TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Sep 25, 2019

Journal Issue Date: Oct 2019

Journal Name: Vol 55 No 10

For the Record

Three Tennessee attorneys were honored at the Equal Justice University Awards Dinner. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins and Legal Aid of East Tennessee Executive Director Sheri Fox joined with honorees Jeannie Kosciolek, Lucy Boateng and Benjamin Danforth at the program.

AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate, left, received the Janice M. Holder Award during EJU’s Welcome Luncheon.
Legal community leaders gather following the EJU Awards Dinner. From left, B. Riney Green, Ashby Pate, Joycelyn Stevenson, Sarah Sheppeard, Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins and Ann Pruitt. Photos by Liz Todaro.


More than 200 lawyers, law students and advocates gathered in August at the 2019 Equal Justice University (EJU) in Murfreesboro under the theme “One Voice, One Person, One Vote: Reflecting on Tennessee’s Role in the 19th Amendment and Exploring New Voting Rights Frontiers.”

TBA President Sarah Sheppeard was the keynote speaker at the event’s Leadership Luncheon. Other highlights included the presentation of the Janice M. Holder Award to AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate; the presentation of the Founder’s Award to Harrison D. McIver III; the presentation of the R. Riney Green Award to Jeannie Kosciolek; and presentation of New Advocate of the Year Awards to Lucy Boateng from Community Legal Center and Benjamin Danford from Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins, Justice Connie Clark and former Justice Janice Holder all delivered remarks during the conference.

TBA Board

Approves Bylaws Change, Offers Group Health Insurance  The TBA Board of Governors in August voted in favor of proposed revisions to the organization’s bylaws previously published to the membership on July 31. The most substantive change created a
category of nonvoting, law firm, employer-level membership.

Under the revised bylaws, any law firm in which 100 percent of its Tennessee-based attorneys are members of the TBA will be eligible to become a law firm member of the association under rules established by the Board of Governors. TBA employer members will now have access to an affordable association group health insurance plan. Employer members include solo practitioners with at least one W-2 employee working a minimum of 30 hours per week. There are no health questions and no pre-existing condition exclusions.

TBA President Sarah Y. Sheppeard explains the new health insurance options for members in a podcast in the TBA’s recording studio.

For more information contact tbams@tnbar.org.


General Assembly Approves, Court Sets Effective Date for 2019 Rules Changes 

The Tennessee Supreme Court set Oct. 1 as the effective date for amendments associated with the 2019 rules package, which the Tennessee House of Representatives approved on Aug. 23 and the Senate approved on March 25. These rule changes include revisions to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Evidence, Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Rules of Juvenile Practice and Procedure.

Supreme Court Seeks Comment on Proposed Amendments 

The Tennessee Supreme Court is seeking written comments concerning recommended amendments from the Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, which met this summer to complete its 2018-2019 term. The commission made recommendations to Rule 5 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 26, Rule 33 and Rule 37. Written comments may either be submitted by email to appellatecourtclerk@
tncourts.gov or by mail to James Hivner, Clerk, Re: 2020 Rules Package, 100 Supreme Court Building 401 7th Avenue North Nashville, TN 37219-1407. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 13.

TSC Vacates BPR Formal Ethics Opinion on Disclosure 

In a recently released opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility’s Formal Ethics Opinion 2017-F-163, first released in March 2018, which provided guidance to prosecutors about ethical duties under Rule 3.8(d) — the statute covering a prosecutor’s ethical duties to disclose evidence or information tending to negate the guilt of the accused or to mitigate the offense. On Jan. 15, the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference filed a petition to vacate the opinion. In its unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court considered other states’ interpretations of prosecutors’ ethical rules and ultimately agreed with the position that a prosecutor’s ethical duties should be coextensive with the prosecutor’s legal and constitutional obligations.

Study Shows Sentencing Gap Closing

A new study shows disparities in sentencing based on race are on the decline, the ABA Journal reports. One reason for the decline at the federal level was the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity in sentences for crack vs. powder cocaine, according to one of the study’s authors. The data was mixed on the sentencing gap between Latinos and white people at the federal level. The gap declined only when noncitizen Latinos were excluded from the data. 

Federal Program Working to Reduce Violent Crime in Memphis  Three years ago, the Memphis Police Department was one of the first agencies to receive federal assistance through the National Public Safety Partnership to help combat violent crime. Since then, violent crime has decreased seven percent, including a reduction in carjackings and gun-related crimes. In early September, law enforcement officials from across the country were in Memphis to learn more about the program. Today, more than 30 cities have joined the program with the federal government dedicating $28 million in funding.

Nashville School of Law faculty members met with Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in September. From left: Candi R. Henry, Hon. Steve R. Dozier, President & Dean William C. Koch Jr., Roberts, Kimberley Reed-Bracey Johnson, M. Clark Spoden and former TBA President William L. Harbison. Photo: NSL.


CJ Roberts Makes Surprise Visit  U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in Tennessee in September as a guest speaker at both the Nashville School of Law and Vanderbilt Law School. The unannounced visits took students by surprise but provided a unique opportunity to ask the justice questions. Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit also spoke to students and took questions. At Vanderbilt, Roberts addressed how he works with his four law clerks and his transition from an advocate in private practice to the judicial role. Both judges offered encouraging words to the students about their studies and ability to make a difference in the legal profession.

Bar groups across the state celebrated the cool cotton fabric at the end of August forming Seersucker Flashmobs, including the Chattanooga Bar Association, above. Photo courtesy CBA/Lynda Hood.


Lawyers Gather in Seersucker Solidarity to Mark End of Summer   In late August, the 8th Annual Seersucker Flashmob was held across the Volunteer State, signaling the end of summer as seersucker suits and dresses were put away for the rest of the year.
Lawyers dressed in the cool, puckered cotton gathered at hotels, courthouse steps and other iconic places to show their seersucker solidarity. Flashmob events were held in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Jackson, Washington County and Chattanooga.