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.

Campaign Against Florida Judges' Retention Heats Up

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is set to run TV ads across Florida critical of three state Supreme Court justices up for retention election. The ads take aim at the justices’ joining a court ruling that removed from the ballot in 2010 a legislatively introduced measure intended to derail federal health care legislation. The Americans for Prosperity involvement follows the recent announcement of opposition from the Republican Party of Florida. Justice R. Fred Lewis, who is one of the justices targeted, told a bar group, “We cannot sacrifice fairness and impartiality and the court system to political whims." Gavel Grab has details

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Court Scrutinizes South Carolina Voter ID Law

A special panel of three federal judges in Washington heard arguments today on whether South Carolina’s measure requiring residents to show federal- or state-issued photo ID at polling stations significantly burdens minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The judges, who must sign off on the measure, appeared skeptical that the state would have enough time to get the law in place for use on Nov. 6, noting that many state-imposed deadlines for implementation expired last year. Bloomberg News reports

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Senate Candidate Stevens Involved in Estate Dispute

John Stevens, a state senate candidate and lawyer, acknowledged in an affidavit that he tore up an unconscious widow's last will and testament in a hospital room three years ago, and that he knew she was unconscious at the time, the Commercial Appeal reports. Ruth Keras died the next day. St. Jude and Jackson-based Youth Town of Tennessee were each to have received major portions of the 82-year-old woman's estate before the papers were destroyed. But four days before he visited Keras, Stevens had been contacted by Joe Wilkes to draw up a power of attorney on behalf of Keras, naming Wilkes' wife Peggy as attorney-in-fact. Stevens also established a revocable trust, court records indicate, that provided that upon Keras' death, all trust assets were to be divided equally between Peggy Wilkes and Keras's brother. Stevens is running for state Sen. Roy Herron's open District 24 seat against Democrat Brad Thompson.

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Rep. Todd: Not Guilty Plea

State Rep. Curry Todd’s attorney Worrick Robinson pleaded not guilty on his behalf today to DUI and weapons charges, the Tennessean reports. Todd was arrested Oct.11, 2011, after police say he failed a roadside sobriety test and was carrying a handgun in his vehicle.

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Shelby Commissioner Named to State Election Spot

Shelby County Election Commissioner Norma Lester was appointed Thursday by Gov. Bill Haslam to fill a vacancy on the state Registry of Election Finance, which enforces campaign finance laws in Tennessee. Lester, 70, a retired nursing administrator who was named to the county election commission last year, will fill a seat on the six-member state board that has been vacant since April 2011. The News Sentinel reports

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Hooker May Challenge Blumstein's Impartiality

John Jay Hooker on Friday told The TNReport that he expects to file a motion challenging Special Court Justice Andrée Sophia Blumstein's impartiality to hear his case on the constitutionality of the state’s judicial selection method. Gov. Haslam appointed Blumstein and four others to sit on a Special Supreme Court to hear the matter. Three of them recused themselves last week. Hooker says Blumstein's role on the editorial board of the Tennessee Bar Journal, a publication of the Tennessee Bar Association, poses a conflict because the association is in favor of the Tennessee Plan.

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Executive Order Clarifies Ethics Policy; Gov's Meetings Stay Secret

Gov. Bill Haslam issued Executive Order No. 20 last week on "ethics policy and disclosures" in the executive branch of state government. While spokesman David Smith said the new order brings "clarity by combining everything from the two (previous orders) into a single executive order," it does not open up information on private meetings held by the governor as had been requested by the online news service TNReport. "There's just a lot of discussions that we have, that any governor needs to have, as part of the decision-making process that we go through on so many different issues," the governor told TNReport, though adding he might "revisit" his stance at some point. The News Sentinel reports

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Rep. Todd Arraignment Moved to Next Week

State Rep. Curry Todd's arraignment on drunken driving and weapons charges, set for today, has been delayed until Sept. 14, the Associated Press reports. The Collierville Republican was arrested in October after failing a roadside sobriety test. A loaded .38-caliber gun was found stuffed in a holster between the driver's seat and center console.

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2 Republican Race Results Will Stand

The Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee, acting in its role as the state primary board, today voted to uphold the primary election results in State House District 71 and Congressional District 9. Shirley Curry lost to Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, by four votes, according to unofficial returns. Charlotte Bergmann lost to George Flinn by about 7,000 votes. The subcommittee unanimously recommended to the full committee that both election contests be dismissed based on their review of the election contests. The News Sentinel reports

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Surgeon Considers Run for Campfield's Seat

State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is in the middle of a four-year term but Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs has expressed new interest in seeking his 7th Senate District seat in 2014, the News Sentinel reports. Briggs, a Repubilcan, is a cardiothoracic surgeon and retired Army colonel who has served in active and reserve units. He says he will wait until after the Nov. 6 elections before making a decision.

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