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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.

Sullivan County lawyer Thomas Alan Snapp was suspended from the practice of law for five years on July 21. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action after finding that Snapp undertook representation in a personal injury/wrongful death suit while administratively suspended and did not tell his client or another lawyer assisting with the case about the suspension. After the case settled, Snapp misappropriated $50,000 from his client and led co-counsel to believe that the client had been paid in full. Several months later, co-counsel discovered the truth and confronted Snapp, who re-paid the client's settlement funds and legal fees. Read the BPR notice.

Attorneys for Christopher M. Ferrell, the man convicted of killing country musician Wayne Mills, asked the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals this week to grant their client a new trial, arguing that erroneous jury instructions and a botched police investigation tainted his conviction. They also argued that Ferrell acted out of fear and shot Mills in self-defense, the Tennessean reports. Ferrell was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing Mills after a tribute concert to music legend George Jones. The two were drinking in a downtown Nashville bar when they got into an argument and Ferrell shot Mills.

Tennessee’s Third Judicial District Drug Task Force has received a $153,000 grant to help get drugs off the streets, WJHL reports. Task force director Adam Arrington says the agency spends 95 percent of its resources fighting methamphetamine in Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, and Hancock counties and the new funding will go a long way to help in those efforts. The money comes from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Arrington says the agency will receive payouts over a three-year period.

Bar Center Bonanza
July 22, 2016

We're cleaning house at the Tennessee Bar Center, and there may be something we don't want that is perfect for you. Visit the Tennessee Bar Center Lobby (221 Fourth Ave. North in Nashville) any day next week and help yourself to the treasures we found while cleaning out our basement and storerooms. It's mostly furniture and office supplies or equipment. The Bar Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photo credit: Bailey & Greer. Thomas Greer is the new TTLA president.

The Tennessee Association for Justice (TAJ) changed its name back to the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association during its annual convention last week. The group also elected new officers and board members. Memphis attorney Thomas Greer was named president for the 2016-2017 year. He replaces Eric Buchanan of Chattanooga. Bruce Fox of Clinton moved into the position of president-elect. See a complete list of board members in this Chattanoogan.com story.

Rosalind “Rose” Ross Akin, 91, died Tuesday (July 19), the Daily Times reports. A native of Smyrna and a long-time resident of Rutherford County, Akin earned her law degree from the Nashville School of Law and maintained a law office on the square in Murfreesboro for many years. She was living in Hendersonville at the time of her death. Visitation will be Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Woodfin Chapel in Smyrna. Funeral services will follow at 1 p.m. Burial will be in Mapleview Cemetery.

Thursday marked the grand opening of the Family Justice Center in Johnson City, News Channel 11 reports. The center serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse, bringing victims’ services together under one roof, site coordinator Heather Brack said. Agencies with representatives at the center include the Johnson City Police, Washington County Sheriff, Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter, Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the First Judicial District Attorney General’s office.

An inmate at the Maury County Jail is facing terrorism charges after allegedly sending threatening letters to government officials in Tennessee and North Carolina, including judges, district attorneys and a Tennessee Supreme Court justice, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. James Earl Dillehay of Mt. Pleasant was in the jail on unrelated charges when he began mailing the letters, 22nd District Attorney General Brent Cooper said. The letters revealed he was upset because he was not going to be transferred to North Carolina, where he has a previous criminal record. The Columbia Daily Herald has the story.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada began circulating a formal petition today that would authorize the House to convene a special session and consider a resolution to expel Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, from his seat. Harwell announced yesterday that while she originally opposed a special session, she had changed her mind. Democratic leaders had called for a special session after a report from the Attorney General was released. The Tennessean reports that the session may also consider the removal of Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, who was indicted last year on federal felony fraud and tax evasion charges.

Photo credit: Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Tennessee was one of eight states selected to participate in the Three Branch Institute to Improve Child Safety and Prevent Child Fatalities. The Florida event included sessions on identifying and assessing at-risk populations, parental substance abuse and opioid impact on child welfare. Attendees from Tennessee included Amy Coble and Michael Cull; Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis; Sen. Ferrell Haile, R- Gallatin; and AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate. The AOC has more.

Photo credit: Legal Aid Society. Bob Martineau is the group's new president.

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has announced new officers, who will each serve a two-year term on the board of directors. Robert “Bob” J. Martineau Jr., commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, is the new president. Nashville lawyers Charles K. Grant, J. Andrew Goddard and Susan L. Kay are first, second and third vice presidents; Nashville lawyer Charles H. Warfield is member at large; Gallatin lawyer Walter H. Stubbs is treasurer; and Murfreesboro lawyer John T. Blankenship is past president. Read more about each of these officers in a release from the agency.

Shelby County lawyer Keith Lamonte Dobbs was disbarred on July 21 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court reports that Dobbs consented to the disbarment because he could not successfully defend himself on charges that he violated the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct. Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 23, requires that his consent be maintained under seal. Read the BPR release.

Legal organizations in Knoxville have teamed up to hold a monthly legal advice clinic for veterans, service members and military families. The inaugural two-hour clinic will be held Sept. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St. The clinic then will be held each month on the Wednesday preceding the Pro Bono Project’s Saturday Bar. Partners include the Knoxville Bar Association and its Barristers’ Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans’ Affairs office. Contact Spencer Fair for more information or to volunteer.

A CLE on Tennessee and federal tax law will be held at the Bar Center on Sept. 12. The program will include updates on Section 1031 exchanges, the Tennessee Tax Regulation Project, sales and use tax, and new proposed regulations under § 385. Richard H. Roberts, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, also will present a special legislative update on the Hall Income Tax Repeal. Learn more or register online.

Photo credit: Tullahoma News

The Coffee County Drug Court program keeps growing under the leadership of Judges Craig Johnson and Timothy Brock, according to county Mayor Gary Cordell. Earlier this month, 17 participants graduated from the program – the largest number of graduates since the program began more than 10 years ago. The county also announced that later this summer it will add a veterans component to its drug treatment court. Judge Johnson will preside over the new Veterans’ Court, the Tullahoma News reports.

Photo credit: Office of Governor Bill Haslam

Will Cromer, who has been serving as Gov. Bill Haslam’s policy director and special assistant for strategy, will join the Bureau of TennCare as deputy director and chief of staff on Sept. 6. Haslam announced the move today saying, “Will is incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he has been at the heart of every major policy decision and initiative we’ve launched in our office. I’m excited to see him apply his knowledge and experience in helping manage this $11 billion agency.” Cromer has been with Haslam since 2010. Prior to that he worked for State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), an education initiative founded by Bill Frist.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today that the state has joined a federal lawsuit to block the merger of health insurance companies Anthem and Cigna. Slatery said that the transaction, valued at $54 billion, would increase concentration and harm competition in Tennessee. The suit is being brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 other states.

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force was scheduled to wrap up its listening tour in Nashville next week but has added an additional session in Franklin on Aug. 11. While speaking slots for the Nashville session are full, area lawyers are invited to attend the Williamson County hearing, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Williamson County Administrative Complex, 1320 West Main St., Franklin, TN 37064. Sign up here to speak.

An East Tennessee criminal will see his sentence reduced from 15 years to 77 months, thanks to a retrial provoked by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that changed the standards for career criminals. Rickey Dale Sikes Jr.’s crimes included setting fire to the Jefferson County Courthouse, two road rage incidents, escaping custody and lying about his felon status to buy guns. His evading arrest charge no larger qualified under the new standard, so he was granted a new trial. Prosecutors have not said whether they will appeal the ruling. The Knoxville News Sentinel has more.
Photo credit: Bristol Herald Courier

A site coordinator has been named for Sullivan County’s future Family Justice Center, the Herald Courier reports. Karen Turnage Boyd, who previously worked in private practice and as a mediator, will guide the center through its developmental phase. Tennessee currently has seven family justice centers. The Sullivan County location, which is set to be fully operational in July 2018, will be number eight.

Photo credit: Hunter, Smith & Davis

The Kingsport law firm of Hunter, Smith & Davis is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In addition to the thousands of people the firm has helped, the numerous charitable causes it has supported and the contributions its workforce has made to improve the legal profession, Managing Partner Bill Argabrite says the firm is most proud that community involvement has been a driving principle throughout its history. “[This milestone] is special given the longevity of our firm in serving the communities in our region,” he told the Times News.

The state Division of Elections is posting county-by-county early voting totals on its website. As of Wednesday morning, the statewide total was 48,314 early votes -- 31,935 in Republican primaries, 13,111 in Democratic primaries. Officials say turnout is running lower than in 2014, but on par with 2012 and other years when there were no statewide primaries on the ballot. Humphrey on the Hill has analysis.

A public-interest law professor has filed complaints seeking the disbarment of Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn J. Mosby and two prosecutors in her office over the prosecution of police allegedly connected to the death of Freddie Gray, the ABA Journal reports. Professor John F. Banzhaf III of the George Washington University Law School said he filed the complaints because prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to support prosecution but brought the cases anyway. Six police officers were indicted on charges related to Gray’s death. Three have been acquitted. Three more are awaiting trial.

Photo credit: Shelby County District Attorney's Office

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich was elected vice president of the board of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) during the group’s 2016 summer meeting in Boston, News 5 reports. Weirich was part of a state delegation that included NDAA State Director Russell Johnson, Tennessee National District Attorneys General Conference (TNDAGC) Past President Kim Helper, NDAA Legislative Committee member and TNDAGC Vice President Mike Dunavant, and NDAA Past President John Gill.

The Knoxville Bar Foundation is soliciting tax deductible contributions to fund portraits of six retired judges: former Knox County Chancellor Daryl Fansler, Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz and Circuit Court judges Wheeler A. Rosenbalm, Bill Swann, Harold Wimberly and Dale Workman. Those wishing to contribute can send checks payable to the Knoxville Bar Foundation, Treasurer Harry P. Ogden, 265 Brookview Centre Way, Suite 600, Knoxville, TN 37919. Please note on the check that the donation is for judicial portraits.