Tuesday, March 6th, 2012


Board of Judicial Conduct Bill Makes First Big Move

Legislation that would make changes to the Court of the Judiciary cleared its first major hurdle today. The bill, which would rename the Court as the Board of Judicial Conduct, would also change the appointing authorities, and revise the standard for proceeding to hearing. It would preserve the balance of 10 judges, three lawyers and three citizen members. Sponsored by Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, the bill received a 12-2 vote in the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the floor. Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins, who chairs the Judicial Conference Committee charged with working with the legislature on the bill, indicated that the changes were suitable. Download the amendment.

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
00 - 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

CORRECTION: Due to numerous mistakes in the opinion originally released on January 20, 2012 a substitute opinion has been issued.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Elliott J. Schuchardt, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the appellant, Amy Dendy.

James Dendy, Norris, Tennessee, pro se.


This divorce case covered a span of years in the Trial Court, and the Trial Court ultimately granted the parties a divorce, awarded primary custody of the children to the father, denied alimony to the mother and divided the marital estate between the parties. The mother appealed and has raised numerous issues. Many of the issues raised pertain to matters occurring after the appeal was filed, and we decline to consider these issues. The record establishes the mother did not attend the final hearing wherein the divorce was granted. We vacate that part of the final decree, dividing the marital assets and liabilities, on the ground that the mother established grounds of excusable neglect for failing to attend the trial, and remand to the Trial Court to grant a new trial on this issue. We otherwise affirm the rulings in the Judgment by the Trial Court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jeffrey R. King and Corinne E. Martin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, James Garry and Marilyn Garry.

Michael K. Stagg, Eileen Burkhalter Smith, and Claire Goodman Sawyer, for the appellees, Tennessee Gas Transmission Company and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company.


In this easement boundary dispute, property owners seek damages against a gas company for trespassing and nuisance. The gas company possesses three separate utility easements for natural gas pipelines on the property at issue, which easements include the right to perform maintenance and other work on the pipelines. When the gas company undertook major repairs to the pipelines in 2006, the property owners filed this action, alleging the gas company exceeded the boundaries of the utility easements and trespassed. The trial court granted summary judgment to the gas company based on the affidavit of an employee of the gas company. We find the affidavit fails to establish the employee’s personal knowledge of material facts stated therein, specifically the boundaries of each easement; accordingly, we reverse and remand.

Today's News

Court Stops New Trials for Baumgartner-decided Cases

The Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a stay of new trials ordered for three of the four defendants in the January 2007 torture slayings of a Knox County couple and an unrelated attempted murder case. Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood late last year ruled the trials of the defendants in the slayings were constitutionally flawed because of the misdeeds of former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner. The reprieve, however, is temporary, designed to allow the respective defense teams time to respond to the state Attorney General's Office request for permission to appeal orders granting the new trials. Read more in the News Sentinel.

Dad Can’t Sue Mediator/Judge in International Custody Case

A Tennessee father locked in an international custody battle with his ex-wife in Japan cannot sue a mediator-turned-state judge who presided over the dispute, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. The court ruled that Dr. Christopher Savoie's lawsuit didn't state a valid claim against 21st District Judge James G. Martin III and the law firm of Stites & Harbison. News Channel 5 reports.

Norton Sworn In

David Norton was sworn into office as General Sessions Court judge at a ceremony this morning. He was appointed by the Hamilton County County Commission to fill the seat that came open upon the recent death of Judge Bob Moon. Norton will serve until the Aug. 2 election. He has picked up papers to be a candidate in that race. He has been judge at Soddy Daisy for 27 years. Sam Elliott, city attorney for Soddy Daisy, said Norton has not resigned that post. See a picture on Chattanoogan.com.

Requests to Expunge Criminal Records on the Rise

Tennessee has reported a 71 percent jump since 2007 in the number of people filing to have charges expunged. Davidson County has seen cases more than double in that same time frame. Officials say this rise is related to the economy -- as jobs become scarcer and employers are able to be pickier, people want their records cleaned up to help them in the job market. The Tennessean reports.

Tennessee's Super Tuesday Results Still Coming In

As Super Tuesday winds down, find out what’s happening around the state from The Tennessean, the Knoxville News Sentinel and from Fox News in Memphis. Official election results from the Secretary of State’s Office are here

Does Pinterest Infringe on Copyrights?

The new Pinterest internet craze is raising concerns about copyright infringement. One of the most important related precedents was set when Google was taken to court for copyright infringement over thumbnail images that didn't properly attribute rights holders. The courts ruled in Google's favor, and a new precedent was set in 2007. Both Pinterest and its detractors cite the case in their support. Pinterest defenders claim what it does closely parallels Google, and is therefore protected by the same fair use laws. Detractors argue that because Pinterest is circulating content much larger than a thumbnail and using full-resolution images, the laws that shielded Google don't apply.  WSMV has this story.

ABA Washington Office Moves

The American Bar Association announced today that it has entered into a 15-year lease with Washington Square Limited Partnership LLP, at 1050 Connecticut Ave., NW, where it will occupy 61,000 square feet of space. This follows the Dec. 16 sale of its historic 175,000-square-foot building at 740 15th St. NW — a block from the White House.

Court: U of Colorado Students Can Carry Guns on Campus

The University of Colorado overstepped its authority when the school's board of regents imposed a ban on the carrying of concealed weapons at its four campuses, the state's Supreme Court ruled on Monday. In overturning the policy, the court said that a concealed-carry law passed by the state legislature trumped the school's ban because it did not carve out an exception for the state's flagship university. News Channel 3 carried this Reuters story.

Court: Inmate Can’t Change Court-Appointed Lawyer

The Supreme Court says a California death row inmate can't change his court-appointed appeals lawyer because he didn't like the lawyer's defense tactics. The justices on Monday turned away the appeal from Kenneth Clair, who was sentenced to death in 1987 for burglary and murder. Clair wanted to change his federal public defender in 2005 because he says they were trying to stop his execution instead of trying to prove his innocence. TriCities. com has the Associated Press story.


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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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