TBA Today - Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - Your fastest source of appellate court decisions, Supreme Court rules and orders changes, attorney general opinions and other Tennessee legal community news.
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TBA Today
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Today's News

President Names 2 Federal Judicial Nominees for Eastern District

President Donald Trump today said he intends to nominate Charles E. Atchley Jr. and Katherine A. Crytzer to serve as U.S. district judges for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Chattanoogan.com reports. Atchley currently serves as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Crytzer has served for the last six years as the acting deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice. She previously was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. They would replace U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr., who retired in March, and Chief Judge Pamela L. Reeves, who died last week. Read more from the White House.

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Judge Approves DNA Testing in Pervis Payne Case

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan ruled today that DNA evidence may be tested in the death penalty case of Pervis Payne, whose execution is scheduled for Dec. 3, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Payne was convicted in the 1987 stabbing deaths of a Millington woman and her 2-year-old daughter. Payne’s attorneys, including representatives from the national Innocence Project, have been seeking DNA testing of several items they say were found at the crime scene. Some of the items they requested are no longer in police custody so Skahan denied testing for those. After the ruling, Payne’s team collected the items and sent them to private laboratory in California. The Shelby County District Attorney's Office has argued that the items are from another crime scene and regardless of what DNA testing shows, the evidence to convict Payne was overwhelming.

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Judge Freiberg Recuses Himself from Case Involving DA

Bradley County Criminal Court Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg has recused himself from any future proceedings in a case involving 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. “Living and residing within this community has meant exposure to pervasive sources of alleged information, opinions and commentary about this case preventing the continued ability to be a fair and impartial jurist," Freiberg wrote in his order of recusal. He will, however, preside over a previously scheduled hearing on Oct. 9. Crump is being accused by Miranda Cheatham of having been blackmailed into securing her 2018 conviction. He has denied the allegations, which came to light in filings seeking a new trial for Cheatham, who has maintained she acted in self-defense in killing her husband.

Report: Racial Bias Taints Death Penalty Cases

A new national report from the Death Penalty Information Center finds African Americans are more likely to face the death penalty than their white counterparts, Nashville Public Radio reports. The report, which traces the connections between racism and executions since the antebellum period, also found that Blacks are more likely to be discriminated against at every step of the criminal justice system from arrest to jury selection to execution. In addition to the national findings, the report looks at two death penalty cases pending before Tennessee courts: those of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman and Pervis Payne.

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Nashville Firm Launches Civil Rights Practice Group

Nashville based Bone McAllester Norton PLLC has launched a new civil rights practice group, the Nashville Post reports. The group will have nine attorneys, including former Nashville Mayor David Briley and firm founder Charles W. Bone. In announcing the move, firm president and CEO Charles Robert Bone said there's a need for a concentrated civil rights legal practice now more than ever. Representation offered will include cases involving employment discrimination, housing and land use discrimination, Title IX discrimination, law enforcement accountability and compliance guidance, and internal investigations.


Lawyers Asked to Share Thoughts on Remote Notarization, Witnessing

One of the many issues that Gov. Bill Lee has addressed in his executive orders during COVID-19 is temporarily suspending all statutes requiring a physical presence requirement for a notary public and witness(es), and instead allowing real-time audio and visual communication in its place. Gov. Lee  extended this provision until Sept. 30 in Executive Order 61. The order also includes language encouraging users of these tools to make preparations to implement best practices for a safe return to in-person transactions beginning Oct. 1. The TBA would like to hear from Tennessee lawyers about this important issue so we can provide feedback to the governor, the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Lawyers who have thoughts about the use of remote technology or the plan to return to in-person transactions are asked to fill out our short survey.

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Memphis Landlords Sue U.S. Over Eviction Moratorium

Seven Memphis landlords have filed a lawsuit against federal officials claiming President Trump’s Sept. 1 order halting residential evictions infringes on their rights as property owners, the Daily Memphian reports. The group -- represented by Glankler Brown attorneys S. Joshua Kahane and Aubrey B. Greer --argues that the order essentially takes away from rental property owners and managers “the free and unrestricted use and enjoyment of their property without just compensation and without due process of law.” The suit asks the court to rule that the order violates the constitution and to prohibit the government from pursuing criminal or civil penalties against landlords who do not abide by it.

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House Committee Passes Bill to Make PACER Free to Public

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a bipartisan bill that would make PACER, the federal court electronic records system, free for the public, The National Law Journal reports. Under the bill, the federal judiciary would have two to three years to update and modernize its system and expand services, such as allowing users to search for records across the system, rather than within individual courts. During this time, “power users” — those who spend at least $25,000 annually on court filings — would continue to pay fees per page. After the modernization period, the judiciary would offer free access to PACER for all users and completely stop charging the per-page fees. The move comes shortly after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the federal judiciary misused PACER funds for other projects. The ABA Journal reports on that decision.

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3 Ways to Calm an Anxious Mind

Stress and anxiety are a part of life, especially during uncertain times, but they don't need to control us. Here are three ways to calm an anxious mind from Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of the Mindful Living Collective. First, “release the critic.” That means banishing self-critical thoughts that compound existing anxiety. Then, “tune into the senses” by using the 3×3 practice. Concentrate on three of your senses and then name three things you notice about them. This can help interrupt the automatic catastrophic thinking that’s fueling the anxiety. Finally, “channel your anxious energy.” If your anxiety isn’t severe, you can actually channel that energy into something productive such as going for a walk, cleaning, organizing or gardening. Read more or watch Goldstein’s video on the topic from Mindful.org.

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Tomorrow is Constitution Day 2020

Constitution Day is an American federal observance that commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution. It is celebrated each year on Sept. 17. The TBA has a range of resources available for those who want to mark the day. The ABA also has resources and several key issues to highlight on this year’s anniversary, including the importance of voting, the Census and civic engagement. The ABA also is offering a free webinar tomorrow at 4 p.m. EDT on the scope of free speech rights. The session will address two issues: when demonstrations are within the scope of the First Amendment and when they exceed constitutional protection, and when law enforcement officials are lawfully trying to restore order and when they are abusing the rights of protestors.

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MBA, NBA Ben F. Jones Chapter Launch 21 Day ‘Equity Habit Building Challenge’

The Memphis Bar Association and the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association are inviting lawyers to join a 21-day “Equity Habit Building Challenge” to better understand the intersection of race, power, privilege, supremacy and oppression. Beginning on Oct. 1, participants will complete a short assignment every day for 21 days. Activities include reading articles, watching videos and listening to podcasts. Sign up to participate and access the assignments here. Learn more about the national challenge movement from the ABA.

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Services Pending for Retired Criminal Court Judge

Retired Judge James “Eddie” Beckner died today at the age of 81, the Citizen Tribune reports. Beckner served as a criminal court judge in the Third Judicial District for 30 years and was in private practice in Morristown prior to taking the bench. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, Beckner was first appointed to the court by then Gov. Ray Blanton in 1976. He retired in 2006, but remained active in the judicial community, serving on the Retired Judges Committee and as its liaison to the Tennessee Judicial Conference Executive Committee. He also served on the board of directors of the United Way and of the Morristown Boys and Girls Club for 41 years. Details about services are pending. Remembrances can be posted on the Administrative Office of the Courts website.

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Federal Law Forum Set for Sept. 22

The TBA Federal Law Section will present its 2020 Annual Forum as a virtual program next Tuesday beginning at 2:30 p.m. CDT. During the two-hour live presentation, University of Memphis School of Law Professor Steven Mulroy will provide details on voting in 2020 and Cecile VanDevender, appellate chief with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, will provide an update on U.S. Supreme Court cases. Those registering for this year's forum also will have access to two one-hour recordings to watch at any time — Canons of Constitutional and Contract Interpretation with Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison lawyer Eric Osborne and Corpus Linguistic with Annika Boone, a law clerk with the Utah Supreme Court — for a total of four hours of CLE credit.


Join Sections for Practice Updates

The TBA offers 33 practice area sections, from adoption to tort law. Each of these provides its members with valuable resources and activities, from CLE to news, information and advocacy. Section members can also contribute to legislation and take part in networking opportunities. TBA members can join sections at any time during the year.

Court Opinions

You can obtain full-text versions of these opinions by selecting the link below each opinion’s summary paragraph. Your email software should give you the option of reading the opinion online or downloading it to your computer or mobile device. Decisions from the 6th Circuit Court that are not designated for publication are not included in this report.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


M. Allen Ehmling, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mary Florence Rajendran.

Brandon R. Meredith, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Karthik Rajendran.

Judge(s): STAFFORD

Mother appeals the trial court’s decision to award the parties equal parenting time and to allow the parties to make major educational decisions jointly. We reverse the trial court’s decision to order alternating weekly parenting time and vacate the trial court’s decision regarding major educational decisions.




Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Donna L. Hargrove, District Public Defender; Michael J. Collins, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Leonard B. Casteel.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; and William B. Bottoms, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

The Defendant, Leonard B. Casteel, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, and he received a six-year sentence on each count. The Defendant was sentenced to serve one year for each count and to complete supervised probation for the remaining time. The Defendant was released on probation, a revocation warrant was issued, and the trial court found that the Defendant had violated the terms of his probation and ordered him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.



Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

About this publication: Today's News is a compilation of digests of news reports of interest to Tennessee lawyers compiled by TBA staff, links to digested press releases, and occasional stories about the TBA and other activities written by the TBA staff or members. Statements or opinions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tennessee Bar Association, its officers, board or staff.


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