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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.

Despite having a somewhat compressed schedule due to the President’s day holiday, the legislature picked up steam this week in anticipation of Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address, which will occur in less than two weeks. The TBA's adoption bills, SB208/HB287 and SB207/HB288 both passed the House Judiciary Committee this week, with SB208 also passing in the Senate. The CATALYST bill (SB837/HB1002), which requires every person applying for a driver license or photo identification card to be automatically registered to vote upon the applicant's 18th birthday, will go before the Senate State and Local Government Committee next week. SB719/HB854, which allows a trial court to exercise domestic relations jurisdiction regardless of the nature of the allegations unless and until a pleading is filed or relief is otherwise sought in a juvenile court invoking its exclusive original jurisdiction, will be considered by the full House Judiciary Committee next week.
A new piece in the ABA Journal examines the rise of facial recognition software and addresses the reality that it’s likely here to stay. Prominent examples include the use of facial recognition at Taylor Swift concerts to spot known stalkers of the pop star, plans to add such capabilities to customs inspection areas at Tokyo Narita Airport, as well as numerous uses in retail. Despite advances in the technology, privacy and civil rights groups are concerned that it remains prone to error. A 2018 study, for example, showed a 34 percent error rate in identifying darker-skinned women.
A new video shows Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Howard Greenlee offering to destroy evidence of a former Knoxville Police Department officer’s crime, Knoxnews reports. When confronted months later, Greenlee claimed he was lying to KPD Lt. James Settlemeyer when he made the offer because he wanted to keep the peace between THP and law enforcement in Knoxville. Greenlee remains on the force, having received a written reprimand for his offer to destroy video evidence against former KPD officer Raiques Crump. The Knox County District Attorney General’s office is now being forced to reveal Greenlee’s offer to destroy evidence in the Crump investigation in all cases in which Greenlee is involved, giving defense attorneys the opportunity to use it to attack Greenlee’s credibility on the witness stand.
End Slavery Tennessee announced this week the addition of Marjorie Quin, recognized nationally as an expert in human trafficking policy, laws and enforcement. Quin is the retired Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent In Charge who was responsible for leading state efforts to fight human trafficking. Current CEO Derri Smith will move from the role of CEO to an active role as “Founder” and Quin will step into the CEO position to run day-to-day operations, effective June 1. Smith founded the local effort 10 years ago to raise awareness of human trafficking and provide a comprehensive system of care for local survivors. The agency now cares for over 200 survivors per year, providing intensive case management, housing, mental health therapy, transportation, work experience, basic needs, support groups in a survivor community and other services.
State Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit in which a Wayne County High School student alleged that the lawmaker and school officials violated free speech rights by telling students to wear shirts advertising Byrd’s campaign, The Nashville Post reports. The defendants alleged in a Thursday court filing that the anonymous student was not on the field trip last year. Byrd’s attorneys argued that prior to the student’s “voluntary decision to forego attending the field trip” he was told there was “no requirement whatsoever” that the student wear the t-shirt.
Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael vowed to continue efforts to improve the court while he gave a “State of the Court” address today, The Daily Memphian reports. He congratulated staff for helping to end federal oversight of the court, and touted the hiring of consultants like Melissa Sickmund, who will analyze data and offer feedback on issues related to minority children at the facility, as signs of continuing accountability. 
The Tennessee Bar Association, its Communication Law Section and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters have announced the inaugural Reporters Workshop in Nashville on May 17-18. Twelve print, online, television, and/or 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 topics. Applications are due March 29. For additional information, contact TBA program coordinator Jennifer Vossler.
The Memphis Lawyers’ Chapter of the Federalist Society will host Supreme Court Justices Holly M. Kirby and Roger A. Page for a luncheon program titled “Getting To Yes: The Kind of Issues That Will Get You Permission to Appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court." Lunch will start at 11:30 a.m., with the program to follow at noon on March 7 at the Hu Hotel Ballroom, 79 Madison Ave. RSVP to Greg Grisham, 901-333-2076.

The TBA's legislative update livestreamed this afternoon featured TBA Young Lawyers Division President Christian Barker, who helped explain the TBA YLD's CATALYST program and its accompanying legislation. Watch the livestream here and submit your questions about the TBA's legislative agenda to TBA Public Policy Director Berkley Schwarz.

The Tort, Insurance and Appellate Practice Forum, held on March 21, will offer essential and practical material for tort and insurance attorneys and appellate updates from seasoned practitioners in that arena. The all-day CLE will address the intangibles of litigating against an insurance company and highlight recent updates in medical malpractice law designed to keep you on top of trends and developments in this field. Members of the TBA Tort and Insurance Law and Appellate Practices sections receive discount pricing. Register now.
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.
Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier Jr. has granted Holly Radford, Lexie Holden, Janet Welch and Ashley Judd — all former regional account representatives for Pilot Flying J — probation for their involvement in the Pilot Flying J fraud case, Knoxnews reports. He also ordered all but Holden to perform community service. The women were the final four in the list of 19 former Pilot Flying J executives and support staffers caught cheating customers to face sentencing since federal agents raided the firm’s Knoxville headquarters in April 2013. They cooked the books to hide their bosses' scheme.

An attorney for nurse RaDonda Vaught, charged with reckless homicide after a medication error killed an elderly patient at the hospital two years ago, said that Vanderbilt University Medical Center “bears a large part of the fault," The Tennessean reports. Vaught has admitted she made an error, but her prosecution has infuriated many in the nursing community who believe she is being punished for an honest mistake. Attorney Peter Strianse also partly blamed the death on electronic medication dispensing cabinets that are used at Vanderbilt and common at most hospitals.
Seven former slaughterhouse workers have sued the Trump administration, claiming violation of their civil rights in last year's immigration raid on an East Tennessee meat-packing plant, Knoxnews reports. The lawsuit, filed today in U.S. District Court, names nine agents of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as defendants, saying they cursed, shoved and punched unarmed workers during one of the largest workplace raids in recent history. Agents of ICE and the IRS raided the Southeastern Provision meatpacking plant in Bean Station in April and rounded up 97 undocumented immigrants. No agent asked anyone about their immigration status until after handcuffing them, and at least one worker had legal immigration status but was handcuffed and held for more than two hours, even after he produced his papers, according to the lawsuit.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed legislation this week stripping the subpoena power of police oversight committees, The Daily Memphian reports. The legislation would take subpoena power away from Nashville’s recently-appointed oversight panel, which was set up after an overwhelming public vote, and the Knoxville Police Advisory & Review Committee, which has subpoena authority for civil matters, not criminal cases, and works with its police department.

Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law recently announced the opening of the school’s “Career Closet.” Suits, shoes, and briefcases, all donated by the local legal community, are now available to law students free of charge. This is an effort to address challenges faced by many of the school’s first generation students. For more information, contact Career Service Director Allison Starnes-Anglea.
Gov. Bill Lee announced new members to the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, as well as the appointment of Gif Thornton as chair. The council is responsible for recommending candidates to the governor to fill vacancies for Tennessee’s appellate courts. New members include David McKinney of Memphis, who is currently the Vice President of Government Relations for AutoZone Inc., Jody Pickens of Jackson, who is currently the District Attorney General for the 26th Judicial District, and Charles Tuggle of Memphis, who is currently the General Counsel for First Horizon National Corp. Current members of the council, including George Brown, Sarah K. Campbell, David Golden, Rosemarie Hill, Michelle Long and Cheryl Rice, will continue to serve.
Knoxville attorney Sheryl Leneice Clark Rollins died on Feb. 14 at the age of 69. Rollins earned her law degree from the University of Tennessee School of Law in 1992. She also attended the Institute of International and Comparative Law at Oxford University in Oxford, England, in 1991. She was one of 50 scholars who accepted an invitation to participate in Harvard University’s Symposium on W.E.B. Dubois at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Her life of service included being elected president of the Knoxville Branch of the NAACP, as well as serving as a former member of the Knox County Public Library Board of Trustees, the Knoxville Museum of Art and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. The family will receive friends Friday from 11 a.m. to noon at Overcoming Believers, 211 Harriet Tubman Dr.
Harrison D. McIver III, CEO of Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS), is retiring after leading the organization for more than 20 years. During his tenure, MALS' budget nearly doubled, staff grew to 50, the firm expanded to include partnerships with Methodist Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, and it implemented programs addressing the needs of homeless veterans as well as seniors.
Davidson County attorney Ashley Denise Preston has been reinstated to the practice of law in Tennessee after having been suspended on Oct. 20, 2017. On Feb. 6, a hearing panel reinstated Preston with the conditions that she engage with a practice monitor and a licensed counselor during her two year probation.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has announced the appointment of Gregory Young as deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Environment, The Nashville Post reports. Young was most recently a partner in the Nashville office of Burr & Forman, where he practiced in the real estate and environmental groups. He succeeds Tisha Calabrese Benton, who left to become vice chancellor for communications for the University of Tennessee.
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.
The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering the adoption of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 46A, which would govern the electronic service of papers that are e-filed, and it is seeking comments from the legal community and the public on the proposed rule. The deadline for submitting written comments is March 22. Comments should be e-mailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov or mailed to: James M. Hivner, Clerk, Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219-1407.
The Advisory Task Force on Composition of Judicial Districts has announced four public hearing dates to receive comments from those interested in sharing their thoughts on judicial districts in Tennessee. The hearings will take place on March 4 in Nashville, April 15 in Jackson, May 20 in Harriman and June 12 in Murfreesboro. The Advisory Task Force was created last May and is charged with reporting its recommendations for "a proposed statewide redistricting plan [that provides] reasonable and timely access to Tennessee's circuit, chancery, and criminal courts and shall promote the efficient utilization of publicly funded resources allocated for the courts." Read more here.

A bill requiring Tennessee voters to declare their party affiliation in order to vote in a primary election made its way through its first committee today, The Tennessean reports. The legislation would force voters to choose between being registered as a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated with a statewide party or other in order to cast a primary ballot. If a voter chooses unaffiliated, they would not be able to vote in any primary elections. The bill was met with concerns from Democrats and Republicans, but received key support in the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee. Gov. Bill Lee and former Gov. Bill Haslam both expressed opposition to such a measure in the past.