Trump picks DA Dunavant as U.S. Attorney General for West TN

Michael Dunavant, who has been a state district attorney since 2006, has been nominated by President Donald Trump as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee

Dunavant, of Covingon, now serves as DA for Tennessee’s 25th Judicial District,  which covers Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy and Tipton counties.

Some info on Dunavant from a Jackson Sun report in 2014, when he was running for a new eight-year term as DA (he won with 20,931 votes to 10,748 for challenger D.J. Norton of McNairy County):

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AG lawsuit targets law firm soliciting families of Chattanooga school bus crash victims

News release from Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the filing of a lawsuit against a Texas law firm, its sole attorney, and two investigators working for the firm. The civil enforcement action, filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court, alleges The Witherspoon Law Group PLLC, based in Dallas, Texas has engaged in the unlawful solicitation of accident victims in Tennessee.

The lawsuit names The Witherspoon Law Group, attorney Nuru Witherspoon, and investigators Alphonso McClendon and Glen Smith and alleges improper and unlawful contact with families of victims in a Chattanooga school bus crash. It is a violation of Tennessee law for attorneys to solicit business within 30 days of a tragedy.

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More funding recommended for poor in TN court system

After 18 months of study, a task force set up by the state Supreme Court has provided its recommendations on changes needed to provide appropriate legal representation to the poor – including higher pay for the lawyers who serve them.

From the News Sentinel’s report:

“What we are talking about are programs designed to protect the liberties of people from inappropriate interference by the government,” said former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch Jr., who served as chairman of the Indigent Representation Task Force.

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Kevin Teets gets his lawyer license back

The state Supreme Court has reinstated the license to practice law for Kevin Teets, a veteran Democratic political operative after a 19-day suspension following accusations that he took about $8,000 from  nonprofit association created to help the homeless, reports The Tennessean.

But that comes with conditions. Teets must meet with another lawyer biweekly who will monitor Teets’ work and has to continue weekly mental health sessions. He has to allow his therapist to provide monthly reports to the Board of Professional Responsibility, which recommended his discipline. And he has to pay the board’s costs of nearly $800 (he has already paid restitution), disciplinary documents say.

“Practicing law in Tennessee is a privilege and it’s a privilege that I am glad to have reinstated by the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Teets said Thursday. “I’m passionate about advocating for my clients and I’m ready to get back to work.”

Teets is a former executive with the Tennessee Democratic Party and led the political campaigns of District Attorney General Glenn Funk and former mayoral candidate Bill Freeman.

Note: Previous post HERE.

Former TNDP executive director loses lawyer license

Kevin Teets, a former executive director of the Tennessee Democratic Party who also served as manager of some Middle Tennessee Democratic campaigns, has temporarily lost his license to practice law under a state Supreme Court order issued Friday, according to a news release from the Board of Professional Responsibility.

Other documents show Teets allegedly took more than $8,000 from a nonprofit organization created to help the homeless and instead used the money to “fund his gambling addiction,” reports The Tennessean.

A complaint filed with the board, which oversees attorney conduct in Tennessee, states Jessica Thurmond, the head of the Lace Up With Love organization, had hired Teets to help her form the nonprofit. But within a few months, Thurmond suspected Teets was taking the money from the organization and using it to gamble.

…Emails purportedly from Teets included in the board’s investigation show Teets referencing using his “personal funds in an asinine manner in Evansville” to explain why a check he tried to write to the nonprofit bounced. Evansville, Ind., has some of the closest casinos to Nashville.

Teets has repaid $6,500, according to the affidavit…. The board says the suspension remains in effect until the Supreme Court takes further action.



Stewart faces ethics complaint over questioning TEMA director

State Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, has filed an ethics complaint against House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart because of questions the Nashville lawyer-legislator asked the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency during a legislative hearing on Gatlinburg fires.

From The Tennessean:

The statements from Stewart occurred during a House Government Operations Committee meeting on Feb. 16.

Before asking TEMA director Patrick Sheehan questions, Stewart said, “Full disclosure, I’m a lawyer and I can’t remember, but it’s always possible that my firm would have some involvement in lawsuits related to those fires. So just be aware of that.”

Stewart is a partner at the Nashville-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, which was hired to represent someone affected by the fire.

…During the committee meeting, Stewart asked Sheehan to explain what happened with the communications systems that resulted in text notifications not being sent out to nearby residents before the fire reached the city.

…In Ragan’s complaint, he points to a Feb. 6 letter from Stewart’s law firm to TEMA in which they request various information regarding the area’s communications system.

In the letter, the law firm asked for records of statements made by TEMA, communication between federal, state and city employees and any contracts with third party groups that provided emergency warning services.

“Given the timing and nearly identical way in which the questions Representative Stewart asked in committee mirror the questions made by his law firm, I believe that Representative Stewart knowingly asked questions…to aid himself and Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings,” Ragan wrote in his complaint.

…Stewart said he thought he asked very generic questions that he didn’t think were improper… Stewart said until Thursday he was not aware that the Feb. 6 letter was sent by the law firm to TEMA.

Stewart, who previously served as a member of the 10-member House Ethics Committee, said he would be happy to explain his actions in the event that the complaint is taken up by the committee.

Allan Ramsaur leaving as executive director of TN Bar Association

News release from Tennessee Bar Association

Effective the first of the year Allan Ramsaur, long-time executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association, will begin stepping back from day-to-day responsibilities for administration of the association.  He will assist in the search for and transition to a new executive director for the association and will assume the role of emeritus director. In that new role, he  will continue to answer to the TBA Board and represent the association in governmental affairs and court administration issues, work on issues in ethics and professional responsibility, develop policy, oversee financial administration and focus on important strategic initiatives in continuing legal education, technology and evolving legal markets for the TBA and the foundation until full retirement in June of 2018. The TBA will immediately begin a search for a new executive director.

“You would be hard pressed to find an individual who has done more to advance our profession, promote access to justice, and facilitate an understanding of the legal profession in the past 20 years.  We are eternally grateful for Allan’s dedication and skill in leading the association,” said TBA President Jason Long.

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