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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 Tennessean today offers an in-depth breakdown of the ongoing state judicial retention elections. The article cites the TBA's survey of 13,000 attorneys, released in June, that shows nine out of 10 lawyers recommend or highly recommend retaining Supreme Court Justices Jeffrey Bivens, Holly Kirby and Roger Page. It also details the history of the current campaign and previous retention elections.

An attorney for the family of 25-year-old Anthony Michael Edwards of Sevierville confirmed today that Edwards had died after a scuffle with a Blount County sheriff’s deputy. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Edwards suffered a head injury when Deputy Jerry Burns attempted to take him into custody early Monday morning. The altercation occurred after Edwards gave Burns a false name and attempted to flee while being questioned. The deputy was investigating a report of a suspicious person in the area.
A Morristown man who believed Jesus commanded him to murder his family will be set free after 26 years, following an appellate court ruling on Wednesday. David Cloar, a Vietnam veteran who was found not guilty of killing his father and stepmother by reason of insanity, was sent to the Middle Tennessee Health Institute in Murfreesboro in 1992, and has been there ever since. Officials at the facility have been trying to free Cloar for 15 years, saying his illness was in remission with medication. Prosecutors have 60 days to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to review the decision. The Knoxville News Sentinel has more.

The NALS Nashville Chapter will host a silent auction benefit for the Tennessee Justice Center on Aug. 17 at Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis. The reception will feature prizes including VIP concert tickets, Nashville Predators gear and more, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitted the TJC. More information, including how to become a sponsor, can be found on the TJC website.

Davidson County lawyer Dale M. Quillen on Wednesday was transferred to disability inactive status and will not be allowed to practice law until showing evidence that the disability has been removed. Read the BPR notice.

The license of Sullivan County lawyer Wendal Douglas Jackson was transferred to disability inactive status today. He had earlier been temporarily suspended after he was found to pose a substantial threat of harm to the public. Read the BPR notice.

A Nashville lawyer was disbarred on Wednesday, following an August 2015 petition for discipline that included a complaint of misconduct. The complaint stated that Leroy Cain Jr., received a settlement check of $8,250 from a defendant, but did not remit the entire amount of the settlement. Cain was ordered to remit the remainder of the settlement but failed to do so. Read the BPR notice here.
Two new attorneys have been hired at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Shaina Thompson joins in the family law section,after volunteering and working as a contract attorney with the Nashville office of the Legal Aid Society since October 2015. Allison Jones join as the Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership attorney, following her work as a law clerk for Senior Judge John T. Nixon of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Rutherford County will establish a Mental Health Court by 2017, the Daily News Journal reports. The court will be organized under Recovery Court Director Trey King, with the goal of reducing people returning to crime and abusing drugs and alcohol. King said that General Sessions Court Judge Barry Tidwell will preside, with $140,000 in funding from the state paying to hire a therapist and two case workers.

Nashville attorneys Tony Greer, Andrew Rhea and Benjamin Whitehouse will present a special CLE webcast on captive insurance on Aug. 23. The program will use case examples to demonstrate the process of conducting a feasibility study and determining how to structure a captive. If you are unavailable to attend on this date, the program will be rebroadcast on Oct. 11 and will be available on demand for up to one year. Learn more or register for the program here.

The challenger in the 18th District's GOP primary on Wednesday swore a warrant charging his opponent with assault, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The warrant filed by Steve Hall comes after he and incumbent Rep. Martin Daniel were involved in a shoving match during a live radio forum last week. Daniel’s lawyer said the warrant comes as a surprise, as Daniel previously apologized for the incident.
Former Oklahoma state senator and graduate of the first Vanderbilt Law class to include African-Americans, E. Melvin Porter, died on Tuesday at the age of 86. Porter was elected to the Oklahoma senate in 1964 as the first black senator in the state. He served for 22 years, during which he introduced the Anti-Discrimination Act. News station KFOR-TV has more.

The Davidson County General Sessions Court will hold its annual expungement clinic Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Covenant Christian Church, 2201 Osage St., Nashville 37208. Attorney volunteers are needed and a meeting for prospective volunteers is set for tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the General Sessions Judges Library on the fourth floor of the Justice A. A. Birch Building. Judge Rachel Bell, presiding judge of the court, is organizing the meeting and the clinic. Bell reports that more than 300 people usually attend the clinic.

The ABA House of Delegates will meet Aug. 8-9 in San Francisco for its annual meeting. Items on the agenda include a proposal that would permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time; an amendment to the model rules of conduct to add anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions; a proposal urging states to abolish probation systems supervised by private, for-profit firms; and initiatives that expand ABA efforts to diversify the legal profession and the judiciary.

Tennessee college athletes will be before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this week arguing they should be paid for the use of their names and images in the college sports industry and on television, the Tennessean reports. The athletes are asking a panel of three judges to reopen their case, which a Nashville federal judge dismissed last year. Ten former football and basketball athletes, many of whom attended Vanderbilt University or the University of Tennessee, filed a $5 million lawsuit in 2014 saying their images were used without their permission by the broadcast networks and eight NCAA conferences.

The Montgomery County Courts Center was evacuated Tuesday morning after an inmate escaped from a holding cell and hid out in lower level of the building, the Leaf Chronicle reports. Jose Luis Garcia, 45, left his holding cell at about 10:45 a.m. At 12:10 p.m., a deputy and his K-9 dog found Garcia in the duct work above the holding area. Garcia was awaiting a 1:30 p.m. court hearing on charges of auto theft, property theft, fugitive from justice and two counts of driving on a revoked license. He will face additional charges for his escape attempt as well as vandalism, officials said.

Davidson County lawyer Dana L. Nero received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 26. The court found that Nero gave her client erroneous advice about when he would be released if he pleaded guilty in a criminal matter. Nero promised the client, who had been incarcerated for 27 months, that he would go home shortly after pleading guilty and facing a sentence of six years. However, release from a sentence of that length requires the approval of the parole board. Read the BPR notice.

The ABA has filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to apply a 2014 copyright ruling, which limited use of the “laches defense,” to patent cases. The doctrine of laches allows dismissal of suits that are unreasonably delayed. The ABA argues patent cases should not be subject to laches during the statutory six-year damages period, and that laches should be available only in the most extraordinary circumstances and to prevent injunctive and other prospective equitable relief. Neglecting to take this action will “continue to encourage rushed, premature filings, and discourage non-litigation resolutions such as settlement,” the brief argues. The ABA Journal has more on the issue.

TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur is among those who will address the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force when it meets Friday in Nashville for the next stop on its listening tour. The hearing will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville School of Law, Room 200, 4013 Armory Oaks Dr., Nashville 37204. The TBA has long supported an increase in the compensation rate for those who handle court-appointed cases. After Friday's session, the task force will hold one last hearing in Franklin on Aug.11.

Photo credit: Legal Aid of East Tennessee

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) presented four awards and heard from Justice Roger Page during its Annual Pro Bono Night in Chattanooga. The Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award went to Chattanooga attorney William A. “Trey” Harris III for his service to the LAET Board. The Bruce C. Bailey Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award went to Susan R. Gruber, who kept regular office hours at LAET. The Pro Bono Firm of the Year Award went to the Law Offices of David Coates, and the Alexander Hamilton Award, which recognizes a non-legal entity, went to Habitat for Humanity for presenting an estate planning clinic where more than 40 Habitat families were served. Read more about the award recipients.

The Chattanooga Bar Association (CBA) has asked the local Circuit Court to appoint a receiver to close out the pending cases of Matthew Jack Fitzharris, a Chattanooga attorney who was shot and arrested in Catoosa County, Georgia, on July 12. The CBA says that Fitzharris is disabled and unable to practice law and has been unable to make arrangements for another attorney to handle his cases. Police reports say that Fitzharris was shot in the arm after breaking into a home, threatening a couple and refusing to leave. He was charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, entering an automobile or other motor vehicle with intent to commit theft or felony, burglary, simple assault and criminal damage to property. Chattanoogan.com has more.

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) has announced the lineup of speakers for its 2016 Equal Justice University (EJU) conference. Among those speaking is TBA President Jason Long, who will address the group during the Leadership Lunch on Sept. 1. Registration for the conference closes Aug. 19.

Retired Tazewell lawyer and TBA senior counselor James D. Estep Jr. died Monday (July 25) at the age of 91. Estep, a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, was born in Cumberland Gap and served as its mayor in 1954. He also served as Claiborne County judge from 1956 to 1966. He later founded Estep & Estep Attorneys-At-Law in Tazewell and practiced law there for 64 years. Visitation will be Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Claiborne-Overholt Funeral Home in New Tazewell. Funeral services will follow. Burial will be Friday at 11 a.m. at the Harrogate (Meador) Cemetery in Harrogate. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the New Tazewell United Methodist Church. Knoxnews has more on his life.

Knox County lawyer Daniel Wayne Starnes was censured on Tuesday for practicing law while his license was suspended. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that in August 2015, while his license was suspended for CLE noncompliance, Starnes made various court appearances and sent legal correspondence. Read the BPR notice.

Florida lawyer Frank Alfred Baker was suspended from the practice of law on Monday until further notice. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action after Baker was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of making a false statement to the FDIC and making a false claim against the United States. The court ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine final discipline. Read the BPR notice.