jonathan skrmetti

AG goes to bat for House ban on signs, doesn’t mention Senate keeping old rules in place

State Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is calling on Nashville Chancellor Anne Martin to dissolve the temporary restraining order blocking the House from enforcing a ban on people carrying small signs in the chamber’s galleries or in committee rooms. [UPDATE: Chancellor Martin on Monday retained the injunction on the sign ban.]

Skrmetti said the court has no jurisdiction to intervene in rules governing activities inside the Capitol complex and that a sign ban has been in place for years without challenge.

The historical record tells a different story.

A federal court intervened in 1965 when the state Senate decided to block reporters and photographers for The Tennessean from entering the chamber in retribution for refusing to leave a committee room when members wanted to take a vote behind closed doors. U.S. District Judge William E. Miller, who had been appointed to the bench Dwight Eisenhower and later elevated to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals by Richard Nixon, found a resolution barring the newspaper “creates a deterrent to the free an unfettered expression of ideas, views, and opinions which the First Amendment, as construed by the Supreme Court, was designed to inhibit.”

The reporters were let back into the chamber and the Senate dropped efforts to block the paper in the future.

“The General Assembly has long recognized that permitting signs in the galleries can disrupt legislative business,” the AG argued in a motion filed Thursday. The filing added that “a similar restriction on hand-held signs at the seat of the legislature has been in place for years,” citing a December 2017 news story about a ban on hand-carried signs being put into effect by the General Assembly when it moved into the Cordell Hull Building in 2017.

But the filing doesn’t include subsequent steps to do away with the blanket ban less than a month later, after then-Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) announced plans to ask for an attorney general’s opinion on its constitutionality. No opinion appears to have been forthcoming after the updated policy said: “small letter sized signs that do not obstruct the view of visitors are acceptable.”

The rule on letter-sized signs had been in place ever since – and remains the rule in the Senate even after the House made its change last week. Skrmetti’s filing doesn’t address the split views between the chambers about whether signs are acceptable. In fact, the document mostly refers to the interests of the General Assembly as a whole rather than just a one of the two bodies it is comprised of.

In Martin’s order agreeing to hear arguments, the judge said she found her earlier decision to issue the temporary restraining order was “was proper and consistent” with Tennessee law and that her quick decision to block the rules had come because of a “the lack of complexity to the relevant facts and the discrete nature of the legal issues for consideration.”

New TNJ edition alert: GOP wins latest skirmish is court fights over new laws, a retrospective on Roy Herron’s political career

Former state Sen. Roy Herron of Dresden consults with his wife, Nancy, during a meeting of the executive committee of the state Democratic Party in the House chamber at the state Capitol on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— GOP wins latest skirmish in multi-front legal battle over new laws

— Kelsey makes last-minute swap in legal teams, mulls litigation against former lawyers.

— Early voting underway for Nashville mayor, special state House races.

— Obituary: Roy Herron had front-row seat for Democrats’ decline in Tennessee.

Also: UT Martin gets its first black chancellor, team Cothren gets $75,000 in burger chain dispute, and Herbert Slatery is back at the AG’s office.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Nashville prosecutor wants search warrant unsealed, alleges conflict of interest in AG’s office

Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk is calling for records relating to the recent search of his offices to be unsealed. He is also calling it a conflict of interest for Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti’s office to be leading the probe into whether improper recording devices were used outside Funk’s offices.

According to the filing, a onetime assistant prosecutor who left Funk’s office last summer is now working for the unit investigating her former employer — who is also current client of the AG on several legal matters.

UPDATE: The AG’s office tells WTVF-TV the that “no former employees … are involved in the ongoing investigation, nor employed within the division handling the investigation.”

Funk has outraged Republican state lawmakers by announcing the city won’t prosecute the possession of small amounts of marijuana, abortion providers, or violations of a transgender bathroom sign law before it was halted in federal court.

Read the whole filing here:




District Attorney Glenn Funk, through counsel, requests a public hearing in this matter, at the conclusion of which General Funk will request that this Court order the unredacted release of all documents related to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation search of the Office of the District Attorney General for the 20th Judicial District, which took place on March 24, 2023, and in particular, the following:]

1) The search warrant executed on or about March 24, 2023, at the office of the District Attorney for Davidson County, Tennessee (“Search Warrant”);

2) The application for the Search Warrant;

3) Any probable cause affidavits submitted in support of the Search Warrant;

4) The return of the Search Warrant;

5) Any motion or request to seal the records relating to the Search Warrant;

6) Any order sealing the Search Warrant related documents; and

7) Any other records submitted to this Court in connection with the Search Warrant.

This release will confirm that any probable cause for this search warrant was predicated on either one or more individuals providing false information to law enforcement or a misapplication of the law.

As grounds, District Attorney Glenn Funk would show:

1. Glenn Funk has been an attorney in good standing with the Tennessee Bar since 1985. He was elected District Attorney by the voters of Davidson County on May 6, 2014 and reelected on May 3, 2022.

2. General Funk has an AV rating by Martindale Hubbell, signifying a top rating for ethics and expertise in the law.

3. General Funk teaches Crimes and Constitutional Criminal Law at the Nashville School of Law and teaches Trial Advocacy at Vanderbilt Law school. General Funk is a respected legal scholar. As General Funk stated to Attorney General Skrmetti on February 13, he “knows what the law allows and knows what the law prohibits.” (Id.) General Funk always follows the law.

4. Beginning May 4, 2022, the day after General Funk’s reelection and continuing to the present, Mr. Williams has made over 100 contacts, FOIA requests, demands for comments and ambush interviews of General Funk and members of his office, including going to their homes.

5. Since November 1, 2022, Channel 5 has broadcast over a dozen stories regarding General Funk totaling over 45 minutes of airtime. Channel 5 and/or Channel 5 employees have pushed negative stories in their social media platforms as well.

6. Mr. Williams has pushed state legislators to make negative comments about General Funk. He also made demands to the Comptroller and the Attorney General to open investigations of General Funk.

7. General Funk leads an office of 70 attorneys and 90 support staff who handle over 40,000 criminal cases annually. General Funk is responsible not only for the prosecution of these cases but for proper allocation of budget resources, human resources issues, and the safety and security of members of his office.

8. In 2001, under then District Attorney Torry Johnson, the District Attorney’s Office moved from the Historic Courthouse to Washington Square, a public building on Second Avenue. General Johnson installed limited security, including audio and video in the reception area and video in the hallways of the office.

9. The Christmas Day bombing in 2020 severely damaged much of the Washington Square building. A substantial number of District Attorney office members had to be relocated into other space within the building. Repairs to the building continued from December 2020 until mid-2022. During the repairs, the District Attorney’s Office was even less secure than normal, as Washington Square opened roof access through the office for construction workers.

10. Once this access was closed, General Funk along with Deputy District Attorneys Roger Moore and Amy Hunter directed the IT head to contact the TBI to do a complete security sweep to make sure the office was secure from any electronic surveillance devices. The TBI conducted this search on October 12, 2022. The TBI never sent a report on this sweep. To his surprise, General Funk discovered in early February that the TBI only swept four offices and did not do the complete sweep requested. When asked on March 24, 2023 why the TBI had not performed the complete sweep as requested, TBI Agent Neese responded, “that was our call.” Agent Neese did not elaborate as to why the TBI limited their search.

Continue reading


Posts and Opinions about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.