News

Gallatin Judge Sues City for Legal Fees

Gallatin Judge Connie Kittrell is suing the city, seeking reimbursement for outside legal fees incurred for representation in the wake of grievances filed against her by three former employees. The suit asks for reimbursement of attorney fees, the cost of the filing and other relief deemed proper, the Tennessean reports. The former employees alleged that Kittrell subjected them to verbal mistreatment and did not conduct the court in accordance with state law. An investigation into the claims found that the situation did not meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment.

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Chattanooga Considers Cost of City Court

The Chattanooga City Council is looking into whether under its charter it is required to have a city court, and if so, whether it is required to have two divisions, the Chattanoogan reports. A number of years ago, the city court lost jurisdiction over felony cases to the General Sessions Court and now hears just traffic, animal control and environmental cases. The council reports that it costs $468,814 to operate division 1, $442,861 to operate division 2 and $1.2 million to fund the clerk’s office. Judge Sherry Paty defended the city court budget saying it “is bare bones.”

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Former Court Clerk Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Tammy Brooks-Carpenter, a former deputy court clerk for the city of Memphis, has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $24,000 in traffic fines paid by traffic violators, the Commercial Appeal reports.  She faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. Brooks-Carpenter also drew criticism because her actions targeted vulnerable members of the Hispanic community. Sentencing is set for Aug. 21.

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County Names New Commissioners

The Cumberland County Commission recently named new judicial commissioners. They are: Herbert L. Blevins, Danny F. Cantwell and Steve P. Recoil. The three will serve through May 2019, the Crossville Chronicle reports.

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Deficiencies Found in Memphis Public Records Process

A study of how Memphis fulfills public records requests has generated 23 recommendations to improve the process, the Commercial Appeal reports. A former Shelby County commissioner undertook the review at the request of the mayor. He found that deficiencies stemmed from inefficient processes, a lack of understanding of state law and a growing distrust between public records staff and government officials and local media. The recommendations include transferring public records responsibilities from the law division to the executive division and appointing a public records ombudsman and oversight committee.

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Mold Spores at Old Courthouse Source of Suit

Knox County and its Public Building Authority have asked a judge to toss a lawsuit filed by Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr., WBIR reports. The suit alleges that “toxic mold spores” in the downtown Old Courthouse are causing Arnett's health to deteriorate and substantially interfering with his staff’s ability to work. Lawyers for the county argue that Arnett lacks standing to sue. WBIR has the news.

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Halbert to Run for Memphis Court Clerk

Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert will not seek re-election in this year’s city elections and will instead run for city court clerk against incumbent clerk Thomas Long. Halbert is the fifth incumbent on the 13-member council to pass on a re-election bid in the October elections, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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'Swingers Club' Claims it is a Church in Zoning Fight

A "swingers" group relocating to suburban Nashville plans to change its name from The Social Club to the United Fellowship Center — part of a strategy to rebrand itself as a church, according to the ABA Journal. The club’s lawyer, Larry Roberts, tells the Washington Post he came up with the idea of changing the club to a church to afford religious protections to the group, which is still operating in Nashville pending resolution of legal disputes.

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Haslam Signs Guns-in-Parks Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam today signed the controversial guns-in-parks bill into law, allowing handgun-carry permit holders to go armed in all parks statewide, regardless of local ordinances. The governor, a former mayor of Knoxville, had expressed concerns about the legislation because it removed the authority of city and county governments over parks under their control, and because the parks often border school properties, the Commercial Appeal reports.

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Environmental Court Moves to 5 Days a Week

The Shelby County General Sessions Environmental Court is expected to begin operating full time next week, Memphis Daily News reports. Created in 1983 by the city of Memphis, the court handles violations of its health, fire, building and zoning codes, centralizing violations before Judge Larry E. Potter.

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Tea Party Speaker Will Address Federal/State Relations

Nashville attorney Joanne Bregman will be the Chattanooga Tea Party’s guest speaker tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at The Century Club Banquet Hall, 3221 Harrison Pike, the Chattanoogan reports. Bregman has been involved in policy work at the Tennessee legislature and will speak on the constitutional relationship between federal, state and local governments, especially involving refugee resettlement programs.

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Former Knox County Trustee Reports to Jail

Former Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe was scheduled to begin serving a one-year sentence at the Knox County jail on Saturday. Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword also ordered Lowe to pay $200,000 in restitution and serve another 10 years on probation, Knoxnews reports. A hearing on May 1 will determine whether the restitution is paid to the court or the county. Lowe, 57, pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds while in office.

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Knoxville Lawyer, Former Mayor Dies

Knoxville lawyer and former two-term mayor Kyle Copenhaver Testerman died Saturday (April 11). He was 80. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, Testerman served on the Knoxville City Council from 1969-1971; became Knoxville’s youngest elected mayor at the age of 35; led construction of the City and County Building and the TVA Towers; and consolidated the city and county public school system. A celebration of life will be held at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church April 21 at 4 p.m. The family will receive friends following the service. Knoxnews has more on his life.

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New Flipping Houses CLE

If the house your client flips floods, creaks or fails code violations, make sure you are ready to help. The new Flipping Houses CLE on May 18 will feature presentations from attorneys well versed on construction law and local government practice along with Cynthia Gibson, the executive vice president and chief legal officer at Scripts Networking Interactive, the company behind many popular DIY programs.

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Knox Magistrate Resigns, Commission to Fill Vacancy

Knox County General Sessions Court Chief Magistrate Mark Brown has submitted his letter of resignation, telling officials that his last day on the job will be April 10, WBIR reports. Brown, who has held the post since 2009, is moving to Nashville to be closer to family. The county commission is accepting applications for the post and is tentatively looking at interviewing candidates on March 16 and holding a special session to fill the vacancy on April 20.

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7 Interview for General Sessions Job

Seven attorneys vying for a judicial appointment recently appeared before the Sumner County Commission to answer questions and explain their qualifications, the Tennessean reports. After a five-minute introduction, each candidate answered a random question from the public and multiple questions from commissioners. The commission will approve one to be the county’s newest general sessions judge during its meeting on March 16. Candidates include Assistant District Attorney Ronald Blanton; Gallatin lawyers Thomas Boyers V, Mike Carter, M. Allen Ehmling and James Hawkins; Hendersonville lawyer Devon Sutherland; and Nashville lawyer George J. Duzane.

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Nashville Council Members: Funk Has ‘Broken Trust’ with Voters

Two Metro Nashville Council members have sent a scathing letter to Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, saying he has “broken the trust of the voters who elected you and have damaged the integrity of the office of District Attorney,” Phil Williams with NewsChannel 5 reports. Williams earlier broke the story about Funk’s deal with the Tennessee District Attorney’s Conference to be hired as an interim prosecutor before officially taking office so he could avail himself of a more generous retirement package. Williams has a copy of the letter on his Facebook page.

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Knox County Clerk Sues Over ‘Toxic Mold’

Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. has filed suit against the Public Building Authority over mold in his courthouse office, the Jackson Sun reports. According to the suit, a window restoration project at the courthouse in 2012 released toxic mold and spores and has caused significant medical problems for Arnett and others in the building.

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Former Commissioner Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Election Documents

Former Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks yesterday pleaded guilty to falsification of an election document in connection with her run for Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk, Local Memphis reports. On her campaign paperwork, Brooks claimed to live in Midtown though neighbors dispute that. Brooks, who until yesterday had not been charged with a crime, entered an Alford plea, which allowed her to maintain her innocence while admitting the government had enough evidence to find her guilty of the crime.

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Bass, Berry & Sims Establishes Procurement Fraud Practice

Bass, Berry & Sims PLC has established a Procurement Fraud Practice Group to address complex and growing regulatory challenges to contractors and companies that provide goods and services to governmental entities. The practice is a cross-disciplinary team, involving attorneys who work in government contracts, investigations, compliance and white collar criminal defense.

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Methadone Clinic Loses Suit Against Johnson City

A federal court has thrown out a suit by Tri-Cities Holdings that claimed the state and Johnson City were violating federal law by refusing addicts access to methadone, the Johnson City Press reports. Tri-Cities Holdings, which operates opiate addiction treatment centers across the Southeast, is seeking to open a methadone clinic in Johnson City. The company attempted to lease property within the city, but the location did not meet zoning requirements. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the suit, reaffirming an earlier ruling and citing that plaintiffs had not identified any harm by the state, the city or the Board of Zoning Appeals.

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Nashville Courthouse Evacuated

A portion of the Justice A.A. Birch Building in downtown Nashville was evacuated yesterday afternoon after a suspicious white powder was discovered. The Nashville Fire Department later deemed the threat “not credible.” The building houses the Metro Nashville courts. News 5 has more.

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Commission Cuts Budget for School's Legal Expenses

Williamson County Commissioners agreed to give the school board $30,000 for outside legal expenses to address a complaint filed by county commissioner Barbara Sturgeon. The board had requested $100,000. Sturgeon filed the complaint against Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney, the school board and one of the school district's attorneys alleging she was unjustly banned from school grounds after she allegedly brought a gun in her purse to a November school board work session. She also faces a felony charge for those actions, The Tennessean reports.

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TBA Board OKs 5 New Sections

TBA members will soon have five new sections to serve them and their practices. Responding to member interest, the TBA Board of Governors this month approved new sections for Communication Law, International Law & Practice, Animal Law, LGBT and Local Government Practice. All TBA sections are self supporting and led by volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a founding member of any of these sections or have an interest in helping lead the development of any of the new sections, you can learn more on TBA.org.

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New City Judge Named for Crossville

The Crossville City Council has appointed local attorney Ivy Gardner as the new city judge, the Crossville Chronicle reports. Gardner, who set up her own law practice in 2013 after graduating as part of the first Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law class, was selected from among nine candidates who had expressed interest in the position. She plans to continue in private practice while also serving as city judge. The council also voted to consider seeking a new city attorney. City manager David Rutherford is accepting resumes from interested attorneys.

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