TBA Law Blog

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on May 17, 2021

Legislators adjourned the first year of the 112th General Assembly just a little more than a week ago, but comments from some indicate they could return for a special session to approve the spending of federal recovery funds. The state is to receive $8.6 billion, with $4 billion going to the state, $2.27 billion for county and city governments and $2.3 billion for local school districts, Tennessee Lookout reports. Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chair Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said last week a special session may be needed due to the sheer amount of money headed for Tennessee as well as the need to reallocate current funds. “We are going to try and run our normal expansion request process with these new federal dollars that are coming in unless it’s just so burdensome we just can’t manage it. We don’t know yet,” he said.

Posted by: Kate Prince on May 14, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order to further loosen COVID-19 restrictions on in-person proceedings. Masks are now optional for those coming in-person to court, the order to stay six feet apart has been reduced to three feet and courtroom capacity requirements have been lifted, effective immediately. Judicial districts and judges still have discretion to limit the number of people in a courtroom and compliance with current CDC guidelines is still encouraged. The order also states that courts not already doing so, should begin utilizing technology to avoid in-person proceedings. Read more from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Posted by: Barry Kolar on Apr 28, 2021

Results from the February bar exam are scheduled to be released by 2 p.m. CDT Thursday, the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners has announced.  Watch the TBA.org website for results as soon as they are available. The February exam was administered remotely per a Tennessee Supreme Court order issued on Oct. 23, 2020. The next exam, set for June, also will be held virtually.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 27, 2021

Gov. Bill Lee this week signed an executive order removing the authority of most Tennessee counties to issue local mask mandates, WPLN reports. Lee also urged larger areas, including Davidson, Shelby, Hamilton, Knox, Sullivan and Madison counties, to drop any remaining mask requirements and COVID-related business restrictions. “COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee and no longer a statewide public health emergency,” Lee says. “As Tennesseans continue to get vaccinated, it’s time to lift remaining local restrictions, focus on economic recovery and get back to business in Tennessee.” Executive Order 80 extends to 89 counties where the state controls the local health department.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 26, 2021

The Shelby County Criminal Court began its first jury trial today after a more than 13-month hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commercial Appeal reports. The case was heard in one of two brand new courtrooms in the Criminal Justice Center at 201 Poplar. The new courtrooms, started before the pandemic, were altered to accommodate new restrictions. They are large enough for 12 jurors, alternates, attorneys and court personnel to socially distance. Witnesses sit behind a clear plastic shield while a video screen helps jurors see the witnesses up close. The court will use these new courtrooms for all trials until further notice.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 23, 2021

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed legislation aimed at combating a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, The Hill reports. The bill, which passed 94-1, now goes to the House of Representatives where leaders are expected to bring up their version of the legislation. The bill directs the Justice Department to designate an official to review coronavirus-related hate crimes and strengthen state and local resources. The move comes after a California State University study of 16 cities found a 149% increase in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in 2020.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 19, 2021

Internal correspondence among Tennessee Department of Health officials contrasted with public comments show that the number of “excess” doses found at the Shelby County Health Department were overstated, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The Journal looks at the state and the county’s methodology for determining the excess doses. It also explores the county’s explanation for the excess doses, including that a stockpile intended for teachers was not used because the state did not open up that phase as early as expected, and that other doses went unused due to unanticipated weather issues.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 14, 2021

With coronavirus vaccinations expanding nationwide to all adults this month, business leaders are anticipating an acceleration in the return to the office. Kastle System’s Back to Work Barometer is tracking this phenomenon in 10 major cities across the country. The group’s latest review shows that the legal industry’s return to the office is exceeding the average for other industries by as much as 10%. The head of the security and safety company says law firms are citing many factors that have made remote work more challenging, including paper heavy office systems and being slower to adopt new technologies. The director of the Association of Legal Administrators says she is hearing from members that law firms are returning to the office more quickly due to concerns about using virtual platforms to onboard new employees and train new associates. Read more from the company.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Apr 12, 2021

Federal Judge Sheryl Halle Lipman on Friday approved an agreement between civil rights advocates and the Shelby County sheriff to improve jail conditions and protect people from widespread infection, serious injury and death from COVID-19, Memphis Flyer reports. The agreement guarantees that the jail will implement rigorous monitoring and reporting, including: additional jail inspections, improved airflow and ventilation, better quality protective equipment, continued efforts to expedite release of those who are disabled or medically vulnerable and improved social distancing.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Apr 6, 2021

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has joined Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron in a lawsuit challenging a mandate from the Biden Administration in the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law last month. The economic stimulus bill includes nearly $2 trillion and allocates roughly $200 billion to help state governments with COVID-19 relief. To receive the aid, the bill requires states to comply with a tax mandate that prevents it from lowering taxes for its citizens for four years. The lawsuit argues that the tax mandate unconstitutionally usurps the authority of each state’s legislature to enact beneficial tax policies. Tennessee expects to receive about $3.7 billion under the Act, more than one fifth of Tennessee’s annual general revenue. Read more from the AG’s office.

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