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

Henry County’s Courthouse Committee voted Tuesday to approve a new set of policies on the use of courtrooms and meeting rooms inside the county courthouse. The Paris Post-Intelligencer reports the policy now indicates who is authorized to use the rooms and also outlines the use of the rooms for ceremonial purposes. The new rules now go to the full County Commission for a vote later this month.

“Should teachers be given benefits if a hearing challenging the possible firing is delayed past 30 days?” The Tennesseean reports Tennessee Supreme Court justices are weighing that question as they review the state law that sets procedures for how school boards must handle the firing of tenured teachers. State law currently requires that a hearing “shall” not be set later than 30 days after a teacher asks for it. The debate stems from a case brought by a former Memphis high school teacher who did not receive a hearing until a year after her suspension.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month determined that the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law. Reuters reports the decision comes after Google in November submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car that has "no need for a human driver." "We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a 'driver' in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years,” NHTSA's letter said.

Following delays due to winter weather, the Chattanooga Bar Association last week presented awards and elected new board at its annual meeting. Among awards presented, the late John Higgason, who died Jan. 21, received the Harry Weill Zealous Practice of Law Award for his career of more than 60 years in Chattanooga. CBA YLD representative Jeffrey Maddux received the YLD Volunteer of the Year. The 2016 CBA Board includes: Judge Christie Mahn Sell, president; Lee Davis, president-elect; Bill Colvin, secretary; Steve Jacoway, treasurer. Barret Albritton, Marc Harwell, Linda Norwood, Jeffrey Billings, Curtis Bowe and John Harrison will serve as board members. Read more from the Hamilton County Herald.

The Tennessee Bar Foundation's Interest on Lawyers Trusts Accounts recently awarded a $112,936 grant to the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. The non-profit law firm also received grants from The West End Home Foundation and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The contributions will enable Legal Aid Society to help low-income individuals and families find legal civil assistance.

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld received the American Bar Association’s 2016 Stonewall Award for her work as a gay rights advocate. The award was presented Feb. 6 at the ABA LGBT Caucus as part of the organization’s mid-year meeting in San Diego. Rubenfeld was co-counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. In December, Rubenfeld and co-counsel TBA President Bill Harbison were named Nashvillians of the Year by Scene magazine for their work on the case.

Case summaries in yesterday’s issue of TBAToday were not included because of an error. Those summaries are now available in the online version of TBAToday

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday temporarily suspended Davidson County lawyer Quenton I. White from the practice of law. The court took the action after finding White, a former State Correction Commissioner and U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee, misappropriated funds and poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. White is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing clients by March 11. He was publicly censured by the court in 2013 for practicing law while his license was administratively suspended for IOLTA noncompliance and failure to pay the annual registration. Read the BPR release.

How much time do you spend on social media? The average lawyer spends 1.6 hours per week using social networking sites for professional purposes, according to the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. The survey also reported 85 percent of law firms have a website, compared to only 55 percent in 2012. LinkedIn is the most popular social media site for attorneys, followed by Facebook then Twitter. Read more from MyCase.

The TBA will offer a first-of-its-kind Tennessee Fashion Law CLE on March 31 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Topics include protecting fashion brands through copyright, regulations that govern merchandize labeling and disclosure, and employment issues unique to fashion law. The course, scheduled from 1 to 4:15 p.m., is approved for three CLE credits.

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday against the University of Tennessee alleges that university football players twice assaulted fellow teammate Drae Bowles for assisting the woman who accused former players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams of rape in 2014. Bowles, who transferred to Chattanooga after the 2014 season, received a subpoena to testify. The alleged female assault victim is one of six unnamed women who filed the suit. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

President Barack Obama signed Sen. Bob Corker’s Electrify Africa Act of 2015 (S.2152) into law earlier this week, Nooga reports. The bill will promote access to power services for 50 million people in sub-Saharan by 2020. “With limited foreign assistance dollars, we need to focus on projects like energy that can be a catalyst for long-term growth throughout the region and reduce poverty,” Corker, R-Tenn., said.

The Leaf-Chronicle reports Herb Patrick, a candidate for circuit judge, was asked to “tone down” his campaigning at a Clarksville event last weekend. A social media post from Jennifer Byard, assistant director of the Clarksville Parks and Recreation Department, accused Patrick of “annoying patrons” and speaking negatively to event staff.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, CNN reports. The regulations are on hold while the rules are challenged in court by a mostly Republican-led lawsuit from 29 states along with suits from organizations and industry groups. The states question the legality of the regulations. The four liberal justices on the court dissented from the order.

Tim Francavilla, an associate attorney with Brannon Law Firm, was named Tuesday as the new Bartlett city court judge. The Commercial Appeal reports he will serve in the position until November, when an election will determine who will serve the remainder of the late Freeman Marr’s term. Francavilla said he plans to run for the office.

Six women today filed a federal lawsuit claiming the University of Tennessee has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs identified only as "Jane Does," says the university uses an adjudication process that is “biased against victims" and also accuses five school athletes of sexual assault. “Athletes knew in advance that UT would support them even after a complaint of sexual assault (and) arrange for top quality legal representation”, plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

Tennessee lawmakers today withdrew two abortion measures that would have required a woman to receive an ultrasound before an abortion (HB 1459) and would have banned the sale of aborted fetal tissue (HB 1709). WLPN reports the measures were withdrawn without explanation.

Memphis lawyer George Ernest Skouteris Jr. was disbarred from the practice of law today by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 2010, Skouteris agreed to a settlement in an automobile accident without the authority of his clients. He signed their names to the settlement checks without their knowledge or consent and deposited them to his trust account. He later led the clients to believe their lawsuit was still ongoing. Read the BPR release.

The Tennessee Judiciary released its 2015 Annual Report, which includes details on the newly created business court, a review of case management practice and the groundwork for the state’s e-filing system. “We will continue our review of the judicial branch to ensure that we are using best practices and being good stewards of our tax dollars,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in her introductory letter.

The Blount County Recovery Court is now using GPS monitoring to track its participants, the Daily Times reports. Participants who wear GPS monitoring devices have to pay a weekly fee. “It’s an alternative sanction to jail,” Program Director Amy Galyon said.

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday publicly censured Clarksville lawyer Travis Nathaniel Meeks. The court took the action after Meeks falsely stated in a letter to an adversary attorney that he anticipated calling an expert witness, a certified public accountant, who would testify that his adversary’s expert witness, also a CPA, was engaged in criminal conduct. As a result, the trial was postponed. Read the BPR release.

The University of Memphis Health Law Institute will host its third annual Symposium, titled “An ACE in the Hand of Policy Reform; Loading the Deck for a Trauma-informed Juvenile Justice System,” on Feb. 9. Mark Soler, the executive director at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy in Washington, D.C., will be the keynote speaker. The event will be held from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, 1 North Front.

Four of the five candidates for circuit court judge say they will not stand around Veterans Plaza in Clarksville during early voting, The Leaf-Chronicle reports. "As voters ourselves, we felt uncomfortable when we went to cast our ballots at Veterans Plaza and had to run a gauntlet to do so,” stated a joint release from Jill Ayers and Robert Bateman, candidates for Circuit Court Judge Part IV, and Ted Crozier Jr. and Roger Nell, candidates for Circuit Court Judge Part III. 

Nashville-based Tennessee Oncology is suing Genentech for false representation in the packaging of its cancer drug Herceptin, The Tennessean reports. Tennessee Oncology, represented by Bass Berry & Sims, claims the label on the drug misrepresents the amount of product after following the approved preparation instructions for the freeze-dried powder. Similar lawsuits are pending in six other states.

At least 60 percent of children in Shelby County who come in contact with the juvenile justice system have a mental disorder, according to the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Policy Academy Action Network. The group’s study also reveals 30 percent of the children have a learning disability and 70 percent of the children have gone through some sort of traumatic event. Read more from WREG.