News

TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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TBA Offers Complimentary Meeting Rooms

Your membership includes free use of TBA’s meeting rooms for mediations, depositions and arbitrations. Rooms include display monitors and WiFi access. Available spaces can provide seating for 6-75. Please contact Linda Murphy for application and details. (A small hospitality fee provides coffee, sodas, water and parking.)
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Member Spotlight: Ian Hennessey

Ian Hennessey is one of the newest members on the Administrative Law Section’s Executive Council. In addition to serving on this executive council, Ian also serves on the Knoxville Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee and has chaired the TBA CLE Committee. 

This past October, Legal Aid of East Tennessee held a “Forging Justice” celebration and honored Ian as one of two Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year. Ian and his co-recipient coordinate the “Faith & Justice Initiative,” in which they partner with local faith communities to host free legal advice clinics. 

Ian works at London & Amburn PC, where his practice is concentrated on healthcare matters, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, corporate law, regulatory issues, and employment law, as well as medical malpractice and long-term care defense.

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Lee: State Agencies Must Improve Serving Rural Tennessee

In his first executive order issued last week, Gov. Bill Lee is requiring all 22 executive departments in the state to submit a statement by May 31 explaining how they serve rural Tennesseans. NewsChannel 5 reports that the order also asks the agencies to submit recommendations to improve that service by June 30.
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Lee Priorities Include Criminal Justice, Mental Health

As he prepares to hold hearings that will shape the first budget of his administration, Gov. Bill Lee and his finance commissioner said their proposal will prioritize five key areas, including criminal justice and mental health, The Tennessean reports. The other focus areas of the estimated $37.8 billion budget include K-12 education, health care and rural economic development. Lee's budget is expected to be finalized by Feb. 8. He is set to address the legislature for his first State of the State address on March 4. 
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Federal Judge Releases Injunction Regarding TennCare Application Hearings

U.S. District Judge William Campbell Jr. recently released Tennessee’s Medicaid program from a 2014 injunction requiring hearings for people whose applications were not processed in a timely manner, The Associated Press reports. The lawsuit maintained that thousands of TennCare applicants were left in limbo because of a software design flaw, which led to long delays in processing. The plaintiffs asked for a permanent injunction, arguing that the organization’s system is still not fully functional. In his ruling, Campbell said that "the law does not require that a state Medicaid agency implement a flawless program,” and that applicants will continue to receive hearings when delays occur, without the necessity of a court order. The required timeframe for processing Medicaid applications is 45 days or 90 days for those based on a disability.
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Meditation Apps Help Incorporate Mindfulness Each Day

Consider a meditation app for your phone to help incorporate mindfulness into your day. The accessibility and variety of meditation apps can make them beneficial and easy to try. Some, such as Mindbody, Stop, Breathe & Think, 10% Happier, Breethe, Omvana, Insight Timer, Sattva Meditations & Mantras, and Smiling Mind (which can be tailored to different age groups) are free. Others, such as Calm, Headspace, and the Mindfulness App, have free trials and can be upgraded to a paid subscription. Comparisons of various apps are available on www.healthline.com or www.bestproducts.com.
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State Suspends Doctors Who Conspired to Sell Opioids

State officials have suspended the medical licenses of two East Tennessee doctors who conspired to sell opioid painkillers and anxiety medication, The Tennessean reports. Dr. Charles Brooks of Maryville and Dr. Michael Lapaglia of Knoxville both had their licenses suspended by a vote of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. According to court documents, Brooks and LaPaglia worked together to sell prescriptions through L & B Healthcare, a company they created last year. Brooks would pre-sign prescription slips and give them to LaPaglia, who was barred from prescribing serious medications due to a drug abuse case in 2014.
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Tennessee AG Joins Settlement with Neiman Marcus Over Data Breach

Following a 2013 database breach, Neiman Marcus Group LLC has agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement to resolve an investigation with 43 states and the District of Columbia, including Tennessee. According to a release from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, of the 370,000 payment cards that were compromised in the breach, 1,896 were determined to be associated with Tennessee consumers. Tennessee’s share of the settlement funds is $28,659.04.
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Tennessee's Process for Handling Disability Applications Stirs Controversy

The way Tennessee physicians earn money by reviewing disability claims is stirring controversy, The Tennessean reports. There are currently about 50 doctors statewide who review disability applications, for which they receive a flat rate payment on each claim filed. Detractors feel that this incentivizes the physicians to speed through the review process because how much they earn depends on how fast they work. The article notes one doctor in particular who earned $420,000 for reviewing the disability applications of 9,088 Tennesseans during the 2018 fiscal year, averaging 12 minutes on each case. 80 percent of the cases reviewed by this doctor were denied. Tennessee has among the highest denial rates for disability applicants, rejecting 72 percent of all claims in 2017 compared to the national average of 66 percent.

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House Files Motion to Intervene in Texas ACA Case

The U.S. House of Representatives recently filed a motion in federal court requesting intervention in the Texas court case that found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional, CNBC reports. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor last month ruled that the law was unconstitutional after the 2017 Tax Act eliminated penalties for adults without health insurance. A lawyer for the House said in the filing that federal legal rules give “the House an unconditional right to intervene,” given the ACA was passed into law by Congress and that the Trump administration is not defending the law, maintaining that “interest in this action ... is not adequately represented by the existing parties.” O’Connor has stayed his ruling pending appeal.

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AG Slatery Defends Participation in ACA Lawsuit

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is defending his participation in the lawsuit that led to a federal judge to rule the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as unconstitutional, saying “the Commerce Clause of our Constitution that, according to the court, prevents Congress from compelling Tennesseans to buy insurance, especially if they can't afford it or don't want it,” The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor last December ruled in favor of the 19 Republican state attorneys general, who argued that the law was unconstitutional after the 2017 Tax Act eliminated penalties for adults without health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously upheld the mandate, saying it was constitutional because it fell under Congress's taxing power. State Democrats have blasted the ruling, warning of consequences for the 1.7 million Tennesseans with pre-existing health conditions and the quarter of a million people in the state who obtain their insurance coverage through the ACA.

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Blog Reviews Most Important Legal Tech Developments in 2018

LawSitesBlog.com has published a roundup of the 20 most important legal tech developments in the past year, eschewing the traditional Top 10 list due to the overwhelming number of significant changes. Included on the list were analytics becoming an essential part of the legal practice, investments in legal tech topping $1 billion, the end of Avvo and the new American Bar Association rule emphasizing the duty of lawyers to be up-to-date on legal technology.
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Rural Clinics Grapple with Frozen TennCare Payments

An estimated 20 rural health clinics that opened in the last 15 months are facing financial distress due to promised TennCare payments being temporarily frozen until the state establishes new payment rules, The Tennessean reports. Many of these clinics are the only health provider in the area due to several rural hospital closures. While national and state health care organizations have expressed the necessity of ending the moratorium, a TennCare spokeswoman defended the freeze due to the complicated nature of creating required rules for billing procedures for all of the state’s 150 rural clinics.  The moratorium has been extended twice; the current freeze is scheduled to end in April but could be extended again.  

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State Fights Continued Licensure of Nurse Who Prescribed 'Colossal' Amounts of Opioids

State attorneys say an east Tennessee nurse practitioner who once prescribed a patient 51 pills a day was allowed to keep her nursing license because of a fundamental error by members of a state nursing board, Knoxnews reports. They are challenging the Tennessee Board of Nursing's decision to allow Christina Collins to continue working. Collins admitted to routinely prescribed opioids to patients she didn’t actually examine, and the Tennessee Department of Health argued her prescriptions were “so colossal” their only reasonable use would be trafficking or suicide. In new arguments filed in that case, the attorneys insist the decision should be thrown out because a single board member violated basic rules of evidence by doing her own online research, then used that research to misinform other board members about opioid prescriptions.

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Regular Memphis Pro Bono Clinic Has Served 12K Since Inception

Since its beginnings over a decade ago, a Memphis-area pro bono legal clinic has gone on to serve roughly 12,000 individuals in need, The Daily Memphian reports. The Saturday Legal Clinic, sponsored by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Memphis Bar Association, has been held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library once a month since November 2006. Firms and associations work to promote the event to ensure that 30 to 40 attorneys attend each month.
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Court Solicits Comments on Rule Change for Professional Privilege Tax Payments

The Tennessee Supreme Court is soliciting comments on a proposed rule change that would make delinquent professional privilege tax fees payable via an online portal and remove the requirement of a Privilege Tax Delinquency Notice to be sent via mail, requiring only an email notice. The deadline for submitting written comments is Feb. 4. Written comments may be emailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov or mailed to James M. Hivner, Clerk, Re: Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, section 26 Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37219-1407.
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Join Us Today: LAW TECH

Today's the day! Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville!

The flexible open house format allows you to create your own schedule. You can attend CLE sessions, enter to win prizes, network with attendees, visit with sponsors and interact with speakers. Take as many or as few CLE hours as you need. Only those seeking to be awarded CLE Credit will be charged. The registration desk will be open all day, so you can come and go for the hours you need when it is convenient for you. Attendees can earn up to 6.5 hours of Dual CLE credit.

CLE TOPICS:
  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show 2019: BEAT THE CLOCK
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Know When to Hold 'Em
  • Digital Evidence – A Technical Life Raft for the Legal Mind
  • Make it Rain: Ethics Guidelines and Practice Essentials

ATTEND TO WIN: Attendees will have a chance to win prizes, including an iPad Pro. The tech prize drawing will be held at the 10:30 a.m. break. Must be present to win.

TAKE A LYFT: TBA has partnered with Lyft to offer attendees a discounted ride.

  • New to Lyft?: Get $5 off 2 rides at http://lyft.com/i/lawtech5 or download the app and enter code LAWTECH5
  • Already Have Lyft?: Save 10% off 2 rides to or from Law Tech Blast with code LAWTECH

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS & EXHIBITORS:


 

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Give the Gift of TBA Membership

Give yourself (or a friend) the gift that keeps giving — one-year of unlimited access to professional development opportunities and a number of programs and services designed to help you become a better practitioner. Founded in 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association is dedicated to enhancing fellowship among members of the state's legal community. Oh, and did we mention some of the benefits? Earn three pre-paid credits to use on any live or online course featured in the 12-days of CLE. Join now!

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Recovery Court Director Honored with Spirit Award

Twenty-Third Judicial District Recovery Court Director Doug Beecham was recently honored by the Tennessee Association of Recovery Courts with the prestigious Christy Vernon Spirit Award, which is voted upon by members to recognize excellence in the profession. Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash made the presentation at the group's annual meeting in Murfreesboro, attended by recovery court professionals from around the state. “Doug has been instrumental in building our Recovery Court from its humble beginnings 20 years ago,” Lockert-Mash said. "Doug has involved the court in programs to help the elderly, to clear and rebuild a home for fire victims, to care for homeless animals, to feed the hungry, to assist the poor with utility bills, to find appropriate treatment for those with substance abuse or medical needs, to help recovering addicts that need dental work or eyeglasses, and to provide Christmas presents to poor children, just to name a few.”
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Vandy Law Professor Appointed to Administrative Conference of the United States

Kevin M. Stack, professor at Vanderbilt Law School, has been appointed to a two-year term as a public member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent federal agency that advises the government on how to improve the administrative process. Stack is one of 40 public ACUS members selected from the private sector, each of whom are selected for their knowledge and experience of federal administrative procedure. Stack is an administrative law scholar whose recent work has examined the interpretation of regulations, rule making processes, statutory interpretation and theories of regulation.

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Tennessee AG's Office Names New Chief Deputy

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced Jonathan T. Skrmetti will join the attorney general’s office as the Chief Deputy in January. In his new role, Skrmetti will coordinate and oversee the substantive legal work of all five sections of the office. Skrmetti joins the office from Memphis where he has been a partner with Butler Snow LLP, an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.  In that role he investigated and prosecuted civil rights crimes and white-collar offenses.
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Elder Law Basics Programming Now Available Online

Several videos from this year’s Elder Law Basics program are now available to purchase on the Tennessee Bar Association website. Topics for these videos include:
 
These online programs offer an opportunity for you to brush up on essential issues related to the practice while allowing the flexibility to work around your busy schedule in the last-minute rush for CLE credit. You can view other upcoming programs and online video options on our CLE webpage.
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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Releases Audit on Medicare Advantage

An audit recently released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that nearly half of the Medicare Advantage plans reviewed by the organization had at least one error in the health provider directories used by patients to find a doctor, The Washington Post reports. Some of the errors cited include listing the wrong location or contact information for providers and errantly indicating that certain providers are accepting new patients when they are not. These blunders can have serious ramifications for those choosing the option. An out-of-date directory could lead a senior to choose a particular plan, only to later find out their doctor is out-of-network and that they must find a new one. According to the Post, this is the third time that the agency has cited Medicare Advantage, with CMS threatening to impose fines regarding similar inaccuracies just last year.  

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Sixth Circuit Sides with Plaintiffs in Social Security Disability Case, Lawyer Gets Jail

The Sixth Circuit of Appeals ruled against the Social Security Administration last week, Jurist reports. Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn created a widespread system of fraud to guarantee his clients would be approved for social security disability claims. He bribed an Administrative Law judge and paid several doctors to falsify medical records. Conn defrauded the government of more than $500 million in benefits. He agreed to a plea deal to serve 12 years but fled the country before he could be sentenced; he was later apprehended and sentenced to an additional 15 years. The administration ordered reassessments of all the benefit claims of Conn’s clients once the fraud was revealed. Eleven individuals claimed their due process rights were violated when the administration ruled their medical records as inadmissible by being tainted by fraud, and they were not allowed to admit further evidence. The 6th Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs allowing them a chance to introduce medical evidence before an Administrative Law judge to prove their disability qualifies them for a reinstatement of Social Security benefits.

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