News

SCOTUS Rules States Can Purge Voters Who Don’t Show Up to the Polls

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that it was OK for the state of Ohio to purge voters from registration lists if they haven’t voted in six years, USA Today reports. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said that the Ohio law was valid because the voters who were purged also failed to respond to notices. The ruling protects similar laws on the books in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Montana.
read more »

NBA Addresses Proposed Changes to the Local Rules for the Middle District of Tennessee

Nashville lawyer Tricia Herzfeld outlines some of the more important alterations to the current Local Rules of Civil Procedure for the Middle District of Tennessee that should be considered when the draft Rules are published for public comment. As reported, the proposed changes will address existing ambiguities and better meet the needs of modern civil litigators. Read her outline in this Nashville Bar Association article.
read more »

Sen. Bob Corker Intends to Advance Legislation on Controversial Tariffs

Sen. Bob Corker on Wednesday morning told President Donald Trump that he plans to go through with his legislation that would stifle Trump's ability to impose controversial tariffs, CNBC reports. Trump said last week that he would not exempt Canada, Mexico and the European Union from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The affected nations responded swiftly, stating that they will explore retaliatory measures of their own. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would not take up Corker's tariff bill as separate legislation, however, it may be added as an amendment to other legislation such as the National Defense Authorization Act.

read more »

A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

Consider waking 10 minutes earlier so you can incorporate a brief mindfulness meditation into your preparations for the day. Set a timer for 3-10 minutes (depending on how much time you feel you want to use). Begin by sitting in a relaxed and comfortable but dignified and upright position, with your spine and head aligned. Place both feet on the ground, with legs uncrossed, and rest your hands gently on your lap. Gently close your eyes and allow yourself to notice the sensation of sitting in the chair, of your feet on the ground, of your hands resting in your lap.

Gently bring your attention to your breath, slowly taking a deep breath in, pausing briefly, then slowly exhaling. Now repeat this twice and as you do so, observe your breath as it goes in your nostrils and as it exits your nostrils. Sense the flow of air as it moves in and out, and the space between breaths. You may notice the air feels cool as you inhale, but warmer as you exhale.

Return to your normal breathing. Don’t try to change your breath, just continue to observe it, with a sense of curiosity. Allow yourself to feel your body relax and yield to gravity as you sit quietly in your chair, focusing on your breath. Notice any tense areas in your body and with your next breath, imagine it as a cool breeze touching those areas holding tension and as you exhale, release the tension along with the breath. Continue observing your breath.

When thoughts or concerns arise – as they inevitably will – simply acknowledge their presence, without judgment or opinion, and let them pass by while you gently bring your attention back to your breath. There is no need to grab hold of any thought right now -- just allow your breath to guide you back to the present moment.

Our minds will wander, as intrusive thoughts are constantly vying for our attention. When you realize this has happened, simply observe without judgment and gently guide your attention back to your breath. You might find it helpful to label the thought – “worry” “laundry” “clients” – then let it go and return to your breath. Although thoughts and feelings will come and go in the background, you can prevent them from highjacking your attention by simply acknowledging them without judgment, then gently returning to the breath and this present moment.

Julie Sandine is a graduate of Wake Forest School of Law. She serves as the Chair of the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee.

read more »

Trump Administration Unveils Medicaid Scorecard

The Trump Administration on Monday unveiled its initial version of a “scorecard” that compiles and publicizes data from states for both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), The Washington Post reports. The scorecard will make public government measures of performance such as how long both state and federal health officials take when states request “waivers” to deviate from Medicaid’s ordinary rules and detailed, state-by-state averages on specific demographics and procedures/benefits utilized. The scorecard’s initial information is based on states that voluntarily report a series of measures about the health of their Medicaid and CHIP enrollees. You can view more information on the scorecard here

read more »

Report: Federal Judges Have Responsibility to Report Harassing Behavior

A new report analyzing harassment in the federal courts system submitted to the Judicial Conference of the United States emphasized the judiciary’s role in addressing workplace misconduct, the ABA Journal reports. Judges have a “special responsibility” to promote appropriate behavior, and to report misconduct by others, including other judges, the report says. It also notes that confidentiality obligations don’t prevent an employee from revealing or reporting misconduct.
read more »

10 New U.S. Attorney Positions Coming to Tennessee

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced the appointment of 311 new assistant U.S. attorney positions, with 10 allocated across Tennessee’s three divisions. Seven of those will be violent crime prosecutors – three to the Eastern Division, three to the Middle Division and one to the Western Division. Each grand division will also see the appointment of one new prosecutor who will support the newly created Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, which targets the opioid crisis.
read more »

Investiture Ceremony Held for Judge William Campbell

An investiture ceremony was held today in Nashville for U.S. District Judge William L. Campbell Jr., with Judge Waverly Crenshaw presiding. The ceremony took place in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the United States District Court with a reception following. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and John Tarpley delivered remarks, and TBA President-elect Jason Pannu presented Campbell with a gavel. See photos from the ceremony here.

read more »

9th Circuit Reassigns Case Over Judge’s Anti-Government, Anti-Lawyer Views

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two cases and reassigned one because of concerns about the trial judge’s expressed opinions about the federal government and lawyers, the ABA Journal reports. U.S. District Judge Robert Clive Jones of Nevada had told federal prosecutors that he was developing a policy of disallowing or debarring U.S. attorneys from Washington, D.C., because of “concerns about adherence to Nevada Bar standards and ethical standards.” The prosecutors noted they were from Idaho and Colorado, which briefly changed Jones’ mind, but he ultimately banned them.
read more »

New Bill Would Offer Police Federal Hate Crime Protections

A new bill in front of Congress would make it a crime to intentionally target a law enforcement officer based on his "actual or perceived status" as one, CNN reports. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 intends to protect law enforcement officers from violence for simply being a police officer. The bill, modeled on federal hate crime statute, has the support of major law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations and the National Sheriffs' Association, which say law enforcement is facing increased attacks. 
 
Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, say the bill wrongly extends protections to a group that does not need them because they are not vulnerable to bias or discrimination in the same manner as people of color and other historically marginalized communities. You can read the bill in its entirety here.
read more »

Share Your Thoughts on Proposed Amendments to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 6

The Supreme Court recently requested comment on proposed amendments to TSC Rule 6 that would require new attorneys to complete a Tennessee Law Course within one year of admission to the Tennessee bar. The Tennessee Bar Association has a working group on this issue and will be drafting comments in response to the court's Order for Comment. To ensure this comment best reflects members’ views and positions, the groups is looking for your feedback. Share your thoughts about the proposed amendments through this form by June 8.
    read more »

    U.S. Senate Confirms Judge Over Home State Senator’s Objections

    In a rare move, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Milwaukee attorney Michael Brennan over the objections of one of his home-state senators, the Associated Press reports. The Senate traditionally gives lawmakers a “blue slip,” which allows them the chance to weigh in on a judicial nominee from their home state. Sen. Tammy Baldwin declined to return her blue slip, a sign of her disapproval of the nomination. Until this year, it had been almost 30 years since the Senate confirmed a judge without two positive blue slips. Brennan will serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
    read more »

    How Do Presidents Deal with Subpoenas?

    With special counsel Robert Mueller raising the prospect of subpoenaing President Donald Trump in connection to the investigation into Russian tampering with U.S. elections, NBC News looks at previous presidential subpoenas and how they were handled. Thomas Jefferson was subpoenaed for documents in the treason trial of his former vice president, Aaron Burr. He initially declined to comply but ultimately produced material in the case. President Richard Nixon failed to shield tape recordings from the prosecutor working the Watergate case; a court rejected his claim that the recordings were protected by executive privilege. The Supreme Court was also called on to rule when President Bill Clinton was subpoenaed, saying that he was not immune from a lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, who accused him of sexual harassment.
    read more »

    Federal Judge Chides Counsel on Manafort Investigation

    A federal judge in Virginia on Friday grilled lawyers from the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about their motivations and authorization for bringing a fraud case against former President Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is accused of crimes related to his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, The Washington Post Reports. Manafort was seeking to have bank and tax fraud charges against him dismissed, with his lawyers arguing that the alleged crimes have nothing to do with the election or with President Trump. “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud… You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” Judge T.S. Ellis III said during a morning hearing. Ellis also requested an un-redacted version of an August 2017 memo from the Deputy Attorney General for the USDOJ Rod Rosenstein authorizing to investigate whether Manafort illegally coordinated with Russia in 2016.
     
    Michael Dreeben, a prosecutor with the special counsel’s office, responded that the Manafort investigation has expanded significantly since it was taken over by Mueller and the specific parameters of the special counsel investigation have not been publicly revealed because to do so would jeopardize ongoing probes and sensitive national security information. Manafort’s attorneys have requested the judge address a motion alleging leaks to reporters that conversations were intercepted between their client and Russian officials and other issues in a hearing on May 25.
    read more »

    U.S. Circuit Court Not Monkeying Around on Copyrights

    A federal appeals court ruled recently in a case over selfies taken by a monkey that U.S. copyright law does not allow lawsuits claiming animals have copyrights to photographs. To read more swing on over to the Mercury News for the whole story.

    read more »

    Judiciary Seeks 2019 Funding, Highlights Cost-Saving Successes

    Representatives of the federal judiciary has asked Congress to provide $7.22 billion in fiscal year 2019 to fund continuing operations of the judicial branch, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts reports. The request includes funding to sustain cybersecurity initiatives and ensure sufficient security at federal courthouses.

    read more »

    Federal Court Favors Lender in FDCPA Case

    A recent decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will be a comfort to lenders in regards to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Grant Stephenson of Porter Wright says. In a recent blog post for the Banking and Finance Law Report, Stephenson looks at how Hagy v. Demers & Adams, in which the court decided in favor of the purported debt collector, imposes new judicial limitations on Congress when it creates federal statutory causes of action.

    read more »

    Sevier County Lawyer Censured

    Sevier County lawyer Andrew Nicholas Wilson received a public censure on April 16 from the Board of Professional Responsibility. Wilson represented a client whose case was moved from state court to federal district court. Wilson was not admitted to practice in federal district court and failed to respond to the court’s request to file a motion to appear pro hac vice, to the court’s show cause order, or to the court’s order to appear. Wilson was accordingly removed as counsel of record and reprimanded by the district court.
    read more »

    Crenshaw Describes Successes Amidst Crisis

    The Nashville Post today published an interview with Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee Waverly Crenshaw, who described successes during a year on the bench in “crisis mode.” Following retirements of other judges, Crenshaw and Judge Aleta Trauger were left with more than 800 cases each this past year. Looking back on the first year of his seven-year term, Crenshaw said he was “fairly pleased” with the results, and cited strong communication between himself, Trauger and magistrate judges as the reason for their ability to stay afloat amidst the overload.
    read more »

    Supreme Court Case to Determine Constitutionality of Administrative Law Judge Appointments

    The U.S. Supreme Court on April 23 will hear arguments in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a case that could potentially have a big impact on administrative agencies, The National Law Review reports. In this case, the court will consider arguments – including those from the U.S. Solicitor General – that the way that the SEC’s administrative law judges (ALJs) are appointed violates the U.S. Constitution’s Appointments Clause
     
    SEC ALJs are hired through the government’s civil service process and are not treated as “inferior officers” who are appointed pursuant to the Appointments Clause. Lucia asks whether hiring ALJs this way violates the Appointments Clause, because they have all the hallmarks of an “inferior officer” under Supreme Court precedent, an argument that failed to convince the D.C. Circuit Court. There the SEC argued successfully that its ALJs were not “inferior officers” because they did not issue “final” decisions and did not exercise “significant authority” under federal law.
    read more »

    Ceremony for Judge Debra Poplin Planned for April 27 in Knoxville

    An investiture ceremony and reception for U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra C. Poplin will be held on April 27 at 2 p.m. in the Special Proceedings Courtroom at the Howard H. Baker Jr. U.S. Courthouse, 800 Market Street in Knoxville. RSVP by Friday.
    read more »

    Davidson County Lawyer Censured

    Davidson County lawyer Robert Elliott McGuire received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 10. The Nashville Post reports that McGuire, who in 2014 made an unsuccessful bid for Nashville District Attorney, was hired as a federal prosecutor just last week. In October of 2013, McGuire made statements in the rebuttal closing argument of a criminal prosecution that referenced material which had been excluded by the trial court in a pretrial order. Further, the statements were inappropriate, served no legitimate purpose, and resulted in reversal of the conviction by the Court of Criminal Appeals. A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Don Cochran said the office was aware of the proceedings when it decided to hire McGuire.
    read more »

    Lawsuit Involving Construction of Oak Ridge Uranium Processing Facility Moved to Knoxville

    A federal lawsuit that asks for an environmental review of the new multi-building design for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex has been transferred from Washington, D.C., to Knoxville, reports Oak Ridge Today. The transfer was requested in September by the defendants, U.S. Energy Secretary James Richard “Rick” Perry and Frank G. Klotz, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that manages nuclear weapons programs and facilities. United States District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, who was assigned the case in December, granted the motion to transfer the lawsuit from the District of Columbia to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on March 23.
     
    The complaint argues that a new environmental impact statement should be prepared for the new design for the UPF, the largest federal construction project in Tennessee since World War II. The plaintiffs allege that the use of several old buildings at Y-12 to house nuclear weapons work is risky because the old buildings could collapse during a major earthquake, possibly leading to a nuclear accident that could cause the release of radiological materials. Federal officials denied that allegation and others in a 29-page answer filed Sept. 29, 2017, calling the allegations vague, ambiguous or speculative, adding that safety and technical analyses are underway at Y-12.
     
    The plaintiffs previously listed the reasons for filing their complaint in the District of Columbia, citing the fact that multi-building UPF was made by a federal agency in the Washington, D.C., area; the named defendants are (or were) located there; and the information that the NNSA allegedly failed to consider originated in other federal agencies in the nation’s capital. The plaintiffs also said the important issues raised in the litigation — issues regarding the safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons program are “issues of overriding national significance and interest,” which favored keeping the case in Washington, D.C.
     
    The defendants, however, asked to move the lawsuit to East Tennessee stating, “This question should be decided in the Eastern District of Tennessee, where the Y-12 Complex is located,” a September 28 memorandum supporting its motion to transfer. “The matters at issue, in this case, are local at every turn,” the government attorneys said.
     
    Granting the motion to transfer, Friedrich said private and public interest factors both weigh in favor of moving the case to East Tennessee.“There is a substantial local interest in having this action decided in Tennessee,” she said. “The potential health and environmental effects in the locality of the Y-12 Complex and its surrounding areas present unique hazards that gravely impact residents in the Eastern District of Tennessee."
     
    The Y-12 complex was built to enrich uranium for atomic weapons as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, and it remains the nation’s primary site for processing and storing highly enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons.
    read more »

    New Iowa Law Allows Controversial Health Plans

    Last week, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed into law a bill that allows Iowa Farm Bureau to collaborate with the state’s dominant insurer to sell “health benefit plans,” a strategy that contends that not all health plans are health insurance, reports The Washington Post. The law says such plans “sponsored by a nonprofit agricultural organization… shall be deemed not to be insurance” meaning they will not have to comply with federal requirements. 
     
    The law has sparked debate over whether the strategy is a creative path to offer some residents an alternative to increasing prices in the insurance marketplace or a path to substandard coverage that will divide the healthy from the sick. Some feel that this bill is an aftereffect of Congress and the Trump administration’s declaration that Americans who flout the law’s individual insurance mandate will no longer be charged penalties. “If the ACA’s insurance rules can’t be repealed, then an alternative is to get people the option of escaping them,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on major health care issues facing the nation. “Without the penalty, the door is wide open for plans like this.”
     
    Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said that he is officially undecided about the new Farm Bureau law but that he sympathizes with the need for more-affordable coverage. As consumers have been “hammered” by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rates, he said, enrollment in Iowa’s marketplace has tumbled from nearly 75,000 in 2016 to about 61,000 last fall to 46,000 last month. According to Ommen, the Farm Bureau modeled its idea after a similar arrangement sponsored by the Tennessee Farm Bureau, which began decades ago and has continued in the ACA era. The Obama administration never challenged it.
     
    The Farm Bureau plan is the state’s second attempt to circumvent the ACA. Last year, the state’s insurance commissioner asked federal health officials to allow Iowa to take about $350 million in ACA money for 2018 and use it in different ways to help people pay for plans outside the marketplace. When the government had not given approval as last fall’s ACA enrollment season neared, Iowa withdrew the proposal.
     
    In a bill-signing ceremony, the governor contended that Iowa’s individual insurance market had ample choices and “reasonable” premiums before the ACA left it “in collapse.” After urging Congress to “fix this problem,” Reynolds recounted Monday, she said “we are done waiting” and urged state lawmakers to find their own solution. “That is exactly what they did.”
    read more »

    Pacer Fees Violated Federal Law, Judge Rules

    U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled Saturday that the federal judiciary violated federal law by using Pacer fees for courtroom technology and other projects, the ABA Journal reports. Huvelle’s ruling comes in a lawsuit that contended Pacer fees violate federal law because they exceed the actual costs of providing records. The judge disagreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that law limits Pacer fees to just the cost of running Pacer, but she also rejected the government’s argument that the fees can be used to fund anything related to the dissemination of information through electronic means. Pacer fees must be used for services that provide the public with access to information stored in the docketing system, she ruled. 
    read more »