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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.

James Ellis Ward, a Hamilton County attorney, has been reinstated from inactive status as of April 18. Ward was first placed on inactive status on March 1, 2004, and filed a petition for reinstatement on April 3 this year. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that he had met all requirements of reinstatement.
Nashville’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran, said yesterday that law enforcement is not done criminally investigating medical professionals who overprescribe opioids, The Tennessean reports. Cochran said he believes that while most doctors are well-intentioned prescribers, there are some who are little more than “drug dealers.” Thirty-two defendants have already been charged in the state of Tennessee, including nine in the Middle Tennessee jurisdiction.
A Jackson doctor accused of prescribing opioids that resulted in a pregnant patient's death was temporarily released yesterday with no bond after he reported he was not given an opportunity to make a phone call to hire an attorney, The Jackson Sun reports. Thomas Kelly Ballard of the Ballard Clinic Family Practice faces multiple federal drug trafficking charges, including several that accuse him of using his power to prescribe opioids to convince female patients to perform sexual favors. Ballard is accused of prescribing 4.7 million pills during an estimated three-year period. 

The University of Tennessee recently awarded the College of Law’s Law Women student organization with its 2019 Charles R. Burchett Citation for Extraordinary Contributions to Campus Life. The group was chosen for its commitment to community engagement, diversity and volunteerism. The organization hosted a number of activities including a student-faculty mixer, a leadership lunch, a career development panel discussion, and even a self-defense class. Members were highlighted through social media spotlights, and law students were paired with faculty for mentoring sessions. Additionally, the members of Law Women provided nearly 4,000 pro bono hours of legal aid for people across the state.
Looking for CLE and fast? The TBA is hosting its annual Spring CLE Blast on May 7, offering programs from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m at the Tennessee Bar Center. You can create your own schedule; take as many or as few hours as you need. Earn up to 11 hours of dual CLE credit.
Gov. Bill Lee's signature education savings account proposal could be pared back to just Davidson and Shelby counties when it goes back before the Senate next week, The Tennessean reports. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said that the controversial measure — which would provide money for parents to take their children out of public schools and allow them to spend the funds on private school or other education-related expenses — could be headed to a conference committee. Lawmakers use conference committees to settle disagreements between the House and Senate. The same version of each bill must be approved by both chambers before a measure can head to Lee's desk. 
This week the pace of the legislative session accelerated to lightning speed after the House initiated the much anticipated, and equally dreaded, “flow motion” on the floor, a move that suspends the parliamentary rules that the legislature typically observes during session. Bills are moving from committee to the floor on the same day. Now that the vast majority of committees are closed, the legislature will transition into passing the annual budget and tying up loose ends on major policy initiatives with hefty price tags. Only the Senate Judiciary Committee and Finance, Ways and Means Committees remain open. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland announced plans for the House to take up the state’s $38 billion budget next week, with the goal of tying up all loose ends the following week.
By order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered Thursday, the law license of Shelby County attorney J. Lester Crain was transferred to disability inactive status pursuant to Section 27.3 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Crain cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed, and he is fit to resume the practice of law.
The Criminal Law Basics Forum has moved to a new date! This annual favorite features the intangibles for criminal law practitioners, including timely updates on both a state and federal level. It 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 on May 22 in Nashville.
The Access to Justice Commission recently held the 2019 Pro Bono Summit in Nashville, bringing together lawyers, judges, and other experts around the common cause of extending civil legal aid to as many Tennesseans as possible. “We estimate that at any given time at least 1.3 million people in Tennessee are either at or are just above the poverty line, but have a civil legal issue that needs attention,” said Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark, who spoke at the event about the need for access to justice in the state. She pointed out that the state’s primary legal aid organizations, which are dedicated to providing civil legal support, together employ only about 90 attorneys.
Shelby County lawyer Joyce Diane Bradley today received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. On Aug. 22, Bradley’s license to practice law was suspended for CLE noncompliance.  Notwithstanding the administrative suspension, Bradley continued to practice law thereafter by appearing in court and discussing clients’ cases with other attorneys. Bradley is in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and was censured for this violation.
A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University’s schools of Law, Medicine and Management and Vanderbilt Health has received a five-year research grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the Department of Health and Human Services. The money will go to develop and test “safe harbor” standards of care based on scientific evidence. A goal of the project is to reduce the number of unnecessary medical procedures performed primarily to reduce legal liability, a practice known as “defensive medicine.” 

The House and Senate will vote on a bill on Thursday that would double the campaign contribution limits for members of the upper chamber, The Tennessean reports. The legislation seeks to align members of the Senate, who serve four-year terms, to the contribution limits for House lawmakers, who face election every two years. under the bill, for each primary and general election senators could receive a maximum of: $2,200 from a single person, $24,600 from an individual political action committee and an aggregate total of $245,800 from all political action committees.

The University of Tennessee College of Law has shared a recent report from the American Bar Association showing that 93% of 2018 graduates were employed 10 months after graduation. Of those, 89% are employed in bar passage required jobs or J.D.-advantage jobs. At the time of graduation in 2018, 61% of students were employed – the highest percentage in at least five years and a rate that is 30% higher than employment levels of 2014.
A bill placing restrictions on civilian police oversight boards around the state has passed both legislative chambers and is now headed to the governor's desk, The Tennessean reports. The rewritten legislation, recently crafted via a compromise in committee, now permits a community oversight board to seek a subpoena during an investigation into alleged police misconduct by doing so through the local city council, which has the authority under state law to issue subpoenas. It requires that a municipality's local legislative body approve the subpoena request by a majority vote, and that the request detail the specific documents and individuals being compelled. A council is not permitted to give "blanket authorization" for subpoenas, according to the bill.
A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses three nurse practitioners from PainMD, a Tennessee pain management company with clinics in three states, of pressuring patients into worthless injections purely to pad profits, The Tennessean reports. PainMD leaders have insisted the company has done nothing wrong and filed lawsuits against those who have spoken out against it. The nurse practitioners — Brian Richey of Cookeville; Jonathan White of Tullahoma; and Daniel Seeley of Batesville, Mississippi — are charged with three counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
This week's TBA Video Legislative Update finds Public Policy Director Berkley Schwarz and Communications Coordinator Katharine Heriges back in the studio with big news - two TBA-backed bills were signed by Gov. Bill Lee today, and one more is waiting on the governor's desk for his signature. Hear more about TBA's legislation, as well as what's in store for the legislative panel CLE at the TBA Convention — all in this week's Facebook live video. Catch up on previous videos from this session on the TBA Facebook page and the TBA's YouTube channel.
National Football League executive and Vanderbilt Board of Trust secretary Adolpho A. Birch III will visit the Vanderbilt campus for a suite of lectures and activities on April 23-24. In the days leading up to the NFL draft, taking place in Nashville April 25-27, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos will host Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs, for a variety of discussions and panels on issues related to sports, law and society.
The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has issued the newest Judicial Weighted Caseload Study and found that state has an estimated net deficit of 6.51 full-time equivalent judges. In the previous year, there was a deficit of 9.76 judges across the state and four judicial positions were added in 2018 as a result. Judicial districts 19 (Montgomery and Robertson counties), 22 (Giles, Lawrence, Maury, and Wayne counties), and 23 (Cheatham, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, and Stewart counties) showed the highest demand for additional judicial resources. Read more here.
The TBA's Labor and Employment Forum provides timely, specialized and practical information on a range of labor and employment law topics. The CLE sessions will focus on mediation and employment cases, accommodations in the modern era, case law updates, a judicial panel and a unique, interactive ethics session focused on attorney well-being and the power of laughter. Earn up to 5.5 General hours and 1 Ethics hour.
On April 16, Davidson County lawyer Travis Waymon Tipton was reinstated to the practice of law in Tennessee. Tipton was temporarily suspended on July 2, 2018 due to his failure to substantially comply with a Tennessee Lawyer’s Assistance Program (“TLAP”) monitoring agreement. After the initiation of formal proceedings by the Board of Professional Responsibility, Tipton resumed compliance and reinstatement is appropriate.
On April 16, Shelby County lawyer Lewis K. Garrison was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court. A petition for discipline was filed against Garrison on June 20, 2017. Garrison represented a client in a personal injury claim arising from an automobile accident. He provided financial assistance to his client by paying the deposit so that the client might obtain a rental car and by advancing money to the client from a settlement with which to pay the client’s rent. Garrison had been disciplined on four prior occasions for improperly providing financial assistance to clients. A hearing panel found that Garrison had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and recommended that he be publicly censured.   
Deciding what to make for dinner after a long and exhausting day adds additional stress right when you don’t need it. Consider taking one hour to think through 10- 15 meals that everyone in your family will eat, that are easy and quick to make, and rotate them. Keep one ingredient list so you already have a reusable shopping list. Likewise, plan several easy breakfasts and lunch options (including kids' packed lunches for school) and keep the things you need on hand. Not having to expend energy on what to prepare for dinner, and wondering whether you have the ingredients, makes it easier and quicker to unwind once you get home. Save the pizza, take-out, or eating out for a fun treat, not something you resort to due to exhaustion.
Birmingham-based personal injury law firm Cory Watson Attorneys has announced its second office will be based in Nashville, the Nashville Post reports. Cory Watson Attorneys is home to 25 attorneys and 96 staffers. The new office will be located in Nashville's Gulch neighborhood, at 1033 Demonbreun St., Suite 300.
The Trial Court Vacancy Commission will consider four candidates when it meets on May 21 in Cookeville to select nominees for the criminal court judge vacancy in the 13th Judicial District, which covers Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam and White counties. This vacancy was created by the upcoming retirement of the Honorable David A. Patterson, who will end his service effective June 30. The applicants are Rebecca Brady, Wesley Thomas Bray, J. Michael Shipman and Jeffrey A. Vires. The Trial Court Vacancy Commission will interview the applicants on May 21 at Tennessee Technological University, Whitson-Hester School of Nursing – Bell Hall, 10 W. 7th Street, Cookeville. The meeting will include a public hearing starting at 9 a.m. CDT, during which anyone may express their opinions in opposition to the applicants. The commission is expected to vote immediately following the interviews and forward three names to Gov. Bill Lee for his consideration.