lawsuits

Lawsuit filed over White County jail inmate birth control program

From an Associated Press report:

A Tennessee sheriff and judge violated the constitutional rights of jail inmates by promising to reduce their sentences if they underwent birth control procedures, an ex-inmate says in a federal lawsuit.

Christel Ward was among the misdemeanor-level White County Jail inmates who took the deal, according to the lawsuit. She said Thursday that she still has the unwanted birth control device in her arm that authorities injected in her.

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Scott County jail faces three lawsuits over medical care of inmates

Three federal court lawsuits have been filed accusing the Scott County jail of failing to provide proper medical care for inmates, reports the News Sentinel.

One contends the jail staff and private medical providers ignored “cries for help” from an inmate who wound up dead of a staph infection; another says a woman was left to languish without care while suffering hundreds of seizures; a third charges that a case of tuberculosis was ignored. All three alleged incidents came after the jail failed  a 2016 jail inspection by the Tennessee Corrections Institute in 2016 — and after the Institute declared problems with medical treatments had been corrected.

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Judge orders TVA to move mountain of coal ash waste at Gallatin Steam Plant

U.S. District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw of Nashville has ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to excavate and relocate a mountain of coal ash accumulated over decades at its Gallatin Steam plant, reports WPLN.

Crenshaw said in his order, issued Friday and resolving a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, that TVA’s construction of an unlined ash waste pond in porous terrain, as the case in Gallatin, risks leakage into the neighboring Cumberland River. Because the cost of moving the waste will be so high, he did not order TVA to pay any penalties.

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Long-running lawsuit over TN phone bills and 911 fees set for trial in 2019

A lawsuit contending that telephone companies shortchanged Hamilton County 911 and nine other Tennessee communities of millions of dollars in fees they collected from consumers is now scheduled for trial in 2019, reports the Times Free Press.

Apart from the date, attorneys had little else to agree on during a status hearing Thursday in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court.

“I’m not suggesting bad faith, your honor, but the strategy is to delay,” said attorney Rick Hitchcock, who has represented Hamilton County 911 since 2011. Hitchcock wants AT&T, BellSouth and other companies to turn over decades of billing information so he can prove the telecom giants knew they were pocketing fees in violation of a 911 law.

“The simple calculation is, how many lines were in service and how many 911 charges did they collect to distribute?” Hitchcock asked. “It’s A minus B. And if it equals zero, then they have nothing to worry about. But it doesn’t.”

But company attorneys rejected that equation, pointing to the enormous amount of data.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of bills in more than a dozen counties going back to 1984,” said attorney Misty Kelly. “We would have to identify what historical records exist for several companies.”

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Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging ‘natural and ordinary’ law; rules it had no impact on same-sex marriage rights

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the “natural and ordinary” bill enacted by the legislature earlier this year, but a lawyer for the lesbian couples who filed the legal challenge tells The Tennessean that the ruling is nonetheless a victory.

Basically, the judge ruled the new law didn’t accomplish anything to change rights of same-sex couples, who have the same rights as heterosexual couples when they are parents. Thus, since the law doesn’t discriminate, she dismissed the lawsuit attacking it.

The four same-sex couples are expectant parents of children conceived through artificial insemination. The legislation, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in early May, says that courts should give words their “natural and ordinary” meaning in legal interpretations.

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Fed court oversight of DCS ends after 16 years

News release from the governor’s communications office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich today announced that after more than 16 years of system-wide reform and a massive turnaround, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is now free of federal court oversight.

U.S. District Court Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw has approved the historic agreement between the state and Children’s Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that in 2000 filed litigation known as the Brian A. lawsuit that charged that Tennessee youth in foster care suffered in an overburdened system, describing children in crowded congregate care shelters and social workers with overwhelming caseloads.

Tennessee now has a thoroughly reformed foster care system. The reform comes after years of collaboration with Children’s Rights and the Technical Assistance Committee, a panel of nationally recognized child welfare experts that served as the federal court monitor for the Brian A. consent decree.

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Settlement of Jackson school funding lawsuit means tax increase?

An agreement to settle a lawsuit over the Madison County Commission’s decision to terminate an annual $12 million payment toward operation of Jackson public schools will require some sort of tax increase, reports the Jackson Sun.

The settlement calls for cutting the payment from $12 million annually to $6 million, but the commission had wanted to save the entire $12 million to balance it’s budget for the coming year. The county commission’s Budget Committee says there are five options to cover the $6 million.

All five options include a tax increase. The first option is implementing a $75 wheel tax and the county using $2.2 million from its general fund. Another option is taking $2.2 million from the general fund and implementing a 22 cent property tax increase. 

Transferring $2.2 million from the general fund, adding a $30 wheel tax and increasing the property tax 14 cents was also mentioned. Another possibility is a $75 wheel tax, and finding another revenue source later. The final option presented was a 30 cent property tax increase.

“What you’re seeing, it’s a balancing act on what to do,” budget committee chairman Doug Stephenson said. “We’ve got some who just want to do the property tax, we’ve got others saying I just want to do the wheel tax. We’ve got others who want to do a combination. It’s just a matter of coming up with something.”

Shelby school board authorizes lawsuit against state-run Achievement School District

The Shelby County School Board has authorized a lawsuit against the Achievement School District, operated by the Tennessee Department of Education, for accepting students in middle school grades when state law authorizes only those at the elementary school level, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The board voted 7-0 with two members abstaining, for a resolution that instructs its general counsel, Rodney Moore, to “research and pursue any and all appropriate legal and judicial remedies including but not limited to legal action” to stop the Achievement School District  from operating grades it wasn’t authorized to operate.

.. The vote, which included minimal discussion, authorizes Moore to pursue legal action against the ASD, the state department of education and Aspire Public Schools charter network.

The resolution is the latest, and arguably most significant, episode in a five-year struggle between the state-run district and SCS. While the two compete for students and thus funding, and SCS has resisted the role of the ASD in Memphis, the inter-district squabbling has never resulted in a lawsuit.

Two campuses, run by Aspire and Memphis Scholars, are further mentioned in the resolution. Those two operators had added middle school grades to schools that previously served only elementary students under SCS before the state absorbed them into the ASD and outsourced their operation to charter networks.

Three opinions by the Tennessee Attorney General in the last several months, however, say ASD schools, which aim to turn around struggling schools, were never given the legal authority to add grades the school did not previously serve.

Judge rules records of failed Fall Creek Falls privatization effort must be made public

The Tennessee Department of General Services must release records related to the failed privatization effort at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post.

From the Scene’s report:

The case was unique because the state received no bids on a proposal to demolish and rebuild the Inn at Fall Creek Falls, despite amending the original request for proposals several times. A May 1 final deadline passed with no bids. The Scene asked for the records that would normally be available for public inspection at the end of any bid evaluation process.

The state claimed that because no bids had been evaluated, TDGS was not required to release the records associated with the process. The Scene filed suit on May 31.

Chancellor Young disagreed, noting that the state’s public records law instructs that it “shall be broadly construed so as to give the fullest possible public access to public records.” He ordered the records to be made available, ruling that any documents or communications that the state claims are protected by attorney-client privilege must be submitted to the court for evaluation. 

“It’s a good day for transparency in Tennessee,” says Chris Ferrell, CEO of Southcomm, the parent company of the Scene and Nashville Post. “While I’m sorry we had file suit in order to get the state to comply, it’s reassuring that the courts recognize that the state can’t decide to hide things from the public in such an arbitrary way.”

Young instructed Scene attorney John Williams and lawyers for the state to agree to and submit an order to the court by early July. Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said in court that the state may ask for a stay of Young’s ruling, pending an appeal.

Cohen, Cooper sign onto lawsuit attacking Trump’s foreign business dealings

Tennessee’s two Democratic congressmen, Reps. Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville, are among about 200 members of Congress signing on as plaintiffs in a federal court lawsuit that contends President Donald Trump’s foreign business dealings may violate a provision of the Constitution.

Quote from a Cooper press release:

“The Constitution says our president should be free from all foreign influence,” Rep. Cooper said. “Since President Trump shows no sign of changing, Congress must ask the courts to enforce the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.”

Quote from a Cohen press release:

“The Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause is a vital protection against foreign governments’ corrupting influence.” said Congressman Cohen. “The American people should have total confidence that the President is serving their interest, not his own financial enrichment.  President Trump’s refusal to disclose information to Congress or seek Congress’s authorization for accepting profits from foreign governments stemming from his sprawling foreign financial interests is a brazen violation of the Constitution and a danger to our democracy.”

The full Cohen press release is HERE; the full Cooper press release HERE.