Letters of the Law

Call Your Next Witness

I certainly enjoyed “Jilted” by Don Paine and Sarah Sheppeard (“When Breaking a Heart Is Breaking the Law,” February 2012 Tennessee Bar Journal). It reminded me of the first time I sat as a special judge in Knox County General Sessions Court in the mid-90s. Andy Fox’s male client sued Jeff Witt’s female client for breach of promise to marry. After testimony of him being a preacher and a man of faith, it was brought out that she danced at the Mouse’s Ear and convinced him to do the same. His testimony was that he thought he could convince her to see the light. Needless to say, there were not two independent witnesses and I dismissed the case on motion after close of plaintiff’s proof.

The only post-trial criticism of my ruling was that it did not give those in the courtroom the benefit of the defendant being examined on the witness stand!
— Lynn Tarpy, Knoxville

President Said It Well: Lawyers Should Inform Others About Political, Legal Issues

I was impressed by the excellent message from our president in the last issue (“Lawyers Play a Unique Role in Our Political Process,” March 2012 TBJ).  Danny Van Horn said what needed to be said about our responsibility to educate the public.

We, better than most, know the effects of proposed laws and amendments to our federal and state constitutions. Lawyers are better informed about the qualifications judicial candidates should possess. Most of the public have little knowledge about whether an appellate judge is worthy of retention.

At the very least, we should encourage our acquaintances to ask for information about important legal issues.
— Landis Turner, Hohenwald

Good Advice: Get ‘Immunity’ the Old-Fashioned Way

I have recently taken on the monumental task of sorting through over 50 years of “paperwork” accumulated by my father, Will Terry Abernathy, who practiced law in Tennessee for many years and in many differing capacities. In the late 1930s, my father was counsel for the Tennessee Department of Labor in its divison of Unemployment Compensation, and while holding that position, he wrote a letter to his uncle, W. K. Abernathy, with whom he had practiced law, and I thought the letter contained some sage advice, particularly for young lawyers.

In this letter, my father was basically telling his uncle about his current litigation responsibilities, and the letter contained the following:

Seay, Stockill and Edwards are the opposing counsel and though they are hot stuff here in Nashville, I have long since reached the point where none of them scare me. All any of them can do is to ‘take your tobacco away from you, kick your ass and throw your hat in the creek.’ This has been done to me so much that I am now immune.

For all of us who have been there, this battle-tested way of acquiring “immunity” remains without substitute.
— Terry Abernathy, Selmer