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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.

By a party-line 7 to 2 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended to the full Senate a plan (SJR-88, from Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston) to allow the legislature to appoint the Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter. The measure requires a constitutional amendment. Observers believe the measure may see a rockier road on the Senate floor, where some members have expressed reservations about partisan politics in the process. The TBA supports the present method of selection of the AG by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The Department of Justice confirmed that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed last week in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference with American elections, the BBC reports. Sessions is the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to be questioned by former FBI director and special counsel Robert Muller’s team. So far four individuals have been charged as a part of the probe.
A New York investor is suing to force the sale of the Gibson Guitar Valley Arts building, a prominent Nashville property that has been vacant for months, the Nashville Post reports. Last week Starguitar LLC became the second investor to file a motion in Davidson County Chancery Court asking to intervene in the legal dispute between Gibson and Somera Road, the investment firm that agreed to purchase the property for $11 million in December. The court will consider the request on Feb. 9.
The publicist of late singer/songwriter Glen Campbell has been subpoenaed to testify in a fight over Campbell’s competence when he signed a now disputed will, The Tennessean reports. Sanford Brokaw, who publicly disclosed Campbell’s death from Alzheimer’s disease last year, must appear in Davidson County Probate Court on Feb. 20. Three of the singer’s children who were cut out of his $50 million estate are challenging a 2006 will filed by his widow.
TeShaun David Moore of Shelby County was publicly censured yesterday by Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court further ordered him to pay restitution to his client and to pay costs and expenses to the Board of Professional Responsibility. On Feb. 2, 2017, a petition for discipline was filed against Moore. Prior to the final hearing, Moore executed a conditional guilty plea acknowledging he unreasonably delayed retaining an expert, failed to notify his client of the motion hearing date, failed to consult with the client prior to entering a nonsuit of the case and unreasonably delayed notifying his client of the dismissal of the case without prejudice.
The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday suspended Barry Keith Maxwell from the practice of law for 75 days. Upon completion of his suspension, he will be placed on probation for one year, subject to the condition that he submit to an evaluation by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) and comply with any monitoring requirements TLAP deems necessary. Maxwell must pay the Board of Professional Responsibility’s costs and expenses and court costs within 90 days. A complaint filed in August 2015 alleged that Maxwell used a portion of a client’s cash settlement for a personal expense believing that he could earn that money back quickly to repay his client. He advised his client of this after using the funds; however, repayment was delayed as Maxwell was subsequently suspended for non-payment of his annual registration dues.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee yesterday suspended Lisa Zarzour Bowman from the practice of law for one year with 30 days being an active suspension and the remainder served on probation with the appointment of a practice monitor. In addition, she must pay the Board’s costs in the disciplinary proceeding. On Aug. 24, 2016, a Petition for Discipline containing one complaint was filed against Bowman alleging lack of diligence, lack of communication and incompetent representation. After a trial upon the merits, the hearing panel found she failed to timely prepare and file documents with the trial court for a period of nearly 15 months, failed to reasonably communicate with her client regarding changes made in the final decree of divorce previously approved by the client, and filed a final decree of divorce not approved by the client.

The TBA Winter CLE Blast is offering programming from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, giving you the possibility of completing up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit. You can create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. The registration desk will be open all day. 
TBA partner Fastcase today announced that it will begin offering a collection of expert treatises, handbooks and other secondary sources from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., Law Sites Blog reports. The collection includes 129 titles covering areas of law such as bankruptcy, business, construction, elder law, employment, estate planning, family, litigation, health, insurance, pension and benefits, personal injury and real estate. Fastcase users will see the new titles in the library immediately.
A lawsuit has been filed against the Maury County Board of Education and Tad Cummins, the former teacher facing kidnapping charges for fleeing the state last year with a 15-year-old student, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit seeks damages from both Cummins and the school district, claiming school officials ignored clear warning signs regarding Cummins’ behavior. Cummins has pleaded not guilty to transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual conduct and obstruction of justice.
The American Bar Association House of Delegates will consider about three dozen resolutions at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., including recommendations to expand access to the courts, limit use of mandatory sentences, encourage more attention to lawyer health and well-being, and improve civil rights protections for Americans, particularly on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The 601-member House will meet Feb. 5 at 8:30 a.m. to conclude the Midyear Meeting, which begins Jan. 31.
Gov. Bill Haslam today unveiled a comprehensive $30 million proposal to combat the opioid epidemic in the state, The Tennessean reports. The plan will consist of three main components: treatment, prevention and law enforcement. The largest portion — $25 million — will go towards paying for treatment and recovery programs, including supplying emergency rooms with specialists and addiction-fighting drugs. The plan also provides for education for children, adding 25 agents to the TBI and adding more than 500 beds to the prison system while expanding treatment services.
A Morgan County man who concocted a plot to rip off the Department of Energy and hid millions from the IRS was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison, Knoxnews reports. Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips sentenced Joseph A. Armes II, who paid family members off the books using a government contract. Armes is currently a key contractor for Google in its efforts to bring fiber optic cable to Nashville.
Davidson County lawyer Jefre Scot Goldtrap today received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Goldtrap failed to prepare written discovery requests on behalf of his client despite the client’s requests on a number of occasions for him to do so. Goldtrap also failed to adequately communicate with his client about the status of his case and the status of attorney fees; additionally his billing invoice, which included only four entries over a six-month period, was inadequate and billed for time that should not have been billed. A public censure is a rebuke and warning to the attorney, but it does not affect the attorney’s ability to practice law.
Gary Humble, former assistant U.S. attorney in Chattanooga, is running for the post of Signal Mountain town judge in the Aug. 2 election, the Times Free Press reports. He is the only candidate to have filed his qualifying petition so far. Since his retirement from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Humble has maintained a private law practice, and has also previously served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law.
Murfreesboro lawyer Guy Roosevelt Dotson died on Jan. 16, at the age of 76. A native of Elora, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. and was a 1967 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He was appointed District Attorney General for the 16th Judicial District in 1969 and served in that position until his retirement in 1995. Funeral services will be tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Woodfin Memorial Chapel, 1488 Lascassas Pike. Burial will follow in Evergreen Cemetery, 519 Greenland Drive. Visitation with the family will also be at Woodfin Chapel, from 3 to 7 p.m. today. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Charity Circle of Murfreesboro or the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County.
Members of a Texas jury went ahead and convicted Gloria Romero Perez, on trial for sex trafficking, despite the fact that the judge informed them that God told him she was innocent, the ABA Journal reports. The jurors had already decided to convict Perez on a charge of continuous trafficking of a person, when Judge Jack Robison entered the jury room and said God told him she should not be convicted. Robison recused himself from sentencing and Perez was given 25 years.
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Shelby County lawyer John Edward Dunlap on Friday received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Dunlap represented a client in a bankruptcy that was dismissed for failure to provide documentation. He failed to respond to his client’s requests for information for two months. In another client matter, Dunlap received a personal injury settlement for his client that he properly held in his trust account. However, the client passed away, and Dunlap mistakenly believed that he complied with a court order to release a portion of the funds to pay a subrogation claim. Over two years later, a third party filed a lawsuit to collect the funds, and Dunlap remitted payment. A public censure is a rebuke and warning to the attorney, but it does not affect the attorney’s ability to practice law.
Marti Lee Kaufman of Shelby County on Friday received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Kaufman practiced law for seven business days after her law license was administratively suspended for non-compliance with continuing legal education requirements. A public censure is a rebuke and warning to the attorney, but does not affect the attorney’s ability to practice law.
A Knoxville motel with a troubled history has been hit with a lawsuit over a gospel singer who was kidnapped, beaten and robbed while staying there, Knoxnews reports. Smyrna-based singer Dennis Humphries was staying at the West Knoxville Motel 6 on June 5 when he was attacked, chased into his room, tied him up in the bathroom and robbed. The lawsuit alleges that hotel security saw the attack and did nothing, and a clerk only called 911 at another guest’s urging but did not go to the room to investigate. The complaint seeks $1 million in damages.
The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it would take on the case against the latest version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which blocks individuals from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, Fox News reports. The court will hear arguments in April and is expected to issue a ruling in June. This version of the ban applies to citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as North Korea and certain people from Venezuela.

The Administrative Office of the Courts will modernize its disbursement system for indigent representation payments to attorneys, interpreters, expert witnesses, and investigators in February. The new AOC Claims and Payment (ACAP) system will replace the Indigent Claim Entry (ICE) system and will allow users to more accurately and efficiently input and track claims for payment. The change will affect all attorneys, judges, and court interpreters who use ICE to make or approve claims. Expert witnesses will be added to the ACAP system later in the year. ICE will go offline on Jan. 31 at 4:30 p.m., and ACAP will go live on Feb. 5. All current ICE users will receive an email with their new user ID and log-in on Feb. 5.

Yesterday Hawkins County lawyer John Stephen Anderson received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. A client hired Anderson to represent her in a car accident. Though Anderson filed a lawsuit, he did not timely serve process on the defendant.  For three years, Anderson falsely told his client he was in the process of trying to settle the case. The lawsuit was dismissed by the court. Because Anderson has received prior public discipline for similar conduct during the same time period, he is hereby publicly censured for these violations.|

After its resurrection in the Tennessee General Assembly at the start of the 2018 session, the school “bathroom bill” has been dropped by its sponsor, House Rep. Gerald McCormick, the Times Free Press reports. McCormick said the bill is no longer necessary after he had assurances from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery that he can and will step in with legal aid for school systems facing lawsuits over LGBT access policies. A version of the bill first appeared in 2016, but did not pass.