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TBA Law Blog          

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

The Florida-based Disability Help Group is seeking an associate attorney to serve the greater Chattanooga area. Responsibilities include helping individuals obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and handling all stages of the administrative process. Past experience with SSA cases is not required but successful candidates will need to spend four to six months in Florida for training. Those hired also must be able to work from home. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, salary request and resume to Matthew Sauerwald. Learn more in this job announcement.

Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak proclaimed the state’s health exchange “very near collapse” yesterday after signing off on significant premium hikes in a bid to keep the platform viable. The rate approvals were necessary to ensure healthcare options in every part of Tennessee, McPeak said. Tennessee is seeing a steady decrease in the number of insurance companies selling plans on the federally run exchange, the Tennessean reports. In 2017, 57 of the state’s 95 counties will have only one insurance company serving their area.

A monument honoring women's suffrage and the suffragists of Tennessee will be unveiled at Nashville's Centennial Park this Friday. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Speakers will include Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillian, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, among others. The date was chosen to coincide with Women's Equality Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment into law. Visit the Tennessee Suffrage Monument or make a donation now.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is running the state’s first ever student mock election and reports the program is off to a great start. More than 170 schools across the state are registered to participate, meaning an estimated 76,000 students will cast a mock vote for president. Secretary of State Tre Hargett says his office is now rolling out an essay contest to encourage students to be engaged citizens. Essays should focus on a voting-related topic. Winners will receive a trip to the state capitol and a college scholarship. The office also has lesson plans to help teachers incorporate civic engagement and citizenship into their curriculum.

Gov. Bill Haslam says he does not want to call a special session of the legislature to fix the state’s drunk driving laws, but the possibility of losing $60 million might just force him to do so, WPLN reports. Haslam’s comments come in response to warnings from transportation officials that the state will lose $60 million in highway funds if it does not lower the blood alcohol limit for 18 to 20 year olds to 0.02. Lawmakers had increased the limit to 0.08 earlier this year but imposed tougher penalties, including jail time, for violations. They say they did not know the change would be a problem. Haslam hopes to convince federal authorities to hold off until lawmakers reconvene in January, but supports a special session if that is what is needed to retain the funding.

Davidson County’s sex and human trafficking court celebrated its first graduate this week, the Tennessean reports. For years, the woman was trafficked, sold to others for sex by her husband. She used drugs, leading to an addiction, and was stabbed several times during an attack. Instead of languishing in jail, she became one of the first participants in the Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. intervention court, which provides resources and treatment to women who are arrested for crimes such as prostitution or drug offenses. A dozen women currently are participating in the program, which is overseen by Judge Casey Moreland.

Leadership Middle Tennessee has announced the members of its 2017 class. Among the group are Jay Ingrum, an attorney with Phillips & Ingrum Attorneys at Law in Gallatin, and Brenda Gadd, public policy coordinator at the TBA. The 10-month program, now operated through Cumberland University, features business, community and nonprofit leaders from 10 counties in the Nashville area. See the full list of class members in the Nashville Business Journal.

Judge Robert Thomas “Tom” Stinnett died yesterday (Aug. 23) in Chattanooga. He was 72. Stinnett graduated from the University of Tennessee and was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. After serving in Italy, he returned to attend the University of Tennessee College of Law, then clerked for his father-in-law James Parrott and the Tennessee Court of Appeals. He practiced law in Knoxville for 20 years at Stone & Hinds before being appointed a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He relocated to Chattanooga and served there for 16 years before retiring in 2010. The family will receive friends Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Chattanooga's Mountain City Club, 729 Chestnut St. Funeral services will be Monday at 4 p.m. in Knoxville at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 544 N. Broadway. Burial will follow at the church columbarium. A time of remembrance in the church's fellowship hall will wrap up the day.

Former state representative George Fraley died yesterday (Aug. 23) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, two days after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 85. Fraley served as a county commissioner and county executive in Franklin County before joining the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he served until 2010. Visitation will be Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Moore-Cortner Funeral Home, 300 1st Ave. NW, Winchester. Funeral services will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. at Winchester Church of Christ, 623 Colby Rd. The Winchester Herald Chronicle has more.

Despite calls by the federal government and a Tennessee state employees group to end the practice of using private companies to manage prisons, Gov. Bill Haslam defended their use, the Nashville Post reports. “Our corrections folks are confident they provide the same level of oversight and the same accountability to private operators as we do in our own facilities,” Haslam said. Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) operates four prisons in Tennessee, along with jails in Davidson and Hamilton counties. The state Department of Correction said it has no plans to end its contract with CCA.

Independent candidate Evan McMullin, running as a conservative alternative to Republican nominee Donald Trump, failed to secure even half the signatures needed to get onto Tennessee’s ballot, Politico reports. McMullen collected just 129 of the 275 signatures required. Tennessee law also requires presidential candidates to list their running mates. With only 77 days to go before Election Day, McMullin has not tapped anyone for his vice president.

A memorial service for Nashville lawyer Dale M. Quillen will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at the Veterans Cemetery Chapel on McCrory Lane. On Oct. 8, family and friends will assemble at the Zion Cemetery in Baileyton to spread ashes over the graves of his father, mother and sister, then in March, a former Marine Corps colleague will spread ashes over the beaches at Guam and Iwo Jima. Quillen, 91, died Aug. 13. He is survived by his son Ken Quillen, also an attorney in Nashville. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Marines Helping Marines, 512 Thornton Court, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29579. The Tennessean has more.

As the University of Tennessee faced a federal lawsuit claiming the campus had a “hostile sexual environment,” university leaders agreed to pay up to $240,000 for the services of a communications professional, the Tennessean reports. The job responsibilities included developing communications strategies for the university in allegations involving Title IX. While the one-page agreement does not identify the consultant, Tom Ingram, a former political adviser to Gov. Bill Haslam, confirmed he continues to work for the Nashville-based Neal & Harwell law firm, which represents the university in Title IX matters.

Vanderbilt University Law School is seeking applicants for full-time tenured and tenure-track teaching positions at the entry and lateral levels. Applications are welcome across legal fields and at the intersection of law and other academic disciplines. The deadline to apply is Oct. 21. Interested individuals should send a cover letter, resume, research agenda and references to the Faculty Appointments Coordinator (Attn: Lateral or Attn: Entry Level, whichever applies), Vanderbilt University Law School, 131 21st Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37203 or by email to

Two organizations helping victims of abuse may get additional financial assistance through a new fee assessed by the courts, the Tullahoma News reports. A Coffee County committee recently approved a $45 victims’ assistance fee to benefit the local Children’s Advocacy Center and Haven of Hope. The proposed fee would be collected from individuals convicted of or entering a plea of guilty to a crime that imposes a fine of over $500 and possible imprisonment. The county would keep $3 while the rest would be split between the groups. The full commission will vote on the issue in September.

Hamilton County Judge Barry Steelman yesterday rejected an attorney’s petition to be removed from the case of Cortez Sims, a 19-year-old accused of killing one and wounding three during a January 2015 shooting. Brandy Spurgin said she made the motion after Sims made it clear he wanted a new lawyer and filed an ethics complaint against her. After the ruling, Sims asked Steelman, “You’re forcing me to go to trial with a lawyer I don’t want?” Steelman responded he was not answering any questions, the Times Free Press reports.

The association representing state employees is calling on Tennessee to stop using private prisons, a move that comes a week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would end its contracts with private prison operators. It is a new issue for the Tennessee State Employee Association, which has typically focused on issues involving working conditions and compensation. The group, which represents correctional officers and other state employees, argues there is “simply no good reason to continue paying a private prison company that provides an inferior product, lower levels of safety and security, and debatable cost savings for the public.” The Tennessean has the story.

An Oct. 11 trial date has been set in the case of state Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, who was charged earlier this month with stealing opponent Mark Lovell’s yard signs, the Commercial Appeal reports. Todd acknowledges taking the signs, but contends the landowner gave him exclusive rights to place signs at the property. According to police, the property owner says he never gave anyone access to the land. Regardless of how the legal case unfolds, Todd will not be returning to the House. He lost his primary election to Lovell earlier this month.

Former state Rep. Joe Armstrong’s lawyer is arguing in a new motion that if his client was not found guilty of trying to evade taxes, then he cannot be found guilty of filing a false tax return, Knoxnews reports. The motion also argues that prosecutors were required to present evidence distinguishing the crime of tax evasion from that of filing a false tax return, which they did not do. Lawyers are asking the court to judicially acquit Armstrong of the felony charge or grant a new trial. Armstrong, a Knoxville Democrat who served 14 terms in the state legislature, was on trial earlier this month in connection with the handling of income taxes on a $321,000 windfall from a cigarette tax stamp deal he made with a Knoxville tobacco wholesaler in 2007.

Two professors at the University of Tennessee College of Law have been appointed to the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Val Vojdik, the Waller Lansden Distinguished Professor of Law, and Brian Krumm, associate professor of law and director of the college’s Business Law and Trademark Clinic, were selected as Knoxville’s sole representatives on the committee. They join two educators from Middle Tennessee State University, who were announced by that school last week.

Expanding on an opinion released in July, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery clarified Monday that cities may contract with red-light camera companies and employees of those companies may view the video footage without violating state law. Under current law, only a certified police officer can determine whether laws were broken, but since vendors engaging in sorting or pre-screening of video footage “are not making a determination that a violation has occurred” their involvement is allowable. Read the opinion and a story about the decision in Knoxnews.

The family and friends of Johnson City attorney Janie Lindamood will honor her memory on Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Barn at Boone Falls, 1770 Old Gray Station Rd., the Washington County Bar Association announced today. Visitors are asked to use the entrance at 110 Kim Dr. The celebration will be casual and include live entertainment, food and beverages. Lindamood died Aug. 13 at the age of 65. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Coalition for Kids in Johnson City, which is part of the GoFund Me account set up in her name.

Efforts to support the legal community in flood-ravaged Louisiana now include a message board where those wanting to help can find requests for assistance from lawyers in need of office space, supplies and furniture. The service compliments a number of sites announced last week that provide ways to donate financially. These include the Louisiana State Bar Association’s SOLACE program, which distributes funding to those in need, the Baton Rouge Bar Association and the Lafayette Bar Association, which are in areas most heavily affected by flooding.

Nashville lawyer Noel Francis Stahl died Aug. 11 at the age of 68. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and its law school, Stahl served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and Judge Advocate General office from 1973-1977. He worked at Miller & Martin and Butler Snow, practicing in the areas of product liability and medical professional liability law, and retired in 2015. A celebration of life will be conducted at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to Alive Hospice, Nashville Youth Hockey League, St. Thomas Health Foundation, Thistle Farms or a charity of the donor’s choice. The Tennessean has more on his life.

Johnson City attorney Janie Lindamood died Aug. 13 at the age of 65. She is being remembered by colleagues as a fierce advocate for the children she represented in court as a juvenile and family law attorney and as a generous mentor to young lawyers. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Lindamood worked as a hairstylist, as a florist and in healthcare administration. She earned her law degree in 1996 from the Oklahoma City University Law School. The family is planning a celebration of life next month. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Coalition for Kids in Johnson City, which is part of the GoFund Me account set up in her name. The Johnson City Press has more on her life.