News

This Week: Animal Law Forum 2019 to Feature 2 Special Guests

Register now for the TBA Animal Law Section's 2019 annual forum at the Nashville Zoo. This unique opportunity will provide updates on trends and advancements in animal law while allowing participants to network, enjoy all of the fun and activities offered by the zoo and a chance to meet the two latest additions to the organization's family. We will be joined by the zoo's president and chief executive officer, and the board's general counsel, who will discuss conservation efforts and laws affecting procurement and care for animals. The forum, May 17 at 8 a.m., will also feature two VERY special guests! Don't miss it!
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Roane County Sues TVA Over Coal Ash Cleanup

Roane County and two cities within its borders filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Tennessee Valley Authority and its prime contractor in the cleanup of the nation’s largest coal ash spill, Knoxnews reports. The lawsuit accuses TVA and Jacobs Engineering of hiding from the public internal records showing a coal ash ingredient list of dangerous toxins, heavy metals and radioactive isotopes; destroying evidence including exposure threat test samples, test results, videos and photographs; tampering with exposure threat testing by watering down monitors designed to warn the public — and the EPA and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation — to lower results; and lying to the public, ratepayers and TVA’s own board of directors about the cleanup and the toxicity of coal ash both at the time of the spill and now.
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Metro Nashville Government Releases Report on Tax Incentive Funding

The Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County released its Tax Increment Financing Study & Formulating Committee Report, which examines Metro’s Tax Incentive Funding (TIF) used to promote redevelopment in blighted areas. Mayor David Briley signed ordinance BL2018-1315 creating the committee to formulate recommendations on implementation of and ensure more transparency regarding the municipalities use of TIF. In its report, the committee compiled a number of observations and 17 recommendations, formally asking the Mayor’s Office to provide Metro Council with a description of agencies or departments that will address the recommendations, including cost estimates for implementation. The committee was scheduled to present its recommendations to the Metro Council last week. 

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TSC Holds Cities Not Required to Share Liquor Tax Proceeds with Counties

In five separate lawsuits, the Tennessee Supreme Court held today that cities with their own school systems are not required to share with counties the tax proceeds the cities receive from the sale of liquor-by-the-drink. For over 30 years, cities that have approved the sale of liquor-by-the-drink have kept their portion of the tax proceeds, without sharing with the counties. Five Tennessee counties — Blount, Bradley, Coffee, Sullivan and Washington — claimed that Tennessee statutes required the cities to share a portion of those tax proceeds with the county schools. The TSC found that the General Assembly amended the liquor tax laws several times over the past decades, but it chose not to amend the laws on the cities’ responsibilities as to distributing the liquor tax proceeds.
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Bolivar Councilman Arrested for Defrauding Hardeman County

Bolivar City Councilman Jonathan Joy was indicted by a Hardeman County grand jury Monday for allegedly defrauding Hardeman County out of $1,609, the Jackson Sun reports. Joy was hired by the county to install four HVAC units at several county-owned buildings over a 10-month period between 2017 and 2018, according to the Tennessee Comptroller investigation. Each time Joy claimed to install a larger HVAC unit than he actually put in place. He billed the county for a total of $25,100 of work, when in reality, the units he installed were worth $23,491. Joy was indicted on one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of official misconduct because of his position as a city councilman.
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Legal Nonprofit Seeking Nashville-based Staff Attorney

A Better Balance, a national legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, is hiring a staff attorney for its Nashville office. The attorney would advance the goals of A Better Balance by promoting fairness for working families in the South and raising awareness nationally of local issues affecting Southern low-wage workers, especially marginalized communities. 3Ls, entry-level applicants and those with 1-3 years of legal experience are encouraged to apply. Read more on the organization’s website.
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Lawsuit Says Bradley County Inmate Died Because of Neglected Care

A lawsuit filed in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court claims that Brandon Gash died while in Bradley County custody due to negligent care, the Times Free Press reports. The suit, filed by Gash’s family, names the county government, the jail’s third-party medical care provider, former Sheriff Eric Watson and former Captain of Corrections Gabe Thomas. Gash was taken into custody last April for methamphetamine possession.
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More Than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School Employees Call Out Sick to Protest Budget

More than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School employees — including 1,091 teachers — called out sick today in protest of the 3 percent pay raise suggested by Mayor David Briley in his budget, saying that it’s simply not enough, The Tennessean reports. The action comes in response to Briley’s proposed $28.2 million increase in Nashville public schools' operating budget, far less than the requested $76.7 million. Most of the money asked for was to be earmarked for teacher raises. President-elect for the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association Amanda Kail said of the protest, "You have to understand that teachers haven't had a cost-of-living or a significant raise, depending on how you define significant, in 10 to 15 years … People are getting pretty fed up."

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Woman Sues Rutherford Election Commission Over Fall at Polling Location

Murfreesboro resident May Glover is suing Rutherford County and the county's election commission for $300,000 after she tripped over an extension cord and fractured two bones while voting, the Daily News Journal reports. The suit, which was filed on April 17, claims that her injuries from the fall amounted to nearly $60,000 in medical bills.
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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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Chattanooga Councilman Byrd Fears for Safety After Altercation With Neighbor

Chattanooga city councilman Anthony Byrd filed a police report out of concern for his safety after a community activist suggested that men drive by his house to “provide protection” for his neighbor, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The activist, Marie Mott, hosts a radio show that featured the neighbor who alleges Byrd threatened her when she was questioning him about her son’s killing, which was ruled as “justified” and why no one was charged in his death. Councilman Byrd later noticed a large amount of traffic driving on his street and became fearful for he and his family’s safety. Mott says that she did not threaten Byrd rather called him out "to hold him accountable” and that “if he's in danger, that falls into his own hands." No charges have been filed and the case was closed as "miscellaneous information."

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Tullahoma Police Chief Pleads No Contest to Evidence Tampering

The Tullahoma police chief has pleaded no contest to an evidence tampering charge and resigned his position, the Times Free Press reports. Paul Blackwell resigned Monday as Tullahoma police chief after entering the plea in Coffee County Circuit Court. Prosecutor Jennings Jones declined to say what led to the charges against Blackwell. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in December that an investigation into Blackwell was launched at the request of 14th Judicial District Attorney General Craig Northcott concerning a traffic crash involving Blackwell's son.
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Governor Agrees to Provide Additional Funds for Tom Lee Park Redesign

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recently announced plans to provide an additional $10 million to the redesign of Tom Lee Park in Memphis, the Daily Memphian reports. However, Memphis River Parks Partnership and Memphis in May organizers continue mediation talks to resolve a dispute over the design of the park. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland requested the additional money and hopes it will hasten a resolution between the two parties. The park’s redesign is estimated to cost $60 million, with nearly $40 million coming from the state.  

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Documentary Addresses Housing Problems Faced by Low-Income Residents of Memphis

Two Memphis-based documentarians on Monday presented the first chapter in a series of films highlighting housing concerns in the city, The Commercial Appeal reports. Jordan Danelz and Benjamin Rednour created the documentary to address common problems faced by Memphis’ low-income residents. The films will look at predatory lending, foreclosures, inability to afford necessary home repairs, absentee landlords and lack of transit. The series was created with assistance from Neighborhood Preservation Inc., an organization founded by Memphis community leaders who seek to promote revitalization of blighted parcels in the city and clear legal hurdles regarding development of these properties.

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Local Government Section Hosts Successful Annual Forum

The TBA Local Government Section presented its annual forum at the Tennessee Bar Center last Thursday, which received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Attendees enjoyed top-notch programming, with TBA members gathering afterward to attend a guided tour of the Tennessee State Museum.
 
Through the dedication of the section and strong leadership, this event has become a staple for municipal leaders throughout Tennessee. Thanks to the TBA Local Government Section Executive Council for their time and assistance with another remarkable forum. Stay tuned for more exciting events to come from this section.
 
OFFICERS
Charlotte Knight Griffin, Chair, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division
Kristen Corn, Vice-Chair, City Attorney of Brentwood
Shauna Billingsley, Immediate Past-Chair, City Attorney of Franklin
 
EAST TENNESSEE DELEGATES
Daniel Street, County Attorney, Sullivan County
Joseph Jarrett, Attorney & Mediator, Knoxville
Rebecca Ketchie, Wilson Worley PC, Kingsport
Shelly Wilson, Owings, Wilson & Coleman
 
MIDDLE TENNESSEE DELEGATE
Jennifer Noe, Balthrop Perry Noe & Newcomb, Ashland City
 
WEST TENNESSEE DELEGATE
Carter Gray, County Attorney, Shelby County
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Shelby County Swears in First Female Chief Public Defender

Shelby County swore in its first female chief public defender yesterday, The Commercial Appeals reports. Phyllis Aluko has spent 25 years in the office where she began as a volunteer, then moving to the trial division for 10 years, later transferring to the appellate division. Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said at the ceremony: "Phyllis Aluko is now, has been and will be an exceptional public defender … She understands the needs of the office, the needs of the community." Aluko replaces former Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush, who retired in February.
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Scooter Firms Eyeing Chattanooga Market

Commuters in Chattanooga will soon have another transit option: electric scooters, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Currently a common conveyance in Nashville and Memphis, the scooters have become ubiquitous on city sidewalks, with the municipalities grappling with ways to regulate their use. In fact, the scooters were initially banned in Nashville just two days following introduction last May, with city leaders expressing concerns over pedestrian safety and sidewalk obstruction. Nashville’s Metro Council eventually rescinded the ban, putting in place a permit process and new rules allowing the companies to be fined for scooters left on sidewalks, also requiring riders to stay off sidewalks in business districts and use hand signals when turning. City leaders in Chattanooga have expressed similar concerns and intend to methodically address these concerns over a 12-month pilot period. Companies that wish to offer the service in Chattanooga will pay a $110 fee for each newly permitted dockless vehicle.

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Ex-Deputy Gets 5-years Probation for Vote Buying in Sheriff's Race

A former reserve deputy who recruited a marijuana dealer to buy votes for a Republican candidate for Monroe County sheriff in 2014 and then lied about it is now banned from politicking for the next five years, Knoxnews reports. U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan on Tuesday approved a five-year probationary sentence for Brian Keith “Wormy” Hodge for his role in a conspiracy to buy votes for Randy White in White’s successful 2014 campaign. Varlan opted to impose two “special conditions” on Hodge’s probation: barring him from participating in any political activities while on probation; and requiring him to perform 50 hours of community service.
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House Passes Controversial Voter Registration Bill

House lawmakers have passed a bill that places new restrictions on voter registration efforts, though its passage was not without controversy, the Tennessean reports. The measure, backed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, would require groups leading voter registration efforts to undergo training and potentially face fines for submitting too many incomplete forms. Critics of the bill say it would criminalize voter registration drives, and claim the bill was motivated in response to the surge of African-American voter registration efforts prior to the 2018 midterm elections.
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Committee Reaches Compromise on Community Oversight Subpoena Power

The state House and Senate this week reached a compromise as they seek to put in place regulations for police oversight boards like the newly established one in Nashville, the Nashville Post reports. A conference committee made up of members from both chambers decided on an amended version of the bill that would allow community oversight boards to seek a subpoena through a local elected body like a city or metro council. The full chambers now must approve the compromise bill.
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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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Man Sues Rutherford County Adult Detention Center After Fall From Bunk

A man who is paralyzed after falling off the top bunk while incarcerated in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center is now suing the institution for negligence, The Daily News Journal reports. Nicholas Parks maintains that jail staff made him sleep on the top bunk despite his protestations and detailed medical history. Court filings show that Rutherford County plans to ask for dismissal of the lawsuit. Parks’ attorney, Tommy Santel, did not return the paper’s request for comment.

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Legal Battle Over Toxic Waste in Tennessee Town Heats Up

A rural community in west Tennessee continues its fight against a waste management company regarding a toxic substance that has polluted area water sources and devastated local vegetation, USA Today reports. In 1999, the town of Bath Springs contracted North Carolina corporation Waste Industries to assume operations of its landfill that was used for local waste in Decatur County. Subsequently, under new management, the landfill began to accept “special waste” characterized as being "difficult or dangerous" to contain, which is more profitable than household trash but when exposed to elements excretes an ooze called leachate that finds its way into the soil and ultimately the water supply. Waste Industries later announced plans to abandon the landfill and sued the county, maintaining the municipality was derelict in its responsibilities to “to provide for the disposal and treatment of the leachate” and is in breach of the initial agreement. The county filed its own lawsuit against Waste Industries, alleging violations of federal clean air and water acts. The lawsuit against the county is scheduled for a status conference on May 10 in Tennessee Western District Court, Judge S. Thomas Anderson presiding.

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Follow TBA Convention Updates on Facebook

Want an easy way to follow updates on the 2019 TBA Convention? Sign into Facebook and let others know you'll be attending. You'll receive notifications when updates are posted, and you'll be able to see which of your friends are also heading to Nashville in June for the conference!
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Charter Schools' Morality Clause Potentially 'Problematic,' Counsel Says

After a charter school organization and the Catholic Diocese of Memphis entered into a leasing agreement with a “morality clause,” the Shelby County School District’s general counsel has weighed in, saying the agreement has the “potential to be problematic” but that state law limits how the district can intervene. The Commercial Appeal reports that the six schools in question are currently open as private Catholic schools, but will close and reopen this year as public charter schools. The lease agreements contain a clause that requires the schools not teach or promote any position that would be considered "gravely immoral" to the church, at the discretion of the Memphis bishop. 
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