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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.

Six women today filed a federal lawsuit claiming the University of Tennessee has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs identified only as "Jane Does," says the university uses an adjudication process that is “biased against victims" and also accuses five school athletes of sexual assault. “Athletes knew in advance that UT would support them even after a complaint of sexual assault (and) arrange for top quality legal representation”, plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

Tennessee lawmakers today withdrew two abortion measures that would have required a woman to receive an ultrasound before an abortion (HB 1459) and would have banned the sale of aborted fetal tissue (HB 1709). WLPN reports the measures were withdrawn without explanation.

Memphis lawyer George Ernest Skouteris Jr. was disbarred from the practice of law today by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 2010, Skouteris agreed to a settlement in an automobile accident without the authority of his clients. He signed their names to the settlement checks without their knowledge or consent and deposited them to his trust account. He later led the clients to believe their lawsuit was still ongoing. Read the BPR release.

The Tennessee Judiciary released its 2015 Annual Report, which includes details on the newly created business court, a review of case management practice and the groundwork for the state’s e-filing system. “We will continue our review of the judicial branch to ensure that we are using best practices and being good stewards of our tax dollars,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in her introductory letter.

The Blount County Recovery Court is now using GPS monitoring to track its participants, the Daily Times reports. Participants who wear GPS monitoring devices have to pay a weekly fee. “It’s an alternative sanction to jail,” Program Director Amy Galyon said.

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday publicly censured Clarksville lawyer Travis Nathaniel Meeks. The court took the action after Meeks falsely stated in a letter to an adversary attorney that he anticipated calling an expert witness, a certified public accountant, who would testify that his adversary’s expert witness, also a CPA, was engaged in criminal conduct. As a result, the trial was postponed. Read the BPR release.

The University of Memphis Health Law Institute will host its third annual Symposium, titled “An ACE in the Hand of Policy Reform; Loading the Deck for a Trauma-informed Juvenile Justice System,” on Feb. 9. Mark Soler, the executive director at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy in Washington, D.C., will be the keynote speaker. The event will be held from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, 1 North Front.

Four of the five candidates for circuit court judge say they will not stand around Veterans Plaza in Clarksville during early voting, The Leaf-Chronicle reports. "As voters ourselves, we felt uncomfortable when we went to cast our ballots at Veterans Plaza and had to run a gauntlet to do so,” stated a joint release from Jill Ayers and Robert Bateman, candidates for Circuit Court Judge Part IV, and Ted Crozier Jr. and Roger Nell, candidates for Circuit Court Judge Part III. 

Nashville-based Tennessee Oncology is suing Genentech for false representation in the packaging of its cancer drug Herceptin, The Tennessean reports. Tennessee Oncology, represented by Bass Berry & Sims, claims the label on the drug misrepresents the amount of product after following the approved preparation instructions for the freeze-dried powder. Similar lawsuits are pending in six other states.

At least 60 percent of children in Shelby County who come in contact with the juvenile justice system have a mental disorder, according to the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Policy Academy Action Network. The group’s study also reveals 30 percent of the children have a learning disability and 70 percent of the children have gone through some sort of traumatic event. Read more from WREG.

The Shelby County Commission approved $569,783 for the Juvenile Court to use in adding personnel and court upgrades. The expenses are necessary to keep the court in compliance with the memorandum of agreement between the county, the court and the U.S. Department of Justice, The Commercial Appeal reports. Court upgrades include installing bullet-proof safety glass for the judicial chambers.

Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton yesterday dismissed charges against a Campbell County woman who had not been able to get her name cleared because of a controversial fee policy enacted by Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Eighth Judicial District Assistant Public Defender William C. Jones argued that Sammons had no right to make an innocent woman pay a $50 public defender fee when she did not use the office’s services. "By denying the state's motion to dismiss, (Sammons) has continued a prosecution of a citizen for crimes she did not commit, knowing she didn't commit them, solely for the purpose of leverage in collecting a civil debt," Jones said.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood was arraigned today on charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud following a three-year investigation. Hazelwood joins seven others accused in a diesel fuel rebate fraud. Ten former Pilot employees have already pleaded guilty.

The University of Tennessee College of Law launched its new Graduate Certificate in Contractual and Legal Affairs in Engineering and Construction. The 15-credit-hour graduate certificate is offered in conjunction with the UT College of Engineering. The program is designed to give lawyers a background in construction and engineering. “Law students will gain a greater perspective by taking classes with engineering students and individuals currently working in the construction field,” said Alex B. Long, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law.

Next City, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire change in cities through journalism, profiles attorney Steve Barlow’s “blight fight” in Memphis. Barlow said he was inspired to begin tackling the city’s blight problem more than a decade ago after attending a conference put on by a national blight elimination nonprofit. He later filed the city’s first ever blight lawsuit under the state’s Neighborhood Preservation Act. “I feel like it is my job to be sure irresponsible owners are held accountable to a very high standard of property maintenance," Barlow said.

The city of Rocky Top settled its lawsuit with House of Bryant Publications, the copyright holders of the popular bluegrass tune with the same name. The company sued the city in 2013 in an effort to prevent the name change. The city is now allowed to sell trademarked items, as long as money raised goes to the city. The Associated Press reports a separate settlement with the development group that proposed the tourist complex, Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing, is still under negotiation.

A state House Ad Hoc Select Committee, created by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and tasked with investigating Rep. Jeremy Durham, held its first meeting today and unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing state Attorney General Herbert Slatery III “to conduct a full fair and thorough investigation of the allegations of disorderly and inappropriate behavior and misconduct by Representative Durham.” Slatery responded in a statement, “Everyone has one goal – to ensure a thorough and fair investigation while respecting the process and those involved.” Durham, R-Franklin, is accused of having an affair with a former representative and sending inappropriate text messages to women. Read more from the Nashville Scene

The American Bar Association House of Delegates today passed a resolution urging the Federal Bureau of Prisons to amend its policy of monitoring emails between federal prisoners and their attorneys. The federal government requires that users of TRULINCS, the email system for federal prisoners, waive attorney-client privilege. Carol A. Sigmond, the resolution’s sponsor, argues attorney-client privilege “is what distinguishes us from LegalZoom.” Read more from the ABA Journal.

Students at the University of Tennessee College of Law will offer free tax preparation help through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The VITA program, which runs through April 14, offers free tax help and electronic filing to persons with disabilities, limited English-speaking taxpayers and more. Assistance is available from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursday in Suite 157 of the College of Law. Call 865-974-2492 for more information.

Former Metro Nashville Councilman Loniel Greene was indicted Friday on a felony charge of coercion of a witness, The Tennessean reports. Greene admitted last week he phoned a jail to speak with his cousin, Travis Buchanan, and said he would “work on” the woman Buchanan was accused of assaulting. Last week, Nashville prosecutors announced Greene would not face charges for lying in court.

Nashville attorney Bill Ramsey of Neal & Harwell and Anne-Marie Moyes, a federal public defender in Nashville, will join others in the criminal justice system for a panel discussion of the Netflix show "Making a Murderer." The panel, hosted by The Tennessean, is planned for Feb. 11, 6 p.m., at Flying Saucer, 111 10th Ave South #310. 

The ongoing investigation of Memphis attorney Keith K. Dobbs, a Department of Veterans Affairs-appointed fiduciary, means veterans he represents are unable to access their accounts. Tennessee law limits an individual other than a family member to no more than 13 VA guardianships at a time; The Commercial appeal reports Dobbs may have been in control of 14 VA estates. Dobbs has been removed from control of estates for four Memphis veterans thus far, and more removals are expected.

The Blount County Recovery Court is seeking additional federal grant money funneled through the state, the Daily Times reports. The funds are to offset the costs the court incurs when it sends some of its participants to a residential facility in Morgan County, which offers a more intense recovery program for addicts.

The Tennessean reports an anti same-sex marriage lawsuit has been filed in Bradley County challenging the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage. The suit, filed by attorney David Fowler, is the second case filed by the former state Senator challenging the landmark ruling. “These lawsuits have had the additional positive effect of helping an increasing number of Tennesseans begin to appreciate the important constitutional boundaries that the United States,” Fowler said.

David Harris used his time behind bars for armed robbery to conduct legal research and successfully convince an appeals court to overturn a state-imposed sentence. Now after a long and difficult journey, Harris is a Davidson and Rutherford County attorney specializing in appeals after having won approval to practice in Tennessee from the Board of Law Examiners. His story is featured in The Tennessean. “His adversity doesn’t define him. It refined him,” said Verna Wyatt, executive director of Tennessee Voices for Victims.