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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.

The U.S. Supreme Court today narrowed the locations where patent infringement lawsuits can be filed, the ABA Journal reports. The court found that a law authorizing patent suits to be filed in the district where the defendant “resides” was not supplanted by a general law that gives the word “resides” a broad meaning. The narrow definition requires patent suits filed under that prong of the venue statute to be filed in the state where the company is incorporated. The opinion in the unanimous decision was written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
The Board of Judicial Conduct has dismissed a complaint against Nashville Judge Rachel Bell, The Tennessean reports. The complaint was filed last June and alleges among other concerns that Bell started court late and took long breaks to take pictures with students. According to the complainant, Tommy Craig, the board believed Craig filed the action because he was angry about the outcome of a case decided by Bell. 
When Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said they found aspects of the police’s investigation into the deadly shooting of Jocques Clemmons by an officer that could be perceived as bias, he opened the door to potential legal fallout, an analysis published by The Tennessean suggests. Subodh Chandra, the Ohio attorney who represents the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by police in 2014, said that Funk’s comments could be helpful to the Clemmons family as well as potential plaintiffs in the future. The Clemmons family has not filed a lawsuit yet, but it has hired representation and is weighing its options.
District Attorney General for the 26th Judicial District Jerry Woodall will retire Aug. 1, and Gov. Bill Haslam’s office is now accepting applications to fill the office temporarily, until the next election in 2018. Qualified candidates must have lived in the state for five years and the district for one year. The 26th Judicial District includes Chester, Henderson and Madison counties. Attorneys interested should submit a resume and cover letter by June 23 to Dwight Tarwater, Counsel to the Governor, State Capitol, First Floor, 600 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, 37243, or to dwight.tarwater@tn.gov.
The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners announced last week that the Memphis and Nashville testing locations for the July 2017 bar exam are full, however the Knoxville location still has space. Applicants who submitted applications or payments after May 17 will be moved to the Knoxville location and placed on a waiting list. Any seats that open in Memphis or Nashville will be filled on a first submitted and paid basis. All materials to apply for the test are due today.

Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell and Berkowitz has named Brigid Carpenter as new managing shareholder for its Nashville office, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Carpenter, the first woman to lead the office, will replace Scott Carey, who is returning to full-time practice with the firm. Carpenter will continue her practice, which includes products liability defense, catastrophic personal injury defense and prosecutions and defense of commercial disputes.

After former City Attorney Dick Jessee resigned last week, the Morristown City Council voted unanimously to appoint Lauren A. Carroll, partner at Bacon, Jessee, Perkins, Carroll and Anderon, into the role, the Citizen Tribune reports. Jessee stepped down after 46 years on the job. Carroll graduated from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2010 and has been building relationships with city staff and council members for the past five years. 
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional district maps in a ruling today, holding that the state had engaged in racist gerrymandering, CNN reports. Read the full opinion by Justice Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court's website. The N.C. legislature will now have to redraw the districts. The decision comes after a SCOTUS ruling last week held a lower court’s decision that the state passed a voter ID law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Services for the recently deceased University of Tennessee College of Law professor Neil P. Cohen will be held on June 17 in San Rafael, Calif. In lieu of flowers, Cohen’s family requests donations be made in his name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Civil Liberties Union or the United Nations Syrian Refugee program (UNHCR).
The American Bar Association is looking for attorneys from underrepresented groups to join the new Diverse Speakers Directory, a initiative designed to give opportunities to speakers from diverse backgrounds and also help CLE planners connect with those individuals. ABA and non-ABA members are invited to sign up for the directory, which would be used by more than 3,500 ABA entities looking for speakers for their events or experts in a subject matter. 
In a case that calls into question the value of eyewitness testimony, the Knoxville News Sentinel examines the conviction of Adam Clyde Braseel, who was found guilty of murder and has served 10 years of jail time. In 2015, eight years after his original conviction, a judge ruled that Braseel was entitled to a new jury trial, as “identification alone is all that ties the petitioner to the crime,” but prosecutors appealed the judge’s decision and the state Court of Criminal Appeals sent him back. Braseel’s lawyer is currently planning to file a petition for another hearing.
After the Justice Department attempted to stop a nonprofit from advising immigrants who cannot afford a lawyer, a federal judge granted the organization a temporary restraining order and issued an order to stop the department from taking similar actions against legal nonprofits, Reuters reports. The government had told the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project of Washington state that it could not advise people in immigration court without formally representing them. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones’ order prevents the department from enforcing the rule against legal nonprofits.
Thirty current and former state and local prosecutors have signed an open letter expressing concern over a recent order from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” The Washington Post reports. The letter was released today by the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution, and it calls Sessions’ directive “an unnecessary and unfortunate return to past ‘tough on crime’ practices” that will do more harm than good. The letter cites increased federal spending on incarceration, higher prison populations, and a lack of true rehabilitation for low-level drug offenders as likely results of the order.
Three conservative think tanks have joined the push to help an Argentine lawyer take the Tennessee Bar Exam, the Nashville Post reports. The Cato Institute, the Goldwater Institute and the Beacon Center of Tennessee have filed a request with the Tennessee Supreme Court to submit an amici curiae brief on behalf of Maximiliano Gabriel Gluzman, who was not allowed by the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners to sit for the February 2016 bar. Gluzman was not allowed to take the test due to new requirements that govern individuals with foreign law degrees. His appeal is now before the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the board of law examiners will file a response next month. 
The former police chief and an officer in the Calhoun Police Department have been indicted in an extortion investigation involving the seizure of property to force contributions to the department’s drug fund, the Times Free Press reports. Former chief Julie Tanksley and officer Charles Godsey have been under a TBI investigation since April of 2015, and have now each been charged by a McMinn County grand jury with two counts of extortion.
The Nashville Business Journal, which each year honors the local attorneys it finds to be the “Best of the Bar,” has awarded Neal and Harwell co-founder Aubrey Harwell its first Lifetime Achievement Award. Harwell and all of the 2017 winners will be honored at a June 27 reception.
A Maury County man who left the state with a 15-year-old girl was indicted this week on federal charges, The Tennessean reports. Tad Cummins, 50, was charged with obstruction of justice and transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual conduct. The obstruction charge came from Cummins destroying his and the girl’s cellphones. Cummins was arrested last month in California after a nationwide manhunt.
At this year’s annual Bench Bar CLE program, TBA Convention participants will get a chance to learn about one of the greatest family feuds in history, that of the Hatfields and the McCoys. Descendants of the real families will lead this series of interactive discussions, covering topics like conflict resolution and the role that the pursuit of “justice” had in perpetuating the feud in its latter years. The program will be set against the backdrop of the beautiful MeadowView Marriott Resort in Kingsport, site of the 2017 TBA Convention, taking place June 14-17. Find out more and register here.

Tennessee joined five other states to in support of the Regional Opioid Initiative (RJOI), which has developed an action plan with strategies to combat the growing opioid epidemic. The initiative is the result of a Regional Judicial Opioid Summit held in August of 2016, which brought together multi-disciplinary representatives from across Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. RJOI stakeholders are comprised of chief justices, judges, legislators, behavioral health treatment providers, medical experts, prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) managers, regulatory agencies, child welfare representatives and others.

The TBA's annual Elder Law Forum will be held July 14 at the AT&T Building in downtown Nashville. Sessions will cover ABLE, Special Needs Trusts, Medicare bundled billing, estate planning, wills and corresponding tax implications. Legislative updates will be provided to include information regarding nursing home law developments and regulations. A new session will address how to avoid pitfalls involving families and the representation of elders.

After a media report scrutinized Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak's taxpayer-funded travel, Gov. Bill Haslam defended her actions, saying he is convinced that McPeak is looking out for what’s best for the state, NewsChannel 5 reports. McPeak was found to have taken more than 120 trips, paid for by her state office, for functions organized by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a professional organization of which McPeak is the president-elect.
 
Tennessee’s political leadership sounded off on yesterday’s news that former FBI director Robert Mueller would be appointed as special counsel to lead an investigation into potential Russian tampering with U.S. elections. The Nashville Post reports that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) praised the selection of Mueller and encouraged the Senate Intelligence Committee to continue its own investigation, including a public hearing with former FBI Director James Comey. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) said that while Mueller’s position “isn’t as powerful as an independent counsel,” Mueller will do a better job investigating than Congress can.
A man from Austin, Texas, is suing his date for texting during a movie, the Austin Statesman reports. Brandon Vezmar is asking for $17.31, the cost of a 3D ticket to see “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.” Vezmar said it was a “first date from hell,” during which the defendant allegedly text “at least 10-20 times” in a 15 minute period. When the plaintiff asked her if she could go outside to text, she left the theater entirely, leaving Vezmar without a ride home. The petition claims the “defendant’s behavior is a threat to civilized society.”  
The attorney for former national security advisor Michael Flynn said his client will not comply with a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena, CBS News reports. The subpoena was issued on May 10 for documents about Flynn’s interactions with Russian officials. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner are determining how to proceed. Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, already informed the committee previously that he would not voluntarily provide the documents following a request submitted April 28.
The Tennessee legislature adjourned last week concluding the first part of the 110th General Assembly. Out of the nearly 1,500 bills filed by legislators, many passed both the House and Senate and have either been assigned a public chapter or are in process of being assigned a public chapter. TBA members can look at the status of legislation by the category. The Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes January 2018 to wrap up the second half of the 110th General Assembly.