Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012


Court of the Judiciary Compromise in the Works

Lawmakers are coalescing around a compromise amendment that would eliminate the Court of the Judiciary and replace it with a new “Board of Judicial Conduct” to investigate ethical complaints against judges and determine discipline,  The Tennessean reports. The proposal would continue to allow judges to be punished privately in some circumstances, but it would lower the bar for when the investigation of a judge is appropriate. It also would maintain the current membership breakdown of 10 judges and six non-judges, but would remove all appointment power from the Tennessee Supreme Court. Instead, it would vest that power in the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the House and Senate speakers. Learn more in The Tennessean

Today's Opinions

Click on the category of your choice to view summaries of today’s opinions from that court, or other body. A link at the end of each case summary will let you download the full opinion in PDF format.

00 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Worker's Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
03 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
00 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR
00 - TN Supreme Court - Disciplinary Orders
01 - TN Worker's Comp Appeals

You can obtain full-text versions of the opinions two ways. We recommend that you download the Opinions to your computer and then open them from there. 1) Click the URL at end of each Opinion paragraph below. This should give you the option to download the original document. If not, you may need to right-click on the URL to get the option to save the file to your computer.

TN Worker's Comp Appeals


Court: TN Worker's Comp Appeals


Fetlework Balite-Panelo, Nashville, Tennessee, and Stephen W. Elliott, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Davita, Inc.

Edward L. Martindale, Jr., Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Vonetta Mousseau.

Judge: KURTZ

The employee, a registered nurse, injured her neck and lower back when she slipped and fell in a pool of water. She had surgical fusions of the cervical and lumbar spine. She continued to have serious symptoms for which she received numerous medications. Her treating physician testified that she was incapable of performing any nursing functions, including those that required only sedentary work. The trial court found her to be permanently and totally disabled. Her employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding on disability and that the employee should be held to have been offered a meaningful return to work. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Charles Carpenter, Maryville, Tennessee, for appellant, Christopher M. Foster.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn, District Attorney General; and Betsy Brockman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Christopher M. Foster, pled guilty in the Blount County Circuit Court to robbery and received a five-year sentence to be served on supervised probation. Subsequently, the trial court revoked his probation and ordered that he serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by not granting him another alternative sentence. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Yalonda Anne Barron, Cleveland, Tennessee, pro se.

No attorney listed


In this case the grandparents were awarded temporary custody of the mother's two minor children after the Court determined the children were dependent and neglected in the mother's care. Subsequently, the Trial Court set child support payments from the mother to the grandparents based on the mother's social security disability benefits income. The mother has appealed to this Court, and argues that the Trial Court erred in setting the amount of the mother's child support payments and contends that social security benefits are not subject to garnishment. We affirm the Trial Judge on all issues and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Sue A. Sheldon, Senior Counsel, Health Care Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tennessee Department of Human Services.

Alexander M. Taylor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Carol Crisel. Attorney 3: C. Douglas Berryhill, Jefferson City, Tennessee, guardian ad litem for the institutionalized spouse, Thomas Crisel.


This appeal involves the “spousal impoverishment” provision of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 (“MCCA”). Thomas Crisel (“Husband”) was placed in a nursing home for health-related problems. Subsequently, Carol Crisel (“Wife”) filed a complaint against Husband in which she sought spousal support in the form of a transfer of the family residence and all of his income. The trial court granted Wife’s request and filed an order reflecting its decision. Upon receiving notice of the order, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (“TDHS”) filed a motion to intervene and to set aside the order pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The trial court denied the motion. TDHS appeals. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand with instruction to the trial court to reconsider Wife’s complaint for spousal support with TDHS participating as an intervening party.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Damon E. Campbell, Union City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Federal Materials Company, LLC

James B. Webb, Brandon L. Newman, Trenton, Tennessee, for the appellees, Bernie Cheatham and Universal Builders, LLC


Builder was hired to construct a commercial building, and it purchased the concrete for the building’s concrete slab from Supplier. The concrete slab developed major cracks, which led to this lawsuit between Builder and Supplier. After a two-day bench trial, the trial court found that Supplier had delivered defective concrete, and it entered judgment in favor of Builder for $60,000. We affirm.

TBA Website Update

The TBA appreciates the patience of those members who have experienced problems with the TBA website during the past few days. We are working to make it more useful for all members, so we regret any inconvenience caused by this transition. Please advise us of any problems that you experience, so that we can work to fix them as fast as possible.

Resolution Calls on Arriola to Step Down, Repay Fees

The Nashville Metro Council approved a nonbinding resolution Tuesday requesting the resignation of embattled Davidson County Clerk John Arriola, who has been under fire since news reports revealed that he was assessing $40 fees on couples married by his office. In another resolution, the council also asked Arriola to return the fees, which are estimated to total more than $190,000. The Nashville Business Journal reports

KBA Launches Community Newsletter

The Knoxville Bar Association this week launched a new service for members of the public interested in lawyer referral services and public education programs. The newsletter will be published twice a year, in the spring and fall. The inaugural issue includes information on the KBA’s upcoming “Community Law School” – a series of free seminars on legal topics that will begin March 31 with a session on wills and estate planning; links to new resources for the public; and a warning against “do it yourself” legal forms. Download a pdf of the newsletter or subscribe here for future issues.

15th Judicial Bar Elects New Officers

The 15th Judicial Bar Association has elected officers for the 2012 term. They are President Elizabeth L. Youmans with MacPherson & Youmans, Vice President Jennifer Porth with the Law Offices of J. Stephen Brown, Secretary Lisa A. Tomlinson with the Vance Law Office and Treasurer Karen Parker with Agee & Agee. All practice in Lebanon, except Tomlinson who is in Watertown.

Glankler Brown Names Management Committee

Memphis law firm Glankler Brown PLLC has announced the 2012 members of its management committee. They are William Bomar, Charles Hill, Christopher Lamberson, John Houseal Jr., J. William Pierce Jr. and chief manager William Bradley. The management committee addresses firm matters and advises other members and staff on administrative issues. The Memphis Daily News reported the appointments.

FBI Asks Judge to Reconsider Withers Order

The FBI has asked a federal judge to reconsider an order directing the agency to produce an index of records of informant Ernest Withers, who was a civil rights-era photographer in Memphis. District Judge Army Berman Jackson ruled Jan. 31 that Withers’ role with the FBI was confirmed in records released by the agency in 2008. The agency contends that the documents in question are not releasable through the Freedom of Information Act because it has not officially confirmed Withers was an informant. It says the documents released in 2008 were an inadvertent disclosure. Read more in the Commercial Appeal

Race for Knox Law Director Heats Up

The race for Knox County law director so far has been gentlemanly, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. But as it gets closer to Election Day, the two candidates have started making pointed comments about each other. Richard "Bud" Armstrong, who is challenging Joe Jarret for the position, says he questions Jarret's management and legal skills and his knowledge of Tennessee law saying, "I'm not against Joe because he's not from around here. But, he's just not a good law director because he's not from around here." For his part, Jaret points out that Armstrong has only been licensed to practice law for four years and is not yet licensed to practice in federal court. Read more in the News Sentinel

Justices Reject Formal Ethics Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected congressional calls for justices to adhere officially to the same ethics rules binding on other federal judges, including when to recuse themselves in cases involving possible conflicts of interest. "The Court does not plan to adopt the Code of Conduct for United States Judges through a formal resolution," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a letter released Tuesday to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT. But Roberts said he and his eight colleagues would -- on their own initiative -- continue to follow the same rules as other judges when it comes to accepting and reporting on outside income, honoraria and gifts. CNN has more

Court Accepts College Admissions Race Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether the University of Texas' race-conscious admission policies violate the rights of white applicants. The high court has had an evolving record on the discretion of state officials to decide who attends their institutions. In 2003, the court said universities could narrowly tailor their admissions policies to consider an applicant's race. The Texas case is further complicated over issues of standing. Oral arguments are set for this fall with a ruling scheduled for early 2013. Read this CNN report on WCYB Channel 5 Bristol


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About this publication: Today's News is a compilation of digests of news reports of interest to Tennessee lawyers compiled by TBA staff, links to digested press releases, and occasional stories about the TBA and other activities written by the TBA staff or members. Statements or opinions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tennessee Bar Association, its officers, board or staff.

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