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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. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Andrew Thomas in his death penalty appeal for the 1997 killing of an armored truck guard, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court agreed with Thomas’s claim that the state of Maryland violated his rights and suppressed evidence in his case. Thomas is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, where he still maintains his innocence in the crime.
The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the Black Law Students Association hosted an awards banquet last night that raised more than $100,000 for scholarships. Billed as the Inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet, the event was established to create more opportunities for diverse students to pursue a legal education.
Join your colleagues March 3 for the 2017 Corporate Counsel Forum, with topics ranging from technology's influence on the modern law practice to recent developments in employment law. Speakers will address cyber security and privacy, as well as productivity tools for the present-day corporate counsel. Another session covers the EEOC's new rules on what incentives employers may provide to employees who provide medical information as part of a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
An item in yesterday's TBAToday contained dated information about 10 attorneys joining Bass Berry and Sims. The Business Journal story announcing the move was actually originally published last year when the activity occurred.
The law license of Virgil Duane Parker was transferred to disability inactive status by the Board of Professional Responsibility yesterday. Parker cannot practice law while on disability inactive status until he has shown clear evidence that the disability has been removed.
Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty or life without parole for the two men accused of murdering Knoxville 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson, Knoxnews reports. A December deadline to file an intent to seek enhanced punishment passed without response from the Knox County district attorney's office, a fact the office confirmed this week. Richard Gregory Williams III and Christopher Drone face a 27-count indictment for killing the young Fulton High football star, who who died after shielding his friends from gunfire.
The Tennessee Ledger dives into whether law schools are worth the time and cost spent, interviewing officials from Vanderbilt Law, Belmont Law, University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and Nashville School of Law. Also interviewed are graduates who weigh the benefit of their degree and dispel notions that some prospective students might have – like the idea that all law graduates go on to work at large firms, or even that all graduates end up practicing law.
A lawsuit and a recent New York Times op-ed shine a light on the difficulties lawyers with disabilities face, the ABA Journal reports. Attorney Diana Lewis filed a suit after she claims she was forced to resign from the Bronx DA’s office for joining a class action lawsuit about handicapped access to courthouses. When she started using a wheelchair after an accident, she struggled to move between court buildings, one of which had a lone, unsafe access ramp. Op-ed author Carol Steinberg explains more of the difficulties, such as arguing before a judge who sits six feet up while she is in a wheelchair.
A lawsuit filed today accuses law firms of taking advantage of victims of the Woodmore school bus crash, the Times Free Press reports. The suit was filed against Durham School Services, the private company responsible for the school system’s bus staffing, and includes claims of a Georgia law firm that illegally visited the father of one of the victims in jail and made empty promises.
The Music City Community Courts, in partnership with the TBA’s Young Lawyers Division, is seeking volunteers for an expungement clinic in Nashville on March 4. A high turnout of clients is expected as this series of clinics has been very well-attended in the past. The clinic will take place at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Antioch, 2261 Murfreesboro Pike, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Those who are able to volunteer should contact Amber Floyd.
An East Tennessee Republican filed an ethics complaint against House Minority Caucus Leader Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, claiming that Stewart used his questioning of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to benefit his law firm, the Tennessean reports. Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, filed the complaint yesterday. Stewart questioned TEMA with regards to the Gatlinburg wildfires during a committee hearing, and his firm, Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, is currently representing someone affected by the fire.

Sullivan County attorney Don W. Cooper was disbarred today by the Board of Professional Responsibility. The action is effective immediately. The board found that Cooper misappropriated funds while serving as co-executor, administrator and/or trustee in three separate estates and trusts. Cooper must pay restitution totaling $952,759.37.

There's still time to volunteer for the 2017 State High School Mock Trial Competition, which will take place March 17-18 at the Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville. This program is sponsored each year by the TBA's Young Lawyers Division, and features students from across the state competing. Volunteers needed include attorneys to score the teams, judges to preside over rounds and law students or legal staff to serve as bailiffs. Sign up on the TBA website.

Join us on March 29 for the TBA's Wedding CLE at one of Nashville's premier wedding venues, The Cordelle, with all the cake, mimosas and darling wedding mints you could want. Sessions will touch on a variety of nuptial-related considerations, such as what to do pre-wedding, tax planning, marital assests, adoption and more. Don't forget about those "tortes" and contracts for venues, photographers and entertainment that keep the guests happy! 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that the family of a Michigan girl with cerebral palsy can sue the girl’s school for banning her service dog, the ABA Journal reports. The court ruled that the family was not required to exhaust administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act before filing a disabilities suit. The school banned the dog in 2009.
Four of the 81 people on a list of individuals who require a police escort in Memphis City Hall filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Memphis, the Commercial Appeal reports. The suit seeks answers from the city about why people were included on the list, reasoning which the city has not yet revealed. Most of the names on the so-called “blacklist” are those of known political activists, which could put the city in violation of a federal decree.
Knoxville attorney William Mitchell Cramer died on Monday. He was 68. Cramer was a University of Tennessee law graduate. He served as assistant law director and deputy law director for the City of Knoxville, and went on to become a partner at the law firm of Norton, Spangler and Cramer before he retired. Memorials may be made to Salem Baptist Church Go Campaign or the National Parkinson Foundation. The family will receive friends from 6 - 8 p.m. on Friday at Salem Baptist Church, with funeral services to follow.
Students at Belmont University College of Law saw the Court of Appeals in action on Tuesday at an event sponsored by Belmont's Criminal Law Society. Students had a chance to not only see actual cases, but also got to hear judges on a panel discussion. The judges gave students advice on writing appellate briefs and presenting oral arguments.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering amending Rule 34, which deals with judicial records and requesting public records. The deadline for submitting written comments is March 24.
A Bradley County district attorney confirmed yesterday that he has been assigned to investigate former State Rep. Jeremy Durham, WBIR reports. Stephen Crump has been given the case, after Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper requested a special prosecutor due to conflicts of interest between Durham and her office. 
The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a death-row inmate whose expert witness testified he is more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black, the ABA Journal reports. The inmate had been convicted in Texas in 1995 during a time in which a death sentence couldn’t be imposed unless jurors believed the convicted presented a future danger. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 6-2 majority opinion.
Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the Sevier County Bar Association will work together to again host a free legal clinic for the survivors of the Gatlinburg wildfires on Monday, Knoxnews reports. The clinic will take place at the conference center of the Greystone Lodge on the River, located at 559 Parkway, from 1 – 5 p.m. For more information, contact LAET’s Knoxville office at (865) 637-0484.
The office of the Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference will be moving effective Feb. 28. The new office will be located in the historic Castner-Knott building, 618 Church Street, Suite 300, Nashville, Tennessee 37219.
Opioid addicts facing criminal charges in Knox County will begin receiving injections to help them stay clean thanks to a new pilot program, Knoxnews reports. The program is called “Shot at Life” and is being overseen by Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen’s office in cooperation with local law enforcement. The injections will be of the drug Vivitrol, which blocks the brain’s ability to feel pleasure from opioids.

Join your colleagues from across the state at the annual Estate Planning & Probate Forum on Friday. Speakers will address asset protection, ethics, legislation and other hot topics. Contribute to the discussion by submitting questions for our ethics and probate panels, email questions for the panelist here.