News

General Assembly Will Consider Changes to Open Record Laws

The General Assembly will consider legislation seeking to limit certain government record requests, despite pushback from open government advocates, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. One such bill — HB0335/SB0386, Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg — requires recordings of any emergency communications only be used for "public safety purposes and as necessary for law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue, dispatching, or other emergency services," a move Tillis contends will protect callers from news organizations using them in reporting, but detractors argue might obscure problems with investigations and limit government official accountability. Another bill — HB1107/ SB1346, Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville — builds on this, prohibiting personally identifying information including names and contact information from entering public record in motor vehicle accident reports. When asked about the measures, Senate chairman of the joint committee on open records Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga said: "We're trying to streamline the process and make it a more open dialogue on these exemptions to open record laws and (will) have a process of review after five years on any new ones that come along."

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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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Marshall Project, Journalist Sue Shelby Crime Commission Over Access to Records

The Marshall Project and Memphis journalist Wendi C. Thomas have filed a lawsuit against the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission over access to the agency’s records, The Daily Memphian reports. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Shelby County Chancery Court under the Tennessee public records act. The lawsuit states that after requesting multiple records from the Crime Commission, journalists repeatedly were denied access to the information by the organization.
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Bill Would Limit Public Records Access to People Deemed 'Harassing'

Tennessee House Majority Leader William Lamberth is sponsoring a bill that an open government advocate is concerned may harm the public's access to government records, The Tennessean reports. The bill would allow a custodian of records to petition a court for an injunction if the person requesting the documents is seen as harassing the government official. It defines harassment as someone who files three or more public records requests in a year, would have to be abusive or threatening, as would their conduct, and their request would be "not made in good faith or for any legitimate purpose." Deborah Fisher, executive director for Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, responded, saying that "requesting to see public records shouldn't come with the risk of getting sued by a government official."
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Shelby Contracted for Tool to Track Details of Inmate Calls

Though the county said it has not used the tool, last year Shelby County entered into a contract to provide county investigators with a high-tech surveillance tool that would track and monitor all inmate calls, including the voice prints and cellphone locations of individuals who are not incarcerated. The Commercial Appeal reports that since the contract with prison phone provider GTL was signed last year, similar services offered by other companies have come under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission.
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Join Us Today: LAW TECH

Today's the day! Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville!

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.

CLE TOPICS:
  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show 2019: BEAT THE CLOCK
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Know When to Hold 'Em
  • Digital Evidence – A Technical Life Raft for the Legal Mind
  • Make it Rain: Ethics Guidelines and Practice Essentials

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

TAKE A LYFT: TBA has partnered with Lyft to offer attendees a discounted ride.

  • New to Lyft?: Get $5 off 2 rides at http://lyft.com/i/lawtech5 or download the app and enter code LAWTECH5
  • Already Have Lyft?: Save 10% off 2 rides to or from Law Tech Blast with code LAWTECH

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS & EXHIBITORS:


 

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Nashville News Station Asks Supreme Court to Review Open Records Case

Attorneys for Nashville TV station NewsChannel5 have asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to take up the station’s appeal in a case that threatens to close some public records. The station had appealed a ruling by Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin, who sided with arguments by state attorneys that records, such as travel expenditures, cease to be public once law enforcement officials develop a potential interest in them. Station lawyers argued in their motion that the state's highest court needs to "assume jurisdiction over this appeal and decide this important issue of public concern on an expedited basis."
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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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Amazon Announces Newly Developed Medical Record Mining Software

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it has launched a project to mine data from electronic medical records, allowing developers to “process unstructured medical text and identify information such as patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages, symptoms and signs, and more," CNBC reports. This is the latest move regarding Amazon’s foray into health care, after news in June that the company had been working on the ‘Hera’ project, developing software intended for insurance companies that can fill in gaps in data when doctors neglect to fully document an office visit. The company also confirmed another project in cooperation with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to use newly developed tools to analyze its data sets in efforts to prevent or cure cancer.

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Former Longtime Anchor Demetria Kalodimos Sues WSMV

Longtime Nashville news anchor Demetria Kalodimos filed suit last month against the owner of her former employer, WSMV-TV, The Nashville Scene reports. Kalodimos alleged that Meredith Corporation engaged in age discrimination when it fired her in December. This is the second such action taken by former employees of the station; Kalodimos’ suit also alleges that Meredith retaliated against her for being a witness in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed by the plaintiffs of the other lawsuit.
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Best Twitter Accounts for Legal Issues

Looking for some great social media follows? The American Bar Association is out with its list of best legal Twitter accounts of 2018. Included for the first time this year is @inspiredcat, the account of Vanderbilt Law School professor Cat Moon. Members can also always keep up locally with the TBA at our Twitter accounts, @TennesseeBar, @TennBarJournal or @TBAYLD.

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Former Pilot President Fights Unsealing of Court Documents

Convicted former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood is fighting an effort by the Knoxville News Sentinel to unseal a transcript of a behind-closed-doors hearing during his trial, a copy of a deal he struck with his former bosses, and notes jurors sent to a judge during deliberations, the newspaper reported on Tuesday. Attorney Richard Hollow last week filed a motion on behalf of the News Sentinel challenging Hazelwood’s bid to keep under seal records in his case involving a closed-door hearing, an employment contract that led Pilot Flying J to fund his defense, and notes jurors sent to U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier. The news outlet contends there is no legal basis to keep the records secret.
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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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Forbes: Facebook Files Algorithm Patent to Predict Who You Live With

A patent filed by Facebook in May was made public this week, Forbes reports. The patent uses an algorithm to determine who lives with whom based on tags, hashtags and facial recognition software. The article states the most important factor determining household data will be the use of a shared IP device in the household from multiple user sign-ins. The information will be used for ad targeting. Members of the same household will view the same ads, and advertisers will be able to track the performance of ads across households.

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Voice Command Phone App Facilitates New Interactions with Law Enforcement

More people are using phone apps to quickly record their interactions with law enforcement, which could be utilized as evidence in cases, WSMV reports. Using shortcuts, individuals can program their phone to begin recording by activating a virtual assistant, such as Siri, and informing it that an interaction with police is commencing. 
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TBJ: Social Media in Criminal Cases, the Constitution and Valparaiso

"Social media provides a fertile source for evidence in criminal cases," Wade Davies writes in his column this month in the Tennessee Bar Journal. "Suspects give prosecutors unbelievable gifts with incriminating, threatening and otherwise unbelievably stupid admissions posted online. On the other hand, defense counsel find impeachment gems on witnesses’ social media accounts — even the portions anyone can view." Russell Fowler covers an older topic, World War I and the Constitution, in his column. As you will learn, the subject is timeless. In his column, Bill Haltom writes about the debate leading to that decision against letting Valparaiso merge its law school with MTSU. Read all of the November issue.

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Governor-elect Lee Wants To Overhaul Public Records Law

Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced last week that he intends to overhaul public records and open meetings laws to reduce the number of public records exemptions and address fees and delays in fulfilling public records requests, WTVC reports. According to the Tennessee Comptroller's office the state currently has 538 open records exemptions, that is six time what existed 30 years ago. Tennessee hasn't made any significant changes to its public records law since 2008, when the law was amended to require government agencies to cite state law before they denied access to records.

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Mark Your Calendars!

Facebook Friendship No Reason to Disqualify Judge, Florida Court Says

A Facebook friendship with a lawyer doesn’t automatically disqualify a judge from hearing a case involving that lawyer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 4-3 decision. The ABA Journal reports the Florida court saying that in the most basic sense, a Facebook friendship is a digital connection between people, and they may or may not be friends in the traditional sense of the word. Facebook friendships are more casual and less permanent than traditional friendships, and the connection “may be as fleeting as the flick of a delete button,” the court said, quoting from another case.

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Wayne County Student Sues School for Requiring GOP Campaign Gear

A Wayne County High School student has sued a state representative and the school district after students were instructed to wear shirts advertising the representative’s campaign on a recent trip to the state Capitol, The Nashville Post reports. The student, who filed the suit anonymously in federal court this week, alleges that “the school’s requirement that students wear clothing espousing political opinions is unconstitutional.” Byrd, who earlier this year faced calls to resign his post from fellow Republicans over accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls he coached in basketball, easily won re-election last week.

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New Vandy Law Faculty Member to Launch First Amendment Clinic

Vanderbilt Law School recently hired a new assistant clinical professor of law who’s working to help people understand their First Amendment rights. Funded through a grant from The Stanton Foundation, Professor Gautam Hans is leading the launch of the First Amendment clinic, which aims to give students the opportunity to develop legal strategies and learn how to overcome challenges with diverse clients and cases. The program will launch this semester.
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Ex-Pilot President Denied Christmas Break Before Starting Fraud Sentence

A request from convicted Pilot Flying J former President Mark Hazelwood that he have until after Christmas to begin serving his 12 ½ years in prison for fraud has been denied, Knoxnews reports. "If the court attempted to set (prison) dates that did not conflict with any religious holidays, it would be unable to set any dates at all," U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said. "Easter, the most important Christian religious holiday, would come just a few short months after Christmas." Hazelwood was convicted in a scheme to rip off small trucking companies of more than $50 million.

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Basic Tech Checklist for Firms

Law firms attempting to stay competitive and state-of-the-art need to consistently evaluate their use of technology. In addition to staying competitive, technological competency is required. In 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility to include this obligation. Above the Law presents a simple and straightforward tech checklist for law firms or lawyers seeking guidance in this area.   

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SCOTUS Agrees to Review Public Access First Amendment Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case of whether the operator of a public-access TV channel is a state actor who can be sued by two producers for an alleged First Amendment violation, The ABA Journal reports. The case raises the broader question of whether private property can be a public forum. The producers argue that the Manhattan Neighborhood Network was a public forum, and their First Amendment rights were violated when it stopped airing their video. The network is owned by a private nonprofit, who claims the video included harassing and threatening language. 
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