News

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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Last Chance: General-Solo FastTrack 2019

Don't miss your last chance to participate in the TBA General-Solo & Small Firm Practitioners Section's annual FastTrack summer program, which will be held this Friday in Knoxville.
 
This is a 15-hour CLE opportunity, featuring diverse topics designed to be relevant to a wide range of practice areas. Cruise by to receive seven hours of live credit at the forum, then enjoy eight prepaid CLE credits to use for any online or live programming. You can learn more and register using the link below:

FastTrack in Knoxville, Aug.23

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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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Hamilton Judge Clarence Shattuck to Retire After 36 Years On Bench

Hamilton County General Session Court Judge Clarence Shattuck announced today that he is retiring after 36 years on the bench, The Chattanoogan reports. His resignation is effective April 1. "I am honored and appreciate the opportunity the commission gave me over 36 years ago, and the citizens who have elected me on five occasions since. I have loved my job and have looked forward to coming to work every day and have tried to do my best for Hamilton County and its citizens," Shattuck said. It will be up to the Hamilton County Commission to name his replacement.
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Court of Appeals Hears Case on Removal of Confederate Statutes in Memphis

The Tennessee Court of Appeals today heard arguments over the removal of Confederate statues from former Memphis city parks, the Daily Memphian reports. The three-judge panel will likely issue a ruling in two to three months to decide whether the city acted legally by selling parks to the nonprofit Memphis Greenspace Inc., which removed monuments depicting Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis and Capt. J. Harvey Mathes on Dec. 20, 2017. The panel also will decide the outcome of an injunction the trial court declined to grant preventing Greenspace from selling the statues but then allowed to stay in place until the appeal is done.
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Labor & Employment Forum – May 3

This program provides timely, specialized and practical information on a range of labor and employment law topics. Presented by esteemed leaders in the field, the CLE sessions will focus on mediation and employment cases, accommodations in the modern era, case law updates, and a unique, interactive ethics session focused on attorney well-being and the power of laughter. Finally, this program will include a judicial panel giving practitioners unique insight into the best presentation techniques for employment cases in federal court. This is the most in-depth employment-focused CLE in the state. Review the agenda, read the session descriptions and register to attend by clicking here.
 
When: Friday, May 3. Registration starts at 8 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
CLE Credits: 1 Dual, 5.5 Gen.
 
The program will feature presentations by Hon. Waverly Crenshaw Jr.Hon. Jon McCallaHon. Travis McDonoughJohn Bode of Miller & Martin PLLC, Celeste Bradley of Impark, Heather Collins of Collins & Hunter PLLC, Edmond Sims and Deborah Walker of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Stan Graham of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Dan Norwood of Working Boomer Advocate, Debra Norwood of LaughterLawyerUSA and Michael Russell of Russell Dispute Resolution, PLLC.
 
Produced by Donna Mikel of Burnette, Dobson & Pinchak.

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Memphis Anti-Blight Lawsuits List Addresses as Defendants

Some of the defendants in a new batch of anti-blight lawsuits filed by the City of Memphis Thursday are the addresses of the properties, The Daily Memphian reports. The University of Memphis Law School Neighborhood Preservation Clinic filed 29 lawsuits with the General Sessions Court Clerk’s office on behalf of the city. Since many of the lots are vacant, the owners of the property are not the defendants — "we are literally suing the property," said Daniel Schaffzin, co-director of the clinic. That allows a receiver to be appointed for the property while the sometimes arduous process of finding the owner is undertaken.
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SCOTUS Rules Ban on Excessive Fines Applies to State, Local Governments

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, thus limiting their ability to use fines to raise revenue, NPR reports. The court's opinion came in the case of Tyson Timbs, whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized by the state of Indiana after he was arrested for selling a small amount of heroin to undercover agents for $400. The court's decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was announced by her on her second day back on the court following surgery late last year.
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TBA Local Government Forum 2019

The TBA Local Government Forum 2019 will take place at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville on April 11. This forum remains the preeminent event for Tennessee municipality leaders, offering updates and timely topics affecting this practice area which has a unique blend of constitutional, statutory, and case law. The program will address the intangibles, with topics such as ABC laws, government employment law, legal ethics in a government setting and more. A networking event at the new Tennessee State Museum will follow the program. Here are the key details:
 
When: Thursday, April 11, Registration begins at 8 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N, Nashville
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General Assembly Will Consider Changes to Open Record Laws

The General Assembly will consider legislation seeking to limit certain government record requests, despite pushback from open government advocates, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. One such bill — HB0335/SB0386, Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg — requires recordings of any emergency communications only be used for "public safety purposes and as necessary for law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue, dispatching, or other emergency services," a move Tillis contends will protect callers from news organizations using them in reporting, but detractors argue might obscure problems with investigations and limit government official accountability. Another bill — HB1107/ SB1346, Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville — builds on this, prohibiting personally identifying information including names and contact information from entering public record in motor vehicle accident reports. When asked about the measures, Senate chairman of the joint committee on open records Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga said: "We're trying to streamline the process and make it a more open dialogue on these exemptions to open record laws and (will) have a process of review after five years on any new ones that come along."

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Lawmakers and Advocates Push Back on Tennessee's Ban of Sanctuary Cities

Tennessee lawmakers and refugee rights proponents intend to advance legislation that will protect local governments over a state law prohibiting sanctuary cities, The Tennessean reports. Existing measures require local law enforcement officials conform to U.S. immigration policy or lose state economic development funds because of noncompliance. Bills introduced this year — SB507/HB558 and SB931/HB1110 — take aim at the law, requiring the state to reimburse localities for incurred expenses regarding compliance, and allow local police departments to take statements from victims and witnesses of crimes without asking their immigration status respectively.

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Chattanooga Man Sues City, Police Over Mistaken Arrest

A Chattanooga man who was arrested erroneously while starting on a family vacation has filed suit for $27 million, The Chattanoogan reports. George Harrison is suing the city for $5 million and Chattanooga Police officers Kaumar Hughes and Mathew Lynch for $1 million each in federal court. He is asking $20 million punitive damages in the complaint filed by attorney Clayton Whittaker. Harrison was taken into custody as he was attempting to board a plane to Iceland with his family. Harrison was mistakenly identified by a woman who said she was assaulted by her boyfriend.
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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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Why All Apartment Buildings in America Look the Same

Wood-framed balloon structures have become a ubiquitous part of our cityscapes, seemingly popping up overnight and changing the face of urban and suburban areas across America. No matter where you are, the buildings are ostensibly homogenous — blocky, colorful and three to seven stories tall. Bloomberg News examines the rise and controversy surrounding these ’stick framed’ structures, including why some municipalities seek to curb construction of the buildings in densely populated areas altogether.

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Local Government Forum on March 28

Government law is an ever-changing practice area with a unique blend of constitutional, statutory and case laws. The 2019 Local Government Forum will address intangibles of the practice area, along with topics such as ABC laws, government employment law, legal ethics in a government setting and more. A networking event will follow the program. Earn five hours of general CLE and one hour of dual.
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