General

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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CCA Raises Issue Regarding State-Federal Concurrent Sentences

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Camille R. McMullen last week issued an opinion regarding state-federal concurrent sentences. In the opinion, the court sua sponte raised this issue and remanded the case to the trial court:
 
“We are constrained to note that the state judgments in this case show that the Petitioner’s . . . sentences . . . are to be served concurrently with a previously imposed federal sentence . . . .  There are two ways in which the federal sentence may be made concurrent with the state sentence (1) the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) may designate the state prison as the place of confinement for the federal term of imprisonment or (2) the BOP, in its discretion, may accept a state prisoner into federal custody when state officials offer to transfer a prisoner who has not fulfilled the state term of imprisonment.  . . .  [T]here was no testimony at the guilty-plea hearing or the post-conviction hearing as to how the Petitioner settled his federal case, the extent to which there was coordination between federal and state counsel to resolve the matters, or whether the federal court agreed to allow the Petitioner to serve his anticipated state sentence in a federal facility.  While serving a concurrent state and federal sentence is not prohibited by our law, . . . [it] has been roundly criticized by this court for its pitfalls. . . .  Accordingly, we must remand this matter to the post-conviction court for a hearing to determine whether the Petitioner was advised of the consequences of entering a guilty plea based upon the agreement that his state sentence be served concurrently with a prior federal sentence.”  Marty Holland v. State, Tenn. Crim. App. No. W2018-01517-CCA-R3-PC (Mar. 27, 2019).
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Job Fair in Chattanooga Will Offer Assistance to Ex-Felons

The city of Chattanooga and American Job Center Tennessee will host a free job fair this week that aims to give convicted felons a second chance by assisting them with career placement, the Times Free Press reports. Attendees will also learn important skills to aid in their search, such as how to prepare resumes, dress professionally and how to interview effectively. Staff at the fair will also assist with guidance on the expungement process. For more information and to register, call 423-643-6705 or email dmaddox@chattanooga.gov.
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Knox Prosecutors File RICO Charges Against Accused Gang Members

Knox County prosecutors have filed RICO charges against at least 10 men accused of running a cocaine operation through a gang, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. A grand jury delivered the 12-count presentment that maintains the men conspired with the Tree Top Piru Bloods to deliver 26 grams or more of cocaine, with several of the defendants also standing accused of killing a man last year. The case, set for trial Nov. 4 in Knox County Criminal Court, is just the second time the Knox County District Attorney General’s office has used racketeering laws to disrupt gang activity.

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TennCare Block Grant Bill Moving Through House

Legislation that would allow Gov. Bill Lee to negotiate with the federal government to obtain a federal block grant to supplement TennCare sailed through the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee this week, the Tennessean reports. The bills — HB1280/SB1428 — sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, would make Tennessee the first state to adopt such a measure. As submitted, the law calls for a lump-sum payment from the federal government, with Tennessee given autonomy to decide how to best apply the funds. Lee has signaled his support for the block grant concept despite concerns that he would block the measure out of opposition to Medicaid expansion in the state. The legislation has been referred to the Calendar & Rules Committee for review.
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Grundy Co. Sheriff Advocates New Trial for Adam Braseel

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum last week joined others in requesting a new trial for a man serving a life sentence for a 2006 murder, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Adam Braseel was convicted of killing Malcolm Burrows solely on witness testimony even though no physical evidence tied him to the scene of the crime. Attorneys for Braseel maintain that the eyewitnesses mistook him for another man, Kermit Bryson, who not only bears a striking resemblance to Braseel, but his fingerprints were found at the crime scene as well, a fact Sheriff Shrum said led him to press for a new trial. A judge previously threw out Braseel's conviction in 2015, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals overruled that decision and ordered Braseel back to prison.

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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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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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