Legislation Affecting General, Solo & Small Firm Practitioners

As the legislative session progresses, many bills of interest to general, solo and small firm practitioners are on the move. Here is a list of notable legislation which has the potential to affect your practice area:
Creates a registry of tenants evicted through writs of possession. Directs the housing development agency to create a registry of tenants who have been evicted through the execution of a writ of possession, which will be accessible to landlords in this state.

Requirement of notice from the delinquent tax attorney relative to property tax. Requires the delinquent tax attorney to pose a copy of the proceeding and send a copy by first-class mail addressed to “occupant” at the last known municipal address of the parcel. Declares that all notices to all owners and interested parties must be detailed by the delinquent tax attorney.

Consumer protection - claims related to medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Prohibits failure to disclose at the beginning of any legal advertisement or display in a conspicuous location that the advertisement is paid advertisement for legal services, presentation of legal advertisements as a "medical alert," "public service announcement," or other similar language, display of federal logos, use the word "recall" to refer to a product that has not been recalled, failure to identify the person, attorney or law firm responsible for the advertisement. Requires legal advertisements soliciting clients alleging injury from an approved prescription drug cleared by the food and drug administration to include warnings and disclose that the drug or medical device remains approved by the United States food and drug administration. Prohibits transfer of protected health information for the purpose of soliciting legal services without authorization. Creates penalties for violations, authorizes enforcement by the attorney general.

Makes various changes to civil forfeiture procedure. Declares that in event of a seizure by an officer, the district attorney general must review the event to determine if it was justified and upon a motion to dismiss, and upon dismissal, the court shall dismiss the application without convening a forfeiture warrant hearing. Defines what to do with seized property in the event of a dismissal.

Rights of survivorship. Allows creation of a joint tenancy with right of survivorship and requires any share of a descended tenant to go to the surviving one. Orders that a joint tenancy with right of survivorship cannot be destroyed unilaterally under the common law doctrine of severance by the action of any of the joint tenants conveying their interest to a third party.

Requires landlords provide email addresses. Requires a landlord to provide certain local governmental agencies responsible for enforcing building codes the landlord's email address, in addition to name, telephone number, and physical address.

Notice landlord regarding change of tenant's email address. Requires a tenant to notify the landlord within ten days of a change of email address.

Addresses tenant and landlord email notification. Allows a tenant to rescind the use of an email address provided in the rental agreement by written notice to the landlord. Broadly captioned.
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Lawyer for Nashville Police Officer Delke Questions DA's Handling of Evidence

The lawyer for Nashville police officer Andrew Delke, who was charged with first-degree murder after shooting Daniel Hambrick during a foot chase, filed a document on Thursday accusing District Attorney Glenn Funk of flip-flopping when considering the seal of evidence in the case, The Tennessean reports. Attorney David Raybin filed the reply to the state’s position regarding discovery, questioning Funke’s stance that evidence in the case be made public before the trial, highlighting his office’s position on the recent rape case against Vanderbilt football players where the state attorney general submitted a brief to seal the evidence until the case was adjudicated. "Now the very thing District Attorney Funk recently contended would 'present a serious threat to a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial' in another case is being touted by the same district attorney general as 'required to ensure the citizens of Davidson County are confident that the judicial process is fair and that all persons are treated equally,” Raybin wrote in the filing. "It is unclear why the state believes the right to a fair trial outweighs pretrial transparency in a case against violent sexual predators but not in a case against a Nashville police officer.” A spokesman for the prosecutor's office told the paper "The district attorney's office will respond to Mr. Raybin's filing in open court on Tuesday."

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Proposed Rule Requires Additional Support for Ethics Complaints Against Elected Officials

A new policy proposed by Rep. Mathew Hill, R-Jonesborough, would require lawmakers to take an additional step when filing an ethical complaint, NPR reports. The prospective rule change makes it necessary to obtain signatures from at least two representatives — one with firsthand knowledge or evidence of the alleged violation — in order to file a complaint against another elected official. "If there’s not corroboration, if there’s not evidence that is presented, then we are working off hearsay, we are working off gossip," Hill said in a House meeting last Thursday. The rule, according to Hill, is modeled on a biblical requirement that allegations must be corroborated. 

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Lawmakers Intend to Address Juvenile Sentencing Reform

The recent decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown has lawmakers discussing Tennessee’s treatment of juvenile defendants and sentencing reform, The Commercial Appeal reports. Currently, juveniles in the state convicted of first-degree murder must serve a mandatory 51 years behind bars, the same as their adult counterparts. This is in stark contrast to many states which have reduced sentencing for adolescents on similar charges, with almost half doing away with life sentences for juvenile offenders altogether. A bill supported by Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), would give juveniles sentenced to life in prison a chance at parole after serving 20 years, and require the parole board to consider youth as a factor when making its decision. The measure, as proposed, would not affect those already sentenced. 

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Rutherford Store Owners Allege Discrimination in 'Operation Candy Crush'

Store owners raided and shuttered by Rutherford County law enforcement during "Operation Candy Crush" for selling CBD oil are alleging that they may have been targeted because of their race, The Daily News Journal reports. An amendment to the complaint initially filed in October says that 12 of 17 of those arrested are of Egyptian descent and that several surrounding stores sold the same CBD products but remained open and that those owners were not charged with crimes. According to the complaint, Assistant District Attorney John Zimmerman is alleged to have told an attorney for one of the CBD suppliers that "all the people selling CBD in Rutherford County are 'foreigners.'" The paper reports that the case is set on District Judge Aleta A. Trauger’s Jan. 7 docket at 1:45 p.m. 

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General Solo Fall FastTrack 2018

The Tennessee Bar Association’s General, Solo & Small Firm Practitioners Section recently held its Fall FastTrack Program, packing the house at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Attendees enjoyed presentations on law firm tech for solos and small firms, appellate and juvenile court best practices, civics and Chief Justice Jeff Bivins rolling out his ideas on sentencing reform. The TBA would like to thank the program’s producers, General–Solo Section Chair Jane Powers, Immediate Past Chair Jim Romer and the executive council for their hard work in putting this program together. Stay tuned for more exciting events from this section.

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Tennessean: No People of Color in Tennessee's Top Congressional Staff Positions

Tennessee congressional staffs are among the lowest in the the country in their diversity, The Tennessean reports. According to a study released last week by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, those who serve as full committee staff directors, personal office chiefs of staff, legislative directors and communications directors of Tennessee's U.S. House and U.S. Senate members, were all white. About 25 percent of Tennesseans identify as being persons of color.

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Attorney Testifies to Extortion in Trial of Hamilton County Commissioner

A witness in the trial of Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd told a jury on Wednesday that he received a call from an attorney who said that Boyd had damaging information about East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert which would be released if Lambert did not "pull his papers" when running against Boyd, The Chattanoogan reports. Attorney Allen McCallie said the call was from Mike Mallen — his former law partner — regarding a special meeting called by Lambert to ask the East Ridge City Council to approve a deal with Exit One developers. District Attorney Neal Pinkston told the jury the call and follow-up conversations that Lambert secretly recorded went beyond free speech, amounting to extortion, the paper reported.

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Zagorski Petitions U.S. Supreme Court, 6th Circuit for Stay of Execution

Lawyers for Edmund Zagorski on Wednesday filed a Writ of Certiorari and an Application for Stay of Execution with the U.S. Supreme Court asserting errors made at his trial and maintaining that he was required to choose between two torturous execution methods, The Tennessean reports. Zagorski’s execution was previously delayed after he selected the electric chair for his execution method so that prison staff could ready the device. The Supreme Court has already declined to intervene in the case earlier this month. A separate challenge with the 6th Circuit also focused on his attorneys' objections to the electric chair, the method Zagorski chose for his execution. It was denied Wednesday night. Zagorski's attorneys said Wednesday they would also appeal the electric chair challenge to the high court. The maker of the device has recently expressed concern, saying the chair may not work properly.

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THEC Denies MTSU Acquisition of Valparaiso University School of Law

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) decided to deny MTSU's acquisition of Valparaiso University School of Law in an eight to five vote last week, The Daily News Journal reports. THEC had a consultant conduct an independent study regarding issues surrounding the law school transfer, with results citing competition the transfer would create among existing schools in Tennessee. Attorney Evan Cope, who serves as chairman of the THEC, commented on the decision saying, “I can’t speak for the other members of the commission, but my sense is there was genuine concern about the labor supply and demand for lawyers, and that concern was legitimate."

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