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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 Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order amending Rule 40A of the Rules of the Supreme Court to remove “contested private guardianship cases” from the definition of “custody proceeding.” The court said that including guardianship cases in the definition is an apparent conflict with Rule 40A(6)(b) and Tennessee code section 34-1-107(d)(1). The court solicited comments on this proposed change between May 16 and July 15 but reports that it did not receive any comments.

Photo credit: Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

An investiture ceremony for William E. “Bill” Young as a new Davidson County chancellor will take place tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the Chancery Part II courtroom of the Historic Davidson County Courthouse, the Nashville Bar Association reports. Young was appointed to the court on Aug. 5 in anticipation of the retirement of Chancellor Carol McCoy on Sept. 1. Young has been serving as an associate attorney general in the office of the Tennessee Attorney General. He previously was administrative director for the AOC; solicitor general; general counsel for BlueCross BlueShield, Vanderbilt University and HCA; president of the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee; deputy commissioner of TennCare; and senior counsel in tax division of the attorney general’s office.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously yesterday that several restrictions on what Kentucky judicial candidates can say while running for office violate the First Amendment. The court struck down a clause that prohibits judicial candidates from campaigning as a member of a political party or organization, a clause that bans candidates from making speeches for or against a political organization or candidate, and a ban on misleading statements. Kentucky judges run in nonpartisan elections and are bound by the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct. The ABA Journal looks at the decision.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Alistair Newbern and Jeffery S. “Chip” Frensley have been selected to fill the magistrate judge positions being vacated by retiring judges John S. Bryant and E. Clifton Knowles, respectively. Newbern, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, will take office Aug. 31. Frensley has over 20 years of litigation experience in the areas of criminal defense, employment law and civil rights litigation. He will take office on Oct. 9. Read more about the new judges in this announcement from the court.

Nashville General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell has responded to a complaint filed with the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, arguing that allegations she was late to court, took too long a break or favored one side over another during a case in April are unfounded. The response, which also called on the board to dismiss the complaint, came in a five-page letter from Bell’s lawyer, Charles Grant of Baker Donelson. The Tennessean says it obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday.

Tennessee is one of nine states participating in an opioid abuse summit taking place in Cincinnati this week, the Times Free Press reports. The primary goals of the group are to improve cooperation across borders and jurisdictions, identify best practices for testing and treatment services and increase access to prescription drug data. Other states involved are Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Speakers were to include Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton. In related news, the U.S. Surgeon General has taken the unprecedented step of contacting 2.3 million prescribers in America to ask them to help change the way the country thinks about addiction as opioids cause more than 1,000 emergency room visits and 78 deaths each day.

Nominations for the TBA’s three annual Public Service Awards are due Sept. 9. Submissions should include a narrative of the individual’s accomplishments, the nominator’s reasons for selecting the individual and a description of how the nominee meets the award criteria. Nominations may be submitted via the TBA website or by email to Liz Todaro. The awards recognize pro bono service in three categories: work performed by an attorney employed by an organization providing indigent legal representation, work performed by a private attorney and work performed by a law student volunteer. Awards will be presented at the Annual Public Service Awards Luncheon in January 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 42 percent job approval rating is down slightly from September 2015 and matches the low point in the Gallup poll's 16-year history. The earlier mark was recorded in 2005 just after the court allowed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development. Among its other findings, the poll indicates that Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to approve of the court, though the differential has narrowed. Read more or view survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

The law license of Hamilton County attorney Matthew Jack Fitzharris was transferred to disability inactive status on Aug. 23. Fitzharris may not practice law while on inactive status but may petition for reinstatement if he can show by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law. Read the BPR notice.

Photo credit: Tennessee Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today that Paul C. Ney Jr. will join his office as chief deputy. In this role, Ney will coordinate and supervise the substantive legal work of all five sections of the office. “I am delighted Paul will be joining our leadership team,” Slatery said. “His extensive legal and management experience in both the public and private sectors will add immediate value.” Ney has practiced law for 31 years, most recently with Patterson Intellectual Property Law in Nashville. He previously worked as director of the Nashville Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense and acting general counsel of the Department of the Navy. Ney also has served the TBA as treasurer and general counsel. He succeeds Lucy Honey Haynes, who retired after 34 years of service.

The 2016 Court Square series is heading to Jackson! On Sept. 9, Nancy Choate, Sherry Wilds and Linda Warren Seely will address Medicaid planning, occupational diploma, hiring persons with disabilities and how lawyers can best thrive. The course will take place at the Chamber of Commerce.

The Florida-based Disability Help Group is seeking an associate attorney to serve the greater Chattanooga area. Responsibilities include helping individuals obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and handling all stages of the administrative process. Past experience with SSA cases is not required but successful candidates will need to spend four to six months in Florida for training. Those hired also must be able to work from home. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, salary request and resume to Matthew Sauerwald. Learn more in this job announcement.

Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak proclaimed the state’s health exchange “very near collapse” yesterday after signing off on significant premium hikes in a bid to keep the platform viable. The rate approvals were necessary to ensure healthcare options in every part of Tennessee, McPeak said. Tennessee is seeing a steady decrease in the number of insurance companies selling plans on the federally run exchange, the Tennessean reports. In 2017, 57 of the state’s 95 counties will have only one insurance company serving their area.

Photo credit: Tennessee Suffrage Monument Inc.

A monument honoring women's suffrage and the suffragists of Tennessee will be unveiled at Nashville's Centennial Park this Friday. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Speakers will include Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillian, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, among others. The date was chosen to coincide with Women's Equality Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment into law. Visit the Tennessee Suffrage Monument or make a donation now.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is running the state’s first ever student mock election and reports the program is off to a great start. More than 170 schools across the state are registered to participate, meaning an estimated 76,000 students will cast a mock vote for president. Secretary of State Tre Hargett says his office is now rolling out an essay contest to encourage students to be engaged citizens. Essays should focus on a voting-related topic. Winners will receive a trip to the state capitol and a college scholarship. The office also has lesson plans to help teachers incorporate civic engagement and citizenship into their curriculum.

Gov. Bill Haslam says he does not want to call a special session of the legislature to fix the state’s drunk driving laws, but the possibility of losing $60 million might just force him to do so, WPLN reports. Haslam’s comments come in response to warnings from transportation officials that the state will lose $60 million in highway funds if it does not lower the blood alcohol limit for 18 to 20 year olds to 0.02. Lawmakers had increased the limit to 0.08 earlier this year but imposed tougher penalties, including jail time, for violations. They say they did not know the change would be a problem. Haslam hopes to convince federal authorities to hold off until lawmakers reconvene in January, but supports a special session if that is what is needed to retain the funding.

Davidson County’s sex and human trafficking court celebrated its first graduate this week, the Tennessean reports. For years, the woman was trafficked, sold to others for sex by her husband. She used drugs, leading to an addiction, and was stabbed several times during an attack. Instead of languishing in jail, she became one of the first participants in the Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. intervention court, which provides resources and treatment to women who are arrested for crimes such as prostitution or drug offenses. A dozen women currently are participating in the program, which is overseen by Judge Casey Moreland.

Leadership Middle Tennessee has announced the members of its 2017 class. Among the group are Jay Ingrum, an attorney with Phillips & Ingrum Attorneys at Law in Gallatin, and Brenda Gadd, public policy coordinator at the TBA. The 10-month program, now operated through Cumberland University, features business, community and nonprofit leaders from 10 counties in the Nashville area. See the full list of class members in the Nashville Business Journal.

Photo credit: Knoxville Bar Association

Judge Robert Thomas “Tom” Stinnett died yesterday (Aug. 23) in Chattanooga. He was 72. Stinnett graduated from the University of Tennessee and was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. After serving in Italy, he returned to attend the University of Tennessee College of Law, then clerked for his father-in-law James Parrott and the Tennessee Court of Appeals. He practiced law in Knoxville for 20 years at Stone & Hinds before being appointed a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He relocated to Chattanooga and served there for 16 years before retiring in 2010. The family will receive friends Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Chattanooga's Mountain City Club, 729 Chestnut St. Funeral services will be Monday at 4 p.m. in Knoxville at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 544 N. Broadway. Burial will follow at the church columbarium. A time of remembrance in the church's fellowship hall will wrap up the day.

Former state representative George Fraley died yesterday (Aug. 23) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, two days after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 85. Fraley served as a county commissioner and county executive in Franklin County before joining the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he served until 2010. Visitation will be Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Moore-Cortner Funeral Home, 300 1st Ave. NW, Winchester. Funeral services will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. at Winchester Church of Christ, 623 Colby Rd. The Winchester Herald Chronicle has more.

Despite calls by the federal government and a Tennessee state employees group to end the practice of using private companies to manage prisons, Gov. Bill Haslam defended their use, the Nashville Post reports. “Our corrections folks are confident they provide the same level of oversight and the same accountability to private operators as we do in our own facilities,” Haslam said. Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) operates four prisons in Tennessee, along with jails in Davidson and Hamilton counties. The state Department of Correction said it has no plans to end its contract with CCA.

Independent candidate Evan McMullin, running as a conservative alternative to Republican nominee Donald Trump, failed to secure even half the signatures needed to get onto Tennessee’s ballot, Politico reports. McMullen collected just 129 of the 275 signatures required. Tennessee law also requires presidential candidates to list their running mates. With only 77 days to go before Election Day, McMullin has not tapped anyone for his vice president.

Photo credit: The Tennessean

A memorial service for Nashville lawyer Dale M. Quillen will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at the Veterans Cemetery Chapel on McCrory Lane. On Oct. 8, family and friends will assemble at the Zion Cemetery in Baileyton to spread ashes over the graves of his father, mother and sister, then in March, a former Marine Corps colleague will spread ashes over the beaches at Guam and Iwo Jima. Quillen, 91, died Aug. 13. He is survived by his son Ken Quillen, also an attorney in Nashville. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Marines Helping Marines, 512 Thornton Court, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29579. The Tennessean has more.

As the University of Tennessee faced a federal lawsuit claiming the campus had a “hostile sexual environment,” university leaders agreed to pay up to $240,000 for the services of a communications professional, the Tennessean reports. The job responsibilities included developing communications strategies for the university in allegations involving Title IX. While the one-page agreement does not identify the consultant, Tom Ingram, a former political adviser to Gov. Bill Haslam, confirmed he continues to work for the Nashville-based Neal & Harwell law firm, which represents the university in Title IX matters.

Vanderbilt University Law School is seeking applicants for full-time tenured and tenure-track teaching positions at the entry and lateral levels. Applications are welcome across legal fields and at the intersection of law and other academic disciplines. The deadline to apply is Oct. 21. Interested individuals should send a cover letter, resume, research agenda and references to the Faculty Appointments Coordinator (Attn: Lateral or Attn: Entry Level, whichever applies), Vanderbilt University Law School, 131 21st Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37203 or by email to