News

Basic Tech Checklist for Firms

Law firms attempting to stay competitive and state-of-the-art need to consistently evaluate their use of technology. In addition to staying competitive, technological competency is required. In 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility to include this obligation. Above the Law presents a simple and straightforward tech checklist for law firms or lawyers seeking guidance in this area.   

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Don't Miss Out: The Administrative Law Annual Forum is Tomorrow!

It's not too late to register; the Administrative Law Annual Forum is tomorrow! This year’s program will tackle hot button issues, such as recent changes regarding appeals of UAPA cases. We will also hold a session focused on the often-byzantine process of dealing with state regulatory boards. For a dual credit opportunity, we will be joined by an attorney from the Board of Professional Responsibility discussing the ethics surrounding zealous advocacy. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. in the Tennessee Bar Center. A networking lunch will follow the program. You can find additional details and register for the program here!

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ABA Issues Formal Opinion on Lawyers' Duty in Case of Cyber Attack

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released a formal opinion this week that reaffirms the duty of lawyers to notify clients of a data breach and details reasonable steps to be taken to meet obligations set forth in model rules. “When a breach of protected client information is either suspected or detected, Rule 1.1 requires that the lawyer act reasonably and promptly to stop the breach and mitigate damage resulting from the breach,” Formal Opinion 483 says. “Lawyers should consider proactively developing an incident response plan with specific plans and procedures for responding to a data breach. The decision whether to adopt a plan, the content of any plan and actions taken to train and prepare for implementation of the plan should be made before a lawyer is swept up in an actual breach.” Read more here.
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Judge Rules Against State in Lawsuit Over PAC ‘Blackout Period’

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has ruled against the state of Tennessee in a case that challenged a law prohibiting nonpartisan political action committees from making campaign contributions to candidates within 10 days of an election, The Tennessean reports. Previously, only committees controlled by a political party have been able to contribute to a candidate 10 days from an election. The lawsuit was brought by a nonprofit called Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws. The state has promised to appeal the decision.
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TBA YLD Seeking Volunteers for Nashville Expungement Clinic

The TBA Young Lawyers Division is seeking volunteers for an expungement clinic on Oct. 27 at Nashville's Cathedral of Praise, 4300 Clarksville Highway. The event will be hosted by the National Prison Summit. Registration for pre-registered participants will take place from 8 - 9 a.m. and the clinic will start at 9:30 a.m. All volunteer attorneys are asked to arrive at 9 a.m. for orientation and the run of the day. The Criminal Court Clerk’s office will have computers and the ability to process the expungement paperwork right on the spot. The clinic is expected to end around noon. Those who wish to volunteer should contact Amber Floyd.
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Avvo to Improve Lawyer-Rating Transparency, Pay $50K in Agreement with NY AG

Online legal marketplace Avvo has reached an agreement with the New York Attorney General’s Office to increase the transparency of the online legal directory’s lawyer-rating system, The ABA Journal reports. The changes include consumer disclosures about how lawyers are rated and how legal forms are posted to the website. The company will also pay a $50,000 fine to cover the cost of the AG’s investigation.
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State AGs Reach Settlement with Uber, Tennessee to Receive $1.7 Million

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III along with the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, has reached an agreement with California-based ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc. to address the company’s one-year delay in reporting a data breach to its affected drivers. Uber learned in November 2016 that hackers had gained access to personal information Uber maintains about its drivers, including drivers’ license information. Uber has agreed to pay $148 million to the states. Tennessee will receive nearly $1.7 million which will be directed into the state’s general fund. Uber has also agreed to strengthen its corporate governance and data security practices to help prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
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The Final Frontier: Ethics and the Malpractice Risks of Protecting Electronic Information – Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis

Just in time for the end-of-the-year CLE rush, the TBA has a variety of ethics CLE options across the state. As quickly as client information and case management technology evolves, so too does the legal profession’s duty to safeguard it. Join us in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis on Oct. 23, 24, and 25 for this annual event, with three hours of dual CLE, guiding attendees through malpractice risks and how to prevent them from happening in the ever-changing electronic age.

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3 Dual Hours in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville

The TBA is offering a three-hour CLE focused on ethics and malpractice risks in protecting electronic information in Middle, East and West Tennessee. The CLEs will start in Knoxville on Oct. 23. Topics include: case management technology, professional duty, financial exposure and risk management. See all locations and dates here.
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AOC Director Honored by Women in Numbers

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Deborah Taylor Tate was recently honored at a reception held by Women in Numbers, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to supporting women in public office. Tate was recognized for her many years of leadership in public service, which has included three-and-a-half years at the AOC, a term as an FCC commissioner, and a term as president of the Court Appointed Special Advocates board, among many other accomplishments.
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After ‘Janus’ Ruling, Mandatory Bar Dues Under Fire

Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down union “fair share” fees, two Oregon lawyers filed a federal lawsuit that’s a First Amendment challenge to mandatory bar dues, Law.com reports. The suit claims the state bar engages in political and ideological activities with which his clients disagree. They are asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to issue an injunction prohibiting the collection of compulsory fees and award damages for fees already paid. 
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Legal Practice Tip: Slander of Title – Clouds on Property Owned by Public Officials

What are your rights if a false lien is filed against property you own

On May 21, Gov. Haslam signed into law Public Chapter No. 1042 which immediately created a cause of action providing for remedies for the successful challenge of the validity of a lien against a property. The real property owner that prevails in challenging the validity of a lien or a slander of title proceeding may recover:
  1. The owner's reasonable attorney's fees; 
  2. Reasonable costs incurred by the owner to challenge the validity of the lien; 
  3. Liquidated damages in an amount equal to ten percent (10%) of the fair market value of the property not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000); and
  4. Any actual damages incurred by the owner.
The provisions of the act do not apply if the lien is based on a loan agreement which lists the property as collateral to secure repayment of the loan. The statute became effective on signing.
 
What if you are a “public official?"
 
A separate act was signed by the governor on May 1, which took effect on July 1. Public Chapter No. 913 provides a way for “public officials” to administratively challenge the filing with the register a cloud on an interest in real property by way of an affidavit by the official which sets into motion a process to remove the cloud. This procedure is reasonably complicated but may provide the local and state officials with alternative methods for removing the clouds in a more expeditious and less expensive way and may force the hand of individuals filing such false claims.

Joseph "Joe" Kirkland is an attorney and senior escrow officer at the East Memphis office of CloseTrak, Closing & Title Services. Kirkland is active in the Tennessee Land Title Association (chair of the standing Legislative Committee 2017-19, director of the Board of Directors 2018-19) and the immediate past chair of the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Law Section.
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Volunteers Needed for YMCA Model United Nations and Youth in Government Programs

The Tennessee Bar Association's Public Education Committee is partnering with the YMCA to help mentor future lawyers in the Model United Nations and Youth in Government programs. The programs are designed to allow students ages 11-19 to experience the processes of government in a hands-on way. Model United Nations conferences occur in the Fall and Youth in Government conferences happen in the Spring. The YMCA is always in need of volunteers to help our young lawyers argue their cases well and to help our youth justices deliberate wisely. The Public Education Committee seeks volunteers for programs all across the state. Volunteers are welcome help serve for one, two or three days during the conferences. Each conference runs a similar program, just with different students from across Tennessee attending each weekend. For more information about the program, please visit the YMCA's website or contact Elise Dugger

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Jefferson County Man Facing Multiple Charges of TennCare Fraud

A Jefferson county man, Howard L. Cagle, has been charged in Hamblen and Greene county with multiple counts of TennCare fraud involving doctor shopping, the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration reports. Investigators have revealed that Cagle used TennCare to acquire hydrocodone prescriptions in at least five distinct instances all within a short period of time. Each felony charge of TennCare fraud is punishable by up to four years in prison. Since 2005, the Office of Inspector General has worked on cases that resulted in the repayment of over $3 million and an estimated cost avoidance of over $136 million for TennCare.

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East Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Owner Admits Tax Evasion

The owner of the East Tennessee Southeastern Provision meatpacking plant, James Brantley, agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and employing unauthorized immigrants, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. In April, I.C.E. agents and I.R.S. investigators conducted the nation’s largest single immigration crackdown in more than 10 years at the plant; they rounded up 97 people on illegal entry charges. This action sparked statewide protests and unsuccessful attempts to toughen punishments for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Brantley’s hiring of undocumented workers allowed him to pocket millions of dollars by ignoring safety regulations, violating federal wage and hour laws and avoiding unemployment and workers’ comp premiums. He will enter a formal plea in court on Sept. 12.

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Program to Help Vulnerable, Elderly Crime Victims Expands Across Tennessee

The Collaborative Response to Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Abuse (CREVAA) program will be expanding to 13 additional counties across the state: Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Maury, Marshall, Moore, Perry and Wayne counties, The Elk Valley Times reports. It will be administered through the South Central Tennessee Development District, and it aims to help vulnerable, elderly and adult victims of crime. CREVAA advocates work closely with victims and provide emergency services as well as personalized long-term support systems. In order for victims to receive services, they must be officially referred to the program by law enforcement agencies, Adult Protective Services, District Attorneys or Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Teams.

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Man Gets 10 Years for Social Security Fraud After Father-in-Law’s Secret Burial

A Sevier County man who took his father-in-law’s Social Security benefits for six years after leaving the man’s body on the side of a road was sentenced to nearly twice the recommended sentencing guidelines for his crimes, Knoxnews reports. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Phillips called the actions of Ricky James Bennefield “disturbing and beyond imagination.” Bennefield pleaded guilty to the crime, and admitted to dumping the body of his father-in-law in a makeshift grave during a family trip to Florida in 2010. The man’s body has never been recovered.
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New Job Postings on TBA JobLink

New job postings have been added to TBA’s employment portal. Positions include general and senior counsel, practice area experts and associate. JobLink helps Tennessee legal employers post jobs and TBA members connect with career opportunities.
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Annual Bankruptcy Forum Survey

The TBA Bankruptcy Executive Council welcomes opinions about the Annual Bankruptcy Forum. Completing this brief web form will assist in ensuring the forum remains timely and relevant. We welcome feedback regarding subject matter, length, location, etc. Please respond to this survey by Nov. 14. Please also mark your calendars to join us on April 5-7, 2019.  Your help and participation are greatly appreciated!
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Put TBA UPS to Work

Have you enrolled in TBA’s UPS account for members? Visit UPS's TBA page and save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio. Shipping services include next day air, international, ground and express.
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Law Office Management Tips on Shipping

If your law office uses shipping services, your TBA membership team can help you compare those costs to TBA’s UPS member benefit. Your firm office manager can work directly with TBA staff and UPS services to enroll or transfer shipping accounts. Members can save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio of shipping services, including next day air, international, ground and express.
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Murfreesboro City Employee Forced to Resign Over Use of CBD

A Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department was forced to resign after testing positive for cannabinoids due to CBD-containing products she uses to treat her anxiety, the Daily News Journal reports. Even though CBD products — derived from the hemp plant — are legal in Tennessee, they contained a trace amount of THC in the capsules she was taking, violating the city’s regulations to be a Drug-Free Workplace. Though hemp-derived CBD oil has minimal amounts of THC, standard drug tests can’t tell the difference between hemp products and marijuana.

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Destination CLE Survey

Let's take a trip! The TBA CLE Committee would like your feedback on destination CLE events. Taking a moment to complete this brief survey will greatly assist us in developing the best CLE experience for you. Please complete this survey by Aug. 10. We greatly appreciate your help with this endeavor.
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Council of Economic Advisers Releases Report on Work Requirements for Social Programs

The Council of Economic Advisers recently released a report titled "Expanding Work Requirements in Non-Cash Welfare Programs," that addresses controversial work requirement issues according to a Whitehouse press release. In April, President Trump signed an executive order giving states more autonomy over their Medicaid programs, allowing them to request waivers to add stipulations such as work requirements. Kentucky was the first state to try and implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients, however, a federal judge vacated the approval, sending the state’s program back to the federal Department of Health and Human Services for further review. So far, four states' applications have been approved by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and New Hampshire, while seven other states have applications pending: Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Utah, Ohio and Wisconsin. You can read the full report here.

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Trump Changes Hiring Process for Federal Administrative Law Judges

President Donald Trump has issued an executive order altering the hiring process for administrative law judges at federal agencies, removing the examination process and competitive selections, NPR reports. Administrative law judges will now be political appointees. A White House official said that the move was intended to “protect agencies against challenges to the legitimacy of their administrative law judges,” but opponents of the move say it’s an example of executive overreach.
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