Tag Archives: lawsuits

Sullivan County pays $50K to settle prison newspaper lawsuit

Sullivan County has agreed to pay Prison Legal News $50,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department was censoring and refusing to deliver publications and newsletters to inmates, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Prison Legal News is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, a Florida-based nonprofit organization whose mission is public education, prisoner education, advocacy and outreach in support of prisoners’ rights.

PLN filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in October 2013 naming the county, the sheriff’s department and Sheriff Wayne Anderson as the defendants.

PLN claims the department has been censoring and refusing to deliver its material to inmates held at the jail, including hundreds of copies of its monthly journal and dozens of copies of informational brochure packs.

The Sullivan County Jail used to have a postcards-only mail policy with all other mail, except legal mail, to be returned to sender. No packages were allowed unless approved by the jail’s facility administrator.

…Sullivan County Attorney Dan Street said the matter did not go to mediation. Since the mail policy had been changed and to keep from pulling the sheriff’s department into a trial, Street said the $50,000 settlement was a good way to put the matter to rest.

“We’re pleased that this case has resolved, and that prisoners at the Sullivan County jail can receive letters from their children and other family members instead of having their correspondence restricted to postcards,” said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of PLN. “Many people in jail are awaiting trial, have not been convicted and are presumed innocent, and retain most of their rights — including their rights under the First Amendment.”

ACLU settles lawsuit over student’s shirt slogan

News release from ACLU of Tennessee
NASHVILLE — In a victory for free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee announced a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Richland High School graduate Rebecca Young, who was censored by her school system for wearing a shirt to school supporting equality for lesbian and gay people. The Giles County school system has modified its discriminatory dress code policy that banned pro-LGBT speech.

“This is a victory not just for one student’s right to free speech, but for all students in the Giles County school system,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. “Our settlement reinforces that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates. We are pleased that Giles County students will no longer face unjust censorship if they choose to express support for the LGBT community while at school.”

The lawsuit, Rebecca Young v. Giles County Board of Education, et al., stemmed from an incident on August 5, 2015, when Young wore a shirt to school that read, “Some People Are Gay, Get Over It.” At the end of the school day, the principal publicly reprimanded Young for wearing the shirt, telling her that she could not wear that shirt or any other shirt referencing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights to school because it supposedly made her a target and provoked other students. Young had worn the shirt the entire day without incident. Continue reading

Fred Thompson’s widow disputes lawsuit claims

The adult sons of late U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson were not swindled out of anything by Thompson’s wife, Jeri Thompson, because no changes were made to the former lawmaker and television star’s estate plans that would affect, according to a new filing in a pending Thompson family lawsuit that’s the subject of a Tennessean report.

Instead, the only change made ensured that both of the couple’s young children were entitled to part of the estate, according to Jeri Thompson’s legal filing.

“Each of (Thompson’s sons’) alleged claims against (Jeri Thompson) in this matter is founded upon a single premise — that (Jeri Thompson) took something that belonged to (Thompson’s sons) either through her own actions or by influencing the actions of Senator Thompson. That premise is unsound, unsupported and contradicted by the undisputed facts of this case. No person made any changes to Senator Thompson’s estate plans in October 2015 that caused any change in (Thompson’s sons’) position,” the response states.

“Each of (Thompson’s sons’) alleged claims against (Jeri Thompson) in this matter is founded upon a single premise — that (Jeri Thompson) took something that belonged to (Thompson’s sons) either through her own actions or by influencing the actions of Senator Thompson. That premise is unsound, unsupported and contradicted by the undisputed facts of this case. No person made any changes to Senator Thompson’s estate plans in October 2015 that caused any change in (Thompson’s sons’) position,” the response states.

Regardless of changes, Jeri Thompson said her late husband’s estate plans never included major distributions to his two adult sons.

“(The adult sons) were not primary or contingent beneficiaries either before or after the change. Nor did the change have any effect on Senator Thompson’s estate or the funds distributed to Senator Thompson’s heirs,” her response states.

Copies of the will included in the court case say Jeri Thompson is the primary beneficiary and that she is supposed to give Tony and Dan Thompson $50,000 each.

Ohio judge won’t dismiss claims against Haslam company proceed

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio judge won’t dismiss breach-of-contract and other claims against the truck-stop chain owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Several companies have sued Pilot Flying J in connection with a scheme to cheat customers out of promised discounts and rebates.

A Franklin County judge this week refused the chain’s request to dismiss claims in an Ohio suit. He concluded the companies making the allegations provided sufficient information to pursue the claims.

Jimmy Haslam isn’t charged and has denied knowing about the scheme, which came to light after federal agents raided the company’s Knoxville, Tennessee, headquarters in 2013. It led to millions of dollars in settlements and charges against some employees.

Bill Haslam has said he isn’t involved with operating the company.

Fred Thompson’s sons file lawsuit over estate

A lawsuit filed by former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s two adult sons raises new questions about the days leading up to his death, according to WTVF-TV.

The lawsuit questions changes made to their father’s estate that allegedly were made after he was no longer able to make decisions.

On one side: Jeri Thompson, the former senator’s younger second wife and mother of their two children.

On the other: two adult sons — Tony and Dan Thompson — from Thompson’s first marriage.

Their lawsuit claims the widow and her lawyers have refused to explain a flurry of changes to Thompson’s estate in the days leading up to this death. Continue reading

Lawsuit: Bradley deputy wrongfully killed man, lied about it

The family of a 23-year-old man shot to death last year by a Bradley County deputy sheriff has filed a $3 million lawsuit saying he was needlessly killed and charging the sheriff’s office covered up what really happened, reports the Times-Free Press.

When the shooting happened on July 28, 2015, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Tiffany Oakley was assaulted by a stranger and used deadly force to defend herself.

At the time, a sheriff’s office spokesman told the Times Free Press that Oakley was working the night shift and went home for a meal….when someone she didn’t know “stepped out of the shadows and accosted her.”

…However, the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Bradley County Circuit Court states Oakley knew who the man walking through the neighborhood at 2 a.m. was — that she and Allan F. Light III were “very familiar” and “had a friendly relationship” with each other, and that he was on his way either to her home or a neighbor’s.

The suit states that Light “was unarmed and was trying to get away” when Oakley “confronted and attacked” him. The suit claims she fired three shots from her service weapon, hitting him twice, and also shocked him with her Taser.

…Oakley “misrepresented the true facts, denied her previous relationship with, and familiarity with, the decedent and made false and intentionally untrue statements to police officers and investigators and investigating agencies in order to escape responsibility,” the lawsuit states.

Further, the lawsuit claims Sheriff Eric Watson “knowingly joined in and allowed the false statements of the defendant, Oakley, to be unchallenged and proffered statements to the media which were designed to mislead and misrepresent the true facts ”

The suit, filed by attorney Randy Rogers on behalf of Light’s parents, Allen F. Light Jr. and Marlene White, names Watson and Oakley as defendants both professionally and personally, along with Bradley County government. It claims wrongful death and violation of White’s constitutional rights.

…The American Atheists Counsel and a local “Jane Doe” plaintiff sued Watson and the sheriff’s office in May for First Amendment violations over what they said was proselytizing for Christianity on the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page and for censoring comments from those opposed to the religious posts.

The two sides said in a court filing earlier this month they had participated in a successful mediation but gave no details.

Multiple sources told the Times Free Press the settlement involves the county paying an amount in the neighborhood of $40,000 and possibly some kind of monitoring of the sheriff’s office’s social media posts.

Hepatitis-infected TN prisoners sue the state

Tennessee inmates infected with hepatitis C on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against state prison officials, asking the court to force the state to start treating all inmates who have the potentially deadly disease.

Further from the Tennessean:

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys with the ACLU and other advocates in U.S. District Court in Nashville, says the Tennessee Department of Correction officials knowingly denying inmates care for their hepatitis C, also known as HCV, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It alleges the department is denying care because the best available medication is too expensive.

“In reality, (department officials) ignore the medical needs of (inmates) and class members in order to save costs. (The department’s) written politics for HCV diagnosis, assessment and treatment utilize outdated standards of care and normalize the practice of refusing treatment for unjust and medically unsound reasons,” the lawsuit states.

Inmates Charles Graham, also known as Charles Stevenson, and Russell L. Davis are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Attorneys representing the inmates include Thomas Castelli from the Nashville office of the ACLU, Karla Campbell of Nashville-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings and Elizabeth Logsdon of advocay organization Disability Rights Tennessee.

Note: The ACLU press is below, including link to the text of the lawsuit. Continue reading

AG joins lawsuit against insurance company merger

News release from Tennessee Attorney General’s Office
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced that Tennessee has joined the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general from 11 states and the District of Columbia in litigation to block the merger between health insurance companies Anthem and Cigna, alleging that the transaction would increase concentration and harm competition in Tennessee and across the country.

The Justice Department and state attorneys general filed the merger challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint alleges that the merger, valued at $54 billion, would harm seniors, working families and individuals, employers, and doctors and other healthcare providers by limiting price competition, reducing benefits, decreasing incentives to provide innovative wellness programs, and lowering the quality of care.

“In what instance would Tennesseans want 4 instead of 5 competitors from which to choose insurance products or negotiate services? That is the question raised by the merger, whether one is a national employer comparing benefits and premiums, a health care provider like a hospital or physician practice, or an individual selecting a policy on an exchange. There are too many unanswered questions and too much at stake in reducing competition for Tennessee to support this merger,” Attorney General Slatery said.

Eleven states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia – along with the District of Columbia joined the department’s challenge of Anthem’s $54 billion acquisition of Cigna.

The suit against Anthem and Cigna alleges that their merger would substantially reduce competition for millions of consumers who receive commercial health insurance coverage from national employers throughout the United States. The complaint also alleges that the elimination of Cigna threatens competition among commercial insurers for the purchase of healthcare services from hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers.

Anthem, Inc. is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is the nation’s second-largest health insurer. It operates in every state and the District of Columbia, and provides health insurance to 39 million people. In 2015, Anthem reported over $79 billion in revenues.

Cigna Corp. is headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut. It is the nation’s fourth-largest health insurer. It operates in every state and the District of Columbia, and provides health insurance to 15 million people. In 2015, Cigna reported $38 billion in revenues.

Judge rules against Durham, clears release of investigation report

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Nashville chancellor ruled Tuesday that it would not be in the public interest to block the release of an investigative report on allegations of sexual harassment by state Rep. Jeremy Durham.

Chancellor Russell Perkins heard arguments earlier in the day after Durham asked for an emergency ruling to block the report, arguing it would cause him irreparable damage. The report is expected to be released on Wednesday at a meeting of the Ad Hoc Select Committee appointed to look into Durham’s conduct.

In his ruling, Perkins said the Franklin Republican raised some legitimate questions about the way the investigation was conducted, but those concerns were insufficient to support a ruling blocking the report’s release or further work by the committee.

Durham’s attorney Bill Harbison had argued that the appointment of the attorney general’s office to conduct the investigation for the committee constituted an invasion of the legislative branch of government by the judicial branch. He said it sets a dangerous precedent for abuse of government power.

The timing of the report’s release, just two days before the start of early voting for upcoming primaries, shows that it is “transparently being done for political ends,” Harbison argued.

Several GOP leaders have urged Durham to resign his post, including House Speaker Beth Harwell, who appointed the ad hoc committee and requested the help of the attorney general’s office.

Steve Hart, special counsel for the Office of the Attorney General, said the office routinely acts as legal counsel for the legislature. On a previous occasion, the office investigated former Sen. John Ford at the request of the Senate Ethics Committee, Hart said.

He also argued that the House has a duty to protect its employees from harassment. After a preliminary report issued in April found Durham could pose a risk to “unsuspecting women” at the Capitol complex, Harwell moved Durham to another office building and limited his access to committee rooms and the House chambers.

“Although the Court recognizes that Rep. Durham may suffer harm,” Perkins wrote, “the Court concludes that it is in the public interest for the Attorney General and the Ad Hoc Committee to finish their work and for the results of their work to be made available to the public.”

Durham opponent: Drop lawsuit, release investigative report

Sam Whitson, a retired Army colonel opposing Rep. Jeremy Durham in the Aug. 4 Republican primary, has criticized the embattled incumbent’s attempt – through a lawsuit — to prevent the release of a months-long investigation into sexual harassment allegations, reports The Tennessean.

The Davidson County Chancery Court will discuss Durham’s motion Tuesday, just one day before a special Tennessee House committee could receive the final investigative report from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

“Like Hillary Clinton, Jeremy Durham has been the focus of near-constant investigations. Because I’m running a positive, message-driven campaign, I’ve tried my best to avoid discussing the many allegations made against Rep. Durham,” Whitson said in a news release.

“With near constant phone calls from constituents and inquiries from reporters about the matter, I feel obliged to respond to the latest distraction involving Rep. Durham. Although on many occasions Rep. Durham has professed his innocence, he is now trying to delay the release of the special committee’s findings through a lawsuit,” he said.

Whitson added: “I firmly believe that the voters of Williamson County deserve to know the results of the investigation and I call on Rep. Durham to drop the lawsuit.”

Note: Durham’s lawyer contends the planned release of the report — shortly before early voting begins — is intended to hurt the incumbent’s prospects for reelection. Previous post HERE.