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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.

Thomson Reuters last week announced plans to reduce its workforce by 3,200 and close 30 percent of its offices by the end of 2020, Law Sites reports. Co-COO Neil Masterson said the reduction won't impact the “go-to-market capacity" of the company, which is the dominant provider of research and information services for the legal profession.

Four Republicans will face off in a special primary election next month for the state Senate seat most recently held by former Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, The Commercial Appeal reports. Former state Rep. Steve McManus, former Shelby County commissioners George Chism and Heidi Shafer, and Covington businessman Paul Rose will compete in the Jan. 24 Republican primary. Eric Coleman of Bartlett was the lone Democrat to file candidate paperwork for the seat before the deadline yesterday. The general election is slated for March 12. 
Amy J. Amundsen was honored this week at the Memphis Bar Association’s annual dinner meeting with the association's highest award, the Judge Jerome Turner Lawyer’s Lawyer Award. This honor is given to a member of the Memphis Bar Association who has practiced law for more than 15 years and who exemplifies the qualities in the “Guidelines for Professional Courtesy and Conduct.” Also at the banquet the MBA gavel was officially passed to new president Annie Christoff, and new board members were introduced.

At a hearing for Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke, who was charged in the shooting death of a man who was fleeing in a foot pursuit, Judge Melissa Blackburn decided that the defense would be allowed to discuss aspects of victim Daniel Hambrick’s previous criminal history. The Tennessean reports that Blackburn ruled that Facebook photos showing Hambrick using a gun during a target practice and holding money would not be admissible. 
New data from the American Bar Association shows that enrollment of first-year students at accredited law schools is up 2.9 percent, The ABA Journal reports. An even greater bump came in non-JD enrollment – there was an 8.2 percent increase in individuals signing up for LLMs, masters and certificate programs. 

A Clarksville doctor faces 45 counts and a possible 30-year sentence in federal court for unlawfully distributing opioids and committing health care fraud, The Nashville Post reports. Samson Orusa, who is also a pastor for God's Sanctuary Church in Clarksville, was charged with multiple counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance outside the bounds of professional medical practice, health care fraud and money laundering. Beginning in January 2014, Orusa allegedly opened his medical practice with the intent of mass distribution for personal gain.

Attorneys for Nashville TV station NewsChannel5 have asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to take up the station’s appeal in a case that threatens to close some public records. The station had appealed a ruling by Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin, who sided with arguments by state attorneys that records, such as travel expenditures, cease to be public once law enforcement officials develop a potential interest in them. Station lawyers argued in their motion that the state's highest court needs to "assume jurisdiction over this appeal and decide this important issue of public concern on an expedited basis."

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Dozens of retired state and federal judges this week called on U.S. immigration officials to stop making courthouse arrests of people suspected of being in the country illegally, The Associated Press reports. Nearly 70 former judges from 23 states — including federal judges and state Supreme Court justices — said in a letter sent to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald Vitiello that courthouse arrests are disrupting the criminal justice system. The judges are urging Vitiello to add courthouses to the list of so-called “sensitive locations” that are generally free from immigration enforcement, like schools and places of worship.

Longtime Chattanooga attorney Thomas A. Caldwell died Wednesday at the age of 94. A native of the city, Caldwell was a U.S. Navy veteran, serving during World War II until his discharge in 1946. He graduated from Harvard Law in 1949, upon which he began work for the Marshall Plan in locations across the globe before settling in Washington, D.C. He returned home in 1953, and through subsequent name changes and mergers, his firm went on to become Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC. A volunteer and a philanthropist, he received the Chattanooga Bar Association's Ralph Kelley Humanitarian Award in 1999. He was the first president of the Chattanooga Legal Aid Society in 1965, later being named to the Legal Aid Hall of Fame in 2011. Just this year he was named "Colonel Aide de Camp" by Gov. Bill Haslam. A celebration of his life will be announced at a later date.
Twenty-Third Judicial District Recovery Court Director Doug Beecham was honored this week by the Tennessee Association of Recovery Courts with the prestigious Christy Vernon Spirit Award, which is voted upon by members to recognize excellence in the profession. Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash made the presentation at the group's annual meeting in Murfreesboro, attended by recovery court professionals from around the state. “Doug has been instrumental in building our Recovery Court from its humble beginnings 20 years ago,” Lockert-Mash said. "Doug has involved the court in programs to help the elderly, to clear and rebuild a home for fire victims, to care for homeless animals, to feed the hungry, to assist the poor with utility bills, to find appropriate treatment for those with substance abuse or medical needs, to help recovering addicts that need dental work or eyeglasses, and to provide Christmas presents to poor children, just to name a few.”
Attorneys suing Atlanta-based credit bureau Equifax in a massive class action stemming from the firm’s 2017 data breach want documents and witness statements the company turned over to Congress, Law.com reports. Plaintiffs counsel is seeking the information because the rules in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia generally preclude discovery until after a judge has ruled on motions to dismiss. As a result, once defendant parties move to dismiss a case, little or no discovery occurs until after the court rules. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a majority report Tuesday that concluded the data breach that exposed personal and financial data of an estimated 148 million consumers was preventable.

Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking voting in the U.S. Senate this week to confirm a nominee who received a “not qualified” rating from the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, The ABA Journal reports. Jonathan Kobes will serve on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The standing committee thought Kobes didn’t have the needed experience and did not show evidence of being able to fulfill the writing requirements required of a federal appeals judge, according to a Sept. 14 letter explaining the rating.
Davidson County lawyer Allyn Rubright Gibson was reinstated to the practice of law effective Nov. 19, 2018. The Tennessee Supreme Court noted that Gibson had been placed on inactive status in October 2013 but filed a petition for reinstatement in November. The Board of Professional Responsibility stated that the petition was satisfactory and met the requirements of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9.
When the Law School Admission Test is given digitally starting in July 2019, it will be on a Microsoft Surface Go tablet, The ABA Journal reports. Microsoft is also working with the Law School Admission Council on its platform known as the Admission Communication and Exchange System (ACES), which law schools use for student recruiting, admissions and ABA reporting requirements. A new version of ACES will be released next year.

Following a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that Cyntoia Brown must served 51 years in prison before being eligible for release, a state lawmaker is now urging for clemency for the Tennessee inmate, WSMV reports. Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, is asking Gov. Bill Haslam to pardon Brown, who is serving a life sentence for murdering a man who she claims was trafficking her when she was 16. Robinson said she is also working on legislation to exempt juveniles from parts of the 1989 Sentence Reform Act.
The TBA Young Lawyers Division Diversity Committee recently selected 13 law students for the 2019 Diversity Leadership Institute, a six-month leadership and mentoring program for law students. Now in its ninth year, the program is designed to help law students develop skills to succeed both as a students and attorneys, and empower them to contribute more to the legal community. It also matches students with mentors in a diverse variety of practice areas and helps them build relationships among students of diverse backgrounds.
James E. Brading died on Nov. 28 at his home in Johnson City. He was 85. A U. S. Army veteran and a 1961 graduate of Yale Law School, Brading practiced law in Upper East Tennessee for nearly 50 years, first with Wilson, Worley & Gamble, then as a sole practitioner, and finally with Herndon, Coleman, Brading & McKee, where he spent the bulk of his career.  He served for one year as a Circuit Judge for Tennessee’s First Judicial District. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine, to which Brading donated his body for medical education.

It's the holidays, so maybe you're feeling tired and a little overwhelmed? Maybe work and family demands are too much, but you feel like you just have to "soldier on?" Here's something that will help you reclaim your moxie to battle stressful events like personal and family illness that knock your work and life out of balance. Earn one dual (online) CLE hour.

Two new reports show law firms posted gains during the first three quarters this year that are the best in about a decade, The ABA Journal reports. The nation’s top 50 law firms outperformed other law firms, according to both reports, which were compiled by Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Legal Specialty Group and Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group. According to Wells Fargo, revenue increased 8.2 percent at the 50 top firms. Revenue growth was 5.7 percent at law firms ranked 51 to 100 and 2.3 percent for firms ranked 101 to 200. Niche firms outside the top 200 firms also performed well, with demand growing an average of 2.5 percent. The reports did also note a few negatives — the collection cycle has lengthened and law firm costs have risen.

The University of Tennessee has launched a new website called “Transparent UT,” a searchable database of information on students and faculty, which will include contracts for executive staff and salary information, The Tennessean reports. The database is part of a greater plan from Interim President Randy Boyd that also includes webcasting trustee and faculty senate meetings as well as the creation of a short-term board to serve as a Transparency Advisory Group.

Kevin M. Stack, professor at Vanderbilt Law School, has been appointed to a two-year term as a public member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent federal agency that advises the government on how to improve the administrative process. Stack is one of 40 public ACUS members selected from the private sector, each of whom are selected for their knowledge and experience of federal administrative procedure. Stack is an administrative law scholar whose recent work has examined the interpretation of regulations, rule making processes, statutory interpretation and theories of regulation.

Lipscomb University's final monthly legal clinic of the year at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 600 28th Avenue North, will be held Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m. Volunteers are needed. It will be an advice-only clinic with no expectation that you take on continuing representation. An informational packet that addresses common legal clinic questions will be provided. If you are interested, contact Randy Spivey.

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced Jonathan T. Skrmetti will join the attorney general’s office as the Chief Deputy in January. In his new role, Skrmetti will coordinate and oversee the substantive legal work of all five sections of the office. Skrmetti joins the office from Memphis where he has been a partner with Butler Snow LLP, an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.  In that role he investigated and prosecuted civil rights crimes and white-collar offenses.
Are you dreaming of a White Christmas? Well, maybe not in Tennessee. Then take a trip with the TBA, Feb. 2-7, to a snowy paradise just minutes from Lake Tahoe and earn 15 hours of CLE! This annual program is in its 34th year with dynamic speakers and a CLE schedule designed to make the most of your ski experience. Find out more now and be sure to book your hotel by Jan. 4 to get the special TBA discounted rate.