News

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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TBA, Governor Opposes Bill Requiring Legislative Confirmation for Judicial Appointments

A bill currently making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would require legislative confirmation for the governor’s picks for vacant lower-court judgeships and other local judicial positions, The Nashville Post reports. The TBA opposes the bill, with Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson saying  it "adds an unnecessary delay and political layer to the process." Gov. Bill Lee spokesperson Laine Arnold said the administration also opposes the bill because "our current process already provides a high level of accountability as these positions are often up for election within a short time from the governor’s appointment."
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Teacher Awarded $1.7 Million in Lawsuit with Oak Ridge Schools

John Edward Anderson III, a teacher who sued Oak Ridge Schools in federal court, was awarded more than $1.7 million by a jury this week, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. Anderson sued the school district and its head administrators for wrongful termination, breach of contract, defamation, lack of due process and an invasion of his privacy. Anderson retired from the Oak Ridge district in 2015 amid a series of allegations, which related to the sleeping arrangements of a high school track trip that had upset parents.  
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Litigation & Appellate Forum Set for April 18

Make plans to join your colleagues for the Litigation & Appellate Forum on April 18. This year’s event will include a session on appellate procedure, a presentation on social media issues and client intake, a dual credit legal technology hour related to hold and preservation systems, a session discussing ethical issues in brief writing and brief strategies for both trial and appellate as well as a presentation on the reasonable certainty requirement for calculating damages. Earn up to three hours of general CLE and two hour of ethics CLE.
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SEC Charges Volkswagen, Former CEO

Volkswagen and former CEO Martin Winterkorn have been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors during its diesel emissions scandal, The New York Times reports.  Despite settling with the U.S. two years ago over criminal and civil charges and paying out over $30 billion in penalties, the company is being accused of violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC’s complaint involves $13 billion in bonds and other securities and alleges that the company mislead and made false statements to investors about the financial health of the company and the environmental impact of its technology in order to sell securities to investors at inflated prices. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, repayment of ill-gotten gains, civil penalties and to bar Winterkorn from serving in a corporate officer or director role in the United States.

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Purdue Pharma Considers Bankruptcy

Facing numerous lawsuits over its role in the U.S. opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma is considering filing for bankruptcy, USA Today reports. As the first trial date is nearing in hundreds of lawsuits aiming to hold the company accountable for its role in the nationwide crisis, bankruptcy proceedings would likely pause litigation. A federal bankruptcy judge would have wide discretion on how to proceed with the claims against the company and other drugmakers and distributers. Hundreds of claims from local and state governments that have sued the company could be impacted. While Purdue's role is just one aspect of the litigation, critics assign a lot of blame to the company because it developed OxyContin and pursued an aggressive marketing strategy for the drug. 

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Tour Death Row in This Unique CLE Opportunity

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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Knox Co. Judge Rejects Purdue Pharma Request to Dismiss Opioid Lawsuit

Knox County Circuit Judge Kristi Davis rejected a motion by Purdue Pharma to dismiss a lawsuit filed last year by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III on behalf of taxpayers accusing the company of playing an integral role in the state’s opioid epidemic, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Purdue maintains that it has no liability regarding the epidemic, saying the drug which sparked the lawsuit, Oxycontin, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and that it complied with all FDA labeling requirements. Davis ruled the state isn’t suing Purdue for labeling and selling the drug as authorized by the FDA, stating in her opinion “the court finds that Purdue’s argument is based upon a mischaracterization of the state’s complaint, which is not grounded in the content of the medication labels but rather the conduct of Purdue and its pharmaceutical sales representatives.” Purdue maintains the blame falls solely on opioid addicts and over-prescribing doctors, not its drug.

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TBA Officer Candidates Offer Messages to Members

All candidates with contested races in the 2019 Tennessee Bar Association election have been provided the opportunity of preparing a campaign message to members. Those messages were sent out yesterday by email to TBA members and are now also available on the TBA.org website. Voting will begin Friday and continue through April 1. All members should receive emails with voting instructions on Friday.
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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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Vanderbilt Law Students Win Moot Court, Mock Trial Competitions

Vanderbilt Law students Peter Cornick and Elizabeth Holden won the 2019 Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court Competition held earlier this month at Vanderbilt Law School, receiving the John A. Cortner Award and a cash prize for their win. The competition’s final round was argued before a panel of three federal appellate judges, including Judge Stephen A. Higginson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, who served as the round’s Chief Justice, Judge David J. Barron of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Later in the month, Abigail Wood and Chandler Ray took home top honors at the school's 2019 Mock Trial Competition, held on Feb. 15. The competition was sponsored by King & Spalding.
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City of Memphis Denies Wrongdoing in Case of Dead Body in Police Impound Lot

The city of Memphis has denied any liability in the wrongful death case where the corpse of a man was found in a police impound lot 49 days after his death, The Commercial Appeal reports. Bardomiano Perez Hernandez was reportedly sitting in the vehicle drinking beer with his coworkers when they were approached by robbers who fired on the van killing Hernandez and critically wounding another passenger. In a response regarding the incident, the city claims that the people at fault for the death are the other men in the van and the accused robbers, also citing various legal protections it maintains limit liabilities for governments. Two men were eventually arrested and charged last June with first-degree murder in the killing of Hernandez.

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Workers Involved in Bean Station ICE Raid Sue for Discrimination, Excessive Force

Workers detained by ICE after an immigration enforcement raid on a Bean Station slaughterhouse are now suing the agency, Newsweek reports. In the lawsuit filed last Thursday, the workers contend that ICE agents — along with officials from Homeland Security Operations, Enforcement and Removal Operations and the Tennessee Highway Patrol — used excessive force, berated the workers with racial slurs, punched one worker in the face and shoved firearms in the faces of many others. In total, approximately 100 workers were detained and 11 were arrested during the raid, making it among the largest worksite-enforcement operations in recent years. Read the complaint using this link. Additionally, executive council member Bruce Buchanan wrote a recent blog post regarding the lawsuit.

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Tomorrow: Tort, Insurance and Appellate Practice Forum 2019

The Tort, Insurance and Appellate Practice Forum, held on March 21, will offer essential and practical material for tort and insurance attorneys and appellate updates from seasoned practitioners in that arena. The all-day CLE will address the intangibles of litigating against an insurance company and highlight recent updates in medical malpractice law designed to keep you on top of trends and developments in this field. Members of the TBA Tort and Insurance Law and Appellate Practices sections receive discount pricing. Register now.
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Attorney Says Vanderbilt Medical Center at Fault in Case of Reckless Homicide

An attorney for nurse RaDonda Vaught, charged with reckless homicide after a medication error killed an elderly patient at the hospital two years ago, said that Vanderbilt University Medical Center “bears a large part of the fault," The Tennessean reports. Vaught has admitted she made an error, but her prosecution has infuriated many in the nursing community who believe she is being punished for an honest mistake. Attorney Peter Strianse also partly blamed the death on electronic medication dispensing cabinets that are used at Vanderbilt and common at most hospitals.
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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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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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February TBJ: Play Ball (in the Courtroom)!

Deliver that perfect closing pitch – on the baseball diamond if you must, but we’re talking about in the courtroom! Read this Step-by-Step Guide to Delivering the Perfect Closing Pitch, in our February issue. Also, take an inside look from two medical examiners about how a suicide determination is made. TBA President Jason Pannu addresses respecting judicial independence and the Rule of Law, and a new elder law column is introduced – “Older & Wiser,” with Kelly and Matt Frere. Read the full issue here.
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Suit Say Gatlinburg Park Rangers Guilty of ‘Reckless Neglect’ in Wildfire

In a motion filed this week in U.S. District Court, lawyers for Michael Reed, a man who lost his family during the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires, accused the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers of "reckless neglect” and said they “failed to comply with one mandated policy after another.” Knoxnews reports that lawyers working on behalf of the park want the lawsuit thrown out, saying fire crews need the freedom to act without fear of being sued or second-guessed later.
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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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Defendants Ask for Dismissal of Lawsuit Involving Stalking by Dickson Police

Defendants in a lawsuit in which two former Dickson Police Officers sued the city, alleging that they were “routinely followed and stalked” after being fired, are asking that the case be thrown out, The Tennessean reports. The dispute stems from the dismissal of Robert Peeler and Justin Walton, former officers with the department who were sacked for their handling of an altercation outside of a local restaurant and evidence tampering — for which they were ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor. The defendants, Dickson Police Assistant Chief Seth Lyles and Capt. Todd Christian, maintain that any observations of Peeler and Walton took place in public places and that no constitutional violation occurred because there was no “search,” therefore the plaintiff's claim of invasion of privacy is unsubstantiated. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and District Attorney's office in the 17th Judicial District investigated the allegations made by Peeler and Walton, and determined that there was no reason to pursue charges on the matter.
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U.S. Supreme Court Considers Case Involving Tennessee Liquor Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair, considering whether states can pass laws with resident restrictions regarding the issuance of liquor licenses, Forbes reports. The dispute involves a family that owns a mom-and-pop liquor store, who moved to Tennessee from Utah and attempted to bring their business with them. Current Tennessee law requires license applicants to live in the state for at least two years. Additionally, the license expires in one year, and renewal requires residency of 10 consecutive years, effectively barring new Tennesseans from opening these types of businesses, which detractors claim stifles new business in favor of existing competitors. The Tennessee Alcohol and Beverage Commission recommended approving the license and declined to enforce the rule, leading the association to sue. The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision sometime this spring.

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Tennessee Congressman Files Lawsuit Against Nashville Over MLS Stadium

A nonprofit led by newly elected U.S. Rep. John Rose, R-Cookeville, that operates the annual Tennessee State Fair sued Metro Nashville earlier this month seeking an injunction to halt construction of the city's new Major League Soccer stadium at the fairgrounds, the Tennessean reports. Tennessee State Fair Association argues that plans for the new MLS stadium do not leave sufficient space and structures for the state fair, which is a protected use in the Metro Charter. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle in November denied a similar injunction request in a separate lawsuit filed by fairgrounds supporters that argued flea markets wouldn't be able to co-exist with the stadium.
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Judge Orders TVA Contractor Negotiate with Sickened Kingston Coal Ash Spill Workers

A federal judge is ordering a TVA contractor accused in the nation’s first and largest case of mass poisoning by coal ash to sit down at the bargaining table with sickened workers, Knoxnews reports. Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan on Friday ordered Jacobs Engineering into mediation in a toxic tort lawsuit filed on behalf of the hundreds of blue-collar laborers who were sickened — some fatally — after unprotected long-term exposure to the 7.3 million tons of coal ash that spilled from a dike at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County a decade ago. Jacobs was the firm placed in charge of the clean up process by TVA.
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Local Government Section to Host Reception at Tennessee State Museum

The TBA Local Government Section will host a reception at the newly opened Tennessee State Museum following its annual forum on April 11. Attendees of the reception will meet with museum curators and receive a staff-guided tour of the brand-new facility. This event is open to all Local Government Section members and those interested in learning more about the section; forum attendance is not required. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to learn Tennessee history while engaging with TBA leadership. You can RSVP for this event here.
 
When: Thursday, March 28, 5 p.m., CST
Where: Tennessee State Museum, 1000 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville
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