Ear to the Ground

Class Warfare

Tennessee's trial lawyers, many of them Democrats, are not thrilled by Gov. Phil Bredesen 's selection of a new state Supreme Court Justice.

Not only is Justice William Koch Jr. (pronounced Coke) a Republican who served as legal counsel to the former governor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, he is viewed as a pro-business jurist, known for his opinions taking a dim view of class-action lawsuits when it comes to the state's Consumer Protection law.

One of Koch's appeals court decisions is cited in most suits defending against a consumer protection class-action suit. He argued that class actions are not allowed under the statute. The lawyers contend the legislative history is clear that class actions are authorized. It is an issue likely to come before the high court in the coming year.

Koch has been criticized in the past by the Judicial Evaluation Commission for being too slow in writing opinions. He is known for writing opinions that read like law review articles.

Bear Amnesty

National cable network Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert is famous for emphasizing America's Bear Threat. On the Colbert Report last Wednesday, June 13, the weekly â“Threat Downâ” detailed the top five threats to America today. Last week, as it turned out, all of them were either bears or Japanese robots. At the position of Threat No. 2, Colbert cited the example of the stray black bear cornered a few weeks ago in the Old City. â“Authorities in Knoxville, Tennessee tracked down and tranquilized a bear roaming in the city's entertainment district,â” he announced. â“You know what bears consider entertainment? Tearing people from limb to limb!â” He then played a news report about the bear being released in Cherokee National Forest, and seemed disgusted. â“Folks, that's just bear amnestyâ"a slap in the face to all the forest creatures who obey the law and wait their turn to be American citizens.â”

Stain Removal

Where do you go to get your reputation back?

The Knoxville business community is incensed about what they consider cavalier treatment of a prominent citizen by a federal prosecutor.

Knoxville businessman Bill Baxter , former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority and also Economic Development Commissioner for former Gov. Don Sundquist , was blindsided by a prosecutor in the fraud trial of state Sen. Jerry Cooper, in which Cooper was acquitted.

The prosecutor referred to Baxter as an â“unindicted co-conspiratorâ” in the case. Baxter was on vacation when newspapers across the state headlined the account.

Since returning from vacation Baxter has given newspaper and television interviews. He wrote an op-ed piece for the News Sentinel and his friends filled a quarter page of the Sunday paper with letters decrying the slander.

Baxter said he gave the prosecutors an account over two years ago of the process whereby Cooper applied for an ECD grant for a railroad spur to some property he owned and Baxter said there has been no indication from anyone over the last two years that they wanted more information or that he was in any way the subject of the investigation.

In the op-ed column he said recent events have given him pause, but he would still encourage citizens to get involved in public service.

Emotional Dedication

Knoxville developer Doug Horne attended the dedication of the Rev. Billy Graham Library earlier this month. Horne said Graham ignored his prepared remarks and â“spoke from the heartâ” about his wife Ruth. He said he was sorry she couldn't be there for the dedication because it was in her honor more than his.

It was an emotional scene and a public testimony of the minister's love for his wife, said Horne. Ruth Graham died last week after a long illness. Horne said Graham would sit by her bed and hold her hand during the final months. Ruth Graham was buried at the library.

Horne was invited to the dedication because he has been a friend of the family and a longtime supporter of the Grahams. He donated a twin-engine plane to Franklin Graham 's African mission work. Franklin Graham now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The plane allows the organization to carry supplies and medical care to remote areas of the continent. Dr. Bill Frist , the former senator, made a trip with Franklin Graham in the plane this year providing medical treatment in remote villages.

Wheels on Wheels

To better accommodate downtown bicycle commuters, Tennessee Valley Bicycles has moved from Chapman Highway to a new location at 204 W. Magnolia Ave, in between Regas Restaurant and the Greyhound Bus station. As always, anyone can drop off old bicycles to recycle, and in some cases, the store buys used bikes. They also perform repairs and conversions (we're particularly impressed with their ability to convert clunky mountain bikes into svelte urban cycling machines). The new location has a big deck out back, and they now feature a bi-weekly movie night focusing on bicycle movies. There is no set date yet, but movie nights will most likely be every other Friday. Keep an ear to the ground for Pee Wee's Big Adventure !

Finally, the correct answer to somethingâ.

It's not every day you get to be the answer to the weekly stumper on National Public Radio's Sunday morning word quiz, devised by the fiendish New York Times crossword-puzzle editor Will Shortz . But the riddle announced on June 10 had been something like: Name an American city whose name contains letters representing the numbers10 and1,000, plus anagrams for two words meaning zero.

Give up? The correct answer, for once, was â“Knoxville.â” We were pretty amazed that some 600 listeners nationwide got it correct. A listener in Kentucky was the winner.  

The K is the 1,000, and the X is the 10. The two jumbled words meaning zero were nil and love .

Ethical Guardians

Lance Bracey has retired after 31 years of supervising the ethical conduct of Tennessee's 18,000 lawyers, and he has been replaced by a former assistant U.S. Attorney from Nashville.

Nancy Jones , from the law firm of Bass Berry & Sims, will assume the position of chief disciplinary counsel for the Board of Professional Responsibility. Jones did two stints as a federal prosecutor, in Oklahoma and in Middle Tennessee, before entering private practice.

The job entails investigating complaints against attorneys and recommending disciplinary action for unethical behavior.

Meanwhile, Senior Judge J.S. â“Steveâ” Daniel will take a similar job as chief disciplinary counsel for the Court of the Judiciary, which investigates complaints of unethical behavior by judges.

Bug in Our Ear

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