News

SCOTUS Appears Ready to Allow Citizenship Question on Census Form

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether a citizenship question can be included on forms for the upcoming 2020 census, and appeared split along ideological lines, NPR reports. Based on their questions during today's oral arguments at the high court, the justices appear ready to vote 5-4 to allow the Trump administration to add the questions for next year's head count. Conservative justices say there is historical precedent for inclusion of the question, while liberal justices argue that the question will result in fewer people filling out the form. The decision matters because population counts will determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets for the next decade. The data also guides the distribution of $880 billion a year in federal funding for schools, roads and other public services.
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7 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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Justice Thomas: No Plans to Leave Bench

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is refuting reports that he is considering retirement so that President Trump can appoint a younger justice, the ABA Journal reports. In response to a New Yorker article on that topic, Thomas, 70, told a Pepperdine University School of Law audience that he has no plans to leave the bench. In 20 years? “No,” Thomas said. In 30 years? “No,” Thomas repeated.

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Reeves Takes Oath to Become First Female Chief Judge in Eastern District

Judge Pamela Reeves took the oath of office this week in Knoxville, becoming the first female Chief Judge in the 222-year history of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Reeves was also the first female president of the Tennessee Bar Association. "I like to see myself or think of myself as just being someone who is fair and works hard,” Reeves said in an interview with Knox News. “I mean, really is there anything more that a judge can aspire to be?”

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Register Now: 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum

Register now for the 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum and the 19th Annual Health Law Primer to take place this October in Franklin The must-see, must-do event for Tennessee health law attorneys, this forum features timely topics designed to up your game and keep you on top of trends in the area. Presentations in this year’s program will include: cyber threats in health care, surrogate decision making, updates with TennCare, cloud-based vendor agreements, reps and warranties, legislative updates, antitrust concerns and much more. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field. Here are the key details:
 
Health Law Primer (introductory program)
When: Wednesday, Oct. 16
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
Health Law Forum
When:  Thursday, Oct. 17 – Friday, Oct. 18
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

 
The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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Reeves Named Chief Judge of Eastern District

U.S. District Judge Pamela L. Reeves will become the chief judge of the Eastern District of Tennessee on April 1, succeeding U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan, who has held the chief judgeship for the past seven years, The Chattanoogan reports. Reeves is the first woman to hold a district judgeship in the Eastern District of Tennessee and becomes the first woman to hold the district's chief judge position in the court's 222-year history. She was nominated to her judgeship in 2013, confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 2014. She received her law degree from the UT College of Law in 1979, and she practiced law in Knoxville until her appointment. She served as the first female president of the Tennessee Bar Association from 1998 to 1999.
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Court Declines to Hear Discrimination Case for Now

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a religious liberty case next term concerning Phyllis Young, a Hawaii woman who declined to rent a room in her bed & breakfast to a lesbian couple out of objections to same-sex marriage. The court’s action leaves in place a lower court opinion that found Young’s actions to be discriminatory. The state’s intermediate Court of Appeals issued the ruling but left pending any damages to be awarded. Court observers said the case was not accepted because it had not yet made its way through the lower courts to a final judgement. CNN has more on the story.
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Sixth Circuit Hears Tennessee Refugee Case

Nearly three years after state lawmakers approved a resolution directing Tennessee to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on March 19, The Tennessean reports. The case in front of the court of appeals comes after Tennessee's attorney general declined to initiate the state's lawsuit and one year after a federal judge in a lower court dismissed the matter. The case dates back to 2016, when the Tennessee legislature overwhelmingly approved a resolution ordering the lawsuit. When it was filed in March 2017, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to sue the federal government regarding refugee resettlement on the grounds of violating the 10th Amendment. It is unclear when a decision on the case will be made.
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Judge Won’t Allow Unvaccinated Kids Back to School

In a New York county that’s home to the state’s worst measles outbreak in decades, a judge has refused to allow a group of unvaccinated children back to school, The Washington Post reports. Officials in Rockland County banned unvaccinated children from attending certain schools with low vaccination rates, leading parents of the unvaccinated kids to sues the county’s health department. This week, U.S. District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti denied their request, ruling it wasn’t in “public interest” to allow the children to go back to school.
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Federal Judiciary Adopts New Ethics Rules Regarding Harassment, Reporting of Misconduct

New ethics rules adopted by the federal judiciary this week make clear that sexual harassment is banned, and that judges and their employees have a reporting obligation when such conduct happens, The ABA Journal reports. The new rules state that reliable information about judicial misconduct as well as judicial disability must be reported. Unwanted, offensive or abusive sexual misconduct is banned, as is “egregious and hostile” treatment of workers. The rules also bar intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age or disability. Retaliation for reporting misconduct is prohibited. The changes were approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States and take effect immediately.
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Justice Kagan: SCOTUS Considering Ethics Code

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is considering whether to create an ethics code for Supreme Court justices, Justice Elena Kagan told a congressional committee this week. The ABA Journal reports Kagan made her statements during an appearance with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. before a House appropriations subcommittee that is reviewing the Supreme Court’s budget. Kagan made the disclosure in response to questioning about judicial accountability in the #MeToo era. Kagan and Alito also fielded questions about televising oral arguments. Both said they were against the idea.
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Don't Sleep, Space is Limited: Criminal Law Basics 2019 and Prison Tour

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section will hold its annual Criminal Law Basics Forum at the Tennessee Bar Center on May 22. This annual favorite features the intangibles for criminal law practitioners, including timely updates on both a state and federal level. We will cover appellate issues, attorney well-being and ethics, ending the day with a guided tour of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, presented by Warden Tony Mays and attorney David Raybin who will discuss representing a death row inmate through execution. Don’t miss out on this unique, enriching CLE opportunity. Here are the key details:
 
When: Wednesday, May 22, registration at 8 a.m., CDT; prison tour at 2 p.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave N.; Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, 7475 Cockrill Bend Blvd, Nashville
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State AGs, Women's Health Advocates Will Fight Changes to Title X

State attorneys general and women's health advocates are pushing back at the Trump Administration’s rules for the federal family planning program, Title X, but will likely face an uphill battle, NPR reports. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 upheld similar measures in the case of Rust v. Sullivan, which proponents uphold as proof that the rules are constitutional. The crux of the argument surrounds removing Planned Parenthood from the Title X program, an enduring pursuit of abortion opponents. Planned Parenthood has not said whether it will sue, however, several states and the ACLU intend to file lawsuits challenging the regulations.

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Labor & Employment Forum – May 3

This program provides timely, specialized and practical information on a range of labor and employment law topics. Presented by esteemed leaders in the field, the CLE sessions will focus on mediation and employment cases, accommodations in the modern era, case law updates, and a unique, interactive ethics session focused on attorney well-being and the power of laughter. Finally, this program will include a judicial panel giving practitioners unique insight into the best presentation techniques for employment cases in federal court. This is the most in-depth employment-focused CLE in the state. Review the agenda, read the session descriptions and register to attend by clicking here.
 
When: Friday, May 3. Registration starts at 8 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
CLE Credits: 1 Dual, 5.5 Gen.
 
The program will feature presentations by Hon. Waverly Crenshaw Jr.Hon. Jon McCallaHon. Travis McDonoughJohn Bode of Miller & Martin PLLC, Celeste Bradley of Impark, Heather Collins of Collins & Hunter PLLC, Edmond Sims and Deborah Walker of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Stan Graham of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Dan Norwood of Working Boomer Advocate, Debra Norwood of LaughterLawyerUSA and Michael Russell of Russell Dispute Resolution, PLLC.
 
Produced by Donna Mikel of Burnette, Dobson & Pinchak.

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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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Federal Prosecutor Halts Nation's First Safe Injection Facility

Plans to open the nation’s first safe injection facility were thwarted for the time being after a Pennsylvania federal prosecutor filed a complaint, the ABA Journal reports. U.S. Attorney William McSwain argued in a Feb. 5 complaint that providing spaces for users to inject street-purchased opioids would violate federal law. Safehouse, a nonprofit organization that provides overdose prevention services, planned to raise $1.8 million to cover the first year of operations for the Philadelphia safe injection facility.
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Chief Justice Roberts Speaks at Belmont Law

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Belmont Law Dean Alberto Gonzales took questions from law students and faculty during a 45-minute conversation Wednesday at the school's Baskin Center. Gonzales, the former U.S. attorney general, led the discussion in front of an audience of law students, invited dignitaries and local judges. Roberts’ visit marks the second time a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice has appeared at the school, following Justice Samuel Alito’s address at Belmont Law's inaugural commencement in 2014.
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Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Trump AG Pick William Barr

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved William Barr’s nomination for attorney general today, The Associated Press reports. The vote now heads to the full Senate, where Barr is expected to be confirmed in a vote as soon as next week. Barr previously served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has been filling the position since Jeff Sessions departed last year.
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Poll: Faith in U.S. Supreme Court Reaches Decade Low

The U.S. Supreme Court has been the most trusted branch of government among voters for more than a decade, but a new poll shows faith in the court is now near its lowest, Fox News reports. When asked which of the three branches of government they trust the most, 35 percent of voters choose the U.S. Supreme Court, down from 45 percent in 2017. The poll found the court's most well-liked member to be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
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EPA Civil Penalties for Polluters Fall Dramatically from Previous Years

Civil penalties for polluters dropped 85 percent this past fiscal year, falling to the lowest level since 1994, The Washington Post reports. Last year violators were fined $72 million, down from an average of $500 million annually, adjusted for inflation, over the past 25 years. In fact, former EPA official Cynthia Giles who conducted an analysis on the figures said they were the lowest since the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance was established. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said there had been “a lot of misleading information,” claiming that while fines were down, the number of criminal enforcement cases had risen from the previous year. EPA officials declined to disclose the exact figures for past fiscal year’s civil or criminal penalties, saying it could do so only after the government shutdown had concluded.

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Federal Government Reopens for 3 Weeks

President Trump agreed last week to reopen the federal government for three weeks while negotiations proceeded over how to secure the nation’s southwestern border, The New York Times reports. The decision paved the way for Congress to pass spending bills immediately that Trump will sign to restore normal operations at a series of federal agencies until Feb. 15 and begin paying again the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work for free for 35 days.
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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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SCOTUS to Allow Transgender Military Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court today allowed the Trump administration to go ahead, for now, with its plan to ban transgender military service, NBC News reports. The court, without comment, granted a request from the Justice Department to allow the government to enforce the ban while challenges to the policy play out in the lower courts. The earliest the Supreme Court could act on the issue would be during its next term, which begins in October.
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ABA Offers Free CLE to Attorneys Affected by Government Shutdown

As the government shutdown continues and federal employees face the first Friday without a paycheck, the American Bar Association is offering five free CLE courses to any lawyer affected by the partial government shutdown, The ABA Journal reports. “The ABA, as the largest representative of the legal profession, looked at how we could quickly mobilize to help lawyers affected by the government shutdown,” ABA Executive Director Jack Rives said. Interested attorneys can register throughout the month of February and have six months to complete the courses.
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