Government Affairs Update

Follow the TBA's efforts to influence federal and state policy as it fulfills one of the core missions of the association – advocacy for the profession and for our system of justice.

Editorial: Create Library Cards to Meet ID Requirements Statewide

Now that the state Supreme Court has ordered state and local election officials to accept Memphis' library photo identification cards for voting purposes, the Commercial Appeal says in an editorial that it's a good time to update that part of the system. The paper calls on the General Assembly "to work with local mayors across the state to create library cards that meet the identification requirements in the state law."

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Supreme Court OKs Library Cards for Voter ID

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that photo ID cards issued by the Memphis public library qualify as a valid and acceptable form of identification required to vote, the Tennessean reports. State election officials announced that only residents of Shelby County will be allowed to use library-issued IDs in next week’s Presidential election, after which the court will take up the question of whether the state’s new voter ID law is constitutional.

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Vandy Law Grad First African American to Lead Arkansas House

Vanderbilt Law grad Darrin Williams will make history in January when he becomes the first African American speaker of the Arkansas General Assembly. He will also be the first black person to hold a statewide elected office in Arkansas since the early 1870s. Vanderbilt Law School has more about the accomplishments of this 1993 graduate.

Candidates Reportedly Pre-Positioning Lawyers

With one week to go in the presidential campaign, Inside Counsel Magazine is reporting that President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are lining up several high-powered lawyers to handle any post-election disputes. Obama has reached out to his former White House Counsel Robert Bauer, a former partner at Perkins Coie. Romney has tapped Benjamin Ginsberg, a partner at Patton Boggs, who served as chief legal counsel for George W. Bush's presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004. According to the article, the two lawyers already have been “quiet players” in the respective campaigns. Among other tasks, they negotiated deals for all four of the election debates. Read more

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Democratic Party Chair to Step Down

After four years of controversial leadership, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester will not seek re-election to the party's top post, he told The Tennessean today. The move opens the door to new leadership for the party, which has suffered deep losses in both the statehouse and among the state's congressional delegation in recent years. Democrats will elect a new party chair in January. Forrester said he believes the chair should serve a four-year term, not two years, and is proposing a bylaws change to that effect.

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Voter ID Laws to Remain Intact for Now

Attorneys representing two Memphis residents whose votes were not counted because they lacked proper photo identification, on Thursday asked a three-judge Appeals Court panel to throw out the state’s voter ID law, claiming it is unconstitutional. A decision is expected in the coming weeks, but meanwhile, early voting is underway with the ID requirement still in place, the Tennessean reports.

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Early Voting Opens; Lawyers in Contested Races

Early voting begins across the state today and continues through Nov. 1. All counties in the state are required to maintain an early voting location at least three consecutive hours each weekday and Saturday during this time. As you consider your choices, remember that there are a number of Tennessee lawyers running for seats in the state House and Senate.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against DesJarlais

The D.C. based organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, alleging that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a female patient he was treating for a medical condition. The group filed the complaint after a news story suggested that DesJarlais pressured a patient with whom he was involved to seek an abortion. According to the Nashville City Paper, the congressman says he knew the woman was not pregnant and was using "strong language" in hopes she would admit the truth.

In related news, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is reporting that the Tennessee Conservative Union (TCU) is debating whether to ask DesJarlais to resign his seat. It also indicates that TCU Chairman Lloyd Daugherty is talking with other Republican-leaning groups to see if a coalition can be built to demand the doctor’s resignation from Congress.

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Supreme Court to Hear Arizona Voting Law

The Supreme Court today agreed to take up an appeal from Arizona over its requirement that people prove they are American citizens before registering to vote. The justices will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked the law, arguing that federal law – which allows voters to fill out a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury – trumps state law. Tennessee is among four states that have a similar law. Arguments will take place in February, with a decision likely by late June. News Channel 5 has this AP story

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Lawyer Challenges Williams for House Seat

Republican Thom Gray, who is seeking to represent the Fourth District House seat in the Tennessee General Assembly, will square off against incumbent Kent Williams of Elizabethton in the Nov. 6 general election. Though Williams claims Republican affiliation, he was barred from officially running as a Republican after joining with Democrats in 2008 to defeat Republican nominee Jason Mumpower as speaker of the House. Gray, a solo practioner in Bristol, is a newcomer to politics. The Elizabethton Star has more about his first bid for public office.

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