News

Annual General-Solo FastTrack Series a Success

The TBA General–Solo Section last week wrapped up its yearly FastTrack series to a packed house at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. This annual favorite of general solo attorneys travels the state, allowing lawyers from each grand division the opportunity to obtain CLE hours on their home turf. The forums were a huge success, seeing record attendance and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback. The TBA would like to thank program producers Chasity Grice, Frank Johnstone, Jane Powers, Jim Romer and Tim Chinaris; along with the General–Solo Section Executive Council for their hard work in producing this staple for Tennessee attorneys!
 
General-Solo-Small Firm Practitioners Executive Council
 
Section Chair: Tim Chinaris, Belmont University College of Law
Chair-Elect: Samantha Parris, Law Office of Samantha Parris
Immediate Past Chair: Jane Powers, The Powers Law Firm
 
East TN Delegates
Frank Johnstone, Wilson Worley, PC
Greta Locklear, Midtown Law & Mediation
Jim Romer, Attorney at Law
Samuel Gowin, Law Office of Samuel J. Gowin
 
Middle Tennessee Delegates
Margaret Johnson, Jackson Kweller McKinney Hayes Lewis & Garret
Sean Martin, Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard
 
West TN Delegates
Abi Salu, Salu & Salu Law Firm, PLLC
Chasity Grice, Peppel, Grice & Palazzolo, P.C.
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Registry of Election Finance Questions Ruling to Reduce Fines for Expelled Lawmaker Durham

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance (TREF) on Wednesday said it disagrees with an administrative law judge's recent ruling to reduce the fine levied against expelled former lawmaker Jeremy Durham regarding campaign finance law violations, The Tennessean reports. Durham was fined $465,000 in 2017 after investigations found that he misused donors’ money by making personal purchases of custom suits and sunglasses, among other allegations. Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell said the initial fine was excessive and reduced it to $110,000. The registry agreed with the opinion of Executive Director of the Bureau of Ethics and Finance Bill Young, who recommended TREF hold another hearing to determine whether Darnell was correct in reducing the fines and to determine if TREF agreed with Darnell's decision to reconsider the case using a de novo judicial review. TREF member Hank Fincher said of the issue, “I think (Darnell) gave far too much benefit of the doubt to Mr. Durham … He didn't just do wrong, he did awful wrong.”

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Lawyer For Police Officer Charged With Murder Asks for Change of Venue

The lawyer for Nashville police officer Andrew Delke, who is charged with murder after shooting Daniel Hambrick during a foot chase, has asked the Davidson Co. Criminal Court to grant a change of venue, The Tennessean reports. Delke’s attorney, David Raybin, argues that publicity surrounding the case along with reports connecting the shooting with protests and racial tension all but guarantees that Delke will not receive a fair trial in Nashville. Raybin also says that prosecutors "poisoned the well" by publicly releasing surveillance video of the shooting. Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore responded to the request saying: “Fair and impartial jurors exist in Davidson County … Allow this case to proceed where the crime occurred." Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins said he would decide on this request within the next couple of weeks.

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Court Denies Two Motions, Will Consider Post-Conviction Relief for Condemned Killer Leroy Hall Jr.

A Hamilton County Criminal Court judge has dismissed petitions intended to halt the execution of the Chattanooga man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend by burning her alive, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Criminal Court Judge Don Poole denied two of three motions filed on behalf of Leroy Hall Jr., saying the defense’s arguments didn't meet the standards of law or precedent. The court will today consider a third motion for post-conviction relief, with attorneys for Hall saying he deserves a new trial because a juror did not disclose that she was a victim of "severe domestic violence, including rape." Prosecutors argue the motion was filed well outside the statute of limitations, as he was convicted more than two decades ago and has already appealed that decision. Today’s hearing is focused on whether the one-year limit on filing a motion for post-conviction relief can be waived on grounds of due process. Hall's execution is scheduled for Dec. 5. 

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Court Upholds Aggregation of Theft Charges

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the felony theft conviction of the defendant, Denton Jones, who had sought relief because the state had aggregated five separate misdemeanor thefts into one felony count. The court held that the state properly exercised its prosecutorial discretion in aggregating in the indictment, according to the applicable aggregation of theft statute.

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AG: Legislators Can Expel Lawmaker But Not Advisable

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is advising legislators that expelling a lawmaker for conduct that took place before entering office is inadvisable but also not prohibited, the Tennessean reports. The opinion comes in response to a House request on whether lawmakers could expel Rep. David Byrd from office over decades-old sexual assault allegations. "Historical practice, sound policy considerations, and constitutional restraints counsel against, but do not absolutely prohibit, the exercise of the legislature’s expulsion power to oust a member for conduct that occurred before he was elected and that was known to the member’s constituents when they elected him," Slatery wrote in the opinion issued Tuesday.

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Take Part in Survey to Help Eliminate Professional Privilege Tax

Tennessee lawyers today received a survey from the Tennessee Bar Association requesting they take part in a short survey regarding their practices. Information from the survey will be used in an effort to help eliminate the state Professional Privilege Tax. That effort has also been joined by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) and other organizations, who today joined the TBA in sending a letter to Gov. Lee and legislators. If you did not receive a link to the survey, you can access the survey here.

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Ettingoff is New MALS CEO

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) announced today that its Board of Directors has chosen Cindy Ettingoff as its chief executive officer, effective Dec.16. She steps in to lead MALS following the retirement of Harrison McIver in March. As a practicing attorney in Memphis and the surrounding areas for more than 25 years, Ettingoff has also worked as MALS' managing attorney of the Pro Bono Unit. In private practice, she has primarily focused on labor and employment law and mediation. She is a graduate of the University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Ettingoff is an active TBA member and serves as the chair of the Dispute Resolution section. Read more from MALS.

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Ethics Roadshow Coming to a City Near You

The TBA is bringing its Ethics Roadshow to a city near you on multiple days in December. The program will be in Knoxville on Dec. 4, Chattanooga on Dec. 5, Memphis on Dec. 9, Nashville on Dec. 10, Jackson on Dec. 16, and Johnson City on Dec. 18. Sign up today to reserve your spot for this annual event, guaranteed to meet your ethics requirements for the year and enhance your knowledge of crucial changes in the legal profession. The course also is always full of surprises and humor. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit. See the list of all courses.

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Attempted Murder Case Dismissed in Sessions, Headed to Knox Grand Jury

The prosecutor in an attempted murder case that was dismissed last week when the victim failed to appear in court said he plans to proceed despite the recent ruling, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Nicholas Walton Boggs is accused of ambushing and shooting at the alleged victim outside of a West Knox County senior living facility where she worked. Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Sean McDermott said the woman recently suffered serious injuries in an automobile wreck in Florida, and he could not guarantee when she might be available to testify. This led General Sessions Court Judge Geoffrey Emery to order dismissal of the charges and Boggs' release. McDermott said he now intends to seek charges from a Knox County grand jury.

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Man Accused of Murdering Memphis Chamber Exec Says His Confession Was Coerced

Lawyers for McKinney Wright, who is accused of murdering Greater Memphis Chamber executive Phil Trenary, say that detectives in the case coerced his confession, the Commercial Appeal reports. Attorneys William Massey and Lorna McClusky say in a filing that despite his claims of innocence, Wright was told “he was going to be locked up in prison and would not see his mother for a long time," but if he accepted some responsibility in the killing “would not have to stay so long and could see his mother.” The filing does not describe the statements made to police.

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Death Row Inmate Says AG Slatery Stands in Violation of Due Process

A death row inmate scheduled to die next April is accusing Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery of usurping the authority of a DA involved in his murder case, The Leaf Chronicle reports. This comes after Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk negotiated a plea deal with convicted murderer Abu-Alu Abdur'Rahman that acknowledged racial bias in the initial trial and commuted Abdur'Rahman's death sentence to life in prison. Slatery appealed the deal saying it improperly voided a death sentence, and that the trial court had no right to re-open the case. In a response, attorney’s for Abdur'Rahman said “The notion that a District Attorney cannot enter an agreed resolution based on his reasoned judgment is utterly alien to basic principles of due process … The Attorney General cannot manufacture a case or controversy when he disagrees with a resolution between the parties made by another independent actor for the State.”

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Judge Rejects Ketron's Request to Dismiss Fraud Case

Administrative Judge Phillip R. Hilliard has rejected Kelsey Ketron's request to dismiss a fraud case against her that alleges she acted as an unlicensed insurance agent, the Daily News Journal reports. Ketron, who is the daughter of Rutherford County mayor Bill Ketron, also faces complaints of impersonating a licensed professional and committing theft while serving as a vice president of her father’s insurance company. She has since resigned from that position. Ketron’s attorney Trey Harwell said the decision does not speak to the merit of the case and that “The court seems to recognize this, in its ruling, by stating that we raised 'legitimate arguments about possible shortcomings.”

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Chattanooga Police Officer Charged With Sexual Battery Faces Civil Suit

The Chattanooga police officer charged with sexual battery regarding an incident that occurred as he was working at an off­-the-clock security job is now facing a lawsuit alleging Fourth Amendment rights violations, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Benjamin Dessalines was working a security detail at a Food City grocery store where the plaintiff’s mother was caught shoplifting. The plaintiff alleges that she was held for about five hours before being released, and that Dessalines offered to give her a ride home after a family member was unable to pick her up. Afterwards, she claims that to off-duty officer took her to his apartment saying he was meeting a friend, then touched her "breasts, crotch and inner thighs against her will and without her consent." The suit maintains that the police department "had notice" of at least one other allegation of sexual assault, but that complaint could not be verified.

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Courtroom Deputy Position Available for Nashville Magistrate Judge

The U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee is now accepting applications for a full-time courtroom deputy position in Nashville. Job responsibilities include managing the judge’s caseload, drafting and processing orders and judgements, attending court proceedings and more. Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to applications@tnmd.uscourts.gov with the subject line “Courtroom Deputy." All applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. Central on Nov. 6. Learn more here.

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TJC Seeking Volunteers for End-of-Year Mailing

A volunteer opportunity is available at the Tennessee Justice Center to help with the organization’s end-of-year mailing. Mailings are sent to partners, donors and friends each year to inform them of the work TJC is doing. To help with scheduling, there are two volunteer times: noon – 1 p.m. on Nov. 12 and 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 13. Get registered here.

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Court Amends Rule 11 to Improve Caseload Statistics

The Tennessee Supreme Court last week issued an order amending Rule 11, section II of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court to delete subsection (c) in its entirety and replace it with a revised subsection (c), as set out in Appendix A. The court said the change was made to more accurately collect, develop and maintain uniform statistical information about court caseloads across the state.

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DOJ Office of the U.S. Trustee Seeks Trustees for Case-by-Case Appointment

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the United States Trustee, is seeking resumes from persons interested in joining a pool of trustees who may be appointed on a case-by-case basis to administer cases filed under the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019. Trustees may be primarily appointed to cases filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, all divisions. Fiduciary and bankruptcy experience is desirable but not mandatory. All resumes must be received on or before Nov. 15. You can find out more information regarding this opportunity and apply using this link.

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This Week: TBA Court of Appeals Boot Camp

The Court of Appeals is unfamiliar territory for most lawyers and success in this court requires not only thorough preparation but mastery of oral and written advocacy as well. This boot camp allows lawyers to observe oral arguments in real cases being presented to the court, followed by analysis and discussion on preparation, tips and considerations for deciding to seek review in the Supreme Court. Lunch will be provided, allowing networking opportunities with colleagues who share this focus. Do not miss this unique learning opportunity!

When: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Supreme Court, 401 Seventh Ave. N. Nashville — Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N, Nashville
 
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Charlottesville Lawsuit Could Shape Courts' Handling of Cases Involving Extremism

A lawsuit against promoters of the Charlottesville protests centering around removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, which left one woman dead and several others injured, could frame how courts handle future cases of violent extremism, The New York Times reports. Lawyers for the plaintiffs maintain that online chats by organizers of the rally discussing attire, recruitment, the legality  of using certain weapons along with racist remarks against African Americans, Jews and others constitutes a conspiracy to commit violence against racial minorities. Lawyers for many of the defendants deny the allegations, arguing their First Amendment rights cover the online conversations. Karen L. Dunn, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs, says that participants planned the violence beforehand, and “there is no First Amendment protection for violence.” Federal Judge Norman K. Moon previously rejected the defendant’s attempts to have the suit dismissed, citing Griffin v. Breckenridge, and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 as precedents.

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City of Chattanooga Settles Lawsuit Regarding Traffic Stop Beating

The city of Chattanooga has settled a lawsuit regarding the beating of a man by police during a traffic stop, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Fredrico Wolfe maintains that Chattanooga police officer Benjamin Piazza assaulted him despite his compliance, which body camera evidence appears to support. Footage shows the officer approaching Wolfe’s car, gun drawn, while ordering him out of the vehicle. Wolfe then exited the car appearing to obey but fell as he was being handcuffed. The officer is then seen on the video punching Wolfe 10 times. A spokesman for Hamilton County District Attorney Neil Pinkston said that the office has not yet decided whether it will file criminal charges against Piazza.

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Family of Man Killed by Knoxville Police Officer File Suit Alleging Suppression of Evidence

Attorneys for the family of a man killed by a Knoxville police officer have filed a lawsuit in Knox County Chancery Court alleging that city officials are withholding records regarding the incident, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Channara Tom “Philly” Pheap was shot in the back by Knoxville Police Officer Dylan Williams after an altercation in response to a hit-and-run call. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, Joshua Hedrick and Lance Baker, say they are being stonewalled in their quest for public records such as the final autopsy report, 911 recordings and police cruiser video. The suit named the city of Knoxville, Knox County and the Knox County Emergency Communications District as defendants.

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Construction Law Forum 2020 - Jan. 24

Registration is open! The Construction Law Forum will be held at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville on Jan. 24, 2020. The theme for the program is The Art of Commercial Arbitration. Having a commercial construction dispute resolved via binding arbitration is fast becoming the norm, with litigation the exception. This seminar is for lawyers who are both new to this field of law and those who are experienced in Arbitration. The program will cover all aspects of commercial arbitration, from A-Z.

Read about the featured speakers, explore the agenda and register to attend by clicking here

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Customize Your CLE at This Fall's FastTrack

Don't miss this opportunity to register for 15 hours of CLE in one day! The Tennessee Fall FastTrack is an annual staple that offers tips and updates in diverse areas of law, designed to be relevant to a wide range of practice areas. The program will take place Nov. 8 in Nashville. It will provide seven hours of live general credit and eight prepaid credits to complete online anytime — at home or on your mobile device. Please join us for this unique program.

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Court Square CLE Coming to Chattanooga Oct. 25

The 2019 Court Square series is coming to Chattanooga on Oct. 25. This three-hour program is designed to provide attorneys with the latest developments in multiple areas of the law. Topics for this location will include updates on construction law, bankruptcy law and legal ethics from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The program will take place from 12:30 to 3:45 p.m. at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel.

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