TBA Law Blog


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Posted by: Barry Kolar on Mar 27, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court today acted to help ease economic pressures on Tennessee attorneys appointed to provide counsel for indigent defendants. Specifically, the order increases the maximum dollar amount of claims that are exempt from judicial review in the ACAP system for court-appointed counsel. Court officials also outlined other steps attorneys could take to speed payments.

“We appreciate the AOC’s responsiveness to concerns of court appointed counsel and the recent steps to helping those hardworking lawyers receive proper compensation on an expedited basis,” TBA President Sarah Sheppeard said. A number of Tennessee lawyers have signed or sent letters requesting emergency action on interim billing so that attorneys who normally are paid at the end of a matter could have some financial relief during this current public health crisis. The TBA and AOC have been in talks daily about how to help attorneys during this time, and Sheppeard said, "We will continue to advocate for even more efficiencies and will determine the need for additional recommendations and filings in light of the Court’s order today."

“We understand that the Tennessee Supreme Court has been working diligently during this difficult time to issue Orders relevant to the current public health crisis and the continuation of the administration of justice in this state,” Sheppeard said. “The relaxation of in-person CLE requirements, directives to slow the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons, permitting declarations under penalty of perjury in lieu of a notary in court filings — in addition to several other orders — will go a long way to assist lawyers and their clients in staying safe while also upholding necessary obligations under the law.”

“I thank Chief Justice Bivins, the Tennessee Supreme Court and the AOC for their continued attention to this work and for adopting so many of the actions requested by our members as they navigate the next few months.”

Posted by: Barry Kolar on Mar 31, 2020

TBA President Sarah Sheppeard today extended the closure of the Tennessee Bar Center and TBA offices in Nashville. "In light of recent federal, state and local orders related to the current pandemic, the TBA’s office at 221 Fourth Avenue North in Nashville will remain closed until further notice," Sheppeard said. Please continue to look for new updates on orders, news and closures around the state in TBAToday as well as the TBA's Pandemic Resources for Tennessee Lawyers.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

Nashville attorney and University of Tennessee College of Law alum Taylor Wirth has been recognized by the National LGBT Bar Association as one of the 40 Best LGBTQ+ Lawyers Under 40. Wirth graduated from UT in 2013 and now practices at Bass, Berry and Sims in Nashville. Wirth is also involved with the Alabama-based nonprofit The Invisible Histories Project, which focuses on the collection and preservation of Southern LGBTQ stories and artifacts and with the Mosaic Institute which provides training to rising leaders of color in the education space. Honorees in this category have distinguished themselves in their field and have demonstrated profound commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. Award winners will be recognized in August at the 2020 Lavender Law Conference in Washington, D.C.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

An attempt to stop the proposed merger between Belmont University and Watkins College of Art has been blocked by a Nashville judge, the Tennessean reports. Two students and a teacher filed a lawsuit after the schools announced in January that Watkins students would begin taking classes at Belmont in the fall and the Watkins campus would be sold, with proceeds going to an endowment for scholarships for its students. The lawsuit argued that the agreement between the schools is invalid because Watkins is a public institution and the property that would be sold belongs to the public. Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal found the students and teacher lacked standing to stop the merger. Moskal noted that the merger is subject to review by the AG’s office, so any harm the students and teacher might suffer is not immediate.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

Nashville attorney Kelly Duggan died March 25 at 62. Duggan earned her law degree from Tulane Law School and worked as an operations attorney for HCA in Nashville for more than 20 years. Duggan also regularly donated her time to those in need of legal aid and sat on the board of the Liberty Downs HOA. To celebrate her life, a memorial will be held at a later time to be announced by the family. Due to the current environment and limitations on gatherings, this will be delayed so that all who would like to attend can do so.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court will make history tomorrow when it holds an oral argument by video conference. The new approach is part of efforts by courts at all levels to find innovative and creative ways to continue to conduct essential court business across the state. All of these efforts are part of the commitment to keep courts open during the COVID-19 pandemic, while balancing that priority with concerns for the health and well-being of all litigants, attorneys, judges and employees of the court system. A copy of the virtual argument can be found online within 48 hours after the conclusion of the argument.

 

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

The TBA’s new on-demand webcast series, Navigating the Pandemic, features an array of programs dedicated to giving you support and guidance on important legal topics related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Topics in the series include employment law, the CARES Act and the SBA loan process, navigating client financial issues and more. Don’t miss COVID-19 Labor and Employment Law Issues and Developments this Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m. Also on Thursday, watch Tips, Tricks and Tools for Managing Coronavirus Disruption from 3 to 4 p.m. All programs are approved distance learning courses for 2020, per the new Supreme Court rule and requirement. Head over to the TBA’s website for a full list of programs in the series.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

Judges in Knox County on Monday issued a directive to book and then release arrestees in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Per the new order, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is to book anyone with a misdemeanor or non-violent felony and then release them without a hearing or cash bond. Those charged with drunk driving or domestic assault are specifically exempted from the blanket order, which also allows prosecutors to file a motion to block release in cases in which they allege the arrestee is dangerous. All eight of the county’s criminal judges signed off on the order.

Posted by: Kate Prince on Mar 31, 2020

Chattanooga lawyer John Gary McDougal was censured today by the Board of Professional Responsibility. McDougal violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3, 3.2, 3.4(c) and 8.4(a) and (d) after he failed to adhere to filing deadlines and thereafter failed to comply with orders filed by the Criminal Court of Appeals. He was found to be in contempt of court for his conduct.

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 30, 2020

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said her office is working to release some incarcerated at the county jail and has dismissed “hundreds” of cases of those recently charged in an effort to reduce the jail’s population and stem the spread of COVID-19. Weirich also said her office is working with defense attorneys to fast-track cases awaiting guilty pleas, the Memphis Flyer reports. A process that usually takes months has been reduced to days, she said. Finally, Weirich also said she is sending hundreds of letters to out-of-custody defendants telling them their case is being dismissed and they do not need to come back to court. “If you get a letter like this, it is not a joke,” she stated.


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