News

Murfreesboro Council Accused of Violating Open Meetings Law

The Murfreesboro City Council has been accused of violating the state’s open meetings law by meeting in private executive session for legal advice on selling an electric utility, the Daily Journal News reports. The city manager, who previously served as city attorney, says the executive session was called “to talk about legal issues that could result in a lawsuit.” Tennessee Press Association attorney Rick Hollow says, “That’s not a legal controversy. Executive session is for lawsuits or threats of pending litigation.” Another legal expert says case law requires there to be an existing lawsuit or threat of litigation. But Lee Pope, the open records counsel for the state, said the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that controversial issues can be permissible reasons to seek attorney-client privileges in private.

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U.S. Asks Facebook to Delay Encryption as European Court Expands ‘Take-down’ Power

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has asked Facebook to hold off on plans to add encryption throughout its messaging services, citing public safety, The Wall Street Journal reports. Barr made the request in an open letter signed by his British and Australian counterparts. The leaders are asking the company to delay its encryption plan until it finds a way to provide government access for investigative purposes. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg outlined plans to focus on encrypted messaging and small-group chats earlier this year. In related news, Europe’s top court ruled yesterday that individual European countries can order Facebook to take down posts, photographs and videos not only in their own countries but internationally. The Memphis Business Journal has that story.

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Bass Berry Expands to New York City

Bass Berry & Sims has added its first attorney in New York City, the Nashville Post reported today. New York attorney Marc Ackerman is joining the firm as counsel in the Sports/Media and Intellectual Property/Technology Practice groups. Most recently, he was general counsel and senior vice president of legal and business affairs at race series Tough Mudder. Previously, he worked as outside counsel for the NFL, ESPN and other sports and media organizations. Read more from the firm.

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New TBA Sidebar Podcast Episode Shares Benefits of Improv Comedy For Lawyers

A new installment of the Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network show, Sidebar, is now available. The episode focuses on improv skills for attorneys and features interviews with the co-owner of the Third Coast Comedy Club in Nashville and Kirsten Jacobson, staff attorney at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and improv student. Sidebar is available on the TBA's website or anywhere you listen to podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and TuneIn. Simply search the show title of "Tennessee Bar Association." Do you have a story lead you'd like to hear on a future episode? Submit your ideas here.

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Deputy Commissioner of TennCare Roberts to Speak at TBA Health Law Forum

As Tennessee deals with the rising medical needs of its rural citizens and seeks to realize its Medicaid block grant proposal, there are many developments on the horizon for TennCare. TBA Health Law Section member and Deputy Commissioner of TennCare Gabe Roberts will address some of these plans on Oct. 17 at the 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum. Roberts’ address — along with presentations by Johns Hopkins health policy expert and New York Times bestselling author Marty Makary and health care policy advisor to the White House Larry Van Horn — will make this year’s forum the must-see, must-do event in health law. You can learn more and see the rest of the program’s stellar line-up using this link.
 
When: Oct. 17-18; registration begins at 7 a.m., CDT on Oct. 17
Where: Embassy Suites Cool Springs, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
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Press Freedom Advocates Troubled by Suit Against Iowa Paper

The former city administrator of Davenport, Iowa, is suing the area’s biggest newspaper, claiming that its coverage was unfair and cost him his job, the Associated Press reports. The suit against the Quad-City Times is set to go to trial on Monday. Craig Malin argues the paper published false news and opinion pieces about his official actions. The trial will not be a traditional libel case because a judge has ruled that Malin, as a public official, did not prove the newspaper defamed him. Instead, the case will be about whether the paper improperly interfered with Malin’s employment contract. Press freedom experts say the case is troubling because courts have generally not allowed public officials to bring such claims to bypass the media’s constitutional protections. WATE News has the story.

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Social Media and Animal Cruelty

A controversial YouTube video in which an owner ‘pranked’ her Doberman pinscher has sparked accusations of mistreatment and conversation on what constitutes abuse, the Washington Post reports. The owner, Brooke Houts, posted a video of her putting plastic wrap on her door to have her dog attempt to run through it “just see what he does” and was later seen slapping the dog, pinning him down and appearing to spit on him. Professor of property and animal law at Michigan State University David Favre told the Post what “constitutes animal abuse varies by the language in the laws in each state” and that “cases involving bruising an animal or breaking its skin can be grounds for someone to be prosecuted … smacking and pushing might be disrespectful, but it’s not necessarily illegal.” The Los Angeles Police Department investigated the accusations against Houts and “determined it didn’t rise to the level of animal cruelty.”

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Facebook Proposes ‘Supreme Court’ Style Board to Make Content Decisions

Facebook has proposed a Supreme Court-style board to rule on the acceptability of content on its site, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The board would also be tapped to give advisory opinions on Facebook’s wider content policies. According to the company, the board will include members with differing views to lead to “better decisions” on what type of discussions can remain on the social media platform. Users would be able to appeal decisions made by company content moderators beginning in 2020.

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Appeals Court Rules for Reporter in Public Records Case

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled today that the state does not have the right to withhold ordinary public records just because they are part of a criminal investigation, the Johnson City Press reports. The ruling overturns a lower court decision and clarifies when the criminal investigation exception should apply. The case involved a lawsuit brought by WTVF-TV reporter Phil Williams, who was investigating reports of an affair between two state officials that may have involved the use of public funds. Williams requested expense reports and phone logs, but the state refused to turn them over, saying they were part of a criminal investigation. Before Williams’ case could go to court, the investigation ended and the state did turn over the records. The trial and appellate courts heard the case anyway, saying it involved a question of important public policy.

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TBA Communications Section Chair Joins Adams and Reese

Nashville media lawyer and TBA Communications Law Section Chair Paul McAdoo has joined Adams and Reese as special counsel, the firm reports. McAdoo previously was a partner with Aaron Sanders PLLC and practiced in Michigan and Florida. As chair of the section, McAdoo organized a workshop earlier this year to help educate news reporters about covering legal stories. His practice focuses on media law, First Amendment, open government, copyright, trademark and complex business litigation matters.

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Legal Aid Society to Celebrate 50-Year Anniversary

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will hold its 50th Anniversary Celebration “An Evening at the Frist” on Nov. 9 at the Frist Museum in downtown Nashville. The event will feature cocktails, live music and a gallery exhibition, and provide a unique opportunity to honor the group’s distinguished 50-year legacy of providing “justice for all.” Tickets are available online.

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Tennessee Joins Probe of Tech Giant

Tennessee has joined attorneys generals from a number of states investigating Facebook's dominance and any resulting anticompetitive conduct, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Dissatisfied with what federal authorities have done to investigate large tech companies, two groups of state officials are now conducting antitrust probes. Regulators are examining whether Facebook, Google and other large tech companies have used their market power to crimp competition, potentially raising prices and hurting consumers.

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September Episode Of TBA BarBuzz Podcast Now Available

Get a monthly recap of bar association news and upcoming events on this month’s episode of BarBuzz, part of the Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network. Also included in the network are Sidebar, a show covering human interest stories from attorneys in Tennessee and HealthyBar, a podcast centered on attorney wellbeing. The shows are now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and the TBA’s website. Simply search the show title or “Tennessee Bar Association” wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Anti-SLAPP, Collaborative Family Law Headline September TBJ

Tennessee recently adopted a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“Anti-SLAPP”) statute to provide additional protections for certain fundamental constitutional rights. The Tennessee Public Participation Act was passed without opposition in the 111th General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee, effective July 1. Learn about Tennessee's new Anti-SLAPP statute in this September Journal article by Todd Hambidge, Robb Harvey, John P. Williams, Braden Boucek and Dan Haskell. Also, Collaborative Family Law is covered in a feature by Irwin Kuhn and a column by Marlene Eskind Moses and Ben Russ, detailing this new Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 53. TBA President Sarah Y. Sheppeard writes about the importance of being a mentor and having a mentor — even long into her career. Read these and more in the September issue!

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Solo Attorney Interested in Group Health Insurance? Here's Help

You’re in luck! As a solo attorney, you’re eligible for the new association group health insurance plan if you have at least one W-2 employee working 30+ hours per week. Rates may be as much as 30% less than what you’re paying today! Guaranteed issue coverage, no health questions and no pre-existing condition exclusions! Enroll or get a quote today. Contact the TBA for more information or call 423-629-2400 x264.

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New TBA Member Benefit: Group Health Insurance!

The Tennessee Bar Association and TBA Member Insurance Solutions have been diligently working with Humana to bring TBA employer members an affordable association group health insurance plan. The fully-funded plan is available exclusively to TBA members. Enrollment is open now and ends Dec. 1. Get a quote or enroll today. Have questions? Contact us at tbams@tnbar.org or call 423-629-2400 x264.

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Lawsuit Challenges Montgomery County Ban on Livestreaming Meetings

When the Montgomery County Commission convenes next week in its monthly informal session, it will mark the first time the full commission has met with a ban on unlimited livestream broadcasts of its meetings in effect, the Leaf Chronicle reports. In the meantime, a lawsuit is ongoing, challenging whether Montgomery County's ban, enacted earlier this month, might be a violation of constitutional free speech and the First Amendment. The suit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville.
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Volunteers Needed for New Nashville Legal Clinic

Legal Aid Society will host its Downtown Free Legal Clinic at the Nashville Public Library on Sept. 4 from 4 – 6 p.m., CDT. This is a new monthly service where lawyers can provide counsel and advice to those who otherwise could not afford it. The legal clinic will be held the first Wednesday of each month at this same time and location. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Kendra Cheek, 615-780-7131.

When: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 4 – 6 p.m., CDT

Where: Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St., Nashville

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TBA Board Approves Bylaws Change; Announces New Group Health Insurance Plan

The TBA Board of Governors this week voted in favor of proposed revisions to the organization’s bylaws previously published to the membership on July 31. The most substantive change created a category of non-voting, law firm, employer-level membership. Under the revised bylaws, any law firm in which 100% of its Tennessee-based attorneys are members of the TBA will be eligible to become a law firm member of the association under rules established by the Board of Governors. TBA employer members will now have access to an affordable association group health insurance plan. Employer members include solo practitioners with at least one W-2 employee working a minimum of 30 hours per week. This TBA exclusive plan could save employer members as much as 30% on the cost of health insurance. No health questions and no pre-existing condition exclusions. If you’d like to be contacted when open enrollment begins (October 1), contact tbams@tnbar.org. Additional details on the plan options will be released over the next few weeks.

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AG Slatery Announces Deal with Phone Companies to Fight Robocalls

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III says that a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies has agreed to adopt new principles to fight illegal robocalls. Among the agreement's details include the promise that phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by implementing blocking technology, authenticating callers and monitoring their networks for robocall traffic. The companies also will assist attorneys general investigating and taking action against suspicious callers.
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Clio Practice Management Tutorials and Discount

TBA members get a 10 percent lifetime discount on Clio, a practice management tool. Take these free tutorials on client matter managementintake best practices, how to build intake forms and billing. Sign up for Clio today and use your member discount.

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Nashville Council Set to Approve Lawsuit Settlement After Exposing Employees' Private Data

The Nashville Metro Council is set to approve a $22,000 payment tomorrow to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2015 incident that exposed the personal data of several Metro employees, the Nashville Scene reports. Twenty-one employees saw their social security numbers exposed after Metro posted them online in its human resources training manual, and two employees became victims of identity theft.
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Hamilton County Attorney's Office Accused of 'Willfully' Violating Open Records Laws

The Hamilton County Attorney's Office is under fire for its handling of multiple recent public records requests, the Times Free Press reports. Two records requests filed with the office have been initially denied or had illegal fees imposed by county general government public records coordinator Dana Beltramo. According to attorney and Tennessee Coalition of Open Government board member Rick Hollow, Beltramo's actions threaten not only a newspaper's ability to do its job, but more importantly, citizens' right to keep tabs on the elected officials that serve them.
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Johns Hopkins Health Policy Expert, White House Health Policy Advisor to Speak at TBA Health Law Forum

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Health Law Section has selected Johns Hopkins health policy expert and New York Times bestselling author Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H. along with health care policy advisor Larry Van Horn as the keynote speakers for its 31st Annual Health Law Forum to take place on Oct. 17-18 in Franklin. Makary has written for The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, TIME, Newsweek and regularly appears on various news networks as a health care expert. Van Horn has advised the state of Tennessee on health policy and is currently working with the White House on issues related to price transparency in health care markets — regularly meeting with the White House, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Federal Trade Commission on the topic. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear from the preeminent voices in today’s health care sector and enjoy other exceptional programming from top players in the field. Here are the key details:

When: Oct. 17-18; registration begins at 7 a.m., CDT on Thursday, Oct. 17

Where: Embassy Suites Cool Springs, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin, TN 37067

REGISTER NOW

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Aug. 30 Deadline: 36th Annual TBA Academy & U.S. Supreme Court Admissions Ceremony

If admission to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of your career goals, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a reality during the 36th Annual TBA Academy on Nov. 3-4 in Washington, D.C., where a select group of Tennessee attorneys will be able to take part in a private admissions ceremony at the court. Prior to the private swearing-in ceremony, admittees are invited to attend a President's Reception and special dinner to celebrate with colleagues and bar leadership. The registration deadline to participate in this opportunity is Aug. 30. You can learn more and register here.

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