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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.

Photo credit: WSMV

A federal magistrate has revoked bond for Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold after prosecutors produced audio tapes of phone calls indicating he was trying to manipulate and coerce his wife from a Kentucky jail cell where he awaits trial on public corruption charges. In one recorded phone call, Arnold appears to encourage his wife to portray herself as the aggressor during an argument between the two. But Megan Arnold says it was her husband who was the aggressor, punching her and pinning her to a bed. In other calls, Arnold says he is considering suicide and has taken her out of his will because she is not doing all she can to get him out of jail. WSMV has the story.

Special interest groups, many of which do not disclose their donors, have invested heavily in state Supreme Court races this election cycle, including pumping more than $1.2 million in outside spending into six states over the past two weeks, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice. With three weeks to go to Election Day, the center estimates that television spending for judicial races has surpassed $25.6 million, with $11.3 million of that coming from outside groups. The center has data and early trends on races in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is celebrating the success of its pilot Business Court, which has been operating as part of the Davidson County Chancery Court since last year. According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, more than 100 cases have been considered for transfer to the Business Court, with 87 of those being granted. The Supreme Court now says it will stop accepting new cases after Oct. 31 so it can conduct a review of the program and make any refinements necessary to move toward statewide implementation. Comments about the business docket can be submitted to the court via email.

Men across Memphis were set to gather this evening to take a stand against domestic violence at the second annual Shine Your Light on Domestic Violence event. Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings and U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton were scheduled to address the group. Judicial Commissioner Kevin Reed, who was also on the agenda, told News 5 that it is the “silence of good men that allows domestic violence to persist.” Read more from station.

Nashville Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Jones ruled today that Metro Nashville’s ordinance regulating short-term rentals such as Airbnbs is vague and unconstitutional, the Tennessean reports. The case, brought by the Beacon Center of Tennessee on behalf of two residents of the Salemtown neighborhood, claimed the ordinance infringes on homeowners rights. The city had asked the court to dismiss the suit, claiming it had no merits.

The Knoxville Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Section and Family Law Section are joining forces for a Pro Bono Night next Tuesday. Members of the sections will gather to answer civil legal questions posted to TN Free Legal Answers. Representatives from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services will be available during the event to answer questions and assist with technology issues. Other volunteers are invited to join the group from 5 to 7 p.m. EST at the Adams Law Firm, 8517 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919. Register online to participate.

Photo credit: Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Murfreesboro lawyer and former Pinnacle Financial Partners board member James C. Cope with insider trading related to the bank’s merger with Avenue Financial Holdings the Tennessean reports. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee also filed a parallel criminal case according to the SEC. Federal officials say Cope learned confidential details about the planned merger and then purchased 10,000 shares of Avenue stock prior to the public announcement, making more than $56,000. Cope resigned from Pinnacle’s board in April. He is a partner at Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary.

The TBA Young Lawyers Division will hold a free Wills for Heroes legal clinic tomorrow in Memphis at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library, 3030 Poplar Ave., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The clinic will provide free wills, powers of attorney and advance directives for Tennessee's firefighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency responders. Attorneys who would like to volunteer or get more information should contact Memphis lawyer Chasity Grice.

Photo credit: Miller & Martin

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has adopted its 2016 Strategic Plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee over the next two years. Specific initiatives include adding 10 new court kiosks across the state, developing a statewide communications plan in conjunction with legal aid and access to justice programs, and expanding the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance to include representatives from a variety of faiths. In announcing the plan, Access to Justice Commission Chair and past TBA President Marcy Eason said, “The commission appreciates the positive leadership of the Tennessee Supreme Court and is encouraged with our growing access to justice partnerships throughout the state.”

Students considering law school are invited to learn about the University of Tennessee College of Law at a fall open house set for Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. EST. The event will begin in Room 136, but prospective students will tour the college, hear from law students and participate in a first-year class. Register by Oct. 28. For more information, contact the admissions office, 865-974-4131.

If you have not yet responded to the TBA Members’ Survey on Communications, please do so soon. This survey is being conducted by Yacoubian Research to help us learn about your communication needs and practices so that we can continue to improve our methods of communicating with you. Yacoubian Research earlier sent you an email with a unique link to the survey. A reminder email will be sent on Oct. 28. The survey will close on Nov. 4.

Republicans “can’t just simply stonewall” nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court even if the president making that choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday. The senator, who is chair of the Judiciary Committee, was responding to comments from fellow Republican Sen. John McCain that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. “I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet…whoever nominee that person puts forward. We have the same responsibility for [Donald] Trump,” Grassley said. WRCB-TV has the Associated Press story.

A former Tennessean is hoping to change how residents interact with elected officials during this legislative session, Knoxnews reports. The creator of POPVOX, a for-profit, nonpartisan startup that connects users with bills coming before Congress, went live last week with a beta project in Tennessee. The pilot project allows voters to let their state representatives know what they think with a few clicks of the mouse. POPVOX/TN currently allows residents to weigh in on select legislative issues, including criminal justice reform, gas tax, medical marijuana, rural broadband and expansion of TennCare. The company hopes to roll out a similar service in other states throughout 2017.

The White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have launched a national campaign to raise awareness, teach skills and inspire public action to address children’s exposure to violence. The campaign, called Changing Minds, is a collaboration led by DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Futures Without Violence, the Ad Council and the advertising agency Wunderman. The campaign will make digital and print content available to adults who interact with children and youth.

The University of Memphis School of Law and the University of Tennessee College of Law have made the 2016 list of preLaw magazine’s Top 20 Best Value law schools. The magazine notes it is the first time UT Law has appeared on the list, and that it was added after increasing its graduates’ employment rates. The magazine also named 12 top value private law schools, with Vanderbilt University Law School making the list. The best value determination is based on a number of factors, including tuition, living expenses, debt, employment rates and bar passage rates.

Photo credit: Legal Aid of East Tennessee

The Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has inducted two longtime members of the judiciary into its Chattanooga Pro Bono Hall of Fame. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William M. Barker and retired Hamilton County Chancellor Howell N. Peoples were recognized at a reception and ceremony this week at the group’s Chattanooga office. The pair was selected for the honor because of their early work in the access to justice movement. According to LAET, Barker was the first chief justice of the state Supreme Court to make access to justice a priority for the court, while Peoples was the first legal aid attorney in Chattanooga to be funded through the federal legal aid program.

At the TBA’s 28th Annual Health Law Forum, taking place this weekend in Franklin, outgoing Health Law Section chair and Waller attorney Denise Burke passed the reins of the group and the ceremonial “Section Cup” to Brian Roark, a lawyer in the Nashville office of Bass Berry & Sims. Roark heads the Healthcare Fraud Task Force at the firm and helps clients with governmental investigations and litigation. He also serves as an adjunct professor of law at Vanderbilt University where he teaches a course on health care fraud and abuse.

Davidson County lawyer and former U.S. attorney Quenton I. White was disbarred today after the Tennessee Supreme Court found that he made misrepresentations to clients, misused client funds and failed to protect clients’ property and funds. The court also noted that he failed to provide competent representation. In addition to the disbarment, White was ordered to pay restitution to former clients. White served as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee from 1999 to 2001, and as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction from 2003 to 2005. Read the BPR release.

ACLU of Tennessee is hosting a group discussion Saturday that will focus on the realities of race and policing in America and how law enforcement and community groups can work together for positive change. Broken Policing: Windows for Change will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St. The discussion will be led by Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director of the national ACLU and director of the ACLU Center for Justice. The event is free and open to the public.

Sessions from the TBA’s recent federal law forum are now available online. A session on expert disclosures features Memphis lawyer Frank Day of Ford Harrison and focuses on using the rule to gain an advantage in litigation, while a second session with arbitrator and mediator Mark Travis focuses on practice tips for those interested in alternative dispute resolution.

Memphis attorney Lucian T. Pera was elected president of the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents at its 2016 annual meeting last week in Branson, Missouri. A partner at Adams and Reese, Pera is president-elect of the Tennessee Bar Association and will lead the TBA in the 2017-2018 bar year. “I’m really honored to be elected,” Pera said. “The conference provides those leading state bars really unique opportunities to share ideas and concerns about current issues facing our associations and our members, and to learn from each other what works and what doesn’t. And it will be just great for the TBA to host all our sister bar associations in Memphis in October 2017.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. October 20, 2016 – Adams and Reese Partner Lucian T. Pera was elected President of the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents at its 2016 annual meeting held Oct. 13-16 at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Pera currently serves as President-elect of the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) and will serve as TBA President during the 2017-2018 bar year. The SCBP Annual Meeting returns to Tennessee in 2017 at The Peabody Memphis.

The University of Tennessee College of Law will host the Appalachian Environmental and Social Justice Conference this weekend in Knoxville. The international, three-day conference will focus on environmental and social justice throughout the Appalachian region. Law school alumna and federal judge Pamela L. Reeves will deliver the Saturday keynote address on “Mediating the Kingston Coal Ash Spill.” Registration is $35 per day or $60 for the entire weekend. The conference is free to all undergraduate and graduate students. Register online here.

A motion to disqualify Hamilton County District Attorney Neil Pinkston from a case involving a Gatlinburg investigator has been denied, News Channel 9 reports. Rodney Burns is facing aggravated perjury charges after testimony conflicted with his investigation into the Ooltewah rape case. Burns asked that Pinkston be disqualified from prosecuting this criminal case based on a pending civil case in which he claims Pinkston defamed him. Judge Tom Greenholtz denied the motion yesterday.

Photo credit: Bowlin Funeral Home

Charles Henry McWherter, a former judge and prosecutor, died Oct. 16 at the age of 84. Funeral services were held yesterday in Dresden with a private burial following in the Palmersville Cemetery. McWherter was a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University Law School. He served in the U.S. Navy, as judge advocate for the Tennessee Department of the American Legion, and as commander and chaplain of the American Legion Post 55 in Martin. His legal service included stints as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee; assistant district attorney general in Henry, Benton, Carroll, Decatur and Hardin counties; and general sessions judge in Weakly County. The Paris Post-Intelligencer reported his death while the Bowlin Funeral Home has a more complete obituary.