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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.

Commercial third-party litigation financing has grown from an uncommon occurrence in the 90’s — estimated at maybe $100 million worth of funding — to a $4 billion industry with at least 30 dedicated funders in 2017, the Memphis Daily News reports. This type of litigation is seen by funders as a way to diversify their investments, but it has drawn criticism from some, who suggest the financing helps “unmeritorious cases" move ahead because it spreads risk across a broad portfolio of litigation. Memphis attorney Lucian Pera offered a counterpoint, noting “Nobody puts $1 million into a $10 million claim if they’re not convinced there’s some merit there.”
Nashville attorney Theodore George Pappas died on April 18. He was 92. Pappas, a North Carolina native, served in the U.S. Army, trained in Russian and military intelligence, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He graduated from Vanderbilt Law and later joined Bass Berry and Sims in 1966, where he was the firm's first managing partner. Pappas was also a former Nashville Bar Association president. Visitation will be held tomorrow at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church from 4 -7 p.m., with a Trisagion at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the same church. Donations may be made to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 4905 Franklin Pike, Nashville.
Henry Hooker, a Nashville attorney who helped transform the Iroquois Steeplechase into a million-dollar fundraiser for a children’s hospital, died today, the Tennessean reports. He was 84. Hooker served two years in the U.S. Army and graduated from Tulane Law School before joining the firm of Hooker and Hooker and practicing with his brother, John Jay Hooker Jr. He was also an entrepreneur who had many business ventures. He served on the boards of Fisk University, Montgomery Bell Academy and Ensworth School. Funeral details will be posted when available.
Attorneys are needed to represent students in the Connecting Attendance to Results in Education (CARE), a community-based truancy intervention program created by Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Metro Student Attendance Center and Advocates for Women’s and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE). A training session, which is required in order to represent a student, will be held at Waller, 511 Union Street in Nashville, on May 2 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. The program will train attorneys about truancy laws, the truancy adjudication process, the structure of the CARE program and the boundaries of the attorney-client (student) relationship. Register at the Nashville Bar website.
Williamson County businessman Bill Lee, former CEO of Lee Company, will seek the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee, the Tennessean reports. Lee, a political novice, will face former Tennessee Economic and Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and likely several others in the GOP primary. On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has announced his candidacy as well.
A case in Knox County asks the question of whether a motorist who causes a death can be charged with murder under state law, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Ralpheal Cameron Coffey of Oak Ridge is accused of killing an innocent motorist and his own passenger while behind the wheel trying to outrun law enforcement in May 2016. Prosecutors convinced a grand jury to charge Coffey with two counts of second-degree murder, a charge that hasn’t been used for a case like this one since 1989.

The Tennessee Bar Association is seeking to fill the position of Sections and Committees Coordinator. This position coordinates communications, meetings, initiatives and programs (including CLE and pro bono) for the sections and committees of the TBA. More about the position, including how to apply and the qualifications for candidates, can be found on either LinkedIn or the Nashville Center For Non-Profit Management.

Conservative think tank Beacon Center of Tennessee filed a lawsuit against the city of Nashville for its recent affordable housing ordinance, calling it an unconstitutional mandate, the Nashville Post reports. The law requires apartment developers building five or more units and requesting variances for greater densities or heights to also include a percentage of new affordable housing units in the project. The suit seeks injunctive relief from the ordinance and a judge’s declaration that it is unconstitutional. 
Francis Michael Deslauriers, of Tipton County, received a public censure on April 20 from the Board of Professional Responsibility. Deslauriers was hired to represent a client in a suit against an insurance company, but in more than three years he took little action other than filing the suit and routinely failed to communicate with his client. Later the suit was dismissed. The censure is a warning but does not affect Deslauriers’ ability to practice law.

On April 20, Rutherford County lawyer Kirk D. Catron received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. In June 2016, Catron complained in court about the actions of a special master, demonstrating disrespectful and obstreperous conduct. The censure is a warning but does not affect Catron’s ability to practice law.

The campaign committee of President Donald Trump has paid nearly $4 million in legal fees and settlements as a result of numerous civil lawsuits, Politico reports. The reported payments range from a few hundred dollars for legal consulting to $3.3 million to Jones Day, the recipient of the overwhelming majority of legal fees paid by the campaign. The suits allege assault, incitement, threats and other illegal behavior by the president, his supporters and staff. In some cases, Trump's company lawyers have assisted law firms paid by the political campaign, blurring the line between business and political operations.
 
The American Society of Association Executives has released a statement against a Tennessee bill that would require state licensing boards to create unique ethics rules for each profession, thus undermining ethical codes established by professional associations. “This bill potentially puts additional unnecessary burdens on all state licensed professionals in Tennessee, and may cause Tennessee professionals to be out of compliance with nationally recognized standards for their vocation,” the organization wrote in a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam on April 19. The bill was created to allow mental health counselors and therapists to disregard sections of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics in order to deny services to LGBT individuals. ASAE argues that the legislation gives "rise to state sanctioned discrimination."
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was “amazed” that a judge “sitting on an island in the Pacific” could halt President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order. Sessions' comment drew criticism from Hawaiian elected officials, the Hill reports. A federal judge in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Hawaii put a temporary suspension on Trump’s second travel ban in March. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, pointed out in a statement against Sessions’ comments that the AG voted to confirm the judge in question while he was still representing Alabama in the Senate.
Greene County Criminal Court Judge Alex Pearson denied the released of Karen Howell, who was imprisoned as a 17-year-old nearly two decades ago for murder, Knoxnews reports. Howell and five others admitted to kidnapping and murdering a family of four in 1997 and were sentenced to life in prison without parole. While the U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled that life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders, Greene County prosecutors say the rulings apply to state laws that mandate life sentences, not plea deals like Howell's.
A Memphis-area businessman was found not guilty of rape today, after his defense attorney's closing arguments included that women are “especially good” at lying because “they’re the weaker sex,” the Commercial Appeal reports. Mark Giannini was accused of raping and choking a woman who came to his mansion for a job interview. Defense attorney Steve Farese also alluded to the victim’s clothing during his closing, saying her top wasn’t in evidence because “they” don’t want the jury to see it because it was revealing. Giannini has been charged with raping three women, beginning in 2002. 
Nearly half of all people released from prison will return within three years, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Correction on Thursday, the Tennessean reports. However, recidivism has gone down by 3.4 percent, from 50.5 percent in 2010 to 47.1 percent in 2016. "These encouraging numbers demonstrate that we're on the right track," said TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker.

Join the TBA at the Bar Center in Nashville for a CLE on the intersection of real estate and divorce law on May 8. The program will offer a panel presentation covering real estate practices in complaints and family law. Speakers will address financial problems that can occur post-divorce relating to credit problems, foreclosures and bankruptcy. Sessions will also address types of deeds and how they are handled in divorce cases.

The Arkansas Supreme Court will allow the state to use a lethal injection drug in upcoming executions, despite a supplier’s complaint that it was sold to the state to be used for inmate medical care only, WREG reports. Justices lifted a judge’s order preventing the state from using vecuronium bromide, clearing one of the main legal hurdles the state faces in its efforts to carry out two executions tonight.
Three Memphis Police Department officers have filed a lawsuit against the city for not allowing them the opportunity to reschedule a promotional test that they missed due to their military service, the Commercial Appeal reports. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court Western Division and claims that about 20 officers experienced this problem. They are seeking an order to require the city to promote them or else offer a make-up test.
Though U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has prioritized aggressive law enforcement, there is not a single U.S. attorney in place across the country one month after Sessions dismissed the remaining Obama-era U.S. attorneys, the Washington Post reports. The Justice Department also lacks many heads of top units, including civil rights, criminal and national security divisions. Filling the vacancies has been complicated by the absence of a deputy attorney general as well. Rod J. Rosenstein has been nominated but not yet confirmed for the role.
The state Senate voted unanimously to make public the details of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probes into officer-involved shooting deaths, the Times Free Press reports. Under current state law, TBI investigation records are exempt from public disclosure in an exclusion to the state's Open Records Act unless directed to by a court. The companion bill will be heard in the House next week.
Attorney General Herbert Slatery says in a new opinion that legislation requiring the use of the “natural and ordinary meaning” of undefined words in Tennessee code -- including “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father” -- could conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling as well as state laws about interpreting gender-specific words as inclusive, the Times Free Press reports. The Senate could vote on the bill next week. The House passed it last month.
The American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let stand an injunction blocking President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the ABA Journal reports. The brief was filed on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project and other plaintiffs. The ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution at this year’s midyear meeting, raising concerns about the original travel ban and urging the president to “not use religion or nationality as a basis for barring an otherwise eligible individual from admission to the United States.”
Christy Tosh Crider, a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Nashville office, has been named chair of its Health Care Litigation Group, the Tennessee Ledger reports. She will continue to serve as chair of the firm’s Long Term Care Group, as well as the Woman’s Initiative. Crider’s practice is concentrated in the long-term care and behavioral health industries, managing the litigation of numerous long term care facilities around the country.

Registration ends soon for the 2017 Business Forum. This year's forum focuses on indemnification. On April 28, the program will address the constituents, structures, functions, and contents of indemnification provisions that are commonly negotiated in a variety of business transactions – two tracks provide targeted learning. See detail on this year's faculty.