News

TBA Public Service Academy Holds First Session

The TBA’s Public Service Academy met for the first time this weekend, with a bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys from across the state gathering to learn the basics of running for local elected office. On Friday, former state senator and current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Doug Overbey, spoke about his experiences campaigning and holding elected office. On Saturday, former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell spoke to the group about his life as a mayor and former legislator, as well as the importance of attorneys choosing a life of public service. The class heard further presentations about fundraising, building a campaign team, crafting their campaign message and more. They will reconvene again Nov. 9-10 in Nashville for another weekend training.
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Appeals Court Finds Jeremy Durham Has Standing to Sue for Benefits

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that former Tennessee legislator Jeremy Durham, who was expelled from the House of Representatives two years ago, has standing to sue the state over health insurance and pension benefits he claims he is owed, The Nashville Post reports. Last year, the federal District Court ruled differently, saying Durham had no right to sue the Commissioner of Finance and Administration, the Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley and Treasurer David Lillard because they did not cause Durham to be expelled. The new ruling states Durham has standing “because his injury that he seeks to remedy is fairly traceable to the administrators’ conduct.”
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SCOTUS Lets Stand Decision Requiring Dark Money Disclosure

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a lower court’s decision forcing politically active nonprofit groups to disclose the identity of any donor giving more than $200 when those groups advertise for or against political candidates, The Atlantic reports. It’s not immediately clear whether nonprofit groups that advocate for and against political candidates must retroactively disclose their funders or only do so going forward.
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Casada to Run for Speaker of the House

Tennessee State House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, announced his plans today to run for speaker of the House, The Nashville Post reports. Casada was long presumed to make a bid for the position, as he previously ran for it against Current Speaker Beth Harwell in 2010. Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, and Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, are also seeking the position.
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Leadership Battles Already Shaping Up in Legislature

With the general election still two months away, incumbents in the state House and Senate are already positioning themselves for who will lead each legislative body. Active races are already shaping up for House Speaker and caucus leadership posts in both parties, the Memphis Daily News reports in its View from the Hill column. Find out who are the favorites.

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Federal Court: North Carolina May Use Gerrymandered Map in November Elections

A panel of judges in the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has ruled that the state will be allowed to use its current electoral map for the November elections, despite having declared it an unconstitutional gerrymander last week, NPR reports. The judges wrote in their order that forcing the state to hastily redraw maps prior to November would “unduly interfere with the State’s electoral machinery and likely confuse voters and depress turnout.” Voting rights advocacy groups that challenged the map agreed with the court’s decision, saying they would rather voters use the current, unconstitutional map than risk depressing turnout.
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Your New TBJ: Child Visitation and Lots More

Miles Mason Sr. explains in the new Tennessee Bar Journal why separating or divorcing parents should not ask children what visitation they want, and Donna Harkness writes about why the concept of Supported Decision Making is becoming more a part of planning for clients with diminished capacity. TBA President Jason M. Pannu talks about the importance of effective government relations and how the association approaches it. Read these and more in the September issue.

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Legislators Host 'First in Adoption' Luncheon

Members of the Adoption Law Section of the TBA today attended the Tennessee: First in Adoption Law Luncheon hosted by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. Other attendees included Deputy Governor Jim Henry, Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich, lawyers from the Department of Human Services, Thea Ramirez, founder of Adoption-Share Inc. and TBA Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Berkley Schwarz. The “Tennessee: First in Adoption Act” makes a number of modifications in many areas of adoption and termination law, including a new, less bureaucratic surrender form, included in the Tennessee Code. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2018.
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Campaign Finance Complaints Dismissed Against Harwell, Lee

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has dismissed complaints filed against Rep. Beth Harwell and Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaigns, The Tennessee Journal reports. Both had been accused of illegal coordination with a political action committee.
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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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