News

Proposed Rule Requires Additional Support for Ethics Complaints Against Elected Officials

A new policy proposed by Rep. Mathew Hill, R-Jonesborough, would require lawmakers to take an additional step when filing an ethical complaint, NPR reports. The prospective rule change makes it necessary to obtain signatures from at least two representatives — one with firsthand knowledge or evidence of the alleged violation — in order to file a complaint against another elected official. "If there’s not corroboration, if there’s not evidence that is presented, then we are working off hearsay, we are working off gossip," Hill said in a House meeting last Thursday. The rule, according to Hill, is modeled on a biblical requirement that allegations must be corroborated. 

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Lawmakers Intend to Address Juvenile Sentencing Reform

The recent decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown has lawmakers discussing Tennessee’s treatment of juvenile defendants and sentencing reform, The Commercial Appeal reports. Currently, juveniles in the state convicted of first-degree murder must serve a mandatory 51 years behind bars, the same as their adult counterparts. This is in stark contrast to many states which have reduced sentencing for adolescents on similar charges, with almost half doing away with life sentences for juvenile offenders altogether. A bill supported by Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), would give juveniles sentenced to life in prison a chance at parole after serving 20 years, and require the parole board to consider youth as a factor when making its decision. The measure, as proposed, would not affect those already sentenced. 

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Hamilton County Considers New Program for Mentally Ill Offenders

A new program in Hamilton County intends to address the way courts deal with the mentally ill, offering treatment in lieu of incarceration for certain cases, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The initiative — Frequent Users Systems Engagement (FUSE) — is a collaboration between the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, mental health and medical providers, insurers and Chattanooga's housing agency to help defendants with mental health issues find treatment for their illness or addiction and stable housing, a move that proponents believe will reduce jail populations, ultimately saving the county money. FUSE has already raised $120,000 from outside donors, and county commissioners will vote next week on whether they will accept those donations.

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Class-Action Lawsuit Claims Jail’s Video-Only Visitation Violates Constitutional Rights

A proposed class-action lawsuit filed by a dozen inmates at the Knox County jail claims the sheriff's video-only visitation policy violates their constitutional rights, Knoxnews reports. The complaint filed last month in U.S. District Court condemns the ban on in-person visits as "cruel and unusual" and lists other grievances that include overcrowding, a lack of fresh air and exercise, high commissary prices and poor medical and mental health care. The lawsuit claims the video visitation system routinely malfunctions and leaves inmates and their families staring at blank screens with no refunds. The inmates are demanding an end to long-term lockdowns and a return to face-to-face visitation.
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Matthew Charles Interviewed by NBC Nightly News After Second Release from Prison

Matthew Charles — the man who was released from prison, then sent back pending appeal of his case  — was interviewed by NBC Nightly News on Tuesday, making his first public remarks since being re-released, NBC News reports. Charles was convicted in 1996 for selling crack and illegal possession of a firearm, labeled a “career offender” because of prior criminal convictions, then sentenced to 35 years in prison. A federal judge granted Charles early release in 2016; however, prosecutors appealed that decision and he was subsequently returned to prison around two years later. His case became part of the national discourse on criminal justice reform after attention from members of Congress and celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, and is believed to be the first person released because of the First Step Act.

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Memphis Attorneys Keep Clothes on Hand for Clients Who Cannot Afford Dress Attire

The Shelby County Public Defender’s Office has taken a novel approach to criminal defense, maintaining a closet of clothing for defendants who cannot afford dress attire to wear in court, The Commercial Appeal reports. On whether what a defendant wears to court matters, attorney and supervisor for Shelby County Public Defender’s Office Gregg Carman said that "It probably shouldn’t. But jurors can’t always set aside appearance. As soon as a client walks into a courtroom with a jury, that jury is making judgments about them from the way they present themselves, whether it’s their demeanor their attitude, their walk, or their clothing, their hairstyle." The Shelby County District Attorney General's office also has a clothes closet for victims and witnesses, but declined to comment on the story.

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Montgomery County Judge's Remarks Make National Headlines

Montgomery County Judge Wayne Shelton's comments comparing black-on-black killings to killings committed by the KKK are making national headlines, The Leaf-Chronicle reports. The remarks came as Shelton was presiding over the preliminary hearing of Vincent Bryan Merriweather, one of the three men accused of gunning down Antorius Gallion in Clarksville on Nov. 19. Shelton, who is the longest sitting judge in Tennessee, told The Leaf-Chronicle that "Black lives really do matter. The total disregard of that fact by any in our society is totally reprehensible."

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Rutherford Store Owners Allege Discrimination in 'Operation Candy Crush'

Store owners raided and shuttered by Rutherford County law enforcement during "Operation Candy Crush" for selling CBD oil are alleging that they may have been targeted because of their race, The Daily News Journal reports. An amendment to the complaint initially filed in October says that 12 of 17 of those arrested are of Egyptian descent and that several surrounding stores sold the same CBD products but remained open and that those owners were not charged with crimes. According to the complaint, Assistant District Attorney John Zimmerman is alleged to have told an attorney for one of the CBD suppliers that "all the people selling CBD in Rutherford County are 'foreigners.'" The paper reports that the case is set on District Judge Aleta A. Trauger’s Jan. 7 docket at 1:45 p.m. 

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Tennessee Supreme Court Finds Liability Release Unenforceable

A patient signed an agreement with a medical transport company which purported to release the company from any liability. As the patient was boarding the company’s van, the patient fell and was injured. In the lawsuit of Copeland v. HealthSouth/Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital that followed, the transportation company moved to dismiss the case based on the exculpatory provision in the service agreement. The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a Dec. 20 opinion, held, as a matter of law, the exculpatory provision in the agreement did not bar the patient’s claim. In determining the enforceability of such provisions, Tennessee courts should consider “the totality of the circumstances and weigh these non-exclusive factors: (1) relative bargaining power of the parties; (2) clarity of the exculpatory language, which should be clear, unambiguous, and unmistakable about what the party who signs the agreement is giving up; and (3) public policy and public interest implications.”


Special thanks to executive council member Justin Joy for contributing the above articles. Justin is a shareholder in the Memphis office of the law firm Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C. In addition to a range of experience in litigation and business law matters, Justin heads up Lewis Thomason’s cybersecurity practice group. He provides counsel to clients in the area of information privacy and cybersecurity including security incident investigation, development of security awareness programs, policy review and drafting, cyber risk management, insurance policy coverage consultation and breach response management. Specifically in the area of healthcare, Justin counsels covered entities on a variety of matters pertaining to HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification Rule compliance. 

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Federal Judge Questions Racial Bias by Prosecutors

A federal judge in Memphis is questioning whether prosecutors are issuing more onerous charges against black defendants than white defendants for comparable crimes, The Commercial Appeal reports. U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. has raised concerns of racial discrimination in at least three separate cases — most recently one involving two drug dealers who traveled together when selling MDMA. In that case, the white defendant got out of the car that the men were traveling in to transfer the drugs, while the black defendant remained in the vehicle with another woman. A gun was found in the car between the legs of the black defendant, who was charged with a gun crime mandating an automatic five-year sentence. The white defendant was not charged with a gun crime and received a drastically lighter sentence. Representatives of the prosecutor's office say they do not discriminate based on race and the white man received a lesser sentence because of his limited criminal record. Fowlkes, a former state and federal prosecutor who has also served as a Shelby County public defender, is one of the few black federal judges, which make up only 10 percent of that judiciary.

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Webcasts: Transactional Practice Series (Parts 1 and 2)

New for 2018! Every lawyer experiences transactional law at some point in the year, and this all-in-one online video series features up to six dynamic hours of valuable content providing lawyers in various areas of the law with the information, tools, and tips needed to successfully handle transactional, traditional business, and probate matters. Perfect for General, Solo, Small Firms, Real Estate Law, Entertainment Law, Health Law, Business Law, Bankruptcy Law or Young Lawyers Division attorneys. Earn up to five general (online) CLE hours and one dual (online) hour. Part 1: Earn up to 3 general (online) CLE hoursPart 2: Earn up to 2 general and 1 dual (online) CLE hours.

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News Report: Detective Accused of Beating Handcuffed Man Had History of Violence

The Hamilton County detective suspended this month for severely beating a handcuffed man has a history of violence, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Blake Kilpatrick — who is under investigation by the DOJ after video surfaced of the beating — was previously accused by his then-girlfriend of bursting into her home and hitting her. Kilpatrick also allegedly kicked down his and his ex-wife's door in 2011, then vandalized their home. Records show that he was never arrested or charged in those incidents. Kilpatrick’s attorney, who is also defending him in a wrongful death suit filed in 2017, said that he is investigating the incidents and working on a statement. Charley Toney, who was beaten by Kilpatrick after being arrested, suffered a collapsed lung, a broken finger, a broken nose and several broken ribs. 

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Webcasts: Blockchain Updates for 2018

Are you still in need of some dual credits to meet the end-of-year deadline? Consider these Blockchain updates for 2018 and how they can affect your practice going into the new year. AJ Bahou, an expert in the field of Blockchain technology, has produced two online videos: one addresses how it works and offers introductory applications in all areas of law; and a second program is specific to health care. Check out Law Tech: An Attorney Introduction to Blockchain Technology or the healthcare-specific Blockchain for Health Care. Earn one dual online CLE hour for each program.
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Law Tech Blast: Feb. 15, 2019

Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast on Feb. 15! This is a free program available to all practicing lawyers. 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.

FREE SIGN UP: Sign up now so we know you are coming.

  • You will only pay for the hours you wish to be awarded CLE credit.
  • Programming will be available throughout the day with dual credit hours available.
  • The registration desk will also be open all day.
CLE TOPICS:
  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Preparing for eDiscovery Before Litigation 

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

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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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Governor Haslam, Governor-elect Lee Oppose Closed Primaries

Governor Bill Haslam and Governor-elect Bill Lee both have voiced opposition to a closed primary resolution put forth by the GOP's state executive committee earlier this month, the Tennessean reports. The resolution asks the General Assembly to "address the issue of 'cross-over' voting in Tennessee’s primary elections," to prevent concerns of an opposing party influencing the other’s election. Gov. Haslam when speaking to the crowd at a Nashville Rotary meeting said “I am strongly opposed to that … If you're a Republican, I think it's a silly proposal." Lee made similar comments, saying “I would be willing to look at whatever the legislature says, but on the surface, I don’t see a reason to make a change.” Closed primaries have been a contentious issue in the state for decades and a similar resolution was voted down by the executive committee in 2015.

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Woman Files Lawsuit Against Rutherford County Regarding Guilty Plea in Child Abuse Case

A woman who pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse in 2007 is suing the Murfreesboro Police Department and Rutherford County, claiming the plea was made under duress, The Daily News Journal reports. Catherin Funk-Vaughn filed the pro se lawsuit in federal court on Nov. 28, asking for $9.9 million, alleging she thought that she was pleading to a diversion charge — not a guilty plea — and that her attorney told her the only way she would see her children again was if she pleaded guilty. She also says her name was misspelled as “Catherine” on court documents, making them void and claims violations against several of her constitutional rights. Funk-Vaughn has also filed a separate suit against the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

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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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Kentucky City Clerk Wanted for Embezzlement Arrested in Sevier County

A former Kuttawa city clerk, wanted for stealing money from the Kentucky town’s coffers, was arrested in Sevier County last week after being on the run for months, the Kentucky New Era reports. Katie Harrison stopped showing up for work in July after financial irregularities were discovered in the office's bookkeeping. Harrison surrendered after her husband, Clayton Harrison was pulled over for an inoperable brake light and arrested for fraud. Both husband and wife are being held in the Sevier County Jail awaiting extradition.

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Man Credits Blount County Recovery Court for Saving His Life

A Blount County man credits the county’s innovative recovery court program for saving his life, according to an article in the Citizen Tribune. Daniel McQueen said that he was using from $400 – $500 of heroin a day, stealing credit cards, cars, or anything else of value to feed his habit. A judge at the Blount County Recovery Court sentenced McQueen to complete the court’s strictly regimented addiction treatment program, offered as an alternative to incarceration and he has been sober since. The program has been successful in Blount County, which plans to build a new “transition center,” to house hundreds more entering recovery through the criminal justice system. Recovery Court Judge Tammy Harrington said that she has seen hardened, long-term offenders complete the program and achieve sobriety.

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TBA Criminal Justice Section to Host Lunch Following Forum

The TBA Criminal Justice Section will host a networking luncheon following the Dec. 7 Criminal Justice Forum. This lunch will provide the opportunity for Criminal Justice Section members, judges, law students and attendees of the program to meet section leadership and attorneys who share a similar focus. There is no charge for this luncheon and parking will be validated. Attendance of the program is not required. Please RSVP to jword@tnbar.org to reserve your spot.

When: Friday, Dec. 7, 12:45 p.m., CST
Where:  Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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House Speaker Nominee Casada Wants to Reinstate Key Oversight Committees

Tennessee Speaker of the House nominee Glen Casada on Wednesday said he wants to revamp the committee system by bringing back House oversight committees regarding "prisons, children and family, and TennCare,” The Tennessean reports. There were 11 joint oversight committees eliminated in 2011 to save on staffing costs, including those overseeing the aforementioned areas. A bill was introduced in 2016 to create a 17-member correction oversight committee, however, the legislation failed to get out of committees in both chambers. Casada said the re-created committees will only be in the House, therefore will not need Senate approval. He is expected to assume speakership in January.

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Next Month: Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2019

This year’s Estate Planning & Probate Forum to be held at the Embassy Suite Cool Springs on Feb. 22. The annual staple allows you to learn from seasoned practitioners and top players in the field while being a beneficiary of necessary CLE credits. Topics for the forum will include:
 
  • Income tax planning for estates
  • Medicaid protection
  • Charitable planning
  • Legislative updates
  • Ethics in estate planning
  • A Clerk and Master’s panel
  • And more
A networking event will follow the program. Don’t sleep, missing out is irrevocable.
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December CLE in 6 Cities

TBA offers CLE in six locations during December. See offerings in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Johnson City and Jackson. Find last-minute by the hour through Dec. 31 or take any of the TBA's online CLE packages.
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Campbell County Judge Blasts 'Culture of Medicated Drivers'

Campbell County Judge Shayne Sexton on Wednesday blasted what he referred to as a 'culture of medicated drivers' when sentencing Kevin Trent for killing a woman while driving after taking two of his prescribed medications — oxycodone and Xanax, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Trent, who lost his left leg below the knee and both his arms below the elbows after being hit by a drunk driver in 2005 and used a homemade system to accommodate his missing limbs, drove into oncoming traffic, hitting victim Karen Freeman’s vehicle head-on. Trent had a “therapeutic range” of Xanax in his system at the time, however, a “relatively high level of oxycodone” according to a doctor testifying at his trial.

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