Tag Archives: judges

Sen. Sara Kyle’s husband bows out of hearing election lawsuit

Shelby County Chancellor Jim Kyle has recused himself from hearing a lawsuit filed by former Memphis City Court Clerk candidate Wanda Halbert related to the accuracy of last year’s election results, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The Shelby County Election Commission filed a motion Wednesday for Kyle to remove himself from the case because his wife, Democratic Sen. Sara Kyle of Memphis, is in a contested election, Jim Kyle said.

The SCEC motion came after Kyle, himself a former senator, had a run-in with SCEC staff as he tried to get a map of his wife’s district.

“I’m sure I was a bit frustrated,” he said of his repeated attempts to pick up an accurate map.

Kyle said his recusal was “inevitable” once his wife was challenged for her seat, but he stressed that he had abided by the law through the process and hadn’t helped his wife’s campaign in any way.

As a side note, he added: “Today, I got my map.”

The other two chancellors have already recused themselves, so the case could go to a Circuit Court judge, Kyle said. If no circuit judges agree to hear the case, an outside judge would be brought in to hear it.

Halbert filed the lawsuit in October after losing the City Court clerk race to Kay Robilio because voting machine reports didn’t match final tallies.

TBA asks judge candidates to sign Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct

News release from Tennessee Bar Association
NASHVILLE, May 5, 2016 – With three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices and seven intermediate appellate judges facing retention elections, along with 15 trial judges and a number of local judges on the ballot in August, the Tennessee Bar Association is renewing its effort to assure fair and impartial judicial elections by asking judges to subscribe to the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct.

“Judicial elections are different,” said TBA President Bill Harbison. “Judges are not permitted to make promises or pledges about how they will rule because we expect them to proceed case by case to apply the law to the facts and come to fair and impartial decisions. The code helps to ensure this impartiality by committing the judges not to make pledges, promises or commitments on how they will rule in cases.”

In the 2014 election cycle, where all judges and judicial officers were on the ballot, more than 116 judges subscribed to the code. Letters to all known judges and judicial candidates on the ballot are being issued this week. For more information and to view the code of conduct, visit

Note: The link includes listings of judicial candidates, including three Supreme Court justices — Jeffrey S. Bivins, Holly Kirby and Roger Page — and seven other appeals court judges who will be on the August ballot. The Supreme Court members are all Republican appointees of Gov. Bill Haslam and no opposition to their retention has surface, a contrast to the 2014 election when three justices appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen were on the ballot (and won despite heavy opposition, led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey).

Judge backs requiring deposition of Jimmy Haslam

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a step closer to having to answer questions about fraud at the truck stop chain where he is president and CEO.

Haslam has denied any knowledge of the scheme that has cost Pilot Flying J $177 million in settlements with customers and the government since it came to light after federal agents raided the company’s Knoxville, Tennessee, headquarters in April 2013.

Pilot’s former president and seven others, including two former top executives, have been indicted and face trial next year on charges they conspired to cheat customers out of promised discounts and rebates. Another 10 former employees have pleaded guilty in the fraud. But Haslam has not been charged criminally and for three years has fought legal efforts by trucking companies to depose him.

While about 5,500 firms were part of a class-action lawsuit against Pilot that settled quickly, Mobile-based Wright Transportation is one of several that opted pursue their own lawsuits in state court. Haslam has been ordered to sit for a deposition in that case.

On Friday, Mobile Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart declined Haslam’s request to reconsider her order, according to al.com. But that does not end his attorneys’ efforts to stop the deposition. They have also filed a motion for a protective order, claiming the case should not move forward until jurisdictional issues are resolved. On May 13, the court will hear arguments on that motion.

Pilot is owned by Haslam and his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he is not involved with operating the company. It is the nation’s largest diesel retailer with $31.4 billion in revenue in 2014.

Effort to force Senate vote on U.S. judge nominations fails

Senate Democrats tried Tuesday to force a confirmation vote on nearly a dozen judicial nominees, including Edward Stanton III of Memphis, but Republicans quickly shut them down.

Further from Michael Collins:

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and other Senate Democrats called for a vote on 11 non-controversial nominees, including some who have been waiting for more than a year. Schumer charged the GOP has unnecessarily delayed the votes and has brought the judicial confirmation process to a standstill.

Twenty nominees, including Stanton, already have won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor.

“We are urging our colleagues to do their jobs,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, objected to giving the nominees a vote, thwarting the Democrats’ efforts.

…Stanton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, was nominated last May by Obama for a U.S. District Court judgeship. He has the support of both of the state’s senators, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last October.

Stanton is fourth in line for a confirmation vote, right behind nominees from Maryland, New Jersey and Nebraska. He is the last of three Tennessee nominees awaiting a vote.

Judge rules votes correctly counted on Amendment 1

a Williamson County judge on Thursday has ruled against contentions that ballots were incorrectly counted in the 2014 statewide referendum on an amendment to the Tennessee constitution that made it easier for the legislature to enact abortion restrictions.

From The Tennessean report:

Eight voters opposing the measure, including the board chair of Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee, filed suit in federal court contesting the state’s method of counting votes.

State lawyers, in turn, filed suit against those eight voters in a Williamson County court in September 2015, two months after a federal judge refused their request to dismiss the suit. The state in the Williamson County suit sought an order stating that Tennessee election officials’ method of counting votes was consistent with the state constitution.

In his 22-page order on Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley granted the state the order it was seeking. Binkley noted the language Tennessee Constitution on how votes for amendments should be counted is “unambiguous.”

Under the Tennessee Constitution, ballot measures require a different voting method than the simple majority required to elect a candidate. For an amendment to succeed, it must be ratified “by a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor, voting in their favor,” the Constitution says.

State election officials have long interpreted the language to mean that passage of an amendment depends on comparing the number of votes cast for governor with the number of votes cast for an amendment. To succeed, an amendment must get a majority of the number of votes cast for governor.

Voters challenging the measure say that the language means that only the voters who voted in the governor’s race can have their vote’s counted on a ballot measure.

It was a contention that Binkley dismissed, noting in his ruling that the Tennessee Constitution “does not precondition the right of a citizen to vote for or against a constitutional amendment upon that citizen also voting in a gubernatorial election.”

Dyer confirmed as Court of Criminal Appeals judge

The Legislature confirmed Gov. Bill Haslam’s appointment of Memphis lawyer J. Ross Dyer to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals’ West Tennessee division Monday evening.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Dyer, 43, who has been the chief counsel for Shelby County government since 2014, replaces Roger Page on the 12-member state appeals court. (Page was appointed earlier to the state Supreme Court.)

…Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said he believes Dyer has “significant professional experience that would make him suitable for this important public role” but also expressed concern about what he called a “significant error in judgment” by Dyer as county attorney in advising county officials not to share with the public a disparity study on contracting by Shelby County government.

“The report was paid for with public dollars and concerned a topic of public importance. … Further, the nominee advised the County Commission to only discuss the study in a private session because as I understand it, the nominee considered the disparity report to be a privileged document,” Harris said.

He also said he encourages the governor to make appointments “that reflect the diversity of perspectives that we see across the state. The governor has made four appointments to the Court of Criminal Appeals and three of the four have been former prosecutors and all four have been men.”

Note: The Administrative Office of the Courts press release is below. Continue reading

Senate confirms TN federal judge — first since Scalia’s death

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led Senate easily confirmed President Barack Obama’s pick for a Tennessee federal judgeship on Monday, even as the GOP maintained its blockade against considering Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy.

By a 92-0 vote, senators approved Waverly Crenshaw for the lifetime appointment, filling a vacancy in the Middle Tennessee District that officials declared a “judicial emergency” because of the number of cases pending there.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of “a concerted effort to undermine the American judiciary system.” He said they have moved far too slowly on Crenshaw’s and other judicial nominations and, as he’s repeatedly done before, attacked their refusal to consider Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

Crenshaw, an attorney in Nashville, Tennessee, was the first judicial nomination the Senate has approved since Justice Antonin Scalia’s Feb. 13 death opened a seat on the high court. Twenty-seven of Obama’s nominees to district courts and five to the appeals court remain in limbo.
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Supremes pick a new ‘senior judge’

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has appointed former judge and Williamson County attorney Robert E. Lee Davies to the position of senior judge.

Davies practices family law, personal injury, and business litigation in Williamson County. He served from 2000-2008 as a circuit court judge in the 21st Judicial District, handling both civil and criminal cases. He also has served as special judge for the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

“The people of Williamson County have received the benefit of Judge Davies’ experience and expertise and now these resources will be available all across Tennessee,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said. Davies replaces Judge Ben Cantrell, who has served as a senior judge for the past four years, following a 30-year career at the trial and appellate level
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Shelby County’s chief legal counsel appointed to appeals court

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Shelby County Attorney J. Ross Dyer to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Section, replacing Roger Page, who recently became a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice.

Dyer’s appointment will require confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Dyer, 43, has been the chief counsel for Shelby County since 2014, serving as the top legal advisor to the county mayor, county commission and other county officials.

Prior to that, he was senior counsel and managing attorney for the Memphis office of the Tennessee Attorney General from 2004-2014. He was also team leader and assistant attorney general in the criminal justice division of the Nashville office of the Tennessee Attorney General from 1998-2004. In those positions, he handled more than 20 cases in the Tennessee Supreme Court and more than 1,000 cases in the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
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Court of Appeals OKs lawsuit against judge

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A state appeals court has ruled that a Knox County judge who is being sued by a woman that he fired is not entitled to immunity, because he had not yet been sworn in when he dismissed her.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that Circuit Court Judge Bill Ailor doesn’t deserve the benefit of immunity because he wasn’t working for the government at the time when he dismissed Judith Moore-Pennoyer.

Court records show that Ailor sacked her one week before he was sworn in as judge. She had been an assistant to former Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly, whom Ailor had defeated in an election.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals decision this week upholds a lower court’s ruling.

Note: The full Court of Appeals decision is HERE.