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TBA Law Blog          

Stay up to date with legal news in Tennessee by following the TBA Law Blog, featuring stories produced by the Tennessee Bar Association or collected from news sources.

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center has laid off all five of its employees, including longtime executive director Brad Watkins, The Daily Memphian reports. The mission of the organization, since its founding in 1982, has been to engage, organize and mobilize the community. The center's work originally was divided among disarmament, Central America, South Africa and local issues. In later years, it focused more on Memphis issues, including training community organizers, advocating for the homeless, fighting for better public bus service and working with youth, particularly those completing court-ordered community service.

Since the organization was created in 2011, Al Bright Jr. has been board chair for the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis & Shelby County. While he is continuing in that role, he has decided to change law firms, moving his corporate law practice to Bass, Berry & Sims, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Bright had previously been with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis and Butler Snow. He will continue serving clients in the pharmaceutical, life sciences, medical device, manufacturing and distribution industries.

Hawkins County students who are caught vaping on school campuses or buses may find themselves standing before a juvenile judge if the Board of Education approves new discipline policy changes recommended this week, the Kingsport Times News reports. The idea is part of the district’s plan to educate students about the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes. Other ideas being considered include making the use of tobacco or vaping products eligible for in-school suspensions and requiring mandatory educational programming from the county sheriff's office.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has announced new subpoenas for local banks as part of an audit of Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s campaign finances, the Daily News Journal reports. The registry is auditing three of Ketron’s campaign accounts: his state senate account, mayoral account and Quest PAC. The decision to issue new subpoenas, they said, came after Ketron’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron, was indicted and charged with more than 70 counts related to insurance fraud at the family insurance company. She also served as her father's campaign treasurer. Indictments allege she pocketed more than $65,000 from political funds, along with forging insurance documents and taking money from clients.

Police Officer Andrew Delke, who is charged with murder after shooting Daniel Hambrick during a foot chase, is asking the Davidson County Criminal Court to grant a change of venue, The Tennessean reports. Delke’s attorney, David Raybin, argues that publicity surrounding the case, along with reports connecting the shooting with protests and racial tension, all but guarantee that Delke will not receive a fair trial in Nashville. Raybin also says prosecutors “poisoned the well” by publicly releasing surveillance video of the shooting. Prosecutors argue the case should proceed where the crime occurred. Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins said he would rule on the request within two weeks.

Smyrna Town Court Clerk Brittany Stevens has settled a $150,000 defamation lawsuit she brought against a Nashville man who lodged a state ethics complaint against her, the Daily News Journal reports. The man bringing the charge also has withdrawn his ethics complaint, acknowledging it was without merit. The complaint accused Stevens of having a conflict of interest by continuing to practice law with her brother, Rutherford County Commissioner Robert Stevens, while serving as clerk. Stevens said she stopped practicing law in February 2016 after being named interim town court clerk. She won a four-year term in August 2016 to remain in the seat.

Knoxville lawyer David Vance “Van” Martin died Monday at the age of 71. Originally from Sale Creek, Martin earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and practiced law in Knoxville for five decades. Two memorial services will be held. The first will take place this Sunday at 4 p.m. EST, with receiving of friends beginning at 3 p.m., at Calvary Baptist Church, 3200 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919. The second service will be held Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. CST, with receiving of friends beginning at 3 p.m., at First Baptist Church Gallatin, 205 East Main St., Gallatin 37066.

Several city bars will hold their annual meetings and elections in December. The Memphis (MBA) and Nashville (NBA) bar associations will hold their events on Dec. 5. The MBA meeting will take place at the Peabody Hotel beginning at 5:30 p.m. The NBA meeting will take place at the Music City Center with a reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner and program at 7 p.m. The Knoxville Bar Association will hold its meeting and breakfast on Dec. 13, beginning at 8 a.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is expanding its initiative to make oral arguments available to the public by beginning this month to videotape hearings in Jackson. In fact, coverage of the Nov. 6 hearing in Jackson is now posted on the court’s website. The court began videotaping and publishing oral arguments for Nashville hearings in October 2018. Read more about the initiative in this press release from the court.

Leadership skills are critical for every lawyer, regardless of career path, position or level of experience. Brought to you by Buck Lewis, Douglas Blaze and Bill Lockett, the TBA Leadership Academy offers an interactive curriculum designed to develop leadership skills, build characteristics of effective leadership and identify strategies to overcome challenges. Join them in Nashville on Dec. 9 and make this investment in your future! Earn up to 5.75 dual CLE hours.

A Hamilton County Criminal Court judge has dismissed petitions intended to halt the execution of the Chattanooga man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend by burning her alive, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Criminal Court Judge Don Poole denied two of three motions filed on behalf of Leroy Hall Jr., saying the defense’s arguments didn't meet the standards of law or precedent. The court will today consider a third motion for post-conviction relief, with attorneys for Hall saying he deserves a new trial because a juror did not disclose that she was a victim of "severe domestic violence, including rape." Today’s hearing is focused on whether the one-year limit on filing a motion for post-conviction relief can be waived on grounds of due process. Hall's execution is scheduled for Dec. 5.

U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla has denied a motion from the city of Memphis to modify a 1978 consent decree that bars political surveillance by the Memphis Police Department. The city argued that the decree keeps police from acting quickly on public safety concerns and threats and prevents them from sharing information with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, Shelby County Schools, the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, the Tennessee Fusion Center and the Multi-Agency Gang Unit. Judge McCalla disagreed with city and in his ruling wrote that changes would “erode the barrier put in place by the Decree.” He added that the decree ensures the city’s surveillance practices “do not cross the line from being a powerful weapon in the fight against crime to becoming an intrusive tool that improperly interferes with its residents’ First Amendment protected activities.” Read more at the Daily Memphian

University of Memphis basketball star James Wiseman has dropped his lawsuit against the NCAA, opting to sit out until a settlement is reached over his eligibility, the Tennessean reports. The NCAA declared Wiseman ineligible to play earlier this month, a decision made after an $11,500 payment was made from Memphis coach Penny Hardaway to Wiseman’s mother. A Nov. 8 lawsuit on Wiseman’s behalf was filed to obtain a temporary restraining order against the NCAA, allowing him to keep playing for Memphis until the next step in the legal process. If a “fair and equitable” decision is not reached, Wiseman could potentially refile the suit.

Former House Speaker Glenn Casada has agreed to a plan to drop assault charges against Nashville activist Justin Jones, the Tennessean reports. Jones, who filed papers to run for Congress earlier this week, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of disorderly conduct in February after allegedly throwing a paper cup of liquid into an elevator Casada was using. According to the agreement, Jones cannot have contact with Casada and another lawmaker involved in the case, he cannot enter the Cordell Hull legislative office building and he must “conduct himself as a good and lawful citizen.” The original terms of the agreement were modified to now allow Jones to enter the State Capitol. The case will be placed on a retirement docket until April 22, 2020, and charges will be dropped at that time if Jones abides by the agreement.

Raymond Santana, a member of the “Exonerated Five”, formerly known as the “Central Park Five”, will speak to an audience at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis on Nov. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event titled “Community Conversations: Criminal Justice Lessons Learned from the Exonerated Five” will feature a screening of Netflix’s four-part miniseries “When They See Us,” which tells the story of Santana and four other men who, when they were teenagers, were convicted of the 1989 rape of a woman jogging in Central Park. All five men were later exonerated. Santana will take part in a panel discussion after the screening. The event is sponsored by the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office, the National Civil Rights Museum, Mississippi Boulevard and Just City. Read more on the program at the Daily Memphian.

An item about the upcoming Nashville Bar Association Memorial Service had an incorrect ordering of events. The services begin at 11 a.m. on Nov. 21 at the Downtown Presbyterian Church, with lunch to follow.

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the felony theft conviction of the defendant, Denton Jones, who had sought relief because the state had aggregated five separate misdemeanor thefts into one felony count. The court held that the state properly exercised its prosecutorial discretion in aggregating in the indictment, according to the applicable aggregation of theft statute.

Lewis County Judge Mike Spitzer has announced he is running to finish out the remainder of the current term, which ends in 2022, the Tennessean reports. He will compete in the Republican primary, which will coincide with the Super Tuesday presidential primary on March 3, 2020. Spitzer was appointed to the newly created post by former Gov. Bill Haslam. The district includes Williamson, Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties. A campaign kickoff event will be held Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant in Franklin.

The Nashville Bar Association will hold its Fall Memorial Service on Nov. 21 at the Downtown Presbyterian Church. Activities begins with a luncheon at 11 a.m. followed by the service in the Fellowship Hall. Those who died in the past six months will be honored: John Charles McCauley, Samuel Wilson Bartholomew Jr., David Williams II, Vaden Major Lackey Jr., John A. Spann III, Douglas Murrey Fisher, Rudolph Buford Parker Jr., James Orin Bass, Patricia Eaves McAnally, David Lamar Maddox, William Emory Weems II and Christopher M. Keyes.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is advising legislators that expelling a lawmaker for conduct that took place before entering office is inadvisable but also not prohibited, the Tennessean reports. The opinion comes in response to a House request on whether lawmakers could expel Rep. David Byrd from office over decades-old sexual assault allegations. "Historical practice, sound policy considerations, and constitutional restraints counsel against, but do not absolutely prohibit, the exercise of the legislature’s expulsion power to oust a member for conduct that occurred before he was elected and that was known to the member’s constituents when they elected him," Slatery wrote in the opinion issued Tuesday.

The TBA's Immigration Law Fall Forum on Nov. 22 will include some of the most relevant topics in today’s constantly changing immigration landscape. Presented by experienced leaders and judges in the field, the three-hour program will focus on how to get information from the government, how to litigate in immigration court, and how to litigate immigration issues in federal court. Sessions begin at 12:30 p.m. CST at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville.

Chattanooga attorney Marcy Eason and Chattanooga Bar Association Executive Director Lynda Minks Hood will join historian Linda Moss Mines in leading the city and county’s Yellow Rose Centennial Committee, which will work to educate and engage people on the history of the 19th Amendment that granted voting rights to women. The Hamilton County Herald’s story on their appointment also lays out some of the activities planned in Chattanooga in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the amendment’s passage, and details the roles of Chattanooga suffragettes in the battle for ratification.

The legal community and friends are invited to help recognize the Hon. J. Randall Wyatt at a portrait unveiling Thursday at 2 p.m. in the Justice A.A. Birch Building’s Courtroom 6B in Nashville. Judge Wyatt served for 43 years in Criminal Court, Division II, before retiring in 2017. “More than any judge I know, Randall Wyatt has been the rare combination of legal excellence and sensitivity to the rights of all people while on the bench,” former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Ed Yarbrough said at the judge's retirement. “His long, distinguished career establishes a wonderful example for other jurists to follow.”

Tennessee lawyers today received a survey from the Tennessee Bar Association requesting they take part in a short survey regarding their practices. Information from the survey will be used in an effort to help eliminate the state Professional Privilege Tax. That effort has also been joined by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) and other organizations, who today joined the TBA in sending a letter to Gov. Lee and legislators. If you did not receive a link to the survey, you can access the survey here.

The Tennessee Bar Association has launched a new online store where you can purchase TBA-branded items for your favorite lawyer or for yourself. The new site offers shirts, bags, mugs, caps and lots more items, all with either the TBA’s new logo or the TBA YLD logo. Check it out now!