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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.

In addition to Sarah Sheppeard’s election as Vice President, several other key positions for the 2017-2018 bar year were certified yesterday via uncontested election results. Electronic voting will begin March 1 for offices in contested races. For a complete list of TBA winners and contested races, visit the TBA website
A Clarksville man was sentenced this week to life in prison plus 20 years in the 2013 murder of Miles Hendrick, the Leaf Chronicle reports. Joseph Graham was found guilty of first-degree felony murder, especially aggravated burglary, seven counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and five counts of especially aggravated attempted robbery. Graham was among a group of men that broke into a home and tied up seven victims with the intention of robbing them. Some of the victims broke free of their restraints to fight back, and Hendrick was shot in the ensuing struggle. 
The Tennessee Ledger profiles the Tennessee Justice Center’s fight to protect Tennessean’s access to health care. For 21 years the TJC has been working for all Tennesseans to have access to health care, and now that Congress is considering repealing or replace the Affordable Care Act, the TJC sees this as a time in which many people could soon be without care. “When you get sick and go to the hospital, you’re not a Democrat, you’re not a Republican,” said TJC co-founder Gordon Bonnyman. “You’re a person who needs care.”
Hamilton County attorney Randall Lee Nelson was transferred to disability inactive status today. Nelson may not practice law until the showing of clear and convincing evidence to the Tennessee Supreme Court that the disability has been removed, and he is fit to resume the practice of law.
Sammons Order Struck Down
February 17, 2017

Campbell County Judge Amanda Sammons is again under fire, this time for asking the Department of Children Services to drug test citizens in court bathrooms, Knoxnews reports. That action was appealed to 8th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge John McAfee, who struck down Sammons' drug-testing order, saying she "has no authority to enter a blanket order purporting to bind a non-party to a non-case." Sammons is currently on probation following an ethics investigation into accusations of misconduct in the courtroom. 

Nashville lawyer Michael G. Kaplan died on Wednesday. He was 70. Kaplan was a Vanderbilt Law School graduate originally hailing from Pasco, Washington. He practiced tax and estate planning law with Sherrard, Roe, Voigt and Harbison. His opinion on tax issues was often sought by writers from the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune and Money. Visitation with the family will be held from 5 - 7 p.m. on Sunday at Congregation Micah, 2001 Old Hickory Boulevard. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Tennessee Golf Foundation's First Tee Program, Vanderbilt University, Congregation Micah, or a charity of the donor's choice.
Former state House Rep. Mark Lovell was found to have violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, the Tennessean reports. The specific details were not included in the investigation memo, but a special House subcommittee determined Lovell was in violation of the policy. Because he resigned on Tuesday, House Ethics Committee Chairman Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, said that they could not level any punishment.
State House Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, paid two traffic camera tickets with Monopoly money today in order to raise awareness for new legislation regulating the cameras, the Jackson Sun reports. The legislation would require all unmanned traffic cameras to be used only from a marked police car and would mandate any suspects be pulled over by a law enforcement officer operating the camera. Holt broadcast his protest via a Facebook live video.
Knoxville attorney Sarah Sheppeard, shareholder with Lewis Thomason, will take the office of Tennessee Bar Association President in 2019, according to election-qualifying results released today. No other candidate filed for the vice president position by the Feb. 15 deadline. Sheppeard will assume the office of vice president this summer at the TBA Convention in Kingsport. She will become president-elect during the 2018-2019 bar year prior to assuming her presidency. Troy Weston, of Eldridge and Blakney in Knoxville, was elected to the office of vice president of the Young Lawyers Division, and will serve as YLD President for the 2019-2020 bar year. More election results and a list of contested races will be released tomorrow.
More than one-third of Tennessee House lawmakers failed to complete a mandatory 22-minute sexual harassment training video before the Jan. 31 deadline, the Tennessean reports. The video was made a requirement for lawmakers as a part of a new sexual harassment policy instituted last year following the Jeremy Durham scandal. Harassment at the legislature was put back in the headlines when Rep. Mark Lowell resigned this week after allegations of sexual misconduct.
The fear of law firm data breaches has led some in-house lawyers to use encrypted emails to communicate with their firms on important matters like mergers and high-stakes litigation, the ABA Journal reports. Encryption allows for sensitive documents to be locked with passwords. Current users of the technology say that once an information technology specialist sets the system up, it becomes “invisible” to the user.
Robert Doggart, the Sequatchie County man who was accused of plotting to attack a Muslim community in New York, was found guilty of all charges by Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court today, the Times Free Press reports. The former engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority faced federal charges including one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, one count to commit arson of a building and two counts of threats in interstate commerce. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 31.
Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said today that all future officer involved fatal shootings in Nashville will be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessean reports. The new policy comes after the shooting death of Jocques Clemmons by a Metro police officer last week. Funk said that Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson was aware of this plan, though he was not in attendance at the press conference announcing the change.
Perry March, the Nashville man serving a 56-year prison term for multiple crimes including the murder of his wife and the plot to kill her parents, filed a more than 200-page lawsuit this month over the quality of his prison food, the Tennessean reports. March claims that the quality of the kosher diet he receives is poor and is a veiled attempt to force him to break from his Jewish faith. He is currently incarcerated at Morgan County Correctional Complex in Oak Ridge.
Vanderbilt Law Professor Sean B. Seymore was profiled by the Vanderbilt Hustler for his research in patent law, in which he looks into how the law should progress to keep up with advances in science and technology. Seymore grew up with a passion for science and even worked as a chemistry professor before changing careers. His current work involves researching how much an inventor should have to disclose to obtain a patent.
Two new reports show there were more lawyers but lower demand for legal services in 2016, leading to a slump in productivity, the ABA Journal reports. The reports come from the Citi Private Bank and the Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor Economic Index, and also show widespread associate salary hikes. Law firm revenue, however, grew 3.8 percent, despite the decrease in overall productivity. 
Need a Few CLE Hours?
February 15, 2017

The TBA Mid-Winter CLE Blast is offering programs 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 course work. 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.

The due date for certain Tennessee franchise and excise tax returns, business tax returns and Hall income tax returns will be April 18, instead of April 15, to be consistent with the Internal Revenue Service federal income tax filing deadline, the state Department of Revenue says. For more information, please see the department's website.

In honor of Black History Month, the Vanderbilt University basketball team will suit up in special uniforms and recognize 21 local civil rights leaders at a game on Saturday, the Tennessean reports. Several legal luminaries are among the honorees, including Adolpho Birch Jr., George Barrett, Coyness Ennix and Sen. Thelma Harper.
A federal judge in Nashville ruled against the scrapyard PSC Metals in a dispute between the company and its landlord, the Nashville Post reports. The two parties disagreed over an appraisal of the property, with the landowners believing that the appraisal should take into account what the land could be worth if it was rezoned from industrial to mixed use. Mayor Megan Barry has called the scrapyard an “eyesore” and former mayors have attempted to redevelop the property in the past.
Jurors deciding the case of Robert Doggart, a Tennessee man accused of planning to attack a Muslim community in New York, sent a note to U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier yesterday asking for clarification on the defendant's two charges of "threat in interstate commerce," the Times Free Press reports. Federal prosecutors have argued Doggart made two threats over the telephone, and a telephone counts and as instrument of interstate commerce. The defense countered that Doggart was goaded by the government informant he spoke with when he made the threats, and only wanted to conduct “recon” on the town of Islamberg after begin convinced by Fox News broadcasts that its residents wanted to attack New York City.
New proposed guidelines could create standards for ABA-accredited law schools to accept entrance exams other than the LSAT, the ABA Journal reports. A proposal submitted to the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar would establish a process to determine the validity of other tests. It will be reviewed by the section’s council in March.
Tennessee Democratic legislators are calling for a repeal of what’s known as “Jeremy’s Law” in the wake of the resignation of Rep. Mark Lovell, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The law was unofficially named for former Rep. Jeremy Durham, and mandates that any victim of sexual harassment who sues the state and loses must then pay for the legal fees of the defense. Following allegations that Lovell engaged in sexual misconduct, Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, said that by passing the law the General Assembly “unwisely raised unprecedented barriers to harassment victims seeking justice.”
The lawyer for a Nashville mother who sued Father Ryan High School after her son committed suicide has asked an appeals court to rehear the case, the Nashville Post reports. In January, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a District Court decision to dismiss the mother’s lawsuit, which alleged that her son was bullied repeatedly with homosexual slurs and the school did not do enough to prevent it.
The president of the Memphis Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, Adam Johnson, was profiled by the Memphis Business Journal, where he discussed the troubles young law graduates face entering the work force. Johnson said he was part of one of the last classes to graduate law school prior to the recession, and has seen jobs become scarce since then.