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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.

A Memphis restaurant owner in jail and facing deportation after pleading guilty to a drug charge 7½ years ago will get another chance in court after the U.S. Supreme Court today vacated his conviction on grounds that he had been given bad legal advice, the Commercial Appeal reports. “He was really thankful that someone finally understood the harm that his lawyer’s advice caused him,” said Nashville attorney Patrick McNally, who is part of the legal team that handled the appeal.

Who were the biggest influences in Nashville lawyer Aubrey Harwell’s life? Find out that and more in a Nashville Business Journal interview with its inaugural winner of the Nashville Business Journal’s Best of the Bar Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified at least 120 federal agencies that are not reporting information to the national hate crime database and are withholding a whole range of crime statistics. ProPublica reports that in 2015, the latest year reported, the database tracked more than 5,580 alleged hate crimes, which represented a significant surge from previous years. However, these statistics do not include any offenses handled by federal law enforcement. Most of the information in the database is submitted by state and local police departments, though many local departments also fail to report. The FBI and lawmakers are looking at ways to improve the reporting and tracking of hate crimes at the federal, state and local level.

A Shelby County program for keeping kids out of the Juvenile Court system is gaining national recognition, WMC Action News 5 reports. Judge Dan Michael said in the past five years, his court has been working with schools and local law enforcement to only bring kids to court on major offenses. In 2012, he said 6,900 kids were detained and charged in juvenile court. The latest numbers from last year show only 890 kids were brought in. 

A decline in revenues from court fees has left Sullivan County in a struggle to provide court house security, the Bristol Herald Courier reports. The budget shortfall has left the county unable to pay part time court security officers for the past six weeks, so process servers and other Sheriff’s Office personnel have had to step in to fill the slots.

A U.S. Supreme Court action this week in a labor case involving Macy's department store workers may strengthen a United Auto Workers’ case with Volkswagen in Tennessee, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The automaker is currently appealing a National Labor Relations Board decision that paved the way for a vote among about 160 skilled-trades workers at the plant. The company has refused to bargain with the UAW while it argues that union representation decisions should only be made by the entire hourly workforce. Macy's made much the same arguments in its unsuccessful 5th Circuit appeal and the Supreme Court declined to take the case.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Sen. Jim Tracy are asking Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to issue an opinion on a proposal before the Nashville Metro Council that they say goes against a state ban on “sanctuary cities” passed in 2009, the Tennessean reports. Council sponsors Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge say that’s not the intent of their measure, which would prevent Metro from using public funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law. "This bill would have us send a message to our immigrant communities that it is safe to engage with Metropolitan government for all the basic local government services that we provide," Mendes said.

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. Learn more about the position, including how to apply and the qualifications for candidates, or contact TBA Programs Director Skip Rudsenske for more information.

Edythe “Didi” Paschall Christie of Gibson County was disbarred today by the Tennessee Supreme Court because of her Madison County Circuit Court conviction for tampering with evidence. The Board of Professional Responsibility had initiated formal proceedings against Christie following her suspension in September 2015.

Preparing for appeals starts at the beginning and should be part of your preparation for any administrative law case. Henry Phillips III will present a new webcast at noon CDT on June 21 to help you consider outcomes at the administrative level and how it will impact appeals.

The deadline to submit nominations for the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services’ three annual Access to Justice Awards has been extended to June 30. The awards will be presented at the Equal Justice University Conference. The Janice M. Holder Award recognizes a professional in private practice, corporate counsel, a public servant or other social service advocate who has advanced the quality of justice statewide by ensuring the legal system is open and available to all, the B. Riney Green Award recognizes someone who promotes inter-program cooperation across the state, and the New Advocate of the Year Award acknowledges someone who has been with their legal services program for five years or less.

The U.S. Senate health care bill, revealed today, includes $2 billion to help address the opioid crisis, USA Today reports. The amount would fall short of the $45 billion some Republican senators had sought over 10 years. The funds would go to provide grants to states to support treatment and recovery services for 2018, but does not reference continuing funds beyond.
Registration is now open for the 40th Anniversary Equal Justice University Conference, which will be held Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 in Murfreesboro. Hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services with support from the Tennessee Bar Association, EJU is the annual gathering of 200 lawyers, advocates, and pro bono attorneys involved in providing civil legal assistance across Tennessee. Find out more information and register here.
Shelby County lawyer Michael Leon Harris was suspended from the practice of law yesterday for five years, retroactive to Nov. 6, 2015. Harris was temporarily suspended on that date for failing to respond to disciplinary counsel. Harris must pay restitution to nine former clients as a condition to his reinstatement. Petitions for discipline against Harris include instances of lack of diligence and communication, excessive fees, improper termination, failure to expedite litigation, failure to perform services for which he was paid, unauthorized practice of law, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The jury is now deliberating in the trial of Brandon E. Banks, the third former Vanderbilt football player accused of raping an unconscious woman in 2013, The Tennessean reports. Banks’ defense centered around the question of whether he would face imminent harm if he did not comply with his teammates’ orders to harm the victim. Two men, Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, have already been convicted in the relation to the case.

Beginning July 1, all Notices of Appeal filed with the Court of Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals or Supreme Court must be filed in the office of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts rather than in the office of the Trial Court Clerk. The Rules of Appellate Procedure related to the filing of a Notice of Appeal directed to the Appellate Courts will change July 1. After that date, trial court clerks will no longer accept a Notice of Appeal for filing in their office. The Notice of Appeal must be filed in the office of the Appellate Court Clerk in the grand division of the trial court from which the appeal arises.

Frank S. King Jr. of Brentwood died on June 12 at 92. King served for three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and when he returned home earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University. He was a former magistrate of the Davidson County Quarterly Court, a former assistant city attorney for Nashville and former city attorney for Brentwood. He founded the firm of King and Ballow in 1969 and was in practice for 60 years. With respect to King’s wishes, there will be no service, but memorial contributions may be made to the Brentwood United Methodist Church Foundation, 309 Franklin Road, Brentwood, 37027.
Nashville attorney Kristen Elizabeth Menke was publicly censured by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday. A petition for discipline was filed against Menke that included a complaint of disciplinary misconduct alleging that Menke made inappropriate comments during a closing argument, making direct and indirect references to the defendant’s decision not to testify. The petition also said she improperly injected personal opinion about the justness of the cause in her closing argument. 

A special CLE program on creating and building better legal writing will be held at the Bar Center on June 26. Don't worry, it's not a rehash of legal writing from law school. Rather, speakers will take a look at some key "big picture" approaches to writing that many practitioners — whether litigators or transactional attorneys - may lose sight of. Similar to the ever-popular Minecraft video game, attendees will learn to create and build from the bottom up.

Effective June 20, Blount County attorney Charles David Deas was reinstated to the practice of law. Deas was suspended on April 17 for six months, but will serve the remainder of his suspension on probation.
Yesterday Williamson County attorney S. Brad Dozier was suspended from the practice of law for two years, with 30 days active suspension and the remainder on probation. Dozier was found to have failed to act with diligence in handling client matters and failed to adequately communicate with clients. He must engage a practice monitor, undergo evaluation by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program and enter into a monitoring agreement if deemed appropriate by TLAP.

Last chance to register! Tomorrow, Ben Vincent will present a special CLE webcast on Microsoft Surface, a series of touchscreen Windows, personal computers, and interactive whiteboards designed and developed by Microsoft. Tools in this product are designed to help you collaborate and maximize your data and management of client information. Learn how this product compares to others and how to maximize the latest technology to advance your management of your law practice.

Wilson County Lawyer Patricia Stolinsky Graves was suspended from the practice of law for five years today by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In petitions for discipline against Graves, she was alleged to have a lack of competence, diligence and communication, excessive fees, improper termination, failure to expedite litigation, lack of candor toward a tribunal, unauthorized practice of law, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, among other infractions. Graves must pay restitution to seventeen former clients and pay the Board of Professional Responsibility’s court costs and expenses.
Gov. Bill Haslam has named William A. Young, of Knoxville, to the Tennessee Claims Commission for the Eastern Division. Upon confirmation from both houses of the state legislature, Young will replace William O. Shults, of Newport, whose term expires June 30. Young, a 1975 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, has been an attorney with O’Neil, Parker and Williamson since 1985, where he practiced in civil litigation, mediation and arbitration.
The Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville (ABC) has hired a new executive director to lead the organization which, among other services, offers pro bono legal help for low-income artists and arts-related nonprofits. Jill McMillan, who comes from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, will begin her tenure on June 28.