341 Meeting Recap: Thoughts on Hell’s Half Acre; Beware When Judges are too Nice; Karaoke Happy Hour; Sue the Collector.com

Welcome to the “341 Meeting,” at 3:41pm (well, today, I’m posting at 11:41, just to get it out here).

This will be a regular series of posts (on Thursdays, at 3:41) that will be longer, but made up of smaller, semi-relevant items about local legal issues. A lot of you (about 1,000) “subscribe” here and get an e-mail every time I post an update, and this is a way to get mini-blasts out (without clogging up your inboxes with a bunch of smaller posts). 

But, first, a video from Judge George Paine of the United States Bankruptcy Courts for the Middle District of Tennessee…. only those of you who have attended a Nashville 341 Meeting will get that…nevermind…

The Tennessee Bar Association has scheduled the Creditors Practice Annual Forum 2019 for September 18, 2019. 

The 2019 lineup is really great, but I’m biased (I coordinated most of the lineup). There’s a lien law primer and a discussion on Bankruptcy Basics (from DEBTOR lawyers!).

The one I’m most excited about will be a session on Fair Debt Credit Practices Act violations presented by Jarred Johnson, who runs the website Sue The Collector. This guy is an expert on these issues, and he’s a great storyteller. This session alone will be worth the price of admission. It will, literally, be a guy who makes a living suing debt collectors giving a lecture to a room full of debt collectors.

The full agenda can be found here.

Plus, there’s a cocktail hour immediately afterwards, and the creditors’ bar is a lively group.  What I’m saying is, pay for an extra hour or two at the parking lot when you come to this event.

Lack of Diversity in Judiciary.new study has been released that highlights the lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity among state supreme courts. Twenty-four states currently have all-white supreme courts, and only 15 percent of seats on state supreme court benches are filled by people of color.

It’s an interesting issue, that courts, law firms, and law schools need to work on.

I’ll go one step further: I think law firm clients need to think about this as well. When a client hires a law firm, are clients asking about diversity? Are clients challenging law firms to take a hard look at their internal policies?  Do clients care about diversity and, if so, how are they expressing that to law firms?

My law firm works to have lawyers, staff, and clients who are representative of the community in which we work. It matters to us as a workplace.

I don’t perceive this to be a trend in our local legal community. Don’t get me wrong; everybody talks about diversity, but, in the end, lawyers and law firms focus mostly on the bottom line, traditional ways of doing things/hiring, and a social/cultural network that tends to promote the status quo. How can we change this?

Real change in the legal profession will not happen until clients start pushing these issues as well.  Clients can vote with their dollars. If these issues are important to clients–and they should be–clients can force this discussion and impact the profession. If you’re a potential client and you care about this, ask prospective law firms what they do to promote diversity, whether in hiring or in the community.

Addressing these issues at a law firm level will be the first step in changing the judiciary.

Nashville’s Celebrity Murder Trial.  Last Sunday, the Tennessean devoted the front page of Sunday’s paper to a complete reprint of the front page from July 21, 1969, to commemorate the Moon Landing.

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My eyes were immediately drawn to the front page, left sidebar, coverage of the then ongoing murder trial involving William E. Powell, accused in the 1968 shooting of his business partner W. Haynie Gourley . This story was the OJ Simpson trial of its time, and it involved some of Nashville’s legal luminaries: Cecil Branstetter; Tom Shriver; Hal Hardin; John Hooker Sr.; Jack Norman.

There were twists and turns galore. Surprise witnesses. Dubious eye-witness testimony. Clear motive. A potential serial killer involved. A murder weapon discovered during the trial. Intense public interest. The local papers transcribed and ran every word of testimony the next day.

Ultimately, Powell was acquitted. To this day, the murder has never been solved.

Nearly twenty years later, the Nashville Scene reviewed the murder, the trial, and the aftermath in these two great articles from 1995 by Bob Holladay: The Day Mr. Gourley Got Shot; and ‘Big Bill’ Powell Takes the Stand. If you have time to kill, check these articles out. What a crazy case.

Expensive Real Property in Hell’s Half-Acre.  This past week, I did some site visits with real estate brokers, and they took me to visit Capitol View, a 32-acre mixed use development near downtown Nashville. Already home to some of Nashville’s biggest companies, Capitol View is home to some of the most gorgeous–and expensive–commercial space in town.

While viewing all the awesome amenities, I was reminded of this 2017 article about the planned development, which discussed the newly minted name for the area (the “North Gulch”) and not the historic name for it: “Hell’s Half-Acre.”

Here’s a little back-story on that name:

Sprawling areas of “shacks and lean-tos” provided residences to numerous African-Americans. The area received its name as a result of many fights and pistol shootings that occurred during the 1870s and 1880s. Perpetrators could not be punished as the area was outside Nashville city limits at that time. Line Street became known as the primary thoroughfare for saloons and brothels in the neighborhood. Thanks to reputation, it was said in William Waller’s history of Nashville that citizens were “embarrassed to get on the streetcar for Line Street when it was called out as ready.”

Generally, the area remained impoverished and crime-ridden, until the 1950s, when urban renewal and development cleared the area for wider roads and greenspace (and, not mentioned, a Chrysler / Jeep car lot).

When driving around all the cranes and new development in modern day Nashville, you tend to remember only the immediately displaced people and businesses (i.e. “wait a second, that old West End Taco Bell is going to be boutique hotel?”), but, go back a few more decades, and you realize the larger magnitude of growth and development in Nashville.

It’s jarring when ultra-high end developments are built on the sites with such terrible history. I’m thinking about the Stadium Inn being converted into a boutique hotel or the old 8th Avenue flophouse that’s now the lux Holston House.

I will say, however, that Capitol View is awesome.

Beware when the Judge is too nice.  I love this tweet from a local lawyer:

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Some of the most effusive compliments that I’ve ever received from a judge are immediately followed by the judge ruling against me.

Not too long ago, I had to present a pretty terrible argument, but it was the best (and only) argument that I had for my client. So, I made it. And our judge–immediately before ruling against me–spent 3 minutes talking about what a great job I did.

I’m not complaining–it’s actually really nice of the judge and helps me sell my invoice for that hard fought loss to my client (bonus points if the client is present).

But losing always stings, no matter how nice the ruling is packaged.

Speaking of tweets that specifically speak to me, Part 2.  There’s this one, too.

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The worst part about discrete typos in briefs is that I generally only notice them on Thursday night, after I haven’t touched the brief for a few days, and generally while I’m preparing for my Friday morning hearing. After hours, days, maybe weeks proofing an important filing for flow, citations, and logic, it’s always the most inconspicuous (and sometimes obvious) glitches that drive me crazy.

What I do is this: I get a big red pen, and I circle the typo in the most obnoxious way. Then, I just move on.

Nashville Bar Association Karaoke Happy Hour!  It’s time for the Third Annual Happy Hour. This year, it’ll be on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, in downtown Nashville, at Alley Taps.

It’s free to attend, and please note that the NBA has sponsorship opportunities available. This is the one event where people take tons of photos (action / singing photos!), and your corporate logo could be all over this event. Hint hint.

(Note: I make no money from this event, but the more sponsorships there are, the more free drinks and the more karaoke singers.)

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Aren’t you glad this isn’t 6-7 separate blog posts?  See you next Thursday. Maybe.

Author: David

I am a creditors rights attorney with Bone McAllester Norton PLLC in Nashville, Tennessee.

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