the influence. Cobb argued that the evidence was insufficient and that the trial court erred in denying his request for jury instruction on character witnesses. 
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Tennessee Last in the Nation in Voting

The state of Tennessee is 50th in the nation in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration, Knoxnews reports. Only 28.5 percent of Tennesseans voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according a PEW Charitable Trust analysis. Of the state’s 95 counties, only five are above the national average of 65 percent in active voter registration numbers.
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Early Voting Begins Today in Tennessee

Early voting in the state primary election began today across Tennessee and will continue until July 28. For a list of voting locations in your county, visit the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website to find your county election commission office. Election Day is Aug. 2.
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Tennessee Democrats File Suit Over Republican Primary Candidate Switch

The Tennessee Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Election Commission over the House District 26 Republican primary ballot, in which incumbent Rep. Gerald McCormick withdrew his name and was replaced with a former state GOP party chair, the Times Free Press reports. The lawsuit claims that McCormick's sudden withdrawal in June doesn’t meet legal requirements to reopen the qualifying process.
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State Rep. Lollar Dead at 69

Tennessee state Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) died early this morning, NewsChannel 5 reports. He was 69. Lollar was first elected to represent part of Shelby County in the House in 2006. Lollar was a Vietnam veteran, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967 until 1971. House Speaker Beth Harwell said Lollar served with tireless advocacy for Tennessee students and agricultural issues. "For more than a decade, he served the 99th district with deep dedication and was a strong voice in the TN General Assembly. His presence will be missed in the Capitol and across the state," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

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Deadline to Update Voter Registration in Tennessee is Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the deadline to register to vote to participate in the Aug. 2 primary in Tennessee. Those who need to update their address, change their information or register for the first time should visit the Secretary of State’s new online registration portal, www.govotetn.com.
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New Adoption Law Featured in July TBJ

Discover the changes to the state’s adoption law, outlined in an article by Dawn Coppock and Mike Jennings in the new Tennessee Bar Journal. Newly installed TBA President Jason Pannu writes in his first column about his goals for the year -– and introduces a new feature on wine pairings! Also, did you know that there is a procedure to change the manner of death on a death certificate from “suicide?” Read this personal account by Nashville lawyer Yarnell Beatty, and learn how to assist your clients through this process. Check out the July issue.

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Legislative Update From the 110th Tennessee General Assembly

The 110th General Assembly adjourned sine die on April 25, 2018. The 111th General Assembly will convene on Jan. 8, 2019.  The entire House of Representatives and half the Senate will face reelection in November.  Twenty-seven current members have already announced that they will not seek reelection. The next governor of Tennessee will also be elected in November. 

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Is a Gun Owner Liable for a Crime Committed with Their Gun?

An investigation by The Tennessean examines the liability of gun owners for stolen or found weapons that are used in crimes. Nashville grand jurors sent a stern warning to Tennessee lawmakers in a report released this year, recommending making a requirement for gun owners to “act responsibly” when storing their weapons. “Leaving a gun in an unlocked car, for anyone to take, is reckless and should be treated as such by the law,” the report stated.
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TBA Legislative Update

The TBA has updated its website with a Legislative Update from the 110th General Assembly, highlighting TBA initiatives and legislation important to Tennessee lawyers. A list of all laws that go into effect July 1 can be found here.
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Judge Strikes Down Kansas Voter ID, Orders Secretary of State to Take Additional CLE

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Monday that Kansas’ voter ID law infringes on the right to vote under the 14th Amendment, and ordered that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach take additional CLE classes for “repeated and flagrant violations” of federal rules requiring the disclosure of evidence, the ABA Journal reports. Kobach previously championed the law, which requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, and even represented his own office at trial. Robinson said that there is little evidence of non-citizen voter fraud, citing only 67 examples of non-citizens attempting registration in the last 19 years.
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SCOTUS Passes on Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has sent back two cases to lower courts that would have blocked states from drawing hyper-partisan electoral maps, USA Today reports. The justices found procedural faults in the two cases, one brought by Republicans in Maryland and the other brought by Democrats in Wisconsin. Chief Justice John Roberts said in one opinion that the case was flawed because it was about group political interests instead of individual legal rights. Justice Elena Kagan wrote that she anticipates the issue to come before the court again.
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State Rep. McCormick Drops Re-election Bid

State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, announced he will not seek re-election after 14 years of service, saying he will drop out of the race immediately, the Times Free Press reports. He will resign from his position in the House on Oct. 1 and return to full-time work. Republicans in House District 26 have a special seven-day opportunity to qualify for the Aug. 2 primary ballot. McCormick denied the sudden change had anything to do with recent reports of a home he and his wife purchased last year in Nashville, triggering questions about residency requirements.
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Blackburn Initially Discouraged from Running for Office, Was Told ‘Waste of Time’

In a new profile of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, she recounts that she was told by political insiders that running for office was a waste of time and money, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The story recounts Blackburn’s downplaying of her role as a female leader, even though she has broken many barriers as a female member of Congress. She was the first woman ever elected to Congress by Tennessee voters – the only female members before her were appointed or had won in special elections.
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TBA, Commercial Appeal to Co-Host Gubernatorial Forum at Convention

The TBA and The Commercial Appeal are teaming up to host a gubernatorial candidate forum during the TBA’s annual Convention in Memphis. The forum will take place on June 14 at 8:30 a.m. during this year’s Bench/Bar program. Four major candidates have confirmed to attend the event, which will be moderated by The Commercial Appeal’s executive editor, Mark Russell. The program will offer the chance to hear each candidate’s position on issues that matter to attorneys, as well as opportunities to mix and mingle with the candidates. The event will be livestreamed on TBA.org.
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TBA Surveying Attorneys Who Represent the Indigent Under Rule 13

The Tennessee Bar Association is soliciting the comments of all Tennessee-licensed attorneys who represent the indigent under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13. In the state budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which begins July 1, the Tennessee General Assembly appropriated $9.7 million in additional recurring funding to compensate Tennessee lawyers for representing the indigent under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13. On May 25, the Court issued an order soliciting public input on amending Rule 13 to adjust the hourly rates and per-case caps for this work.  The TBA intends to provide comments. If you handle matter for which you are compensated by the state under Supreme Court Rule 13, please provide us your comments here before June 8.
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President Trump Visits Nashville

President Donald Trump is visiting Tennessee today in support of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign, The Tennessean reports. People traveled from all over the country to line up outside Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium to see the president, who is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m.
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TBA Applauds Governor, General Assembly for Funding Indigent Representation Reform

Tennessee Bar Association President Lucian Pera today applauded Gov. Bill Haslam, the General Assembly and the Tennessee Supreme Court for their partnership in strengthening Tennessee’s commitment to indigent representation. The governor earlier this week signed the FY 2018/19 state budget that includes an additional $9.7 million in recurring funding for indigent representation reform. "Competent representation costs money, and the constitutional right to counsel is only real if lawyers appointed to defend them are paid reasonably,” Pera said in a media release. “The TBA especially wants to thank Chief Justice Jeff Bivins for his courageous leadership in making indigent representation reform and increased funding the Court’s top priority this year.”

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Evidence of Ukrainian Computer Involved in Tennessee Election Cyberattack

Cyber-security experts hired by Knox County to investigate a “denial of service” cyberattack on Election Day, May 1, found evidence linked to a computer in the Ukraine, CBS News reports. The experts added that “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the county’s elections website as votes were being reported. County officials said no voting data was affected, but the site was down for an hour after the polls closed.
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Harwell Campaign, PAC Hired Same Ad Company

House Speaker Beth Harwell and a PAC appearing to support her campaign for governor both made payments to the same Ohio-based advertising company, recent disclosures show, raising questions of coordination, The Tennessean reports. The PAC, Tennesseans for Good State Government – which formally was called “Harwell PAC” – paid $20,000 to Strategic Media Group on March 14. Harwell’s campaign also made a sizable payment to the same company on the same day. If there was connection to the campaign, the PAC would be limited to spending $11,800. An attorney for Tennesseans for Good State Government denied any wrongdoing in the matter. 
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