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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. government has released new designs for the Nashville courthouse to be built and named after late U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The government plans to award the development contract for the project early next year. Three companies have made the shortlist for the project: Clark Construction Group out of Washington, D.C., W.G. Yates and Sons Construction from Philadelphia and Hensel Phelps of Colorado. The project is expected to cost $194.5 million and will be located at 719 Church Street.
Knoxville Attorney Dies
November 20, 2017

Thomas Draper Kerr Jr. died at his home in Knoxville on Nov. 13. He was 70. Kerr was a retired attorney who received a degree from the University of Tennessee Law School. He later a earned a Masters of Maritime Law from Tulane University, and was also a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Humane Society or any charity of choice.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee on Friday suspended McMinn County lawyer Larry D. Cantrell until further orders of the Court, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 22.3. Cantrell was suspended based upon his criminal conviction for theft of property. He was previously suspended on Feb. 7 and was never reinstated from that suspension.

Catherine “Cate” White has announced her candidacy for Hamilton County Circuit Court judge, seeking the position recently vacated by Judge Neil Thomas, Chattanoogan.com reports. White will appear on the Republican primary ballot on May 1, and if she wins will move on to the general election in September. In the meantime, Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to appoint a replacement for Thomas until the seat can be filled by the eventual winner of the election.

Samar Ali, international counsel at Bass Berry and Sims, was selected by the World Economic Forum for its Young Global Leaders Class of 2017. The 100 members of each class are selected from among professionals under age 40 considered the most innovative, enterprising and socially minded in their regions. Ali is the immediate past chair of the TBA's International Law Section and a member of the TBA's Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets. She is one of 24 selected for the class from North America.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and death sentences for Sedrick Clayton in the murders of Arithio, Patricia, and Pashea Fisher, and the conviction for attempted murder of A’Reco Fisher in Memphis. The court found the sentences were not arbitrary nor were they disproportionate to sentences imposed in similar cases. Justice Roger A. Page wrote the majority opinion, with Justice Sharon G. Lee authoring a concurring opinion.

Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Angelita Blackshear Dalton as Criminal Court Judge for the 20th District, replacing retiring Judge J. Randall Wyatt. Dalton has served as Davidson County General Sessions Judge for Division III since 2006. She was selected by her peers as presiding judge in 2010 and again in 2017. Dalton earned her law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law in 1997 and has served on the Tennessee Domestic Violence State Coordinating Council since 2008.
Sevier County lawyer Franz Fague Springmann died on Nov. 6. He was 59. Originally from Maryland, Springmann earned his law degree from the University of Miami in 1984. He practiced in Florida for many years before coming to Tennessee, where he was licensed to practice in 2000. He also taught classes at Walter State Community College. In lieu of flowers, the family requests all remembrances to be donated to a church in Uganda that faithfully prayed for Franz during his illness.
A 19-year-old Memphis woman was convicted Friday in the murder of a man, pregnant woman and unborn child, The Commercial Appeal reports. In the shooting death of Eddie Tate II and Edwina Thomas, Shelby Isaac was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, one count of reckless homicide, and in the case of the unborn baby, one count of criminally negligent homicide. Sentencing is set for Dec. 15.

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has issued a reprimand for White County Judge Sam Benningfield for his role in reducing the jail sentences of inmates who agreed to receive vasectomies or other forms of birth control, The Tennessean reports. The Nov. 15 letter stated that Benningfield acted in a way that threatened public confidence in the judicial system. Two lawsuits have been filed against Benningfield and White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe alleging they carried out a "modern day eugenics scheme."

Snow Falls for CLE Ski
November 20, 2017
One foot of new snow over the weekend at Snowmass! Join old and new friend on the slopes or by the fire at TBA's CLE Ski. Program offers 15 hours of CLE and lots of ski time in the heart of Snowmass Village, one of Colorado's premier ski resorts.  

The TBA on Dec. 1 will begin offering members Fastcase 7, the all-new version of the Fastcase online legal research tool. Many members already take advantage of the premium access to Fastcase provided through their TBA Complete Membership. Fastcase 7 will provide an even more fluid and easy-to-navigate online legal research library. It has all of the familiar features and tools, plus an enhanced Forecite, Tag Cloud, Authority Check and Bad Law Bot, more advanced search options, new results screen options, larger fonts and selections to make documents easier to read on computer screens, and new dual-column printing options.

Longtime Nashville attorney Dan Warlick died yesterday morning of an apparent heart attack, NewsChannel5 reports. He was 69. Warlick graduated from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1982, and once served as an investigator at the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office. Warlick was known for representing Elvis Presley’s doctor, Dr. George Nichopouls, and witnessing Presley’s autopsy. He also represented Tammy Wynette’s daughters in a lawsuit against Wynette’s doctor and husband after her death. Funeral arrangements are unavailable at this time.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee today set a trial date for former University of Tennessee football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, both accused of aggravated rape. Knoxnews reports that the pair will go to trial on July 16. They are accused of raping a fellow student at a party after a football game in November 2014. The trial comes after a lengthy legal battle over whether the defense could utilize social media posts, messages and texts of the accuser. The Tennessee Supreme Court refused to weigh in on the dispute, allowing an appellate court ruling allowing the use of the social media content.
The Republican Governors Association announced this week that Gov. Bill Haslam was elected chairman of the organization, taking over for previous chair, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Walker touted Haslam as a “proven conservative leader.” Haslam will preside over the group during the upcoming election year. ““I look forward to building on the RGA’s success in 2018, which present numerous opportunities to re-elect our incumbents and elect a new class of Republican governors,” Haslam said.
Today is the first day candidates for local office are eligible to pick up petitions to run in the May county primary elections. Petitions are available at county election commission offices. For a list of county election offices, visit the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website. For a calendar of important upcoming election dates, visit the TBA website.
In Jean Dedmon v. Debbie Steelman et al., the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to change a state law that outlines what evidence can be used to prove medical expenses in cases involving personal injury. The court held that Tennessee law continues to allow plaintiffs to use full, undiscounted medical bills to prove their medical expenses instead of the discounted amounts paid by insurance companies. Justice Holly Kirby authored the unanimous opinion in the case that was originally filed in Crockett County.

Two lawsuits were filed today by Woodmore Elementary School employees who claim they suffered “acute emotional trauma” following last year’s deadly bus crash, which took the lives of many students, the Times Free Press reports. The employees named the private bus company, Durham School Services, as well as driver Johnthony Walker in their lawsuits. Faculty and staff say they were not prepared to go to school following the tragedy and deal with the trauma that followed.

This series offers five hours of CLE and touches on indemnification in mergers and acquisitions. Topics include scope and methods of resolution.
The Justice Department might seek to block a planned merger between AT&T and Time Warner, setting the stage for “the antitrust case of the decade,” The New York Times reports. The DOJ demanded that AT&T sell either DirecTV or Turner Broadcasting to gain approval for the deal. Antitrust professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law Maurice Stucke noted that there has been a growing sense that antitrust enforcement has been too lenient in recent years.
The directors of Indiana’s Valparaiso University Law School have voted not to enroll first-year law students in 2018, The Chicago Tribune reports. The move reflects the school’s declining enrollment and difficult financial situation. Current students will be able to continue their education and no reductions of faculty are expected for now. 
Longtime Henry County Circuit Court Judge Julian Phelps Guinn died on Tuesday in Paris. He was 84. Judge Guinn was a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law and became a judge in 1984. Arrangements are unavailable at this time.
Tennessee attorney Hal Hardin was recently sworn-in as president of the National Association of Former U.S. States Attorneys (NAFUSA) at the organization’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Immediate Past President Bart Daniel passed the gavel to Hardin in front of the most well-attended conference in the group’s history. The 2018 conference will be held in Hardin’s home city of Nashville on Oct. 24-26.
With Republicans nationally, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to step down amid sexual misconduct allegations, Tennessee’s GOP U.S. Senate candidates are speaking up in response. The Tennessean reports that U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, said that she cannot support Moore’s candidacy if the “extremely disturbing” allegations are true, but that “it’s up to the people of Alabama to ultimately decide." Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher declined to directly address the case, only echoing Blackburn’s statement that it’s “up to Alabama voters.” Current Sen. Lamar Alexander has called for Moore to withdraw, and Sen. Bob Corker has also spoken out against Moore.

The Greater Knoxville Business Journal has named its annual 40 Under 40, and several attorneys made the cut. Among them are Crista Cuccaro, assistant city attorney for the City of Knoxville, Rachel Lokitz, associate general counsel and corporate secretary for Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and Valeria Gomez, equal justice works Americorps fellow and staff attorney for the Volunteer Immigrant Defense Advocates. The winners will be honored at a ceremony on Jan. 18 at the Knoxville Convention Center.