TBA Law Blog

Filter Content

Stay up to date with legal news in Tennessee by following the TBA Law Blog. This blog features stories either produced by the Tennessee Bar Association or collected from news sources.

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk filed a $200 million lawsuit against NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams and Scripps Media Inc., the station's parent company, after the station aired a story Wednesday alleging Funk blackmailed David Chase. Funk disputes those claims in the lawsuit, but acknowledges that his office did dismiss criminal charges against Chase in exchange for Chase dropping his federal lawsuit against the Metro Police Department. NewsChannel 5 says that it stands behind the story. Read more from The Tennessean

Marion County attorney and former state representative Howard G. Swafford died yesterday (Feb. 4). He was 96. Swafford attended law school at the University of Tennessee College of Law after serving in World War II. A Republican, he was elected to the state legislature in 1972, practiced law and won his last jury trial at age 92. He is survived by fellow lawyers, his wife Claude Galbreath Swafford; a son, Howard Graham Swafford Jr. of Jasper; a daughter, retired Magistrate Claudia Swafford Haltom and son-in-law, former Tennessee Bar Association President William Haltom, of Memphis. Visitation is Feb. 7 at 1 p.m., at the First Baptist Church of Jasper. The funeral will follow at 3 p.m. The family requests no flowers, but contributions may be made in Swafford’s honor to the First Baptist Church of Jasper, the Family Life Center Fund at McKendree Methodist Church of Jasper, and A Step Ahead Foundation of Memphis or Chattanooga. Read more about his life.

Formal sex abuse allegations against guards and other staff in state juvenile justice facilities have doubled, according to a study released last week by the the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. According to ProPublica, the report also claims that when investigations done by facility administrators confirm staff members sexually abused a juvenile, the staff members often receive no punishment beyond losing their jobs. “We are talking about known perpetrators, adults who are typically employed in public facilities supported by our tax dollars,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International.

The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments is accepting applications for the Court of Criminal Appeals vacancy that will occur if the general assembly confirms Gov. Bill Haslam’s appointment of Roger A. Page to the Supreme Court. Applicants must be a licensed attorney who is at least 30, a resident of the state for five years and a resident of the Western Tennessee Grand Division. Applications must be submitted to the Administrative Office of the Courts by Feb. 26 at noon CST. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments will interview all qualified applicants in Jackson in March.

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced a $470 million joint state-federal settlement with HSBC, a mortgage lender and servicer. The settlement, which includes 48 other states and the District of Columbia, requires the company to provide 2,600 Tennessee borrowers with loan modifications or other relief. It also requires HSBC to change how it services mortgage loans, handles foreclosures and ensures the accuracy of information provided in federal bankruptcy court.

WKRN reports more than a dozen Nashville residents graduated from the Davidson County Drug Court after completing a treatment program required to clear their arrest history. The rehabilitation program, which includes counseling and GED classes, lasts between 12 and 18 months.

The legislation known as the "Workers' Comp Opt-Out" bill is dead for this session. The Tennessee Employee Injury Benefit Alternative legislation, SB721, HB997, by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, was taken off notice this week. Proponents of the bill stated that at this time they do not plan to run it this legislative session. A hearing on the bill scheduled for Feb. 10 in a House committee has been cancelled.   

The Tennessean complied a list of 10 state officials who have resigned over the past few weeks. Rep. Jeremey Durham, who resigned as House Majority Whip, along with resignations from Davidson County Election Administrator Kent Wall and Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction (TRICOR) CEO Patricia Weiland are included.

Knoxville Republican Reps. Eddie Smith and Jason Zachary are donating campaign contributions they received from Rep. Jeremy Durham to a Knoxville women’s charity. Smith and Zachary say they knew nothing of Durham’s alleged sexual harassment when they accepted the money from the Franklin Republican. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports campaign finance disclosures also revealed former Rep. Leigh Wilburn, R-Somerville, donated money she received from Durham to the House Republican Caucus. Attorney General Herbert Slatery III is currently investigating Durham's alleged behavior. 

Live programs in The Business of Lawyering Series and other ethics credits programs are planned this month in Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville. The programs offer three hours of dual credit. Sessions include managing yourself and your support staff, engaging clients, ending the client relationship ethically and using social media to advertise. Online courses are also available on accounting basics, the state Department of Revenue and popular financial issues.

The state House of Representatives this morning approved the call for a Constitutional Convention in an attempt to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, Nashville Public Radio reports. Tennessee is now the fifth state to take the action; 34 states are required to call for a convention in order to propose new amendments to the U.S. Constitution. "If there was ever a time in the history of our republic that states need to take advantage of having that constitutional authority, it is now," Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, said.

An 11-year-old White Pine boy was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2015 killing of an 8-year-old girl, the Citizen Tribune reports. Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said the juvenile court “ordered the boy to be sent to the Department of Children’s Services for a determinate sentence until his 19th birthday."

WRKN writes about Tennessee’s Youth Courts program in Nashville, where students serve as attorneys, jurors, court clerks and court reporters for students who have committed minor crimes. According to Judge Sheila Calloway, fewer than 4 percent of kids reoffend after going through Youth Court, compared to the 18 to 40 percent chance of coming back in Juvenile Court. “They are being held accountable by people that they trust,” Calloway said.

Attorney David Coates, of the Law Offices of David Coates, has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Legal Aid of East Tennessee to offer free estate planning this Saturday to every Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area homeowner in the Chattanooga area. “Now that these families are homeowners, it is such a blessing to see them able to meet with a lawyer to help protect their homes,” Cheryl Marsh, Director of Family Services, said. The clinic, along with a free legal clinic, will be held in the Chattanooga Housing Authority’s multipurpose room located at 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

According to The Jackson Sun, it is currently unknown if the suspension of Montgomery County attorney John Herbison will affect the attorney’s representation of Jason Autry on charges related to Holly Bobo’s death. Herbison is not allowed to practice for 60 days. Autry’s former attorney Fletcher Long lost his law license in September 2015. A judge announced in November that the trial for the suspects charged in the murder will not be heard in 2016 “due to a voluminous amount of discovery." 

Nashville attorney John Bradbury Reed died Tuesday (Feb. 2) after a 25-year battle with cancer, the Nashville Post reports. He was 76. Reed graduated from Vanderbilt Law School and joined the school's faculty from 1964-1972. He practiced with Bass, Berry & Sims for more than 50 years and went on to finish his career with Riley Warnock & Jacobson. Reed was also very involved in the Nashville community and was honored with the Junior League of Nashville’s Community Service Award in 2003. A brief visitation and a funeral liturgy will be held at Christ Church Cathedral at 900 Broadway, Nashville, on Feb. 7. Visitation with family members will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the liturgy at 2:30 p.m.

Students from the University of Tennessee College of Law’s Institute for Professional Leadership recently attended the inaugural Leading as Lawyers: Trans-Pacific Perspectives course in Australia along with Australian law students. The course, offered by the University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law, introduced students to basic leadership principles and the value of service through the lens of lawyers. “It singlehandedly lent meaning to my entire law school career and will continue to inform and inspire my work as a lawyer for many years to come,” said Hannah Hunt, a UT Law student. 

Controversy surrounding David Chase, developer who was arrested in 2014 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, has increased as a Nashville Scene investigation revealed consultant Bill Fletcher requested $2 million from Chase “to make it all go away.” Chase revealed the request in a civil lawsuit he filed against people he claims conspired against him. WTVF reports Chase's mother said that she never believed the money requested was for Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk, who eventually agreed to drop the charges against her son. Funk denies any wrongdoing, but WSMV reports Funk made a secret deal with Chase that required him to drop charges against the Metro Police Department in exchange for his (Chase's) charges being dropped. The public was never alerted about that deal. 

A juvenile court corrections officer was indicted on child abuse and assault charges yesterday for allegedly punching a 15-year-old boy, according to the Shelby County Sheriff’s office. Willie Jones was also indicted for official misconduct and official oppression, The Commercial Appeal reports. The alleged altercation was caught on video. "Let this serve as a reminder that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in any way," Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham said.

Nashville’s Metro Council has asked the Davidson County state delegation to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage and to oppose any bills that are anti-gay marriage. The council yesterday unanimously approved the resolution, The Tennessean reports. “This is letting folks know on the Hill that we request that they simply confer with the Supreme Court ruling on this matter,” said Nancy VanReece, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Bass Berry & Sims, the largest law firm in Nashville, acquired 10 Harwell Howard Hyne Gabbert & Manner shareholders along with five associates and additional staff members from the firm. The merger, expected to be completed in mid-March, dissolves HG3M, which had been home to 26 attorneys. Eight shareholders did not make the move but say they don't plan to stay together.  Read more from Nashville Post.

An item in Wednesday’s issue of TBA Today used an incorrect term in identifying courtroom facility dogs, which are currently being debated in a Tennessee Senate bill. A 2014 Tennessee Bar Journal article offers guidance on the use of service animals, therapy animals and assistance animals, along with current laws regarding their use.

Seven candidates are being considered for an open seat on Bartlett’s municipal court. The vacancy was created by the December death of longtime judge Freeman Marr. Biographies of the candidates are available on the Bartlett Express

The Tennessee Supreme Court today decided to increase the punishment recommended for Robert Vogel, a Knoxville attorney who engaged in sexual misconduct involving a client that he was appointed to represent in a criminal matter. Vogel also revealed confidential information of another client to a judge in a different matter. He initially received a one-year suspension of his law license, with 30 days to be served on active suspension. The court concluded that Vogel’s conduct represents “a serious violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and warrants a one-year active suspension.” Read the unanimous opinion in In re: Robert Lee Vogel, authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.

The state Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Knoxville attorney Billy J. Reed after the court found Reed abandoned his clients and his practice without proper or sufficient notice to his clients and failed to respond to the petition for discipline or appear at trial. Reed must pay the Board of Professional Responsibility’s costs and expenses, and the court costs within 90 days of the entry of the order of enforcement. Read the BPR release.