TBA Law Blog

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Oct 23, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order directing that the February 2021 bar exam be administered as a “remote, computer-based test.” The court states that with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase in Tennessee, an in-person exam “even with safety precautions in effect … cannot be justified at this time.” The order allows those who transferred their application for the July exam to the February testing date to transfer the application again with no additional fees to “a concurrent" Uniform Bar Examination. It also allows those who transferred their July application to February and now no longer wish to take the exam to withdraw their application by Nov. 10 and receive a refund of $400. Earlier this week, the National Conference of Bar Examiners announced that jurisdictions could choose to administer the February exam either in person or remotely on Feb. 23 and 24, 2021. Read more from the court.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Oct 22, 2020

The Tennessee Judicial Conference met virtually for its annual fall meeting this month, marking the first conference the group has held since March. TJC President and 26th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Roy Morgan opened the conference with a quote he recently read which he felt summed up the transition to a virtual meeting: “Change is the law of life.” Administrative Office of the Courts Director Deborah Taylor Tate highlighted the high court’s June statement on its commitment to equal justice under the law. She also gave a snapshot of the work Tennessee courts have done in recent months, including 6,512 Zoom sessions since April, $500,000 in personal protective equipment for the courts, nearly 300 livestreamed appellate arguments and more. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins also spoke during the conference, commending the judges on their work to keep the courts open and functioning. Read the full story on the AOC’s website.  

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Oct 21, 2020

The Tennessee Department of Health today released preliminary plans for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the state, the Nashville Post reports. The plan provides a framework for how the state will allocate doses among counties and prioritized populations, including health care workers and first responders, who would be the first to receive a vaccine. Next in line would be high-risk populations in long-term care facilities or congregate living settings, followed by child care workers, educators and individuals with chronic health conditions. Finally, the vaccine would be provided to essential workers and then ultimately to the general population. Distribution across the state would be based on population but an additional allotment would be reserved for initial demand in smaller counties and for the state’s emergency stockpile.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Oct 20, 2020

Three people with Better Days Tax Service in Memphis have been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. after allegedly fraudulently obtaining $1.1 million from COVID-19-related economic injury disaster loans, the Daily Memphian reports. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee D. Michael Dunavant announced the charges today, accusing the defendants of filing 401 fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans for people impacted by the pandemic. The approved loans netted approximately $1.1 million. If convicted, each defendant faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Oct 14, 2020

A member of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s security team has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the governor to quarantine at home with his wife out of an “abundance of caution,” the governor’s office announced today. The announcement said the governor is “feeling well” and has tested negative for the virus. Read more in the developing story from the Tennessean.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Oct 9, 2020

COVID-19 outbreaks have been shuttering municipal buildings across the state, WPLN reports. Lebanon's city hall closed after employees tested positive for the virus. Clarksville’s police department closed public access to its lobbies through Oct. 24 after several positive tests among staff. The small town of Monterey, in Putnam County, closed its city hall after two positive tests among employees. At the end of September, Davidson County’s Juvenile Justice Center reverted to only emergency hearings after multiple court employees fell ill, including Judge Sheila Calloway. In Millersville, which straddles Sumner and Robertson counties, ill employees prompted a city hall closure in August.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Oct 8, 2020

The Nashville Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) has been awarded a grant for $484,800 from the Metro Nashville CARES Fund to provide rent assistance through the NCRC’s Civil Mediation Program. NCRC provides free mediation between landlords and tenants in the Davidson County General Sessions Court, and mediators will use the available CARES funds to offer substantial assistance when rent has not been paid at least in part due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. NCRC Executive Director Sara Figal says a “tidal wave of evictions” are on the horizon and calls the funding “absolutely vital for our community.” Figal also says NCRC’s work is beneficial for the tenant and also the landlord. “When NCRC mediators intervene, we help stabilize precarious situations for both landlords and tenants, which has positive ripple effects throughout our communities.”

Posted by: Kate Prince on Oct 8, 2020

Three criminal court judges and five sessions court judges from Knox County on Monday filed an order barring any attorney positive for the COVID-19 virus from their courtrooms, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The order comes in response to complaints that a COVID-19 positive attorney recently showed up for a hearing in Blount County, despite being ordered to self-quarantine. That attorney has not yet been named, but is also known to practice in Knox County. The order bans attorneys who test positive for the virus from all courtrooms in the county until they are “no longer contagious or at risk of transmitting” the virus. It also states that attorneys deemed guilty of violating the order will face contempt of court charges and could be “barred from practice” in Knox County’s courts.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Oct 7, 2020

Bar examinees across the country faced technical problems both days of the first-ever national online bar exam, though it appears that the vast majority of the more than 30,000 people taking the test were able to access it, Law.com reports. Some test takers reported delays in being able to log in to the exam or having to restart their computers in order begin testing. Software company ExamSoft administered the exam in 18 jurisdictions, including Tennessee, on Monday and Tuesday of this week and said more than 98% of test takers were successful in starting the exam. Some examinees expressed skepticism of those figures since the number did not include those who called the support line and simply hung up after being put on hold for too long. Yesterday, the move for diploma privilege got a boost when the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities sent a letter to the Conference of Chief Judges requesting that jurisdictions adopt temporary diploma privilege programs for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Oct 1, 2020

Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, days after juvenile courts were closed except for emergency hearings, News Channel 5 reports. Calloway announced on Monday that the state Supreme Court granted the juvenile court permission to only hold emergency court hearings after three court employees tested positive for COVID-19. Deputy Court Administrator Tommy Bradley says Calloway won't return until she is medically cleared.

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