Tag Archives: chancery

Memphis Lawsuit Challenging Photo ID Law Filed in State Court

The City of Memphis has filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court challenging Tennessee’s photo identification requirement for voting, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The suit asks the court to declare unconstitutional the state’s Voter Photo ID Act for “imposing an undue burden on registered Tennessee voters’ right to vote, in violation of Article I, Section 5 and an additional qualification on such right in violation of Article IV, Section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution.”
Article I, Section 5 establishes that “elections shall be free and equal, and the right of suffrage as hereinafter declared, shall never be denied to any person entitled thereto, except upon conviction by a jury of some infamous crime …”
Article IV, Section 1, lists the qualifications for voting as being at least 18 years old, a citizen of the United States, a resident of Tennessee “for a period of time” set by the Legislature and being duly registered in the county of residence for a period of time prior to the day of election as set by the Legislature.
It further says, “All such requirements shall be equal and uniform across the state and there shall be no other qualification attached to the right of suffrage. The General Assembly shall have the power to enact laws requiring voters to vote in the election precincts in which they may reside, and laws to secure the freedom of elections and the purity of the ballot box.”
The city and two Memphis registered voters, Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell, originally filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in Nashville in July,asking that new photo cards issued by the Memphis Public Library be declared acceptable for voting purposes by qualified and registered voters. The judge denied that request, saying that the Legislature specifically excluded photo IDs issued by local governments, and the city filed an amended complaint to strike down the statute as unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions.
But last week, before the federal lawsuit proceeded to trial, the city voluntarily dismissed that suit and served notice that it would re-file in state court. The suit names as defendants Secretary of State Tre Hargett, state Atty. Gen. Robert Cooper Jr. and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins.
The lawsuit notes that the state law also explicitly excludes student IDs issued by Tennessee colleges and universities, even though nearly identical IDs issued to state college and university employees are acceptable forms of photo ID for voting.

Memphis Drops Federal Photo ID Lawsuit; To Re-file in State Court

The City of Memphis has withdrawn its federal court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s law requiring photo identification to vote, but a spokeswoman for the mayor says it will be re-filed in state court, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Lawyers for the city and the two Memphis voters who were co-plaintiffs in the case voluntarily dismissed the suit, initially filed July 24 to force the state to accept new photo ID cards issued by the Memphis Public Library as the photo ID requirement to vote. After U.S. Dist. Judge Aleta Trauger of Nashville ruled that the state law doesn’t allow IDs issued by local governments to be used for voting, the city amended the suit to attack its constitutionality as an infringement on voting rights.
The notice of voluntary dismissal lists no reason for the withdrawal and the plaintiffs’ attorneys were not immediately available to comment, but the filing occurred two days after Trauger held a telephone conference call with lawyers for both sides. The state attorney general’s office is defending the state statute.
The attorneys dismissed the suit “without prejudice,” which means it can be resurrected at any time. Mary Cashiola, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton’s media and communications manager, said Tuesday the case will be re-filed in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville later this week.

Judge Rules Felons With Out-of-State Pardons Can Own Guns

A Davidson County court ruling could aid felons pardoned in other states who want to own guns in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean.

It’s the result of a Franklin nurse who wanted to go squirrel hunting with his son.
David Scott Blackwell was convicted on felony drug charges in Georgia but received a full pardon there in 2003. He moved to Tennessee in 2009 and sought to own a gun but was denied a permit by the state. His victory in Davidson County Chancery Court, if it stands, probably will pave the way for others to regain their gun rights.
The ruling also adds to a growing legislative and judicial movement across the nation toward allowing more felons to regain their civil rights.
“The decision is really far-reaching because people have Tennessee pardons,” said Blackwell’s attorney, David Raybin, a Nashville defense attorney who often handles felon civil rights cases. “I have a couple of clients who have been waiting in the wings for this decision because they have Tennessee pardons and they want to get firearms.”
Blackwell, who works in home health care, said the journey has been frustrating. He doesn’t have his gun yet. He’s waiting to see if the ruling is appealed, which the state is mulling over, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee attorney general said.
“I rebuilt my life and went back to college. I got a full pardon with my gun rights restored, moved up here, and (Tennessee) said I couldn’t purchase a gun,” Blackwell said. “I just wanted to go buy a little .22 to go squirrel hunting with my kid, who’s now 14. We’ve missed three or four hunting seasons now.”

Lawsuit Could Set Precedent for Extent of Church Tax Exemptions

A South Nashville megachurch’s fight against paying a $425,000 property tax bill could have major implications for churches throughout the state whose facilities include not only sanctuaries and classrooms, but also stores and athletic facilities, according to The Tennessean
When Christ Church, which has 2,600 members and is on Old Hickory Boulevard, built the 110,000-square-foot Hardwick Activities Center in 2004, it had to reapply for its tax-exempt status. A government property assessor who toured the facility in 2007 determined that a bookstore, cafe, fitness center and gymnasium operated like businesses open to the general public and denied a tax exemption for those portions of the facility.
Arguing that the facilities are used in ministry and integral to the church’s mission, the church has been engaged in a legal battle ever since. In 2009, the church won a small victory when an administrative law judge decided the gymnasium should be taxed only at 50 percent. Friday, the church, armed with lawyers from the conservative Arizona-based Christian legal group The Alliance Defense Fund, took its case to Davidson County Chancery Court and argued that its constitutional rights are being violated.
…In response, Assistant Metropolitan Attorney Jeff Campbell noted that state law exempts “purely” religious activities from taxation and argued that a bookstore that charged retail prices and a fitness center that charged annual fees didn’t qualify. Campbell noted that the bookstore sold items such as a portrait of former President George W. Bush and Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully, a best-seller authored by Naomi Judd, and that fitness center activities were not religious in nature.
…Chancellor Carol McCoy did not decide the case Friday and will issue a written order at a later date.