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Stay up to date with legal news in Tennessee by following the TBA Law Blog. This blog features stories either produced by the Tennessee Bar Association or collected from news sources.

After Maurice Summerall was indicted for rape nearly 14 years after the incident, his attorney Charles Mitchell argues a delay in testing the rape kit has harmed Summerall’s ability to defend himself at trial. This week Mitchell filed a motion asking for the dismissal of the charge because of the delay. The Commercial Appeal reports Memphis police did not send the rape kit to a forensic center for testing for more than 12 years. Memphis has more than 12,000 untested sexual assault kits that have accumulated since the 1980s.

This month the Tennessee Bar Journal's employment law column by Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow covers retaliatory discharge in "Badges and Blown Whistles: Recent Retaliatory Discharge Actions in Tennessee." Monica Franklin collaborates with Dr. Gregory Phelps in her elder law column, "Advanced Care Planning: When Law and Medicine Intersect."  Humor columnist Bill Haltom writes about the late Dale Bumpers, the small-town lawyer who defended Bill Clinton before the Senate in the 1999 impeachment trial. Read these and the rest of the February issue.

Chancery Court Chancellor Ellen Lyle ruled in favor of Metro Nashville Public Schools schools today and dismissed a lawsuit that alleged the schools sought to inflate test scores by enrolling students in credit recovery programs. The lawsuit, filed in December, said a former student was removed from class to take a predictive test and then made to take remedial classes, which caused the student to fall behind. The school district argued that the student had “no constitutional right” to be moved onto the next grade. Read more from The Tennessean.

The Knoxville New Sentinel filed a lawsuit today asking Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee to unseal evidence in the rape cases against ex-Vols football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. The evidence includes search warrant applications for Johnson's apartment and DNA samples for Johnson and Williams.

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday (Feb. 11) temporarily suspended Shelby County lawyer Michael C. Skouteris from the practice of law upon finding he misappropriated funds and poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. Skouteris is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases, and he must cease representing existing clients by March 13. This suspension is immediate and remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the Supreme Court. Read the BPR release.

Chicago attorney Moria Bernstein is suing Avvo, claiming the company’s online lawyer directory is violating Illinois' right of publicity law that bars use of professional information without permission. Bernstein is seeking to ban the use of her own and other lawyers’ information. She is also asking for statutory and punitive damages and attorney fees. Avvo’s chief legal officer said the lawsuit is “completely ludicrous.” Read more from the ABA Journal

Nashville attorney Gerard Stranch IV, a partner in Branstetter Stranch & Jennings, was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee that will coordinate the multidistrict litigation against Volkswagen. The automaker is facing more than 175 class actions in 32 states, including Tennessee, after the company admitted to installing “defeat devices” in certain vehicles in order to pass emission tests. Stranch joins 22 attorneys on the steering committee appointed by Judge Charles R. Breyer of California’s Northern District Court.

Misael Chica-Arguenta was convicted yesterday of three counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, but acquitted of seven other charges, after firing at Memphis police in 2014. The jury found him not guilty of attempting to kill two officers who were in the vehicle Chica-Arguenta fired on. Chica-Arguenta said he only intended to kill himself that night. Micah Gates, Chica-Arguenta’s attorney, argued "this was a suicide by cop.” Chica-Arguenta will be sentenced in March, The Commercial Appeal reports.

Defense attorney Minton Mayer motioned to strike certain “offensive” allegations outlined in a $37.5 million lawsuit filed in November against Brentwood’s Fellowship Bible Church involving the rape of a three-year-old boy, Brentwood Home Page reports. The lawsuit, filed in Williamson County Circuit Court, alleges the church tried to hide the incident from the parents and included phrases like "the church was a haven for predators.” Mayer argues the statements were intended to catch the attention of the media. Judge Michael W. Binkley denied Mayer’s motion to strike, but said a gag order in the case may be fair following an investigation by counsel.

Columbia’s City Judge Tom DuBois has been reappointed for a two-year term, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. DuBois was nominated by the Columbia City Council last night following confusion when the judge appointment appeared on its January agenda without a name attached.

Nashville public defender Dawn Deaner has teamed up with the district attorney, the Criminal Court Clerk's Office and Metro Schools to offer a “cafeteria courtroom” program to parents. The goal is to help low-income parents, chosen by the schools, understand and resolve minor legal issues without having to choose between going to work and going to court. "The reality is that a $50 ticket for someone living below the poverty line has such greater consequences," Deaner said. Read more from The Tennessean.

The Chattanoogan outlines how much money judicial candidates for Criminal Court, Division II have collected: Judge Tom Greenholtz reported $71,641, Mike Little reported $22,850 and Boyd Patterson reported $20,134. Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Greenholtz to the position in September following the retirement of Judge Rebecca Stern.

The Nashville Scene reports Gov. Bill Haslam told Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey that it is not Ramsey's domain to decide to allow guns into the Legislative Plaza. “We believe the Department of General Services has statutory authority on this issue,” said Jennifer Donnals, Haslam’s press secretary. According to the Times Free Press, Democrats also have objected to plans by Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, to let state handgun-carry permit holders carry loaded weapons in the Plaza. Ramsey has argued that it is the speakers of the Senate and House who control Legislative Plaza.

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of officers’ seizures in two cases involving motorists crossing roadway markings. The cases involved a woman crossing the “fog line” in Williamson County and a man crossing a double-yellow line in Knox County. Both defendants were charged with DUI and sought to have evidence in those cases suppressed, claiming the officers’ basis for pulling them over was a violation of their constitutional rights prohibiting unlawful seizure. Read the unanimous opinions in State v. Linzey Danielle Smith and State v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr., both authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.

A battle over insurance laws has landed before the state Supreme Court following a man hitting a bar owner in 2012 while driving an Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, The Tennessean reports. Edward Martin, owner of The Pond in Franklin, appealed after a Williamson County judge dismissed the case because Martin’s insurance company claimed its policy supplied to Martin did not cover the Enterprise rental. The rental is considered “self-insured,” not uninsured. "The Court of Appeals (which upheld the Williamson County decision) has created a hole in the coverage of every uninsured motorist coverage plan in Tennessee," Shea Callahan, Martin’s attorney, said.

The Daily News profiles Bruce McMullen, who is serving as chief legal officer for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. McMullen, also a shareholder at Baker Donelson, says protection of employees and technology are two areas “that bear watching” in the present legal environment of cities. “When you’re working for the government, you have an obligation to inform them as much as possible, give out accurate information, without giving your strategies to the other side,” he said.

The Tennessean reports BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is appealing a recent decision by the Chancery Court for Tennessee's 20th Judicial District that says BCBST breached a contract with a general insurance agent. The court recently awarded James Walker, the president and owner of Individual Healthcare Specialists, $2.1 million after BCBST was found to have breached a commissions contract. BCBST argued that changes to the contract and commission structure on renewals were due to the Affordable Care Act.

The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Wednesday upheld Mississippi’s method of lethal injection, striking down arguments from death row prisoners who claimed the state’s drugs were not specifically approved by state law. The inmates argued that they “faced risk of excruciating pain and torture during an execution because they might remain conscious” after midazolam, a new drug recommended by the state, was administered. The judge said inmates will have to take up their issues with the method in state court. Read more from the Associated Press.

Henry County’s Courthouse Committee voted Tuesday to approve a new set of policies on the use of courtrooms and meeting rooms inside the county courthouse. The Paris Post-Intelligencer reports the policy now indicates who is authorized to use the rooms and also outlines the use of the rooms for ceremonial purposes. The new rules now go to the full County Commission for a vote later this month.

“Should teachers be given benefits if a hearing challenging the possible firing is delayed past 30 days?” The Tennessean reports Tennessee Supreme Court justices are weighing that question as they review the state law that sets procedures for how school boards must handle the firing of tenured teachers. State law currently requires that a hearing “shall” not be set later than 30 days after a teacher asks for it. The debate stems from a case brought by a former Memphis high school teacher who did not receive a hearing until a year after her suspension.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month determined that the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law. Reuters reports the decision comes after Google in November submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car that has "no need for a human driver." "We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a 'driver' in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years,” NHTSA's letter said.

Following delays due to winter weather, the Chattanooga Bar Association last week presented awards and elected a new board at its annual meeting. Among awards presented, the late John Higgason, who died Jan. 21, received the Harry Weill Zealous Practice of Law Award for his career of more than 60 years in Chattanooga. CBA YLD representative Jeffrey Maddux received the YLD Volunteer of the Year. The 2016 CBA Board includes: Judge Christie Mahn Sell, president; Lee Davis, president-elect; Bill Colvin, secretary; Steve Jacoway, treasurer. Barret Albritton, Marc Harwell, Linda Norwood, Jeffrey Billings, Curtis Bowe and John Harrison will serve as board members. Read more from the Hamilton County Herald.

The Tennessee Bar Foundation's Interest on Lawyers Trusts Accounts recently awarded a $112,936 grant to the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. The non-profit law firm also received grants from The West End Home Foundation and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The contributions will enable Legal Aid Society to help low-income individuals and families find legal civil assistance.

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld received the American Bar Association’s 2016 Stonewall Award for her work as a gay rights advocate. The award was presented Feb. 6 at the ABA LGBT Caucus as part of the organization’s mid-year meeting in San Diego. Rubenfeld was co-counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. In December, Rubenfeld and co-counsel TBA President Bill Harbison were named Nashvillians of the Year by Scene magazine for their work on the case.

Case summaries in yesterday’s issue of TBAToday were not included because of an error. Those summaries are now available in the online version of TBAToday