News

Facebook Fights Class Action Privacy Suit

Insisting that millions of Facebook users lack standing to sue because they suffered no “real-world harm,” a Facebook lawyer urged the Ninth Circuit yesterday to strike down a $30 billion class action claiming facial data was harvested without user consent, Courthouse News reports. Facebook seeks to overturn U.S. District Judge James Donato’s decisions to grant class certification and deny Facebook’s motion to dismiss. The class action, first filed in 2015 and consolidated with two other cases, claims Facebook created and stored maps of users’ faces for its “Photo Tag Suggest” function without express permission and in violation a 2008 Illinois privacy law.
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SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Racial Bias Case Against Comcast

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear cable television operator Comcast Corp’s bid to throw out comedian and producer Byron Allen’s racial bias lawsuit accusing the company of discriminating against black-owned channels, Reuters reports. At the heart of the case is the question of whether individuals who are refused a business contract can sue under the civil rights law without ruling out reasons other than discrimination for the denial. The 9th Circuit said lawsuits can proceed to trial if plaintiffs can show that discriminatory intent was one factor among others in the denial of a contract.
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Visa Applicants Now Required to Submit Social Media Accounts

Visa applicants to the United States are required to submit any information about social media accounts they have used in the past five years under a State Department policy that started on Friday, The New York Times reports. The move represents a step up from a September 2017 measure in which the Homeland Security Department proposed and enacted a regulation calling for the surveillance of social media use of all immigrants, including naturalized citizens. During the Obama administration, the State Department began to ask visa applicants to voluntarily submit their social media information.
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Tennessee AG Joins Others in Calling for Amendments to Communications Decency Act

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III joined a bipartisan group of 47 attorneys general calling on Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act, which limits the liability of internet service providers for statements made by users. The "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act" and "Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act" (known as FOSTA-SESTA) was signed into law in 2018, making clear that the CDA's immunity does not apply to enforcement of federal or state sex trafficking laws. The amendment proposed by the Attorneys General builds on FOSTA-SESTA to allow law enforcement against further illegal activity on online platforms such as black-market opioid sales, identity theft and election meddling.
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Conservative Talk Radio Host Must Pay $170K to Wife or Face Jail

Conservative commentator and former political candidate Steve Gill must pay his ex-wife $170,000 in 10 days or go to jail, the Tennessean reports. In a ruling entered into the court on Sunday, Judge James G. Martin sided with Kathryn B. Gill, who was seeking nearly $236,000 for various expenses related to the divorced couple's sons. The couple divorced in 2011, and Kathryn Gill wanted the court to hold Steve Gill in civil contempt for failing to make the payments. Martin found Steve Gill to be in contempt of court, after he did not appear for a hearing or send legal representation. Steve Gill, an attorney himself, said he did not receive any notices of any hearings or that the case was moving beyond the initial complaint. 
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TBA to Host Inaugural Reporters Workshop

Twelve journalists from across Tennessee will gain a deeper understanding of media law issues that may affect their everyday work during the inaugural Reporters Workshop Friday and Saturday at the Tennessee Bar Center. Presented jointly by the Tennessee Bar Association, its Communications Law Section and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the programming will include sessions on political broadcasting law, access to public records and meetings, defamation and invasion of privacy, how to cover the courts and what lawyers can and cannot tell you about their cases and why. Reporters taking part come from all major metro markets as well as Savannah, Lexington Hohenwald and other smaller communities.

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Still Time to Register for Friday's Communications Law Forum

The Communications Law Section’s annual program on Friday will focus on hot button issues related to the media and topics of interest to the communications bar at large. This year, topics will include a defamation law update, political broadcasting law, and the ethics of lawyers interacting with the media. Register now.
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Amazon Under Fire for Harvesting Children's Data

Consumer advocacy groups are drawing attention to the way Amazon treats privacy regarding its Echo Dot Kids Edition, The New York Times reports. The company markets the device as an easy way for children to interact with its voice assistant software Alexa, but the groups involved allege that Amazon additionally included data-mining software in the device that violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by gathering names, home addresses, Social Security numbers and other private information. Amazon released a statement maintaining that the product is compliant with COPPA; however, more than a dozen organizations have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on the issue.

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Register Now: Communication Law Forum 2019

The TBA Communication Law Section will host its annual forum at the Tennessee Bar Center on May 9. This insightful program will focus on timely topics beneficial to lawyers of all areas seeking to up their game by staying on top of trends involving both federal laws and regulations on a local level.
 
This year’s pulled-from-the-headlines presentations will feature the intangibles of fourth estate framework for lawyers, including ethics rules governing lawyer speech, gag orders, record sealing and real world application of these measures. Don’t miss this opportunity to obtain necessary CLE credit while learning important new tools to add to your practice. Here’s the key info:
 
When: Friday, May 17, registration begins at 8:30 a.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219
CLE Credits: 2 General; 1 Dual
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Facebook to Create Privacy Committee Overseen by FTC

Facebook is negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a plan to instill a privacy committee that will be overseen by an FTC assessor in effort to strengthen its privacy measures, The New York Times reports. This stems from claims regarding violations of a 2011 privacy consent decree by the company, which could also cost Facebook around $5 billion. The report comes from two people with knowledge of the talks; however, both Facebook and a spokesman for the FTC declined to comment on the matter.

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Gov. Lee Holding Considerably Less Press Conferences as Signature Legislation is Debated

Gov. Bill Lee has become less available to reporters and has denied public record requests regarding his schedule, saying that those documents are exempt under the "deliberative process privilege," The Tennessean reports. The Associated Press reviewed Lee’s press schedules and noted that in February only one in 27 of Lee’s press appearances were designated as photo only; however, in April over half of his appearances received that designation. This comes at a time when debate surrounding his controversial school voucher plan comes to a head in the General Assembly. Lee's press secretary Laine Arnold said: "The governor has been focused on passing his legislative agenda and budget” and that it is “really more of a question of timing." 

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Former Knox County Employees Claim They Were Fired for Whistleblowing

Two Knox County employees claim in newly-filed lawsuits they were fired for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing while the alleged culprit was promoted, Knoxnews reports. David Ball and Teresa Ferguson claim in lawsuits filed in Knox County Chancery Court that then-coworker Zack Webb repeatedly used his county credit card to buy computer equipment and office furniture in 2017 and 2018. The duo contend in the lawsuits they suspected Webb and Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell of giving away the items “for political gain.” The lawsuits do not detail the alleged plot’s political beneficiary.

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Memphis Judge Under Fire for Facebook Post

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Jim Lammey is facing criticism for a Facebook post, in which he shared an article by a Holocaust denier calling Muslim immigrants “foreign mud,” the Commercial Appeal reports. Lammey faces immigrant felons in court and is the only Criminal Court judge in the county to regularly order some immigrants seeking probation to register with federal immigration authorities or stay in jail. When asked about the post, Lammey said, “I see where I said, ‘Interesting read. Some four-letter words, though.' I don’t know if that meant that I agreed with it all or if it was just a reason to have a good conversation."
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5 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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April TBJ: Celebrating 20 Years of Help from TLAP

Help us celebrate with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) its 20 years of helping those in the legal profession who have experienced substance use disorders, stress or emotional health issues. Former Justice Janice Holder writes in the April Tennessee Bar Journal about the program’s history and how it continues to provide a lifeline. Russell Fowler explains how a case from 1615 pitted Chancery and Equity against each other, and TBA President Jason Pannu explains two new programs, the Reporters Workshop and one to help solo and small firm lawyers. Read all this and more in the April Journal.
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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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Deadline to Apply for Reporters Workshop is Friday

The deadline to apply for the inaugural Reporters Workshop is fast approaching. The Tennessee Bar Association, its Communication Law Section and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters launched the program, which is scheduled to take place in Nashville on May 17-18. Twelve print, online, television, and/or radio journalists will be selected to complete the training, which will focus on access to government information, defamation and privacy concerns in reporting, and other timely topics. Applications are due March 29. For additional information, contact TBA program coordinator Jennifer Vossler.
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Recognize Great Journalism with 4th Estate Award Nomination

The Tennessee Bar Association has opened the nomination period for the second annual Fourth Estate Award, which honors courageous reporting on justice and the law. Nominees must be Tennessee-based journalists who have shown exemplary courage in exercising First Amendment rights in the promotion of public understanding of how the law and our legal system works and how it should work as demonstrated by a story or series of related stories published in 2018. Nominations can be submitted on the TBA website and will be accepted until May 1.
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Application Deadline Approaches for TBA Reporters Workshop

The deadline for applications to the inaugural Reporters Workshop is fast approaching. Tennessee Bar Association, its Communication Law Section and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters last month announced the creation of the program, which will take place in Nashville on May 17-18. Twelve print, online, television, and/or radio journalists will be selected to complete the training, which will focus on access to government information, defamation and privacy concerns in reporting, and other timely topics. Applications are due March 29. For additional information, contact TBA program coordinator Jennifer Vossler.
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Fiction Contest Wraps Up Friday

The submission period of the Tennessee Bar Journal's annual Fiction Contest is about to end — the deadline is tomorrow! Here are the details you need to get started. Your winning entry will be published in an upcoming issue, plus you will get a $100 gift card to your favorite local bookstore — and you'll have the admiration of your colleagues and friends. Send it in!

TSC Rules Media May Not Be Compelled to Disclose Protected Information

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that the fair report privilege provided to journalists cannot be defeated by either express or actual malice. The decision came in an appeal arising out of a defamation action that Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk filed against Scripps Media Inc. and Nashville reporter Phil Williams. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings to determine if the reports were fair and accurate and whether the information was obtained from an official action or proceeding. Justice Cornelia Clark authored the court's opinion.
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Fox New's Wallace Chides DNC Decision to Exclude Network from Debate Coverage

Fox News reporter Chris Wallace criticized the recent decision by the DNC to ban the news station from airing its 2020 primary debates, calling the move “shortsighted,” The New York Times reports. The DNC decided to exclude Fox News from coverage following a New Yorker article which alleges an inappropriate relationship between the network and President Trump. “There are a lot of voters that a Democrat is going to need to get elected president who watch Fox News. People in the Rust Belt states, the rural areas that Hillary Clinton lost. They would have been able to see the Democratic candidates make their arguments about why they’re better able to represent their interests,” said Wallace regarding the boycott. Wallace also alluded to what he described as “a visceral antipathy to Fox News” by the left as motivation for the network’s exclusion.

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This Month: Communication Law Section to Host First Annual Reporter's Workshop

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Communication Law Section, in cooperation with the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, will hold the inaugural Reporters Workshop at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville on May 17-18. Twelve print, online, television and radio journalists will be selected to complete the training, which will focus on access to government information, defamation and privacy concerns in reporting and other timely, ripped from the headlines topics. Applications for the workshop are due by March 29. For additional information, contact TBA program coordinator Jennifer Vossler.

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Snopes Takes on PAC-Funded 'News Outlets'

The fact-finders at Snopes.com on Monday published details of its research into PAC-connected ‘local news’ outlets, including a questionable new upstart The Tennessee Star, which debuted last February. The site highlights an investigation by Politico that uncovered The Tennessee Star was the mouthpiece of conservative, Tea Party activists Christina Botteri, Michael Patrick Leahy and Nashville radio host and political commentator Steve Gill. The paper touts itself as being a “most reliable” news source, however, detractors maintain that it is purely a platform for wealthy mega-donors to promote their agendas. The trio has replicated the Star’s model in Minnesota and Ohio, with plans to expand in key battleground states before the 2020 presidential election.

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Man Accuses Chattanooga Police Department of a Cover-Up Regarding Beating

A lawsuit was filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court on Monday accusing the Chattanooga Police Department of a cover-up regarding the beating of a man last year during a traffic stop, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Benjamin Piazza pulled over Fredrico Wolfe for speeding and said that Wolfe tossed bags of drugs from his car, then struggled as he was being arrested. Wolfe’s attorney, Robin Flores, maintains that footage of the incident does not match Piazza's story, stating that "in his attempt to cover-up his criminal and unconstitutional conduct, later wrote false claims in an affidavit of complaint, which he swore under oath, in order to bring [now-dismissed] charges against the plaintiff,” and that the department suppressed knowledge of body camera footage on the incident. City Attorney Phil Noblett told the paper that he had been served a copy of the complaint this week but had not yet read the claims. The plaintiff is seeking $3 million in damages

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