Thursday, February 23rd, 2012


Robinson is New Circuit Court Judge

Gov. Bill Haslam today chose Nashville family law attorney Phillip Robinson, 61, to fill an opening on the Davidson County Circuit Court. Robinson graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law and has practiced in Nashville for 36 years. The selection is Haslam’s first Nashville judicial appointment. An opening on the court was created when former Circuit Judge Barbara Haynes retired last year. Voters will fill the post on a more permanent basis in the August general election. Robinson continues a family legacy on the bench and in local politics. His late father, former state Rep. Charles R. “Robb” Robinson, represented the Madison area in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1970 to 2000, and his uncle, Garner Robinson, served a term as sheriff. Robinson’s cousin, Muriel Robinson, is a former domestic judge on the Davidson County Circuit Court. Another cousin, Gale B. Robinson, is a Davidson County General Sessions judge. The Tennessean has more.

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.

01 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Worker's Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
04 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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

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 Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Donald E. Dawson, Joanne L. Diamond, and Kertyssa Austin, Office of the Post-Conviction Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gerald Lee Powers.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Angele M. Gregory, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and John Campbell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Gerald Lee Powers, appeals the judgment of the Shelby County Criminal Court denying his petition for post-conviction relief. In 1998, he was convicted of first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery. His convictions and death sentence were affirmed on direct appeal by the Tennessee Supreme Court. See State v. Powers, 101 S.W.3d 383, 387 (Tenn. 2003), cert. denied, 538 U.S. 1038, 123 S. Ct. 2083 (2003). On appeal, the petitioner presents a number of issues: trial counsel were ineffective in selection of jurors; the trial court erred in not allowing individual voir dire and limiting counsel’s voir dire questioning; trial counsel were ineffective because they had excessive caseloads and did not object to long trial days; trial counsel failed to investigate certain evidence; trial counsel were ineffective as to expert witnesses; trial counsel were ineffective in presentation of other suspects to the homicide; trial counsel were ineffective in their witness interviews and failed to locate certain relevant witnesses; the trial court erred in instructing the jury as to reasonable doubt; the State failed to produce exculpatory evidence and to preserve certain evidence; the trial court should have disqualified itself; trial counsel failed to object to the applicability of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-204(c); and imposition of the death penalty is unconstitutional. We have carefully reviewed each of these claims and conclude, as did the post-conviction court, that they are without merit. Accordingly, we affirm the order of that court denying the petition for post-conviction relief.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gerald L. Ewell, Jr., Tullahoma, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tyrone Ralph Wright.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Mickey Layne, District Attorney General; Felicia Walkup, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Coffee County jury convicted the Defendant, Tyrone Ralph Wright, of one count of theft of property under $500 and one count of forgery over $1000. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to an effective sentence of twelve years. The Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence obtained during the search of a vehicle in which the Defendant was a passenger; (2) the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of an uncharged forgery; (3) the trial court erred when it failed to charge the jury on a lesser included offense; (4) the identification of the Defendant submitted at trial violated the “physical facts rule;” (5) the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (6) he was denied his right to allocution at the sentencing hearing; and (7) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that there is no error in the judgments of the trial court, and we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

TN Supreme Court

With a separate concurring opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court


William Louis Ricker, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephen Bernard Wlodarz.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Gordon W. Smith, Solicitor General; Mark A. Fulks, Senior Counsel; C. Berkeley Bell, Jr., District Attorney General; and J. Douglas Goodbee, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The petitioner, charged with first degree premeditated murder and other crimes, entered best interest guilty pleas and received an effective sentence of life without parole. After an unsuccessful petition for post-conviction relief challenging the effectiveness of his trial counsel, he filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis alleging newly discovered, exculpatory ballistic evidence. The trial court denied the petition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. Wlodarz v. State, No. E2008-02179-CCA-R3-CO, 2010 WL 1998766 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 19, 2010). We granted the application for permission to appeal to consider whether a petitioner who has entered guilty pleas may challenge his convictions by writ of error coram nobis pursuant to the terms of our statute. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-26- 105(b) (2006). While we have determined that the petitioner did not forfeit the procedural remedy of writ of error coram nobis based on newly discovered evidence by entering the guilty pleas, the evidence in this instance does not qualify as newly discovered. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.

TN Court of Appeals

With separate concurring in part and dissenting in part opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Michael A. Carter, Milan, Tennessee, for the appellants, Siegfried T. and Vernessa T.

Bede Anyanwu, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ifeatu E.


This appeal involves a petition to terminate parental rights that was filed in 2005. At the hearing, the Father consented to the termination of his parental rights, so the trial court entered an order terminating his parental rights without making findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding grounds for termination and the children’s best interest. Father subsequently challenged the trial court’s order on appeal, and the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to hold a new hearing and prepare an order with the requisite findings. On remand, the trial court found that Father had not abandoned the children by willfully failing to visit them or by willfully failing to support them, and therefore it declined to terminate his parental rights. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Wanda G. Sobieski, Diane M. Messer, and Maia A. Niemann, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Julie Leamon Tomlin.

Barrett T. Painter, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Nathan Leamon.


This case arises from a dispute over which parent should be the primary residential parent of two minor children, Julian and Tristen (“the Children,” collectively). Julie Leamon Tomlin (“Mother”) and Nathan Leamon (“Father”) are the parents of the Children. Mother and Father divorced several years ago and both have since remarried. Some time after the divorce, Mother, with whom the Children spent the majority of their time, filed a petition for correct child support and to modify the existing permanent parenting plan in the Circuit Court for McMinn County (“the Trial Court”). Father filed an answer and counterclaim, requesting that he be made the primary residential parent, or, in the alternative, that he have equal parenting time with the Children. Following trial, the Trial Court found that a material change of circumstances had occurred and that it was in the Children’s best interests that Father be made primary residential parent of the Children. Mother appeals, arguing, in part, that no material change of circumstances had occurred that could support making Father the primary residential parent. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jonathan Sacks, White House, Tennessee, for the appellant, Phillip L. Swinger.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General; and Marcie E. Green, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee ex rel. Charmaine Eason.


Father appeals from his conviction of eighteen counts of criminal contempt for willful failure to pay bi-weekly child support obligations over a thirteen-month period. The record demonstrates that Father was hospitalized and incarcerated for a portion of the relevant period, and unable to make some of the payments, but the evidence proves his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to sixteen (16) counts. We therefore, affirm the conviction of sixteen (16) of the eighteen (18) counts of criminal contempt and revise the total sentence from 180 days to 160 days.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


G. Kevin Hardin, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, George C. Norton and Teresa R. Norton.

Dale C. Allen and Luis C. Bustamante, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Barbara W. Boots, Personal Representative; Jimmy Carl Norton, Robert Norton, Clerlinda Mynatt, Joan Hill, Personal Representative of the Estate of L.C. “Jack” Hill; John Wesley Hill, First Methodist Church of Sevierville, Tennessee.


This lawsuit was filed by the decedent’s nephew and the nephew’s wife alleging that the caretakers of the decedent improperly influenced him to change his will. The proponents of the decedent’s will filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that no confidential relationship existed between the decedent and the caretakers in regard to the will. The trial court granted the proponents’ motion, finding that proof of a confidential relationship was necessary to pursue a will contest on the ground of undue influence, and that no such confidential relationship existed between decedent and the caretakers. The contestants appeal. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

Governor Says Don't Say 'Don't Say Gay'

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters on Wednesday that the controversial bill dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” and several others dealing with sexual orientation should not be a priority for legislators this session. Read the details in the Tennessee Report.

Governor Predicts Passage for ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he expects the General Assembly will pass a narrower version of a proposal to override employers' ability to stop their workers from storing guns in locked vehicles on company parking lots. “My sense is there will be a bill that makes it through,” Haslam told reporters.

Frost is New Knox City Council Attorney

Rob Frost will be the next attorney for Knoxville City Council, filling the spot Charles Swanson left when he joined Mayor Madeline Rogero's administration as city law director. There were five finalists interviewed Monday for the job. The position is part-time and Frost continues to practice at Arnett Draper & Hagood. The News Sentinel has more.

Mendes is New NBF President

Nashville lawyer Bob Mendes has been elected president of the Board of Trustees of the Nashville Bar Foundation. His firm, MGLAW PLLC, has more.

ABA President Applauds LSC Budget Request

American Bar Association President William T. Robinson II in a statement released today praises President Obama’s $402 million Legal Services Corporation budget request, pointing out that with 63 million Americans -- including 22 million children -- qualifying for legal aid, “providers in every state report a staggering volume of requests for assistance. The current LSC budget of $348 million is simply inadequate.”

Court Divided on Double Jeopardy Question

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed divided Wednesday on whether to allow an Arkansas man, Alex Blueford, to be retried on murder charges even though a jury forewoman said in open court that they were unanimously against finding him guilty -- before deliberations were complete. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last year that Blueford should be retried on the original charges. But Blueford's lawyers want justices to bar a second trial on capital and first-degree murder charges, saying that would violate Fifth Amendment protections preventing someone from being tried twice for the same crime.  ABC News has this AP story.

YLD Announces 2012 Law Day Art & Essay Contest

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has announced the 2012 Law Day Art & Essay Contest, which gives elementary and high school students the opportunity to express their ideas about living in a society that is governed by the rule of law, and achieve statewide recognition for their work. The 2012 competition theme, "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom," asks students to consider the importance of the courts and their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans. The art contest is open to students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, while the essay contest is open to students in 9th through 12th grades. Submissions must be received by local contest coordinators by April 13. Learn more about the contest

Nashville Lawyer Dies

Patrick R. Rooney, 61, died at his home in Franklin Feb. 10 following a long illness. A native of Norfolk, Va., he was an attorney in the Nashville area. He was a 1987 graduate of Michigan’s Thomas M. Coley Law School. A memorial service was held Feb. 17. Memorials may be made to Feed America First, 1105 Blue Springs Rd., Franklin, TN 37069.

Vanderbilt Alum Dies in New York

Charles William "Chet" Gerdts III, a New York lawyer and a member of Vanderbilt Law School's Board of Advisors, died Feb. 16. The 1978 graduate of the law school was 58. Since 2002, he had served as the U.S.-based general counsel of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Read more from Vanderbilt


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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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