Attorneys representing Gov. Bill Haslam and various state agencies are appealing a recent federal ruling that found the state unlawfully arrested members of the Occupy Nashville group. reports the Tennessean. According to a notice of appeal filed late last week, the state objects to U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger siding with the Occupy Nashville plaintiffs.
Trauger wrote that the state “cannot make law by fiat” and that the protesters’ First Amendment rights were violated when they were arrested. The appeal, which will be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, will be spelled out in detail in about a month, when the appeal’s legal brief is filed, according to attorney Dawn Jordan, who is representing the state.
Last month, Trauger wrote that state and local agencies made a series of mistakes in the way they handled the Occupy Nashville protesters in the fall of 2011. State officials have held that the Occupy encampment on War Memorial Plaza was a public safety concern, pointing to mounting trash and reports of fights and lewd behavior.
By the time George Cogswell, president and publisher of The Commercial Appeal, finished announcing that Louis Graham would become the newspaper’s new editor, many employees began standing and cheering, according to the CA’s report on the naming of the new boss. Cogswell moments earlier Monday referred to “the campaign” by many inside and outside the newsroom to persuade him and the newspaper’s corporate parent, Scripps Howard, to make Graham, 56, the successor to Chris Peck, who retired March 17 after more than 10 years leading the newsroom.
Graham, managing editor since 2011 and interim editor since Peck’s departure, was one of three finalists who interviewed last month. Cogswell quoted such words and phrases sent to him about Graham as “leadership” and “compassion” and “integrity” and “best boss I’ve ever had.”
“I have found him to be of the highest integrity and someone who truly cares about Memphis,” Cogswell said. “His 33 years at The Commercial Appeal will serve our readers incredibly well and will provide our newsroom with the leadership necessary to leap forward with our digital content platforms.”
LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (AP) — A former Democratic candidate for the state House has filed notice that he will appeal the dismissal of his libel lawsuit against state Sen. Stacey Campfield.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, blogged before the 2008 election that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.
Circuit Judge John McAfee, a Republican, last month found that Campfield had gotten it wrong on his blog, but he agreed with defense attorneys that the lawmaker did not know the information provided by House Republican leadership was false when he posted it.
The elder Byrge lost his House bid by fewer than 400 votes and later filed the $750,000 lawsuit in Campbell County.
The National Archives and Records Administration has released 785 pages of documents related to Ernest Withers, a photographer and free lance newsman acting as an FBI informant on activities of Dr. Martin Luther King as part of a legal settlement between the FBI and The Commercial Appeal, which filed a lawsuit seeking the information.
The CA has a report on what’s said in the documents in Sunday’s newspaper that begins as follows: James Bevel flashed a wide smile, looking more like a guest at a cocktail party than a suspected subversive whose picture was about to land in an FBI file.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s head of “direct action,” Bevel was in Memphis on this March 1968 afternoon to help organize a massive demonstration King planned. And when news photographer Ernest Withers began shooting pictures, as he routinely did at civil rights meetings throughout the South, Bevel grinned without a hint of concern.
Yet, unknown to Bevel and others at this gathering at LeMoyne-Owen College, Withers, a paid FBI informant, passed photos he snapped that day to an FBI agent, along with details he overheard. His report fueled deepening skepticism within an already hostile FBI as to whether King intended to keep his movement nonviolent.
“He (Bevel) gave a most virulent black power talk,” agent William H. Lawrence wrote after debriefing Withers. Reportedly saying whites will use economic pressure to “attempt to exterminate the Negroes in the United States in some form of genocide,” Bevel encouraged the group to read the black separatist newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, and “come into the black power movement.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The editor of The Commercial Appeal is retiring after 11 years in the paper’s top position.
Chris Peck notified the staff Thursday afternoon.
Scripps newspapers Vice President of Content, Mizell Stewart told The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/XMfhVc) managing editor Louis Graham will serve as interim editor. He said a national search for Peck’s replacement — both in and out of Scripps — will take place immediately aiming to hire a replacement within 90 days. Scripps is the parent company of the publication.
The paper hired Peck, 62, in 2002 to replace the retiring Angus McEachran.
Peck is a past president of the Associated Press Managing Editors and the current secretary of the American Society of News Editors.
Stewart said Peck would continue to contribute to the paper’s editorial pages
Just before the anniversary of one of Knoxville’s most horrific crimes, the judge who threw the case into legal chaos is now appealing the state’s move to rescind his pension, reports The News Sentinel. “It burns me up, especially this coming upon the anniversary” of the Jan. 7, 2007, torture-slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23, said state Sena. Randy McNally, a Republican whose district includes parts of Knox County as well as Anderson, Loudon and Monroe counties.
Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner lost his pension after a jury in U.S. District Court convicted him in October of felony charges of misprision of a felony for his role in covering up a prescription painkiller conspiracy of which his mistress was a part.
His pension had been spared when, in March 2011, he pleaded guilty to a state charge of official misconduct for buying pills from a felon on probation in his court. He was granted a diversionary sentence that kept the charge off his record.
The entire case against him stemmed from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe that showed Baumgartner had been committing a slew of crimes, including doctor shopping and using a graduate of the Drug Court program he helped found as his mistress and pill supplier, while presiding over trials including those of the four defendants in the Christian/Newsom case.
Revelations of those allegations and additional ones unearthed by a News Sentinel probe ultimately led to the granting of new trials for those four defendants. One, Vanessa Coleman, has already been retried. A judge is set to decide later this month if the remaining three suspects should be afforded new trials.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Two men seeking to stop public prayer before Hamilton County Commission meetings have filed an appeal of a federal judge’s refusal to issue a temporary injunction.
Attorney Robin Flores told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/TsT5NG ) he filed the appeal Monday on behalf of his clients, Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones.
The filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals came after U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice declined in August to issue a restraining order. Mattice said it was too soon to determine whether new prayer rules adopted by commissioners were inclusive of faiths besides Christianity.
County legal counsel Steve Duggins and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said Tuesday they couldn’t comment because they had not yet read the appeal brief.
Coleman and Jones filed suit in June.
The Commercial Appeal will not be forced to release comments and identifying information about those who commented on stories related to the public controversies over the reorganization of Shelby County’s public schools, the newspaper reports. U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays issued a ruling Thursday night rejecting the Shelby County Commission’s motion to compel The Commercial Appeal to release that information. The commission’s lawyers from the firm Baker Donelson had filed a motion last week asking the judge to force The Commercial Appeal to comply with a July subpoena request asking for the identities of all online commenters to 45 stories that ran between Nov. 19, 2010, and July 12, 2012.
In denying the motion, Mays wrote that the information would not be relevant to the case.
“The Commission’s claim that the information it seeks concerning the opinions of the general readership of The Commercial Appeal is relevant to determining whether racial considerations were a motivating factor in the Tennessee General Assembly’s decision to enact the Municipal School Acts is not well taken,” the judge ruled.
“The information sought by the Commission is not relevant to the underlying issue to be decided and is not an appropriate subject of discovery in this case.”
The commission claimed that harvesting some comments and identifying information about the commenters could help them prove that new state laws enabling new municipal school districts in suburban Shelby County were motivated at least in part by racially discriminatory intent.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court has dismissed the appeal of a Tennessee lawyer who was denied Arkansas delegates despite winning 42 percent of the vote in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed John Wolfe’s appeal on Wednesday, the day after President Barack Obama was re-elected.
The court says Wolfe didn’t respond to an order last month.
Wolfe filed a notice of appeal in federal court last month after a federal judge dismissed his lawsuit against the Arkansas Democratic Party.
The judge said Wolfe couldn’t prove that the state party violated his rights when it refused to award him any delegates.
The party says Wolfe didn’t follow party rules.
Wolfe didn’t respond to a phone message left Wednesday.
State officials on Friday appealed a Court of Appeals ruling that declares Memphis Public Library photo ID cards are acceptable for voting by properly registered voters and asked for a stay of the Thursday order.
From Richard Locker’s report: The state Supreme Court later Friday agreed to expedite the state’s application to appeal and instructed attorneys for the the city of Memphis to respond to the state’s appeal by noon Monday. The high court’s order was silent, however, on the state’s request to stay the appeals court ruling.
The appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court by the state attorney general’s office contends that the appeals court erred in declaring that the city of Memphis and the two Memphis voters who were co-plaintiffs in the case had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s voter-photo ID act.
The appeal also contests the ruling that the city and its public library are “entities of this state” under provisions of the act that require voters to use photo IDs issued by the state, state agencies and “entities of this state.”
The Court of Appeals ruling “has essentially changed the rules on what type of identification is needed to vote in the midst of the election process,” the state says. “The Court of Appeals decision has cast uncertainty on that process on the eve of the November election.”
Thursday’s appeals court ruling upheld the constitutionality of Tennessee’s voter-photo ID law but also ordered acceptance of the Memphis library cards for voting by registered voters in Shelby County. The state contends that only state- and federal-issued ID cards — like driver’s licenses — are acceptable.
After Thursday’s ruling, state officials notified the Shelby County Election Commission to let registered voters who present the library ID cards to vote — but only on provisional ballots that may or may not be counted on election day. Provisional ballots are paper ballots that voters fill out and then place in a sealed envelope before handing to election officials. Whether they will be counted or not depends on the outcome of the case.
But Memphis City Atty. Herman Morris said Friday properly qualified voters with the library photo cards should be allowed to vote regularly, on touch-screen ballots, as other voters.