Links for July 2017

Loving v. Virginia Turns 50

June 12, 2017

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, turns 50 today, and NPR has collected several audio clips from the dramatic trial. Many of the clips document arguments made by Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, two young lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and a black and Native American woman whose marriage was considered illegal in Virginia.

Tennessee Civil Rights Cold Case Act Signed by Haslam

June 12, 2017

A bill that would create a legislative committee to study unsolved civil rights cold cases was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam on June 6. The Tennessee Civil Rights Cold Case Act will see a joint legislative committee of six, three appointed each from the House and Senate, which will research the cases and report to the legislature in 2018. The committee has yet to be named and a hearing schedule is to be determined.

Legislature Announces Task Force on Juvenile Justice

June 8, 2017

Members of the Tennessee legislature announced this week the formation of a new task force focusing on the state’s juvenile justice system. Called the Joint Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice, it will be chaired by Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. The task force will “undertake a comprehensive review” of the juvenile justice system and develop policy recommendations.

Swearing-in Ceremony Held for New Bar Admittees

June 6, 2017

Today 55 new attorneys were sworn-in at a ceremony at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. The 55 were among 177 who passed the Tennessee Bar exam in February. Following the ceremony, admittees and their families were invited for an Open House reception at the Bar Center, where they were able to mingle with seasoned attorneys and TBA President Jason Long. Photos from the ceremony and Open House are available on the TBA website.

Attorney-Author Seeks Info on Early African-American Lawyers

June 5, 2017

Nashville attorney Lewis Laska is collecting information for a book he is writing about African-American lawyers in Tennessee (1868-1968). He seeks information regarding experiences, anecdotes, documents, cases and memoirs regarding black lawyers during this era. Although he has already identified 206 names, he does not want to leave anyone or anything out and therefore requests any other available information. Contact him at P. O. Box 252, Madison, TN 37116, (615) 491-2928 or at

TSC Soliciting Comments on Rule Governing Education Requirements for Foreign Students

May 31, 2017

The Tennessee Supreme Court is seeking comments on a petition seeking to amend Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7, section 7.01, which governs educational requirements for admission of foreign-educated applicants to the practice of law in Tennessee. The petition — filed earlier this year by the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University — can be viewed here. Comments may be submitted to James M. Hivner at the Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Ave N, Nashville, Tenn., 37219-1407 or via email at

Supreme Court Amends Rule 7

May 31, 2017

The Tennessee Supreme Court had amended Rule 7, sections 5.01(i) and 10.01(j), regarding the minimum requirements for admission of persons admitted in other jurisdictions and the registration of in-house counsel. The full amended text can be viewed here.

Haslam Signs Law to Cheapen Price Tag of Expungements

May 30, 2017

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law legislation that will lessen the costs of expunging criminal conviction records, NewsChannel 5 reports. Effective immediately, the cost of expunging records will be $270, down from $450. The law was backed by a bipartisan coalition and was sponsored in the state legislature by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

Court Orders Minor Modifications to Certain Divorce Forms

May 25, 2017

The Tennessee Supreme Court has approved minor modifications to the plain language forms for uncontested divorces with no minor children, as recommended by the Access to Justice Commission. These changes were necessary to ensure that the plain language forms adopted in 2011 for uncontested divorces with no minor children are consistent with the same forms that were adopted in 2016 for uncontested divorces with minor children, according to the court documents. The order as well as the changes can be found here.

Board Dismisses Complaints Against Nashville Judge

May 22, 2017

The Board of Judicial Conduct has dismissed a complaint against Nashville Judge Rachel Bell, The Tennessean reports. The complaint was filed last June and alleges among other concerns that Bell started court late and took long breaks to take pictures with students. According to the complainant, Tommy Craig, the board believed Craig filed the action because he was angry about the outcome of a case decided by Bell.

ABA Launches Diverse Speakers Directory

May 22, 2017

The American Bar Association is looking for attorneys from underrepresented groups to join the new Diverse Speakers Directory, a initiative designed to give opportunities to speakers from diverse backgrounds and also help CLE planners connect with those individuals. ABA and non-ABA members are invited to sign up for the directory, which would be used by more than 3,500 ABA entities looking for speakers for their events or experts in a subject matter.

Texas Man Sues Date for Texting During Movie

May 18, 2017

A man from Austin, Texas, is suing his date for texting during a movie, the Austin Statesman reports. Brandon Vezmar is asking for $17.31, the cost of a 3D ticket to see “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.” Vezmar said it was a “first date from hell,” during which the defendant allegedly text “at least 10-20 times” in a 15 minute period. When the plaintiff asked her if she could go outside to text, she left the theater entirely, leaving Vezmar without a ride home. The petition claims the “defendant’s behavior is a threat to civilized society.” 

SCOTUS Allows Band to Call Itself by Disparaging Name

June 19, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Asian-American rock band The Slants, which had previously been denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent Office due to the disparaging nature of its moniker, NPR reports. The ruling could have major implications for other trademark cases and disputes, like the Washington Redskins football team. "The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion.

AG Slatery Announces Investigation into Opioid Crisis

June 15, 2017

After a lawsuit was filed in Sullivan County against drug makers earlier this week, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced he is leading a coalition of Attorneys General from across the country in comprehensive investigations into the roots of the opioid epidemic, the Nashville Post reports. The announcement did not name any specific drug makers or targets, but the group will examine the role “parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioids may have played in creating or prolonging this problem.”

Tennessee AG Says 'Natural and Ordinary' Law Does 'Nothing New'

June 15, 2017

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery made the argument last week that the new “natural and ordinary” law does “nothing new at all,” the Associated Press reports. Slatery’s words were included in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four married lesbian couples expecting children through artificial insemination. The law, which requires using the “natural and ordinary meaning” of all words in state law, was criticized by LGBT groups that believe that the requirement allows for discrimination against same-sex couples.


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