News

Hamilton Commission Appoints Webb to Replace Retiring Shattuck

The Hamilton County Commission today voted 8-1 to appoint attorney Gerald Webb as the replacement for General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, The Chattanoogan reports. Webb will serve until August of next year when there will be a general election. Some 200 attorneys participated in a poll sponsored by the Chattanooga Bar Association and had attorney Joseph Hollis Jr. as the front-runner. There were 19 applicants, and the commission interviewed 17 of them last Wednesday afternoon.
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Third Stewart County Election Commissioner Resigns

The Stewart County Election Commission on Tuesday received its third resignation this month only hours before a scheduled meeting, The Leaf Chronicle reports. Martha Vaughn, a Democratic commissioner and the group's secretary, submitted the letter that only stated that she was resigning effective immediately. This comes just weeks after a joint resignation by former commission members James Adcock and Betty Gibbs, who left the group because of “unethical outside political interference” and the “lack of proper protocol, respect and decency" shown to members of the commission.

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Citizen Requests Ouster Investigation of Knox Commissioner Gill

Following news of settlement in the case where Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill was accused of abusing an 11-year-old autistic boy, a member of the county’s ethics committee and resident in Gill’s district is calling for her ouster, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Michael Covington, who is considering running against Gill in next year’s commission race, sent a letter to Law Director Bud Armstrong Tuesday saying: “Mrs. Gill, by her actions, has shown that she lacks the character and temperament needed to function effectively in her current role with the county.” Covington further stated that while he doesn't think Gill has done a good job in office, this goes beyond that because “this is an incident that suggests that we didn’t really know her.” Gill is currently the only Democrat on the 11-member commission.

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Memphis Mayor Appoints Holder as Mediator in Park Redesign Dispute

Following disagreements regarding the planned redesign of Tom Lee Park, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has appointed retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder to mediate discussions between the organizers of Memphis in May International Festival and Memphis River Parks Partnership, the Commercial Appeal reports. Construction on the park is slated to begin in June and will be underway during the 2020 Beale Street Music Festival. Festival organizers believe there will not be enough space for the music festival and BBQ contest while leaders of the redesign claim the opposite. In a written statement, Strickland advocated the use of experienced mediators to get opposing parties back on the same page. Justice Holder has mediated for the City of Memphis before, including the removal of a Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.

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Register Now: 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum

Register now for the 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum and the 19th Annual Health Law Primer to take place this October in Franklin The must-see, must-do event for Tennessee health law attorneys, this forum features timely topics designed to up your game and keep you on top of trends in the area. Presentations in this year’s program will include: cyber threats in health care, surrogate decision making, updates with TennCare, cloud-based vendor agreements, reps and warranties, legislative updates, antitrust concerns and much more. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field. Here are the key details:
 
Health Law Primer (introductory program)
When: Wednesday, Oct. 16
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
Health Law Forum
When:  Thursday, Oct. 17 – Friday, Oct. 18
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
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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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Knox County Reaches Settlement in Lawsuit Accusing Commissioner of Abuse

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that accused Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill of abusing a special-needs student when she was his teacher at South-Doyle Middle School, Knoxnews reports. The county agreed to spend $93,000 in taxpayer funds, as well as court costs and the mediator's fee, to settle the suit, court records show. The student's parents assert Gill inflicted physical and psychological abuse in 2017 on their then-11-year-old son, who has autism, a mild mental disability and severe schizophrenia. In the suit, filed in August 2018, the family named as defendants Gill, Knox County, the Knox County Board of Education, Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas and South-Doyle Middle School Principal Andrew Brown.
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Attorney Asks Court to Dismiss Sexual Abuse Suit Against Davidson Court Clerk

Attorneys for Davidson County Circuit Court Clerk Richard Rooker and Metro Nashville are asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former Rooker deputy who said he sexually abused her for 12 years, The Nashville Post reports. Rooker’s attorney, Hal Hardin, argues in court filings that the plaintiff deleted her Facebook account after filing the suit despite a preservation request, depriving Rooker of “important relevant evidence.” He added that that the plaintiff did not exhaust administrative remedies, that the suit was not filed within the statute of limitations and that Rooker cannot be held personally liable under the federal and state civil rights statutes cited by the plaintiff. He also asks the court to delay discovery in the case until the court rules on the motions to dismiss. 
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Court Documents Show Collierville Prosecutor Praising White Nationalists

Court documents in a federal court case show that an assistant prosecutor in Collierville wrote a social media post that praised white nationalists as "good God-fearing patriots," The Commercial Appeal reports. He also referred to white nationalists from the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests as "the good guys." Prosecutor Mike Cross' statement was introduced as evidence during the recent civil trial for Mike Goza, a skilled technician for Memphis Light, Gas and Water. Goza was fired after making controversial remarks related to a fight over Confederate statues, and has sued to get his MLGW job back. In a deposition, Goza described Cross as a friend. Goza said he attended a rally on behalf of Confederate statue preservation because Cross asked him to do it.
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Gov. Lee to Seek FEMA Assistance Regarding Flood Damage

Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday renewed his promise to secure FEMA funding to aid with flooding damage in the state, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Tennessee will surpass the agency’s damage threshold after an unprecedented bout of rain throughout the past couple of months. Though state-wide figures have yet to be made available, it is estimated that Knoxville alone took a $43.5 million hit because of flooding.

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Nashville Mayor Briley Expected to Announce Major Public Housing Initiative

Nashville Mayor David Briley is expected to announce plans later this month for the allocation of millions in city funds to support redevelopment of aged public housing, The Tennessean reports. If approved, Briley’s plan will take a three-pronged approach —a ten-year commitment to pay for redevelopment projects, city-funded infrastructure at those sites and earmarks for the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing Innovation, which provides grants to affordable housing developers. The city recently took ownership of its public housing stock from the federal government, to facilitate private borrowing for new construction and upgrades.

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Federal Lawsuit Claims La Vergne Mayor Retaliated Against Employee Who Complained of Discrimination

A new federal lawsuit says La Vergne City Mayor Jason Cole refused to let an assistant city recorder work after she made complaints of sex discrimination and unequal pay, The Daily News Journal reports. April Lawrence, a five-year city employee, says she was placed on administrative leave after sending a 30-page complaint to Cole and other city leaders. She had previously met with the director of human resources in an attempt to address the perceived problems. The lawsuit says Cole and the city are violating the Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act. Lawrence wants a jury trial, back pay and other fees a jury deems necessary.
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TDEC to Issue Over $3 Million in Loans for Clean Water Infrastructure

Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers have announced over $3 million in low-interest loans for clean water infrastructure improvements for the towns of Smyrna and Lewisburg. The apportionment will be funded through the Tennessee Revolving Fund Loan Program, which prioritizes disbursement for both the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, with $90 million loaned annually to municipalities for planning, design, and construction of eligible water and wastewater projects. Smyrna will receive a $3 million for green infrastructure and wastewater treatment plant expansion, and Lewisburg will receive $130,000 for wastewater treatment plant improvements.

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City of Memphis Files Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers

The city of Memphis is suing 21 opioid manufacturers and distributors in a federal lawsuit claiming “opioid addiction is ravaging Memphis," The Daily Memphian reports. The lawsuit, filed last week, alleges the list of corporations, led by Purdue Pharma LP, “manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids for the management of other forms of pain by misleading consumers and medical providers through misrepresentations or omissions regarding the appropriate uses, risks and safety of opioids. The city is seeking to recover “economic losses – direct, incidental or consequential pecuniary losses – resulting from defendants’ civil conspiracy” and the establishment of an “abatement fund” to be funded by the corporations.
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New Amendment Would Prohibit Municipalities from Regulating Single-Use Plastics

A new amendment to a state bill would make it illegal for municipalities to regulate, prohibit or charge a fee for many single-use plastic items, the Times Free Press reports. The bill would implement statewide standards for auxiliary devices: bags, cups, bottles, straws, to-go boxes, delivery packaging and more — whether they are reusable or single-use. Opponents believe the bill is overreaching, but legislators argue it will create statewide standards that are easier to follow. The bill would immediately kill any municipality's ability to limit the use of single-use pollutants through local regulations, leaving such decisions up to the state, which does not currently have plans to implement such restrictions.
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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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Nashville Government Found in Contempt Over Airbnb Move

Metro Nashville government was found guilty of contempt of court on Wednesday for continuing to send violation notices to short-term rental operators who are appealing the city's revocation of their permits, the Tennessean reports. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled in favor of seven plaintiffs fighting the city in Chancery Court to hold onto their Airbnb permits on Wednesday. She said the city should not have continued to try to stop them from operating until the court decided whether they have the right to rent their properties. The city was ordered to pay attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs.
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Tennessee House Passes Fetal Heartbeat Bill

The Tennessee House this morning passed controversial legislation that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, the Tennessean reports. The bill — HB0077/SB1236 — sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, is among the most restrictive in the nation and has received criticism from even unlikely opposition, such as Tennessee Catholic bishops and the Tennessee Right to Life organization. Several lawmakers suggested amendments to the bill but were unsuccessful. One proffered by Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, would allow abortions in the case of rape or incest, however, Speaker Glen Casada did not acknowledge her. Though the majority of proposed amendments were less contentious to lawmakers, some Republicans feared that adopting them would "weaken" the party's moral high ground.

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Bill Would Lower Local Governments' Sales Tax Fees

Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker continues his fight against an administrative fee he says is unnecessary and a strain on local governments, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The tax in question is a flat 1.125 percent fee to the state so that the Department of Revenue can process local option sales taxes and return them to the same counties and cities, for which the state collected $38 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year. New legislation promoted by Schoonmaker — HB1193/SB1126 — and sponsored by Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, seeks to reduce the 1.125 percent fee to 0.5 percent, which advocates estimate will save municipalities millions. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee yesterday with a negative recommendation.

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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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Bill Restricting Subpoena Power for Community Oversight Boards Passes the Senate

A bill placing restrictions on civilian-led police oversight boards in Tennessee has advanced in a Senate committee, though with an amendment allowing a process for obtaining subpoenas, The Tennessean reports. The legislation initially removed all subpoena power from community oversight boards, such as the newly-created Nashville board, which was approved by 59 percent of voters in November. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, filed the amendment after consulting with officials in Knoxville. Bell's amendment would allow an independent investigator employed by a community oversight board, chief of police or head of a police department's internal affairs division to file a petition with a judge to issue a subpoena.
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Tomorrow: Environmental Law Section to Host Happy Hour in Memphis

The TBA Environmental Law Section will host a happy hour on Tomorrow, March 14 at Glankler Brown in Memphis. This is a free event open to all section members, or anyone with interest in learning more about the section. Do not miss out on this opportunity to meet TBA leadership and lawyers of related practice. Please RSVP with Section Coordinator Jarod Word if you would like to attend. Here’s the key info:
 
When: Thursday, March 14, 4:30 p.m., CST.
Where: Glankler Brown, 6000 Poplar Ave., Suite 400, Memphis
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Tour Death Row in This Unique CLE Opportunity

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section will hold its annual Criminal Law Basics Forum at the Tennessee Bar Center on May 22. This annual favorite features the intangibles for criminal law practitioners, including timely updates on both a state and federal level. We will cover appellate issues, attorney well-being and ethics, ending the day with a guided tour of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, presented by Warden Tony Mays and attorney David Raybin who will discuss representing a death row inmate through execution. Don’t miss out on this unique, enriching CLE opportunity. Here are the key details:
 
When: Wednesday, May 22, registration at 8 a.m., CDT; prison tour at 2 p.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave N.; Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, 7475 Cockrill Bend Blvd, Nashville
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Nonpartisan Judicial Elections Bill Fails in Subcommittee

A bill that would have established nonpartisan elections for certain positions in Davidson and Shelby counties failed in a House subcommittee today, The Nashville Post reports. Republicans on the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee questioned why its sponsor, Rep. Tom Leatherwood, R-Arlington, had not secured support from local governments in Shelby and Davidson counties. In Nashville, the bill would have made judicial elections and those for constitutional officers like court clerk nonpartisan. In Shelby County, where judicial elections are already nonpartisan, the bill would have affected elections for county mayor, commission and other charter offices. Democrats swept those Shelby County races last year after years of Republican control. A similar bill from Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, would have a similar effect but would apply to every county in the state and only to judicial positions.
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AirBnB Hosts Say City of Nashville Violated Court Order

A group of Airbnb hosts suing the city of Nashville say Mayor David Briley's administration violated a court order by trying to stop them from renting their homes out online, The Tennessean reports. During a hearing today, attorneys for some of the hosts said the city should be held in contempt of court. Dozens of hosts sued in January after the city tried to revoke their short-term rental permits, which were issued by mistake. On Feb. 11, a judge signed an agreed order saying Metro must allow the hosts to continue renting their homes until the legal matter was settled. But on Feb. 15, Metro sent the hosts letters saying their permits were revoked, and that "the law requires you to immediately cease operations as a short-term rental."
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