Campaign Seeks End to 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

At an event at the National Press Club today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and leaders of African American organizations announced a national campaign against "stand your ground" self-defense laws. Bloomberg said the campaign would be a grassroots effort that would include outreach to lawmakers in all 50 states and creation of model legislation. New York Daily News has the story and a press release from the mayor's office.

read more »

Judicial Election Bills Rocket to Senate Floor

Resolutions to amend the state constitution regarding selection and election of appellate court judges rocketed out of the  Senate Finance Committee today and are set for consideration as the first and second items on Wednesday's Senate floor calendar. Tennessee Bar Association President Danny Van Horn said that removing merit selection and instituting legislative confirmation in Tennessee's judicial selection system, as SJR 710 by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Collierville, would do, is  “dangerous experimentation” with our Constitution and will increase the role that politics plays in the selection of our appellate judiciary and possibly their functioning. At present the Tennessee Constitution does not provide for any state office to be subject to legislative confirmation.

The other proposal, SJR 183, sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, would amend the Constitution to permit the legislature to enact a system of merit selection and retention elections like our current system. While the TBA would prefer that the Constitutional amendment, if there must be one, prescribe more clearly the system to be created, the Norris resolution at least clearly authorizes the current system, which the bar supports.
Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and House Speaker Beth Harwell have previously affirmed unequivocally their support for the current system, saying that they favor extension of the present plan past the August 2014 judicial elections and adopting legislation to specify the outline of the present plan into the constitution. The TBA has been clear in its support for the present merit selection, performance evaluation and retention election system known at the Tennessee Plan, last amended in 2009, and continues to indicate that no amendment to the constitution is needed.

read more »

New System for Disciplining Judges Passes Legislature

Legislation that puts into place a new system for disciplining judges won House approval Monday night on an 88-5 vote without any debate. The Senate had earlier approved SB2671 unanimously, so the bill now goes to the governor. The bill abolishes the Court of the Judiciary and replaces it with a new 16-member Board of Judicial Conduct. Read more from the Knoxville New Sentinel.

Editorial: Governor Should Sign Diversion Bill

In an editorial, the Jackson Sun urges Gov. Bill Haslam to sign legislation on his desk that makes state public officials ineligible for pretrial diversion for criminal acts committed in their official capacity. "Gov. Haslam can raise the ethics bar and improve the image and the reputation of Tennessee public officials by signing this legislation into law," the paper says.

read more »

Editorial: Judicial Selection Process Works, Support It

The Knoxville News Sentinel is calling for legislators to support the proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam that would affirm by constitutional amendment the state's method of selecting justices for the Tennessee Supreme Court and appeals courts. In an editorial, the newspaper says  that some lawmakers who "can't resist trying to fix things that are not really broken" should listen to the proposal's top supporters: Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell. "There are good reasons the Founding Fathers of our nation and the writers of many state constitutions focused on separation of powers and checks and balances to make republican government work," the editorial says. "In making decisions from the bench, justices must consider the law before them, not the special interests that bankrolled their election."

read more »

Elizabethton Lawyer To Run for House

Thom Gray has formally announced his candidacy for State Representative from the Fourth District, representing Carter and Unicoi counties. The Elizabethton lawyer will seek the Republican nomination in the Aug. 2 primary election. The Elizabethton Star has more

Moore Won't Run for Re-election

State Rep. Gary Moore, D-Nashville, announced today he will not run for re-election this fall. Moore served eight years in the House and recently was elected president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council. He becomes the seventh Democratic member to retire this year. Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, a Democrat, filed papers today to run for the seat. WPLN reports

read more »

Bill Allowing Governor to Appoint AG Gets Committee OK

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would allow the governor to appoint the state attorney general for a four-year term, subject to legislative confirmation. The measure also requires the attorney general be at least 30 years old, a licensed Tennessee attorney, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the state for at least seven years. The legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 693, is sponsored by committee chair Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, who argues a change is needed to bring more accountability to the position. The resolution requires a simple majority vote by the current General Assembly and a two-thirds vote by the next assembly. If approved, the question would then be put to voters in a November 2014 statewide referendum. has the story

read more »

House Majority Leader to Seek Re-Election

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, majority leader of the Tennessee House of Representatives, announced today he will seek re-election to House District 26 this fall. After redistricting, the district is now the heart of Hamilton County, with new precincts in the Hixson, Riverview, Stuart Heights and North Chattanooga areas. McCormick was first elected in 2004, and was chosen by his colleagues to serve as the majority leader of the Tennessee House in 2010. has more

read more »

Rep. Todd Tells Panel He Has Cancer

State Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, informed colleagues that he has cancer during a House Commerce Committee hearing today on a proposal to require insurance companies to pay for oral chemotherapy treatments. Todd later told reporters that he has a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The News Sentinel has more

read more »

Haslam Budget Update Adds Money for Local Jails

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday a budget amendment that includes funding for a more rapid decrease in a food tax cut and extra money for local jails. Increasing the state's daily payment to local jails by $2 a day is designed in part, Haslam says, to help break an impasse over his proposal to require incarceration for repeat domestic violence offenders. The $4 million jails reimbursement provision is the most expensive item in Haslam's budget plan. He also announced that weekend negotiations resulted in an agreement from the Tennessee State Employees Association to support his plan to overhaul state civil service rules. The Tennessean has this AP story

read more »

Bill to Stop Pre-trial Diversion for Public Officials Goes to Governor

The House on Monday unanimously approved and sent to the governor a bill prohibiting any public official convicted of a crime related to his or her duties in office from receiving pretrial diversion. The measure has a direct connection to former Judge Richard Baumgartner, who received diversion last year on a charge of official misconduct. "We had an instance in Knox County where we had a judge who went out and committed crimes related to his office," sponsor Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, told colleagues who questioned the need for SB 2566. "He created a whole host of problems." The bill had already passed the Senate unanimously under the sponsorship of Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman. The News Sentinel reports

read more »

Opinion: Fee for Diversion 'Bad Idea'

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a new tax this week that will require people to pay to have their name cleared upon the completion of diversion. HB 2774, sponsored by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, introduces the new tax, which includes $100 that must be paid to the court when requesting diversion. Chattanoogan columnist and lawyer Lee Davis calls the new measure “a bad idea.” Read more

read more »

Campfield Blogs About Gingrich Diss

State Sen. Stacey Campfield responded on his blog to the Gingrich campaign’s request to not seat him at the Republican National Convention. It turns out, Campfield writes, it is up to the delegate, not the campaign, on whether or not a substitution can be made. “Not a good way to ingratiate yourself to the one person who can help you,” he writes. Humphrey on the Hill has more

read more »

Senate Passes Bill to Replace Court of the Judiciary

Tennessee senators voted on Thursday 30-0 to replace the Court of the Judiciary with a new 16-member board called the Board of Judicial Conduct, which would be appointed by judges, legislative leaders and the governor. The board would be comprised of 10 judges and 6 non-judges. The measure, SB 2671, also sets up a procedure for investigating complaints against judges and requires the board to report regularly to the legislature on how grievances are resolved. A companion bill is being scheduled for a vote on the House floor. 
Get details on how the panel would be appointed
The Tennessean has more

read more »

Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The 107th Tennessee General Assembly is now in session and the TBA has a number of tools to help you track the status of legislation. Watch TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has  initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community. Find complete TBA legislative resources

TBA at Work on Emerging Judicial Election, Tort Bills

Another vehicle for addressing the manner of election for Supreme Court and appellate judges emerged this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out its third conflicting proposal. The TBA remains deeply involved in the ongoing discussions to preserve the Tennessee Plan. Read more in TN Report

More Tort Changes – Bills which, as amended, require the loser to pay attorney’s fees when a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is granted (HB 3124) and limiting vicarious liability for punitive damages (HB 3125) advanced from a House Judiciary subcommittee today and could be voted on as early as next week in full committee. The TBA has worked to try to narrow and clarify these measures.

Conservatorship Law – The sponsor of a far-reaching restructuring of Tennessee's conservatorship law has agreed to a much more modest revision while the TBA undertakes a thorough review of the fiduciary and conservatorship statutes. Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, publicly expressed his appreciation for the TBA's cooperation in this matter. The TBA applauded Odom's willingness to undertake a thoughtful examination of the issues involved. The bill, HB 2648/SB 2519, should now proceed through the legislative process with the modest changes proposed.

read more »

'Guns in Trunks' Bill Moves to Full Senate

A measure that would prevent employers and landowners from prohibiting individuals licensed to carry guns from storing them in locked, personal vehicles is headed for a full Senate vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-1 today (Tuesday) to advance the bill after Chairwoman Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, refused a request to hear from representatives of FedEx Corp. or other large employers that oppose the bill. "I don't know that any more testimony is going to change anybody's mind," Beaver said. The News Sentinel has the story

read more »

House Approves, Bills Now Ready for Governor's Signature

With approval by the House on Monday, legislation now headed to Gov. Haslam's desk for his signature include an anti-crime package, a bill that would allow public buildings to display "historically significant documents" including the 10 Commandments, and a bill that would encourage classroom debate over evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

read more »

Carter to Run for New House District 29

Mike Carter announced Monday he will run for Tennessee's newly redrawn House District 29. JoAnne Favor, who is now running for the newly redrawn District 28, held the seat before. News 12 reports

Former State Rep Edwin Arnold Dies

Edwin Arnold, who served in the Tennessee House of Representatives and was also an assistant prosecutor, has died after being struck by a car on Saturday, March 24. He was 77. A graduate of Cumberland University School of Law, he was in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1963-67. Arnold also served Blount, Loudon and Roane counties as an assistant district attorney. His funeral was Monday at First Baptist Church in Loudon. The News Sentinel has his obituary.

read more »

Mountain City State Rep. Not Seeking Reelection

Rep. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City became the third Republican to announce he will not run for reelection in the House. Ten Democratic incumbents have announced they won't seek re-election this year, the Commercial Appeal reports.

read more »

AG Weighs in on Pending Legislative Issues

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper recently issued opinions on a number of issues moving through the General Assembly. In an opinion released this week, Cooper said a bill that would require businesses to allow guns in their parking lots is constitutionally defensible. He said that while the legislation, SB 3002, pits two constitutional principles against each other – the right to bear arms and the right of businesses to control their property – courts in other states have found such laws constitutional. Read more in the Tennessean's political blog. On another issue, Cooper said that the state cannot broadly drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare benefits. That opinion comes in response to several bills pending in the state legislature. Cooper states that such requirements would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan, as well as the constitutional rights of welfare recipients who have a right not be tested unless there is suspicion of illicit drug activity. The Memphis Daily News has that story.

read more »

Lollar to Replace Hawk as Committee Chair

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell announced today that Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, will take over as chair of the House Conservation and Environment Committee following the decision by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, to step down from the post to focus on defending himself against charges of domestic abuse. In a statement Hawk said, "Proving my innocence will take much of my focus, so I feel relinquishing my chairmanship will best serve these goals." Because the committee plans to wrap up its work for the year in a few weeks, the speaker opted to not appoint an official replacement. Lollar is currently the committee's vice chair. TN Report has more

read more »

House Committee Passes Merit Selection Measure

A constitutional amendment, HJR 753, passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 9-6 vote today and is now on its way to the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee. The measure would specifically place a merit-selection system in the state’s constitution for appellate judges in the state. Gavel to Gavel has details, including a video from the hearing

read more »