News

Despite Lawsuit, TVA to Meet with Roane Leaders

Tennessee Valley Authority officials were scheduled to meet today with Roane County leaders at its Kingston power plant, a move that attorney Jim Scott, who represents the county leaders, met with trepidation, Knoxnews reports. The elected officials are suing TVA and its contractor, Jacobs Engineering, alleging they knew about the health risks posed to workers hired to clean up the Kingston coal ash spill. “I hope officials at TVA involved in the attempted arrangement of this meeting with Roane County officials have discussed this thoroughly with their attorneys because I have certain issues of concern as their attorney in that action,” Scott said. TVA claims the sit down is a routine meeting with county leaders.
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Dickson Takes First Step in Developing ADA Transition Plan

The City of Dickson is planning renovations to city-owned properties in order to guarantee federal ADA guidelines are met by the municipality, The Tennessean reports. On July 8 the Dickson City Council unanimously approved a contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates to prepare a transition plan that “identifies barriers to access in programs and activities” and “provide(s) equivalent access to the maximum extent feasible.” The Federal Highway Administration requires all cities and counties to submit a transition plan by Dec. 31 in order to continue receiving federal funding for improvement projects.

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Tennessee Rep. Karen Camper Brings 'Our Community, Our Solutions' Tour to Jackson

Tennessee Representative Karen D. Camper, D-Shelby, took her “Our Community, Our Solutions” (OCOS) campaign to Jackson where she discussed concerns and answered questions from community members, the Jackson Sun reports. Among the issues raised to Camper by attendees were how the General Assembly plans to deal with unemployment, Medicaid block grant funding and hospital closures in rural communities — which Camper said is the “No. 1 issue” for the state’s Democratic Party. You can contact Camper and inquire about future OCOS dates using Facebook.

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Memphis Councilwoman Sponsors Resolution to Study How Memphis 3.0 Will Affect Minority Communities

Memphis City Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson has sponsored wants to hire a consultant to study the long-term impact of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s Memphis 3.0 initiative, specifically involving its effect on communities of color, the Commercial Appeal reports. Johnson contends that the mayor’s plan does not advance certain minority neighborhoods in the city, rather designates them as a “nurture” area — which means a focus on growing existing business but not accelerated development. Johnson said “I think part of it is not understanding how (accelerate or nurture) was used. Nurture may mean you might feed them a little … but accelerate means we’re going to take care of you.” Memphis 3.0 is on the agenda for a reading today, and on Aug. 6 at 3:30 p.m., CDT in the Council Chambers on the first floor of City Hall.

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Knoxville Council to Consider Zoning Ordinance Overhaul Today

The Knoxville City Council could decide today if it will take the next steps in its Recode Knoxville initiative, which would drastically overhaul the city’s zoning ordinances, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Initially proposed in 2016, Recode is intended to revise land use divisions and clear up confusing or redundant regulations, particularly involving mixed-use commercial and residential developments. The zoning ordinance applies only within Knoxville city limits and excludes county, state and federal properties. The city council will vote on the initiative in its meeting tonight at 6 p.m., EDT in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.

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Fastcase 7 New Features

A new Fastcase 7 update provides highlighting for your search terms when viewing the full text of a document. Each term is highlighted with a different color so that you can see the occurrence of each item separately. You can also turn off the highlighting function for both, and each term individually by choosing the highlight dropdown option, then selecting the ‘x’ across from the term. See this and all new features of TBA’s member benefit Fastcase 7 here.

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Report: TennCare Dropped At Least 220,000 Kids Due to Incomplete or Errant Paperwork

Between January 2016 and December 2018, at least 220,000 Tennessee children lost or are slated to lose health insurance because of late, incomplete or unreturned TennCare eligibility forms, The Tennessean reports. Most participants in TennCare are automatically renewed for coverage each year; however, when important plan changes or updates are necessary, the organization until recently required families to mail hard copy forms in lieu of filing or updating their information online. Some families maintain that the process was needlessly confusing and hard to navigate, with research by the Tennessean showing that TennCare representatives were rarely able to determine if the children even qualified using the now replaced model. TennCare Commissioner Gabe Roberts said that the numbers also reflect families who likely did not complete the paperwork because they are no longer eligible for the program.

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Man Files Lawsuit Claiming Former KPD Officer Used Excessive Force

A fired Knoxville Police Department officer faces a federal civil rights lawsuit over his arrest of a man caught huffing in the bushes behind a store, Knoxnews reports. Brent Edward Cox says former KPD officer Geraldo Orta shocked him with an electric stun gun and stomped on his neck in May 2018. He filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court this spring accusing Orta of excessive force and of violating Cox's constitutional rights. Orta wore a badge for less than a year before Police Chief Eve Thomas fired him for lying about whether he answered a burglary alarm at a West Knoxville bicycle store. Investigators at the time of the incident determined he used excessive force but couldn't verify whether he stomped on Cox.
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Feds OK Memphis Public Schools' Operations Under Catholic Landlord's Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Education said a charter school network’s lease prohibiting it from teaching anything considered “gravely immoral” by the Catholic Church does not violate federal guidelines, the Daily Memphian reports. The federal guidance removes the final hurdle for Compass Community Schools to open its six campuses across Memphis on July 31 in former Catholic school buildings. The opinion also confirms the new network’s eligibility to receive $600,000 per school in federal grants for “promising” new charter schools.
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Monitoring Team Aims to Keep Public Informed About MPD Surveillance Case

The public will have a chance to ask questions about a court-ordered plan to bring reform to the Memphis Police Department after officers were found conducting illegal surveillance of protesters, violating a 40-year-old consent decree barring such surveillance, The Daily Memphian reports. In addition to the public meeting on July 11, former U.S. attorney and independent monitor Ed Stanton announced that his team has launched a website, memphispdmonitor.com, to provide updates to the public about the progress of reform efforts involving the city police department.
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TBA House of Delegates Seeks to Fill 13 Open Positions

In accordance with Article 29 of the TBA Bylaws, the officers of the House of Delegates will fill 13 open positions in the House. If you would like to be considered for one of these positions, please submit a declaration of candidacy that includes your name, principal place of law practice, district of interest and contact information to TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson by July 15. Read a list of open positions here.
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17-Year-Old Student Announces Bid for Murfreesboro City Council

A high school student in Rutherford County has announced his intention to run for Murfreesboro City Council, the Daily News Journal reports. Zach Ouellette, a 17-year-old student at Central Magnet School, decided to enter the race after the recent tax hike approved by the council in June. Ouellette, who will be 18 next May, said of his campaign: "There's a general trend of spending a ton of money, and there's a huge hole in our budget. Instead of raising taxes, we need to look at spending. We need to find what we do and don’t need." Candidates can pick up their petitions to formally enter the race beginning Feb. 3.

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Clarksville Disputes Ownership of Greenway Portion Where Bicycling Accident Occurred

The city of Clarksville maintains that it does not own the section of greenway where a bicycling accident occurred, which led to a personal injury lawsuit, The Leaf Chronicle reports. The plaintiff in the case maintains that she fell into a ravine after dismounting her bike to push it up a hill, and that the city was negligent by not including guardrails on elevated segments of the greenway. The city hired a surveyor to evaluate the area, and determined that the location where the fall happened is on property owned by the Advance Development Company. City attorney Lance Baker said the case may head to trial in July.

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Hamilton Commission, School Board in a Stalemate Over Budget

The Hamilton County Commission yesterday voted down a 34 cent property tax increase intended to benefit area schools, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The controversial move brings talks regarding the county schools’ and overall fiscal budgets to a stalemate. County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said after the meeting: "The commission will need to wait on the school board now to respond … The whole budget has not and will not be approved until a new item is brought to the commission." The Hamilton County school board will have to present alternatives to the commission by Aug. 31 for consideration, prior to passage of the overall budget. 

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TBA Debuts New Podcast Network

The Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network launched today with the premiere of two shows-- Sidebar and BarBuzz. Sidebar is a magazine podcast featuring compelling stories from attorneys across the state. BarBuzz is a monthly rundown of TBA news and upcoming events at the local and state bar levels. Both 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. Do you have a story lead you'd like to submit for a future episode? Submit your ideas here!

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SCOTUS Tosses Tennessee Liquor Store Residency Law

The U.S. Supreme Court today tossed out a Tennessee law that required liquor store owners to live in the state two years before they could open a business here, the Commercial Appeal reports. In a 7-2 decision, the justices said the regulation illegally infringed on interstate commerce protections provided by the U.S. Constitution. Their ruling eliminates a barrier for out-of-state owners trying to get a liquor license and conduct business in Tennessee. It came in the case of a Memphis couple that tried to open a liquor store after they moved from Utah to Tennessee to find better care for their daughter with a disability.
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Use Your Prepaid TBA CLE Credits Before Monday!

TBA members have until June 30 to use the 2018-2019 CLE credits that come with their memberships. Use the credits now to register for any TBA course taking place this summer or fall, or any online course, as long as you register by June 30. Don’t let these valuable credits go to waste! Find more information on how to use your credits, and if you haven’t done so already, remember to renew your TBA membership for the upcoming year to get more CLE credits.
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ACLU Weighs In on Knox Detective's Anti-LGBT Sermon, First Amendment Rights

The ACLU this week weighed in on the matter of a Knox County detective and pastor who maligned members of the LGBTQ community, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Detective Grayson Fritts gave a sermon to the All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville saying the government should arrest and execute members of the LGBTQ community. Sheriff Tom Spangler said he would not fire Fritts to protect taxpayers from a lawsuit that could cost the county millions. "You can look for the ACLU to look for a lawsuit," Spangler said. In response, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee Hedy Weinberg said the government can regulate its employees’ speech if there is a reason that outweighs the employee’s interest in exercising constitutional rights. Fritts is currently on sick leave until a buyout goes into effect on July 19.
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TDEC Commissioner, Worker Testify in Hearing Over Golf Tournament Attended by Industry Insiders

Despite statements to the contrary from the department’s commissioner, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation worker told state lawmakers that he was asked by a top official to manage a golf tournament sponsored by industry insiders, the Tennessean reports. Previously, Commissioner David Salyers claimed the event was privately-run and not a government event. The worker, Charles Burroughs, testified in a House Committee on Government Operations hearing that high-ranking appointees requested in 2002 that he oversee the tournament.
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Full Upgrade to Fastcase 7 Coming July 22

The TBA will be upgrading to Fastcase 7 — the latest in legal research technology — on July 22. Start the transition by reviewing the helpful resource page to learn new and advanced research tools and view training videos and reference guides. Did you know that as a member benefit Fastcase also offers research assistance? Use the LiveChat feature located on the Fastcase website, email support@fastcase.com or call 866-773-2782, Option 2, to speak with a research attorney. 
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Collierville Sues Owner of 'Negligently' Operated Landfill

The town of Collierville has filed a complaint against Norman Brown over his operation of the Frank Road landfill, the Daily Memphian reports. The complaint, filed yesterday in Shelby County Chancery Court, claims the landfill is an odor nuisance, noise nuisance and safety hazard to residents. It says the property has been “negligently” operated. The town hopes a judge will order Brown to remedy the smell, noise and safety concerns. The town also wants a backup plan to be in place in case of “future breakouts.” 
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Coffee Co. Considers Additional Taxes for Bonnaroo

Following the first sold out Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in seven years, questions have risen about its future in Coffee County, The Tennessean reports. The festival and municipality have long been embroiled in a love-hate relationship; however, the recent move by the Coffee County Commission to instill a 2.5 percent tax on hotel room bookings just two days prior to this year’s events —which would also be charged to onsite campers — had organizers up in arms. Bonnaroo staff eventually made a deal with the commission to exclude campers this year, but Coffee County remains resolute in obtaining additional funds to pay for road and bridge upgrades in the county. The festival nets the municipality around $1 million annually in tax money from ticket sales and on-site services, and contributes about 25 percent of the county’s annual sales tax.

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Lee Won't Call On Northcott to Resign, Wants DA to Uphold the Law

Gov. Bill Lee says he isn't prepared to call on a Tennessee prosecutor to resign over his comments about Muslims and same-sex couples, but wants to ensure Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott is upholding the law, the Tennessean reports. Northcott, who is currently under investigation by the state Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility, has received national attention in recent weeks following news reports about his beliefs on Islam and homosexuality. "I don't know the details until investigations are done, so it's premature to make comments about that other than to say we need to make sure we follow the laws in this state," Lee said.
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Open Records Group Says Knox Broke Law by Charging for Records Inspections

The Tennessee Coalition of Open Government is accusing Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler of breaking the law whenever he and KCSO employees fulfill public records requests, Knoxnews reports. This came after lawyers for the county defended its practice of charging residents for public records inspections, which the state comptroller says should be free. The issue came up during lawsuit against the county filed by a University of Tennessee professor, in which lawyers for the county said repeatedly it would cost hundreds of dollars to inspect records that the professor requested. A state comptroller's report written in 2008 says charges can be assessed for the cost of making the copy or duplication and staff time after the custodian has spent at least one hour working on the request if the requester wants copies of the documents. If the requester wants only to inspect the documents, there is to be no charge.
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Hamilton County to Consider Tax Relief Program for Seniors

Facing a tax hike for Hamilton County residents, Commissioner David Sharpe plans to propose an initiative to soften the blow to seniors on a fixed income, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The program will supplement the state’s existing Property Tax Relief Program of 2018 that aids elderly homeowners, disabled homeowners, disabled veteran homeowners and widows of disabled veteran homeowners. Early estimates show that the program will cost the county about $360,000 annually.

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