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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.

Members of the Supreme Court's Indigent Representation Task Force today heard from a full slate of speakers during the listening session at the Nashville School of Law. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur led off the session, presenting solid data on the needs for additional resources for indigent representation and urging the task force to set its sights high and not just settle for piecemeal solutions. Ramsaur outlined a proposal the TBA – along with the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the State District Defenders Conference and the Post Conviction Defender – put forth in 2004 that would have created the Tennessee Indigent Representation System (TIRS). “We do think the TIRS proposal … offers the best hope for a sustained effort to be adequate, effective, comprehensive and accountable and practical, leading to a solution of which we can be proud.” The commission also heard from 13 other speakers and a presentation from the Administrative Office of the Courts. The final stop on the Task Force’s listening tour will be Aug. 11 in Franklin.

A law firm in Houston is suing a former client who posted negative reviews about the firm’s attorneys on Yelp and Facebook. The Law Offices of Tuan A. Khuu and Associates is alleging defamation in its suit against 20-year-old Lan Cai, who posted on Yelp that the attorneys “were very pushy” and unresponsive. Cai also wrote on Facebook that the firm was “super unprofessional.” Firm attorney Keith Nguyen said the suit was filed after Cai refused to comply with a cease-and-desist letter, asking her to remove the posts. The ABA Journal has more.
A federal appeals court today struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law, finding that it was “passed with racially discriminatory intent,” Politico reports. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals panel was unanimous in its rebuke. This decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a decision in April upholding the law. Earlier this month, a federal court ruled that a similar law in Texas violated the Voting Rights Act. Tennessee also has a voter ID law on the books.
The Nashville Predators hockey team scored a key legal victory today, when team co-owner David Freeman’s $250 million lawsuit against the franchise was sent to arbitration, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Freeman sued the Predators on June 23, saying he had been unfairly and illegally pushed aside. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle granted a motion made by the National Hockey League to force Freeman's dispute to go back under the supervision of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
A suit has been filed in the case of a 23-year-old man shot by a Bradley County Sheriff’s Deputy last July, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The family of Allan F. Light III filed a lawsuit in Bradley County Court in Tuesday, stating that Deputy Tiffany Oakley needlessly killed Light and that the sheriff’s office covered up the incident. In Oakley’s statement given when the shooting occurred, Oakley said she was assaulted by a stranger outside of her home and used deadly force to defend herself. The lawsuit claims Light and Oakley were familiar, and that Light was unarmed and attempting to get away.
Gov. Bill Haslam named David Purkey the new commissioner of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Nashville Post reports. Purkey worked under the previous commissioner, Bill Gibbons, as the assistant commissioner since 2011, and also served as the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency since 2014. He will assume his position Sept. 1.

The Tennessean today offers an in-depth breakdown of the ongoing state judicial retention elections. The article cites the TBA's survey of 13,000 attorneys, released in June, that shows nine out of 10 lawyers recommend or highly recommend retaining Supreme Court Justices Jeffrey Bivens, Holly Kirby and Roger Page. It also details the history of the current campaign and previous retention elections.

An attorney for the family of 25-year-old Anthony Michael Edwards of Sevierville confirmed today that Edwards had died after a scuffle with a Blount County sheriff’s deputy. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Edwards suffered a head injury when Deputy Jerry Burns attempted to take him into custody early Monday morning. The altercation occurred after Edwards gave Burns a false name and attempted to flee while being questioned. The deputy was investigating a report of a suspicious person in the area.
A Morristown man who believed Jesus commanded him to murder his family will be set free after 26 years, following an appellate court ruling on Wednesday. David Cloar, a Vietnam veteran who was found not guilty of killing his father and stepmother by reason of insanity, was sent to the Middle Tennessee Health Institute in Murfreesboro in 1992, and has been there ever since. Officials at the facility have been trying to free Cloar for 15 years, saying his illness was in remission with medication. Prosecutors have 60 days to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to review the decision. The Knoxville News Sentinel has more.

Davidson County lawyer Dale M. Quillen on Wednesday was transferred to disability inactive status and will not be allowed to practice law until showing evidence that the disability has been removed. Read the BPR notice.

The license of Sullivan County lawyer Wendal Douglas Jackson was transferred to disability inactive status today. He had earlier been temporarily suspended after he was found to pose a substantial threat of harm to the public. Read the BPR notice.

A Nashville lawyer was disbarred on Wednesday, following an August 2015 petition for discipline that included a complaint of misconduct. The complaint stated that Leroy Cain Jr., received a settlement check of $8,250 from a defendant, but did not remit the entire amount of the settlement. Cain was ordered to remit the remainder of the settlement but failed to do so. Read the BPR notice here.
Two new attorneys have been hired at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Shaina Thompson joins in the family law section,after volunteering and working as a contract attorney with the Nashville office of the Legal Aid Society since October 2015. Allison Jones join as the Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership attorney, following her work as a law clerk for Senior Judge John T. Nixon of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Rutherford County will establish a Mental Health Court by 2017, the Daily News Journal reports. The court will be organized under Recovery Court Director Trey King, with the goal of reducing people returning to crime and abusing drugs and alcohol. King said that General Sessions Court Judge Barry Tidwell will preside, with $140,000 in funding from the state paying to hire a therapist and two case workers.

Nashville attorneys Tony Greer, Andrew Rhea and Benjamin Whitehouse will present a special CLE webcast on captive insurance on Aug. 23. The program will use case examples to demonstrate the process of conducting a feasibility study and determining how to structure a captive. If you are unavailable to attend on this date, the program will be rebroadcast on Oct. 11 and will be available on demand for up to one year. Learn more or register for the program here.

The challenger in the 18th District's GOP primary on Wednesday swore a warrant charging his opponent with assault, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The warrant filed by Steve Hall comes after he and incumbent Rep. Martin Daniel were involved in a shoving match during a live radio forum last week. Daniel’s lawyer said the warrant comes as a surprise, as Daniel previously apologized for the incident.
Former Oklahoma state senator and graduate of the first Vanderbilt Law class to include African-Americans, E. Melvin Porter, died on Tuesday at the age of 86. Porter was elected to the Oklahoma senate in 1964 as the first black senator in the state. He served for 22 years, during which he introduced the Anti-Discrimination Act. News station KFOR-TV has more.

The Davidson County General Sessions Court will hold its annual expungement clinic Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Covenant Christian Church, 2201 Osage St., Nashville 37208. Attorney volunteers are needed and a meeting for prospective volunteers is set for tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the General Sessions Judges Library on the fourth floor of the Justice A. A. Birch Building. Judge Rachel Bell, presiding judge of the court, is organizing the meeting and the clinic. Bell reports that more than 300 people usually attend the clinic.

The ABA House of Delegates will meet Aug. 8-9 in San Francisco for its annual meeting. Items on the agenda include a proposal that would permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time; an amendment to the model rules of conduct to add anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions; a proposal urging states to abolish probation systems supervised by private, for-profit firms; and initiatives that expand ABA efforts to diversify the legal profession and the judiciary.

Tennessee college athletes will be before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this week arguing they should be paid for the use of their names and images in the college sports industry and on television, the Tennessean reports. The athletes are asking a panel of three judges to reopen their case, which a Nashville federal judge dismissed last year. Ten former football and basketball athletes, many of whom attended Vanderbilt University or the University of Tennessee, filed a $5 million lawsuit in 2014 saying their images were used without their permission by the broadcast networks and eight NCAA conferences.

The Montgomery County Courts Center was evacuated Tuesday morning after an inmate escaped from a holding cell and hid out in lower level of the building, the Leaf Chronicle reports. Jose Luis Garcia, 45, left his holding cell at about 10:45 a.m. At 12:10 p.m., a deputy and his K-9 dog found Garcia in the duct work above the holding area. Garcia was awaiting a 1:30 p.m. court hearing on charges of auto theft, property theft, fugitive from justice and two counts of driving on a revoked license. He will face additional charges for his escape attempt as well as vandalism, officials said.

Davidson County lawyer Dana L. Nero received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 26. The court found that Nero gave her client erroneous advice about when he would be released if he pleaded guilty in a criminal matter. Nero promised the client, who had been incarcerated for 27 months, that he would go home shortly after pleading guilty and facing a sentence of six years. However, release from a sentence of that length requires the approval of the parole board. Read the BPR notice.

The ABA has filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to apply a 2014 copyright ruling, which limited use of the “laches defense,” to patent cases. The doctrine of laches allows dismissal of suits that are unreasonably delayed. The ABA argues patent cases should not be subject to laches during the statutory six-year damages period, and that laches should be available only in the most extraordinary circumstances and to prevent injunctive and other prospective equitable relief. Neglecting to take this action will “continue to encourage rushed, premature filings, and discourage non-litigation resolutions such as settlement,” the brief argues. The ABA Journal has more on the issue.

TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur is among those who will address the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force when it meets Friday in Nashville for the next stop on its listening tour. The hearing will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville School of Law, Room 200, 4013 Armory Oaks Dr., Nashville 37204. The TBA has long supported an increase in the compensation rate for those who handle court-appointed cases. After Friday's session, the task force will hold one last hearing in Franklin on Aug.11.

Photo credit: Legal Aid of East Tennessee

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) presented four awards and heard from Justice Roger Page during its Annual Pro Bono Night in Chattanooga. The Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award went to Chattanooga attorney William A. “Trey” Harris III for his service to the LAET Board. The Bruce C. Bailey Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award went to Susan R. Gruber, who kept regular office hours at LAET. The Pro Bono Firm of the Year Award went to the Law Offices of David Coates, and the Alexander Hamilton Award, which recognizes a non-legal entity, went to Habitat for Humanity for presenting an estate planning clinic where more than 40 Habitat families were served. Read more about the award recipients.