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Friday's Roundup: News briefs

Gov. Haslam elected Republican Governors Association chairman; Vanderbilt rape case attorney suspended; State offers turkey fryers safety tips; more!

Roundup: News briefs

Tennessee governor elected next RGA chairman

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been elected as the next chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

The second term governor will take the reins from New Jersey's Chris Christie, who has been on a victory lap at the group's annual meeting in Florida this week after Republicans did especially well in the midterm elections. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will be vice chair of the organization, the group also announced.

Haslam will have big shoes to fill. The group raised more than $100 million during Christie's tenure, setting a record and helping the potential 2016 candidate lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign.

Several more high-profile candidates, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, took their names out of the running as they consider potential presidential runs. And with only three governor's races on the calendar in 2015, the position is less of a platform than in busier years.

Christie said after the vote that he'd asked Haslam last week if he would consider taking the job and then recommended the pick to his fellow governors, who voted unanimously in favor.

Defense attorney in Vanderbilt rape case suspended

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court has suspended one of the defense attorneys in the Vanderbilt rape case.

Media report John Herbison was suspended Thursday after three complaints alleging misconduct.

Herbison is part of the defense team representing Brandon Vandenburg, who is one of four former Vanderbilt football players charged with raping a woman in a campus dorm.

The Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility, which regulates lawyers in Tennessee, said in a statement that Herbison's suspension will begin on Nov. 30. He'll be on active suspension for 60 days, and then be on probation for the remainder of the time.

Vandenburg's trial is set to begin Jan. 12, meaning the trial is scheduled to begin a week before Herbison can practice law again.

Herbison's partner, Fletcher Long, said he's prepared to move forward with the trial and have Herbison rejoin the case when he can.

"What we have coming up is trial, and that's what I do," Long said.

According to the Board of Professional Responsibility, Herbison failed to communicate with two clients and didn't file an appeal for a third.

In addition to the suspension, Herbison is required to pay about $3,900 in fines.

Tenn. campaigns ran nearly 23K TV ads in 2014

NASHVILLE (AP) — Political and issue campaigns ran nearly 23,000 television ads in Tennessee to try to sway voters on races including the U.S. Senate and constitutional amendments on abortion and judges.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, the ads cost a total of $16.8 million. Spending was heaviest on the constitutional amendments, with $3.8 million going toward unsuccessful efforts to defeat the measure to give lawmakers more power to regulate abortions in the state. Supporters spent $2 million.

The Senate race attracted $4.8 million in TV spending, while $5.1 million went into state-level races.

The Center for Public Integrity reviewed data about political advertising on broadcast television and used research from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot.

State offers turkey fryers safety tips

NASHVILLE (AP) — The State Fire Marshal's Office has some safety tips for turkey fryers.

The main one is to avoid using outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil because officials say they pose a risk for injury.

State Fire Marshal Gary West says the outdoor fryers heat gallons of cooking oil to very high temperatures, and there's a risk of oil being spilled.

Officials recommend that consumers utilize the oil-free models that are available or seek commercial professionals to prepare the entrée.

For more safety tips, visit: www.tn.gov/fire.

Obama’s immigration executive order is a game changer

Opinion: The activists and the “Dreamers” who pressed Obama to act now on immigration reform can claim victory. So too, can President Obama.

by David A. Love

theGrio

On Thursday evening, President Obama addressed the nation with an outline of the executive action he is taking on immigration. In his 10-minute address, the president outlined his plan to fix a broken system and, a combination of accountability and compassion, while also challenging Congress to do its part and pass legislation.

The speech was not broadcast on the major networks, but was aired on a number of cable outlets, including MSNBC, CNN, and on Univision, which delayed its broadcast of the Latin Grammy Awards to air the president’s remarks.

In his speech, the president sought a reasonable middle ground that falls short of complete amnesty for undocumented immigrants, yet offers deportation relief for up to 5 million people, allowing families who have lived in the country to remain here.

“I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today,” Obama said. “Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty, leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary it to our character,” the president added.

Under Obama’s executive plan, more resources will be deployed to the border, with an emphasis on deporting undocumented immigrants who recently crossed the border. And resources will be focused on deporting felons as opposed to the families of U.S. citizens.

Also a part of the president’s plan is increased accountability for millions, with a requirement that undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been here five or more years undergo a background check and pay taxes to remain in the country.  Further, there will be expanded work authorization for high-skilled workers waiting for a green card.

At the same time, Obama placed the onus on Republicans in Congress to pass fair and just immigration reform legislation.  “Overall the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts. Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix. And last year 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate,” the president said.

“It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.”

“Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes or no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties. And today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote,” Obama added.

The president’s plan, while not amounting to comprehensive immigration reform, is rather significant, and a game changer that transforms the debate on a contentious and polarizing issue. Reactions from the immigrants’ rights and Latino communities were positive.

“I thought it was very compelling, very powerful and very reaffirming. For us this moment is a milestone moment, I think for so many it’s a victory for so many millions of American families who have lived in the shadows with the burden of what that means,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, on MSNBC.  According to Murguía, who once called Obama the “Deporter-in-Chief” due to the nation’s current immigration policy, the president’s speech was an important moment for the country and one of the most significant changes in decades.

Murguía also cautioned Obama’s opponents in Congress. “I would just warn those who want to fight the president tooth and nail on this, that they’re gonna be fighting not with the president or taking on the president. Now they’re going to be taking on those millions of families who really have already been contributing and who understand what is at stake here going forward into the future,” she warned. “And so I hope they find a way to make a constructive step and offer legislation and offer a permanent solution, because for so many families this is going to be transformative.”

“First of all, stop whining and crying about what he president did tonight,” offered Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a vocal proponent of immigration reform, addressing the Republicans. Gutierrez argued the GOP had an opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and challenged them to act if they do not like the president’s plan.

“I think what the president did tonight was wonderful because a community of people that have been demonized during the last election, one senator after another, one member of the House on the Republican side after another, used the porous border coming with criminal Mexicans and then saying that Ebola was coming, and ISIS, to win their election,” Gutiérrez said.

“Tonight the president humanized that community of people. And I think that’s the debate and discussion the Republican Party is afraid of.”

President Obama succeeded in putting a face on the immigration issue. And her name is Astrid Silva, whom Obama plans to meet in Las Vegas on Friday.  Silva, who is working on her third college degree, came to America from Mexico when she was 4 years old.  When her grandmother back in Mexico passed away, Silva could not return for her funeral without risking deportation.  “Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid? Or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?” the president asked.

“Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.”

The president also succeeded in accomplishing other things Thursday night.  Offering legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants in exchange for accountability, Obama pressed the reset button on immigration.  Aware his Republican detractors would not take action, he took matters in his own hands and broke the stalemate.  He framed the rounding up and deportation of millions of people—most of whom have lived in America for years and become a part of the fabric of the nation, and many of whose children were born here—not only as unrealistic, but as un-American and immoral.

Moreover, from the standpoint of pure politics, by presenting the public with a reasonable, albeit temporary solution to a longstanding problem, President Obama has neutralized so-called “illegal” immigration as a hot button issue that conservatives use to scapegoat and criminalize the Latino community, and divide people by race, ethnicity, language and national origin.  And in the process of bolstering his own bona fides and exerting his authority as president, he put the ball in the Republicans’ court.

Latino- and Asian-Americans are important Democratic constituencies that voted for Obama in large numbers, and the presidential action will only strengthen their support.

Ultimately, the activists and the “Dreamers” who pressed Obama to act now on immigration reform can claim victory. So too, can President Obama.

(Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove.)

Tigers set to write regular season’s final chapter

Memphis closes out league play with two at Liberty Bowl

For both the University of Memphis and USF, there are significant ramifications riding on the outcome of Saturday’s game at the Liberty Bowl. Memphis will look to maintain its position atop the American Athletic Conference standings while USF aims at moving a step closer to bowl-eligibility when the two teams square off 3 o’clock game.

Memphis is 7-3 and 5-1 in the American Athletic Conference and Saturday’s game is the first of two straight Saturday afternoon games at the Liberty Bowl to close out the regular season. Following this week’s game against USF, the Tigers will play host to Connecticut next Saturday on Senior Day.

USF is coming off a dramatic, 14-13 win over SMU in which the winning score came with four seconds to play. The win moved the Bulls’ record to 4-6 and 3-3 in the American. USF would need a win Saturday against Memphis and against in-state rival UCF next week to become bowl eligible.

Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPNews while Memphis’ flagship WREC 600 will have the broadcast call of the game with its pregame show beginning at 1 p.m. The audio stream of the radio broadcast is also available through GoTigersGo.com’s All-Access link. The game can also be heard in Jackson on WJAK-AM 1460 and FM 96.1 as well as in Nashville on WNQM-AM 1300.

Memphis heads into the weekend with a half-game lead in the conference standings over UCF and Cincinnati who both have an extra game left to play on their conference schedules after the Tigers finish up next week. Memphis has won four straight, the team’s longest win streak since winning five consecutive back in 2003.

The win streak coincides with the start of the second half of the season following a 28-24, home-field loss to Houston and an open week. Since then, the Tigers’ focus has been about finding a way to go 1-0 each week.

Memphis head coach Justin Fuente and his staff has taken a very common sense and grass roots approach to the second half of the season and the mantra of going 1-0.

“Let's stay focused on what has given us this opportunity and what we need to do to continue to have this opportunity. And that is, we've practiced well. We've prepared well. Ultimately, we've played well,” he said during his press conference to begin the week. “If we play well, then we give ourselves as good an opportunity as you can to win. I think our kids have done a good job of that.

“The thing I am most proud of these kids for is they listen. They really do. I think they want to have a chance to be a part of something special and they want to listen to how to do it.”

On Saturday, Memphis faces a USF team which rallied from a 13-0 deficit.

The Bulls held SMU to 80 yards of total offense in pitching a second-half shutout while quarterback Mike White came off the bench to engineer two, fourth-quarter scoring drives. The second culminated with a four-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis for the game-tying points with four seconds to play. Place-kicker Marvis’ Kloss’ PAT proved to be the difference in a 14-13 win in Dallas.

On the final drive, White completed 7-of-10 passes for 70 yards including three significant third-down pass completions as well as one the game-tying score on fourth down with four seconds to play.

White, who started the season’s first eight games, has completed 90-of-182 passes for 1,288 yards and eight touchdowns.

Davis’ touchdown reception was the 16th of his career, a USF record. Davis owns 12 USF receiving records and will tie a school record of seven touchdown receptions in a season with his next scoring catch. He is the first 2,000-yard receiver in USF history.

Davis’ records have come despite a senior year in which he missed four games with an injury.

USF freshman running back Marlon Mack enters the week needing just 93 rushing yards for 1,000 for the year.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris leads FBS Football with five forced fumbles on the year. Harris also leads the Bulls with 7.5 tackles for loss. Junior defensive back Jamie Byrd leads USF with 80 total tackles.

“Coach [Willie] Taggart has done a really good job of building that program back up,” Fuente said. “They've got skill kids all over the place. Our defense will have an incredible challenge with a fantastic wide receiver and prominent running game. Our offense will have a challenge with their really active and physical defensive line, and a secondary that has played quite a bit over the last couple of years.”

USF will look to stop Memphis’ running game in an effort to win its second straight on the road.

Memphis leads the American Athletic Conference, averaging 188.6 rushing yards per game, but the Tigers were held to 82 rushing yards at Temple and then 156 at Tulane.

Senior running back Brandon Hayes rushed for a career-high 199 yards against Tulsa the last time Memphis played in the Liberty Bowl. He became the school’s eighth, 2,000-yard career rusher and for the season has run for 651 yards on 136 carries.

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has run for a team-high eight rushing touchdowns. Lynch has completed 195-of-303 passes for 2,299 yards in 2014. Junior running back Mose Frazier has caught 17 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown over the Tigers’ last three games.

The weather forecast continues to look bright for Saturday afternoon. The expectation is for mid-60s and partly cloudy skies with a minimal chance of rain during the game.

“It's a wonderful opportunity for the Tiger Nation to come out and support these kids who have really worked hard to put together a pretty solid season,” Fuente said. “We've got an afternoon kickoff. It should be a lot of fun. I think it's a great challenge and a great opportunity for people to come out and let these kids know how much they appreciate their hard work and also play an active role in the game.

“We're going to need them in order to win the football game,” Fuente added. “We absolutely need every advantage we can have. Our kids have gone on the road and played well in some pretty hostile environments. I'd like to make the Liberty Bowl one on Saturday.”

Game Notes:

Memphis’ series with USF is currently tied at 3-3 including a 1-1 mark in games played in the Liberty Bowl …

Bobby McCain set a Memphis school record with three interceptions in last year’s meeting in Tampa …

Memphis led 6-3 until late in the fourth quarter before Hayes culminated a drive with a five-yard touchdown run and the Tigers got a pair of defensive scores in the final minutes …

Memphis is the only NCAA FBS school to rank in the top-10 in both red Zone Defense and Red Zone Offense …

The Tigers rank second in Red Zone Defense while the team’s Red Zone Offense percentage ranks fifth nationally … Through 10 games, Memphis has scored 344 points, which ranks seventh-most in school history.

SOURCE: University of Memphis Athletic Media Relations

When law and mentoring intersect

Career Reception event was a bridge builder.

by Karanja A. Ajanaku

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The second annual Career Reception for law students – hosted by the City of Memphis’s Law Division – served as the intersection of interests that Carl Carter and J.B. Smiley Jr. brought to City Hall last week.

Carter, who was there on the lookout for International paper, where he is the associate general counsel, was also on hand to represent the Tennessee Bar Association, where he serves on the board of governors and represents the eighth district.

Smiley, a Memphis native, is a law student at William H. Barnes School of Law in Little Rock.

“Those of us who are professionals and who have been blessed to be successful, we need to reach back, pull up, help out, push forward or what have you,” said Carter within earshot of a nodding and mission-oriented Smiley.

“I wanted to do my best to come back home and network with professionals in the community that I want to practice in,” said Smiley.

The lawyer and the would-be lawyer both rated the gathering a success. Last year the participating students came from the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis. This year, Vanderbilt, the Nashville School of Law and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock also sent students.

Deputy City Attorney Regina Morrison Newman said nearly every local government law office, many of Memphis’ large and small law firms, and corporations such as International Paper and TruGreen, sent representatives to speak to the students about career opportunities and internships. Also represented were Memphis Area Legal Services, Counsel on Call, Memphis Bar Association, National Bar Association and members of the local judiciary, including Circuit Court Judges Jerry Stokes and Gina Higgins.

 “The annual reception furthers the goals of the administration of Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr. to offer opportunities to youth and to make Memphis the City of Choice in which to live, work and recreate,” said Newman. “We look forward to growing this event in future years.”

‘New blood’

Assistant County Atty. Marlinee Iverson was there to inform and to be alert for “new blood,” which she said is important to government offices.

“I am really committed to Shelby County and the city. I’ve worked in a lot of the offices here. I’ve worked for the DA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We really want to get a thriving group of attorneys. The young ones just out of law school have something to offer because they have unique perspectives, different perspectives,” said Iverson.

“We’re going to get new blood in that challenges us maybe on old patterns and get us to look at things differently, resolve problems differently. That’s why I think a program like this, where we get to meet students who are just graduating and encourage them to apply for offices like ours, helps us.”

Iverson said she encountered a lot of students who were interested in “moving to Memphis or moving back to Memphis and doing work for the county or the city. What struck me is that they didn’t seem as interested in doing private sector work,” she said.

“I thought a lot of young professionals were leaving (the Memphis area), a mass exodus of young professionals. I have heard that. But in terms of these law students, I didn’t get a sense of that at all. The people who spoke here, the leaders of the community, said this is one of the best places to work, and I agree with that.”

Don’t fall for the misconception

Some 30 years ago, Carter was a law student. He knows the “tremendous benefit” derived when there is a function that serves as a networking opportunity for law students who will be graduating or law students looking for some employment to start connecting with potential employers.

“It is no secret that the jobs prospects are not what they used to be, but what I tell people is that with a little extra effort making some connections, events like this provide a tremendous benefit because they create the opportunity for you,” said Carter. “I commend the mayor and the City of Memphis’ Chief Counsel Herman Morris.”

A native Memphian, Carter attended Morehouse College and the University of Virginia School of Law.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to return to Memphis right after law school to clerk for the Honorable Odell Horton Jr. Clerking for Judge Horton, being here working downtown in the federal building was a tremendous experience.”

Carter attended Overton High School, which is known for its performing arts emphasis.

“That’s what is so fantastic about the law. There is no specific major,” said Carter, who shared that he has a daughter interested in attending a higher-education institution to perhaps become something “like the director of nursing for a hospital.”

 “I said, ‘You know what? I want you to go on and become the director of nursing because you probably ultimately (are) going to become a lawyer and be practicing in the medical malpractice area.’ I was an accounting major in undergrad.

“The misconception is that you need to major in political science, you need to be an English major,” said Carter. “The study of law is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree who is willing and who wants to take their seat at the table and do what is needed to graduate and take the bar exam.”

‘I want to be a lawyer’

Smiley went to Bolton High School, played basketball throughout college and got to his senior year and said, “I think I want to go to law school.”

The challenges included not knowing any lawyers or what he needed to do. He reasoned upon the need for a double major, hustling with a heavy course load his senior year so that he could have the double major of criminal justice and sociology.

The seed, he said upon reflection, was planted at an early age.

“When I was 10 years old I was playing basketball and the coach was helping different individuals in the community, giving them clothes, fatherly advice….I was very inquisitive at that age so I’m asking a lot of questions. I said, ‘How are you able to help everybody?’ He said, ‘Well, I am not able to help everybody but I do my best to.’ I (asked), ‘What do you do?’ He said, ‘I’m a lawyer.’

“So the seed was planted at the age of 10,” said Smiley. “I played basketball in college and (eventually) said, “I want to be a lawyer.”

2016 contest overshadows GOP governors meeting

GOP

BOCA RATON, Fla. — No fewer than a half-dozen potential presidential candidates are gathering in Florida as the Republican Governors Association prepares to select its next leader.

The organization's annual conference began Wednesday in a luxury oceanside resort where the nation's Republican governors are celebrating their party's recent success in the midterm elections while privately jockeying for position as the 2016 presidential contest looms.

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