TBA Law Blog


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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 15, 2021

Earlier this month, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced there was an apparent compromise of the federal judiciary’s case management/electronic filing system. The potential breach seems to have been related to the SolarWinds hack that infiltrated more than half a dozen federal agencies. As a result of the apparent hack, the office is now requiring all “highly sensitive documents” be filed in paper form or through a secure electronic device. While it is not yet clear what documents may have been compromised, Bloomberg News reports they could include a variety of sensitive materials, from companies’ sales figures, contracts and product plans, to psychiatric, financial or medical information in criminal cases, and healthcare information for litigants in ongoing cases.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 15, 2021

The fall out continues for those who were present at a rally last week or part of a group that breached the U.S. Capitol. Greene County Assistant District Attorney General David Baker removed posts from his Facebook page, dodged questions and — through local attorney Jonathan Cave — threatened to sue the Knoxville News Sentinel before acknowledging he was at the rally, the paper reports. Baker said through his attorney that he did not enter the capitol and called the actions of those who did “shameful.” In California, Chapman University law professor John Eastman, who assisted in filing several lawsuits challenging presidential election results and spoke at the rally, has left the law school, Law.com reports. He reached an agreement to immediately retire amid criticism of his role in stoking the attack. Finally, two Tennesseans who were present at the capitol have been arrested. Eric Gavelek Munchel, known as “zip-tie guy” was arrested in Nashville. He appears in photographs “running wild in the Senate chamber carrying zip-tie restraints with a holster on his hip,” Tennessee Lookout reports. Matthew Bledsoe of Memphis was arrested and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct, the Commercial Appeal reports.

In related news, inspectors general for four federal departments today launched a sweeping review of how the FBI, the Pentagon and other law enforcement agencies responded to the attack at the capitol, including whether there were failures in information sharing and other preparations that left the building vulnerable. The AP has more on the probe.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 15, 2021

The federal government last night executed Corey Johnson, who was convicted of drug trafficking and seven murders in 1992, National Public Radio reports. His attorneys argued that Johnson had an intellectual disability and that moving forward with the execution would be "cruel and usual punishment" because of his recent COVID-19 infection. Johnson is the 12th person to be executed by the federal government since the Trump administration restarted federal executions after a 17-year hiatus. Dustin Higgins is the last person scheduled to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. He is scheduled to die today. Biden has indicated he may seek to abolish federal executions.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 15, 2021

Virtual swearing-in ceremonies for new lawyers are continuing today after five were held yesterday. TBA President Michelle Greenway Sellers introduced several new lawyers to the court. Next week on Thursday, leaders of the TBA Young Lawyers Division will meet with new admittees for a virtual celebration to congratulate them on their success and answer questions common to those beginning their practice.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 15, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court is seeking comments on proposed changes to CLE rules recently submitted by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education. The commission's petition asks the court to consider amendments to Rule 21 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Among the proposed changes are provisions allowing partial year waivers of CLE requirements, allowing issuance of regulations related to granting exceptional relief, reversing a 2019 rules change granting three hours of credit for those serving on the Board of Professional Responsibility, adjusting the types of activities that receive discretionary CLE credit or public service credit, and revising deadlines for reporting CLE attendance. Comments should be submitted by May 17 to Clerk James Hivner, Tennessee Supreme Court, 401 7th Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37219.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin & Kate Prince on Jan 15, 2021

The TBA will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day. We will reopen Tuesday at 8 a.m. CST.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Jan 14, 2021

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) announced on its website this week that it has launched an inquiry to determine whether Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, should be removed from its membership. NYSBA says the inquiry comes after receiving “hundreds of complaints in recent months” about Giuliani’s efforts to cast doubt on the 2020 presidential election, including the court actions he brought in multiple states in an attempt to overturn the results. The bar association also cited Giuliani’s speech on Jan. 6 at the White House where he was recorded telling a crowd of thousands, “Let’s have a trial by combat,” hours before some from the same crowd stormed the Capitol. NYSBA says Giuliani will have due process and will be allowed to defend his words and actions if he chooses. “This decision is historic for NYSBA, and we have not made it lightly,” the association posted on its website. “We cannot stand idly by and allow those intent on rending the fabric of our democracy to go unchecked.”

Posted by: Kate Prince on Jan 14, 2021

American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo on Tuesday urged acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen to delay the federal executions scheduled for this week. Corey Johnson is scheduled to die by lethal injection this evening for his role in a gang implicated in 10 murders in 1992. Dustin Higgs is scheduled to be executed on Friday for kidnapping and killing three young women on federal land in 1996. Lisa Montgomery was executed on Tuesday. In her letter, Refo writes that the executions to be carried out in Terre Haute “create a substantial risk of COVID-19 case transmission at the prison and in the surrounding communities.”

Posted by: Kate Prince on Jan 14, 2021

Data gathered from a new survey of judges shows that one in five respondents met at least one criteria for depressive disorder, the ABA Journal reports. The National Judicial Stress and Resiliency Survey was designed by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and surveyed 1,000 judges before the COVID-19 pandemic. The depressive disorder symptoms included lack of initiative, preoccupation with negative thoughts, feeling that work is no longer meaningful, depressed mood and more. When asked about the cause of their stress, 79.7% said it was the importance and impact of their decisions, followed by a heavy docket of cases at 73.2%. The study recommends that judges take steps to control their stress with good habits like exercise, better nutrition, stretching, mindfulness and more. It also recommended that leaders of courts and administrative agencies demonstrate that judicial well-being is a priority.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Jan 14, 2021

Legal Aid of East Tennessee today announced that it has appointed Knoxville attorney Debra House as interim executive director. House has been with LAET since 1988, when she joined as a staff attorney in the Cleveland office. She moved to the Knoxville office in 2007 and has served in a variety of roles at LAET, most recently as the director of development and compliance. House has managed many teams, initiatives and projects at LAET, including collaborations to develop the Tennessee Senior Law Alliance and Cycles of Success projects. Additionally, House has served in leadership roles for other organizations, including the Knoxville Bar Association, Knoxville Family Justice Center, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the TBA, where she is currently a member of the House of Delegates. LAET Board of Director’s President Keith Alley said the nonprofit firm “looks forward to working with Deb as she continues to lead the organization in providing the highest quality legal services to its clients.”


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