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.

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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Law Grad Among Blackburn Challengers

Rep. Marsha Blackburn has five challengers who want to represent the district that now will cover much of west Middle Tennessee, including Brentwood, Fort Campbell and all of Montgomery County. Blackburn has held the 7th Congressional District seat for 10 years. Among the challengers is Army veteran and independent candidate Jack Arnold of Kingston Springs, who just graduated from Vanderbilt Law School. The Leaf-Chronicle looks at the race.

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Candidate Says He Was Not Threatening the President

Brad Staats, the Republican nominee challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in the 5th Congressional District election, is on the U.S. Secret Service's radar after making a Facebook post that some construed to be a threat to President Obama. Under a photo of a semi-automatic pistol on his Facebook page, the candidate explained his views on Second Amendment rights in part by saying, "Here is something that I usually have with me. Welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama.” Staats says he was not threatening the president. The Tennessean has more

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Rep. Cobb Indicted, Arrested for Assault

State Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, was arrested today after a Rhea County grand jury indicted him on Monday, the Times Free Press reports. He is charged with assault in connection with an election-day incident on Aug. 2. Cobb is scheduled to appear for a Friday hearing in Circuit Court.

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High Court Will Not Hear Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal in a lawsuit over the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission's makeup. The plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in 2010, challenging sections of the Iowa Constitution and state code. They argued that the system excludes Iowa voters from participation in the election of the elected attorney members of the state Judicial Nominating Commission; that it denies voters the right to equal participation in the selection of state Supreme Court justices; and that it denies voters the right to vote for the elected attorney members of the commission. The judicial commission is given the power to select the nominees for vacant positions on both the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The governor then chooses one of the commission's three nominees. Learn more from

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Judge: No Photo ID Needed to Vote in Pennsylvania

Voters won’t have to show photo ID in Pennsylvania before casting a ballot in November, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled today. He issued a narrow injunction on the deadline day he was given by the state Supreme Court, which will surely hear a second appeal in the nationally watched case before November, the Legal Intelligencer says. Poll workers are allowed to ask for photo ID from voters, but they must allow all qualified electors to cast a ballot regardless of whether or not the voters can show ID, Simpson ruled.

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