Tag Archives: courts

Fred Thompson courthouse coming to Nashville?

Joint news release from Tennessee congressmen
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 22, 2016 – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) along with U.S. Representatives Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) today introduced a bill to name the new Nashville federal courthouse in honor of former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson. 

Senator Alexander said: “Fred Thompson was one of Tennessee’s most celebrated public figures. After graduating from Vanderbilt University law school, he served in Nashville as Assistant United States Attorney. In 1973, Sen. Howard Baker named him minority counsel in the U.S. Senate Watergate hearings. In 1994, Tennesseans elected him United States Senator. He was an actor in more than 20 movies. It is appropriate to name the new federal courthouse in honor of Fred’s distinguished career as an attorney, Senate investigator, and United States Senator.”

Senator Corker said: “Fred Thompson served the people of Tennessee and our country with great distinction. Through his many different roles in public life, Fred never forgot where he came from, and our state and country miss his common sense approach to public service. I was proud to call him a friend and am pleased to join my colleagues to honor his life in this way.” Continue reading

Sunday column: On the legal validity of dumping Durham

Last week’s extraordinary session of the Tennessee Legislature had some ordinary aspects — predictable partisan and bipartisan bickering, for example — but the Jeremy Durham debacle was really something special.

After the 70-2 vote Tuesday to expel the Franklin Republican from his House seat, Durham made the rounds at Nashville television stations declaring that he’s likely to file a lawsuit, contending that his removal from office violated the state constitution.

This was somewhat anticipated during the House floor debate. Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, suggested that a lawsuit would cost taxpayers more than paying Durham’s pension, which he will lose as result of being booted prior to completion of his term in November. That, and concerns about constitutionality, were among the reasons cited by Holt in boldly pushing the blue light on House voting machines, which means he was present but not voting. Three others did the same, including one bold Democrat, Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis. Continue reading

Former THP sergeant charged with harboring illegal immigrant

A former Tennessee Highway Patrol sergeant charged with harboring an illegal immigrant will be released from custody Tuesday and allowed to remain at home pending his trial, according to The Tennessean.

In early August, a federal judge ruled that Ronald E. Strickland should remain in custody because connections to Honduras could make him a flight risk. But U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp signed an order Friday releasing Strickland, who will be electronically monitored and allowed to stay at home, according to court records and Strickland’s attorney, Ed Yarbrough.

At a court hearing in early August, Yarbrough said Strickland’s work as a public servant — he served in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining THP — and other factors meant he was not a risk and should be released from custody.

Strickland was arrested in late July on a federal charge of harboring a 22-year-old Honduran woman, according to court records. Court documents say he picked up a woman he knew in Texas in mid-July after she traveled from Honduras and through Mexico to meet with him.

Nashville sues state over education funding

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville is suing the state over what it says is inadequate funding of public education, in violation of the Tennessee Constitution.

Nashville joins Shelby County and a cluster of seven counties that includes Hamilton, which have filed their own lawsuits over the state’s funding of the Basic Education Program, or BEP. That’s the method the state uses to meet its constitutional obligation to provide free K-12 public education.

According to the Nashville lawsuit filed Thursday, lawmakers have not provided enough money for the school system to hire the legally required number of teachers and translators for its English language learners.

Nashville has the highest number of students who come from a non-English language background in the state, according to the lawsuit. They make up about a quarter of total Metro Nashville Public School students and include more than 16,000 Spanish speakers, more than 3,000 Arabic speakers and more than 1,000 Kurdish speakers. Continue reading

Lawsuit over public records via email

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has agreed to let both the Tennessee School Boards Association and the Tennessee Risk Management Trust weigh in on an appeal in a Sumner County open records lawsuit, reports The Tennessean.

Sumner County Judge Dee David Gay ruled in November that the Sumner County Board of Education violated the Tennessee Public Records Act by denying a records request Joelton resident Ken Jakes made via email and over the telephone. In his ruling, Gay said the school system’s policy of only accepting records requests via U.S. mail or in person was too restrictive for citizens, and ordered the board to craft a new public records policy.

School board members voted unanimously in December to appeal Gay’s ruling to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, and enacted a new policy in March that includes the use of a dedicated phone line for public records requests.

The TSBA, an organization comprised of 141 school districts from across the state, filed a motion Aug. 3 requesting permission to both file a brief on behalf of the Sumner County Board of Education as well as address the court during oral arguments.

“… the case is one that affects the rights and responsibilities of school systems in their capacity as a local government subject to Tennessee’s open records laws,” the TSBA said in its court filing. “The issue of interpretation of these laws is statewide in principle and has the potential to affect not only how school systems respond to open records requests but also how local governments respond to open records requests.”

The Tennessee Risk Management Trust, a member-owned insurance trust for public entities, requested Aug. 19 to also file an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief in the case. The briefs are often a way for someone not a party to a case to offer advice to the court in a decision likely to hold broader implications than just for the two parties arguing the case.

“The ruling of the trial court has a far-reaching and potentially detrimental effect on the Trust’s members,” TRMT attorneys said in the court filing. The document also says that the trust’s members include 60 counties, 102 school systems and 40 municipalities and other governmental entities within Tennessee. The Sumner County Board of Education is not a member of the trust, according to spokesman Jeremy Johnson.

The appeals court granted this week both organizations’ requests to file the briefs. However, neither group will be allowed to make oral arguments in the case. A court date has not yet been set.

Jury awards $560K back pay to police officers

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A jury in Hamilton County has ruled that the city of Chattanooga failed to give police officers promised raises and to maintain fair conditions of employment.

The Chattanooga Times Free-Press reports that on Thursday the jury awarded 25 officers more than $560,000 in back pay for the time that they worked without receiving the raises.

The case stemmed from a pay policy that allowed recently hired officers to earn higher salaries than their supervisors.

The officers said that the city had sent a document to police in 2010 that laid out changes to police salaries. They said the document promised future pay raises that they never got.

The jury also rejected the officers’ claim that the city discriminated against them because of their age

Apparent Armstrong successor owes child support

Rodney “Rick” Staples, who has been chosen to replace Rep. Joe Armstrong as the Democratic party nominee in House District 15, is involved in a legal dispute over child support payments, according to Nashville Post Politics (crediting much of the Post post to a Knoxville Mercury story).

Armstrong is barred from running for public office because of his conviction earlier this month on a felony charge of filing false income tax return. Staples defeated former Knoxville Mayor Daniel Brown to become successor nominee in the executive committee vote and he now needs only defeat perennial candidate Pete Drew, running as an independent with no Republican on the ballot, in the November election.

An arrest warrant was issued for Roderick “Rick” Staples in March after he failed to show for court in a case involving more than $8,200 in past-due child support, court records show. The warrant was rescinded in June, when Staples’ court-appointed attorney issued a $3,000 check on his behalf. A new court date was set for Oct. 5.

“I know I missed a court date. I just had the wrong date,” Staples says. “I look forward to serving the 15th District as their state Representative, and one great aside to that is, I’ll have an assistant to help manage my schedule.”

… Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Cameron Brooks says he was aware of Staples’ ongoing child-support case. He says he thinks everyone on the 15-person committee considering the House nomination was also aware, though it wasn’t discussed openly during a meeting and vote on his appointment on Thursday, Aug. 18. Staples beat out two other top contenders for the nomination, including Knoxville City Councilman Daniel Brown and LeTonia Armstrong, who is Joe Armstrong’s wife.

“We’re standing behind him as a party and we’re looking forward to the November election and to seeing him elected to the Legislature,” Brooks says.

Staples expects the court case to be resolved next year when his estranged son — whom we’re not naming because he’s a minor — turns 18 and graduates from high school.

Armstrong attorney: Split verdict invalid

From Jamie Satterfield:
If former state Rep. Joe Armstrong did not try to evade taxes, he cannot be guilty of filing a false tax return.

So argues Armstrong’s defense attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, in a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court asking a judge to either judicially acquit Armstrong of the felony filing a false tax return conviction he suffered this month or grant the now ex-lawmaker a new trial. Continue reading

Durham’s trespass charge against reporter dismissed

A misdemeanor trespassing charge brought by state Rep. Jeremy Durham against Nashville Post and Nashville Scene reporter Cari Wade Gervin has been dismissed, reports Nashville Post Politics.

“I’m glad these baseless allegations have been dropped. I look forward to once again fully focusing my attention on my job, which includes the vetting of public officials,” said Gervin after the dismissal.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Katherine White had filed charges after a May 17 confrontation at Durham’s house during which the state representative screamed at Gervin and attempted to grab her cell phone from her hand.

“It’s been a bad week for Jeremy: He’s having to answer questions about his campaign finances not being in order and now his unfounded charges against our reporter got thrown out,” said Steve Cavendish, editorial director at SouthComm and editor of the Scene. “We’re just glad the court found this all as ridiculous as we did. I only wish he hadn’t wasted taxpayers’ time and money like this.”

Further from The Tennessean:
The reporter, Cari Wade Gervin, appeared in court at the Williamson County Judicial Center for a hearing before Special Judge Ernie Williams. Assistant District Attorney General Mary Katherine White and Gervin’s lawyer, Tyler Yarbro, said the case would be dismissed.

“I have consulted with Mr. and Mrs. Durham as well,” White said in court.

Williams said both sides reached an agreement to dismiss the case and he would “certainly sign off on that.”

…Durham sat in the lobby of the courthouse with his wife, Jessica. Approached by a Tennessean reporter, he declined to comment, shaking his head and waving his hands. The couple did not attend the brief hearing, which is not unusual when charges are dropped.

Judge pushes oversight of juvenile offenders to age 25

Young criminal offenders would be under oversight of the state’s juvenile justice system until they reach age 25 instead of 19 under a proposal being pushed by Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, according to the Commercial Appeal.

“What it would do is it would give us longer with those kids who are on the fence, who probably haven’t hurt anyone other than scared them to death, who we know may need another two years. That if we don’t hold them for those two years, they’re liable to go out and do something even worse,” said Michael.

…”The law currently says juvenile court should have jurisdiction until 19 years of age. I’m taking out 19 and plugging in 25. It changes nothing else but the age.”

But that one word change in the bill would create sweeping changes in the juvenile court system if passed. Juveniles who commit a crime before their 18th birthday would have the ability to remain in the juvenile court system until they turn 25, depending on the crime. However, a judge could still file a motion to transfer the juvenile to adult court if the offense warranted it, Michael said.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said she would need to see the bill’s language to better understand Michael’s proposal, but changing the age of jurisdiction would prompt a long, complicated process.

“First of all, if you were to increase the number of individuals that would be monitored and supervised by (Department of Children’s Services), they don’t have the resources to do that,” Weirich said. “That would take additional funds, additional personnel…”

Weirich was more open to the idea of blended sentencing, where a juvenile court imposes both juvenile and adult sanctions simultaneously, with the adult sentence suspended. If the offender completes the juvenile sentence without incident, oftentimes they do not have to serve the adult sentence. If the juvenile violates the conditions of the first sentence, he or she may be required to serve the adult sentence.