Friday, March 2nd, 2012


Judges, Attorneys Star in 'GAVELS' Program

A program that sends practicing and retired attorneys and judges into the community to speak to groups is getting some positive attention. The relatively new GAVELS program (Gaining Access to Valuable Education about the Legal System), created by the Tennessee Judicial Conference and Tennessee Bar Association, has already had many requests for speakers. "Folks don’t seem to have a good sense of how the justice system works," says TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur, "and we think that if anyone could explain it, judges and lawyers would be the obvious choice."
The Nashville Ledger has the details.

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 Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
05 - 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

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 Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Charles S. Kelly, Jr.,, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Melissa Brunson (Buckner)

Marianna Williams, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jeffrey Wayne Buckner


The parties’ final decree of divorce provided that they would equitably share in the sale proceeds of a business that they had sold. After a few months, the wife filed a petition for contempt and/or additional relief, alleging that the husband was not making the payments in compliance with the final decree. The trial court found that husband was in contempt to the extent that he failed to make payment in full on one occasion, but it declined to find the husband in contempt for most of the matters asserted. The wife filed a motion to alter or amend, which was denied. The wife appeals. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Al H. Thomas and Aaron L. Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vivian Kennard.

William H. Haltom, Jr., and Margaret F. Cooper, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Arthur M. Townsend, IV., M.D., and Associates Obstetrics & Gynecology, P.C.


This case is before us upon mandate from the Tennessee Supreme Court for reconsideration of our previous opinion, Kennard v. Townsend, No. W2010–00461–COA–R3C, 2011 WL 1434625 (Tenn. Ct. App. April 14, 2011), in light of the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision in Shipley v. Williams, 350 S.W.3d 527 (Tenn. 2011). In our previous review of this medical malpractice case, we upheld the trial court’s exclusion of Appellant’s medical expert under the locality rule, and further affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment against the Appellant. Because the qualifications of Appellant’s expert were not considered in light of Shipley, and because the admission of expert testimony is a matter of discretion in the trial court, we vacate the orders excluding the testimony of the Appellant’s expert and the grant of summary judgment, and remand for reconsideration in light of the Shipley decision. Vacated and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Johnny V. Dunaway, LaFollette, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sandra K. Williams.

David H. Stanifer and Lindsey C. Cadle, Tazewell, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ronnie Lloyd Williams.


This appeal concerns the post-divorce modification of alimony in futuro. Ronnie Lloyd Williams (“Husband”) sought a reduction in his alimony obligation owed to Sandra K. Williams (“Wife”). Husband alleged that Wife’s income had increased since the divorce, resulting in an unanticipated substantial and material change in circumstances. Following a hearing, the trial court reduced Husband’s alimony obligation from $750 per month to $500 per month. Wife appeals. We reverse the decision of the trial court, vacate the trial court’s judgment and terminate Husband’s alimony obligation.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert A. Anderson, Nashville, Tennessee for Plaintiff/Appellants Ronald and Sherry Windrow

James C. Cope & Jeremy M. Cothern, Murfreesboro, Tennessee for Defendant/Appellee, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves a nuisance claim. The plaintiff landowners filed a nuisance action against the defendant electrical cooperative, alleging that the cooperative’s electrical substation, built near the plaintiffs’ home, constituted a nuisance. The electrical cooperative filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the landowners’ claim was in actuality a claim for inverse condemnation that was time-barred, and that they were precluded from asserting a tort claim for nuisance. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff landowners now appeal. We reverse.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Lauren R. Biloski and Kevin C. Angel, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the appellant, Heather M.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Shanta J. Murray, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed Zachary G. and Kaleb M. (collectively the “Children”) from Heather M. (“Mother”) and Elmus G. (“Father”). The Children were adjudicated 1 dependent and neglected and placed with Rhonda S. (“Grandmother”). Years later, the Children were placed in foster care and two new permanency plans were entered. DCS then petitioned to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Following a hearing, the court terminated Mother’s parental rights, finding that Mother had abandoned the Children, that Mother had failed to substantially comply with the permanency plans, and that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Children. Mother appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals

With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Emma Rae Tennent (on appeal), Joan Lawson (at trial), and Michael Engle (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Darelle Smith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Chris Buford and Katy Miller, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, William Darelle Smith, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve a life sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant appeals his conviction, claiming the following: (1) the trial court erred when it allowed the Defendant’s girlfriend to testify about threatening statements the Defendant made two or three days before the victim’s murder; (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; and (3) the trial court erred when it failed to inquire into possible juror misconduct. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Tuesday is First Election Requiring Photo IDs

Voters must get a photo ID before they go to the polls for the Super Tuesday primaries, which is March 6. Tuesday's election will be the first test of the new law passed last year requiring photo IDs to vote. Those who show up at the polls without qualified ID may cast a provisional ballot and return to the county Election Commission within 48 hours with a photo ID to make sure the ballot counts. The Times Free Press has more.

District AG Resigns

District Attorney General Chuck Crawford of Lincoln County abruptly announced his resignation Thursday morning, saying he was "physically and emotionally drained." The statement said that his resignation would be effective July 31. The Shelbyville Times-Gazette has details.

Judge Chooses Where Jury Pool Will Come From For Retrial

Although he's keeping them secret, Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has already picked the locations from which juries will be selected to try for a second time the defendants in the slayings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. The state Attorney General's Office is considering asking the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals to put on hold retrials in the case to allow the office to appeal Blackwood's decision that the four defendants were denied constitutionally sound trials because of former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner's crimes while presiding over their original trials. The first retrial, of LeMarcus Davidson, is set for April 16. The News Sentinel reports.

Frank Runyon Remembered

Clarksville lawyer and former state representative Frank Jasper Runyon II, who died this week, is remembered by family and friends as a kind-hearted gentleman who loved being a lawyer. “He very much enjoyed being a lawyer. I heard certain phrases, all of my life. Such as 'when I cannot even see the other side of the case, that is a problem,' indicating that a lawyer must have the ability to at least try to understand alternative theories of every case,” J. Runyon III said. "As a lawyer he was always well prepared,” Judge Ray Grimes said. “He was one of the most well-organized lawyers I’ve ever known.” Ray Runyon said “Every case was important to him, every person that walked through the door was important.”  The Leaf Chronicle has more.

Long Named Assistant Commissioner

Michelle J. Long has been named assistant commissioner of health licensure and regulation for the state of Tennessee. She has been a lawyer for the Tennessee Hospital Association and executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Read more in the Tennessean.

Editorial: Make Prison Overcrowding a Priority

Because of prison overcrowding, the Tennessean, in an editorial, says that the Haslam administration should accelerate its plan to develop pretrial diversion programs, especially through courts dedicated to drug-offense cases, "even if it has to do some funding diversion of its own to make it happen." Last year, state officials announced that they would release up to 2,200 nonviolent inmates 60 days early, diverting them to community programs and liberalizing sentencing credits. Read the editorial.

Governor Signs Bill, Occupy Protestors Given One Week to Vacate

Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill today banning unauthorized camping on public grounds, giving notice to Occupy Nashville protestors. The Department of General Services announced that beginning a week from today it will start enforcing a new state law that punishes unauthorized camping with up to a $2,500 fine and 11 months, 29 days in jail. The Tennessean has the story.

Bill for Coaches' Right to Pray Passes House

A bill to allow teachers and coaches the right to pray with their students in religious activities on school grounds passed the Tennessee House yesterday. Lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill 3266 by Rep. Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram, 93 to 0. WBIR reports.

Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The 107th Tennessee General Assembly is now in session and the TBA has a number of tools to help you track the status of legislation. Watch TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has  initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community. Find complete TBA legislative resources

Hawkins County Lawyer Reinstated

Hawkins County lawyer John Douglas Godbee has been reinstated to the practice of law Feb. 28 after being temporarily suspended since Jan. 14 for noncompliance with his Tennessee Lawyer’s Assistance (TLAP) Monitoring Agreement. Download the Board of Professional Responsibility's release.


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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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