Court Seeks Comment on General Sessions Court Forms

The Supreme Court is seeking comments on six plain language versions of forms frequently used in general sessions court. The six proposed forms, prepared and submitted by the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission are:
(1) Protected Income and Assets (Affidavit of Claim Exemptions);
(2) Request to Make Payments (Motion and Affidavit for Installment Payments);
(3) Request Not to Pay Fees for Appeal (Pauper's Oath in Lieu of Appeal Bond);
(4) Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order (Uniform Civil Affidavit of Indigency);
(5) Request to Protect Income and Assets (Motion to Quash Garnishment/Execution and Claim Exemption Rights); and
(6) Sworn Denial (Sworn Denial on Account).

See the forms and find a comment form on the Administrative Office of the Courts website. The deadline for comment is June 11.

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 Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - TN Court of Appeals
12 - 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 Supreme Court

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JASON LEE WHITE
CORRECTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS: Removed "James E. Lanier" and "Jeffrey S. Henry" from the list of attorneys for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference; In the listing of attorneys for Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the spelling of attorney Johnson's first name has been corrected from "Steven" to "Stephen" Ross Johnson.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Gordon W. Smith and Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitors General; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General; and Robert Nash, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

R. Lance Miller, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jason Lee White. Kathy Morante, Nashville, Tennessee; William Crabtree, Knoxville, Tennessee; Garland Erguden, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. Stephen Ross Johnson, Ann C. Short, and Wade V. Davies, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Aimee D. Solway, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Judge: WADE

After robbing a Clarksville restaurant, the defendant was indicted for burglary, aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated kidnapping. A jury convicted the defendant on all three counts, after which he filed a motion to set aside the conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping as violative of due process, relying on State v. Anthony, 817 S.W.2d 299 (Tenn. 1991). The trial court denied the motion and sentenced the defendant to an effective twentyfive year term. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and dismissed the conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping on due process grounds. This Court granted the State’s application for permission to appeal. Following briefing and oral argument, we ordered additional briefing and argument addressing the application of due process principles to dual convictions for kidnapping and an accompanying felony, such as rape or robbery. We hold that the legislature did not intend for the kidnapping statutes to apply to the removal or confinement of a victim that is essentially incidental to an accompanying felony, such as rape or robbery. This inquiry, however, is a question for the jury after appropriate instructions, which appellate courts review under the sufficiency of the evidence standard as the due process safeguard. Because the defendant is entitled to a new trial with specific instructions as to the especially aggravated kidnapping charge, the cause is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.


TN Court of Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE, EX REL. REBECCA ESTES V. MICHAEL ESTES

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

F.D. Gibson, III, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Estes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Marcie E. Greene, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, ex rel. Rebecca Estes. Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Marcie E. Greene, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, ex rel. Rebecca Estes.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This is a post-divorce child support case in which Michael Estes filed a petition to modify his child support obligation. The State of Tennessee is providing child support enforcement services to Rebecca Estes pursuant to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 651 et seq., and Tennessee Code Annotated section 71-3-124(c). The court modified the child support obligation pursuant to a child support worksheet but held Michael Estes in civil contempt for failure to pay support prior to filing the petition for modification. Father appeals. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

FREDRICK DARNELL ALEXANDER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Caesar Cirigliano, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fredrick Darnell Alexander.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Andrea Green, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Frederick Darnell Alexander, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of the sale of less than. 5 grams of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school. As a result, he was sentenced to twelve years in incarceration, to be served at one hundred percent. Appellant appeals the conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction and that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress Appellant’s statement to police. After a review of the record, we conclude that the evidence, although mostly circumstantial, was sufficient to show that Appellant sold cocaine to an undercover officer within 1000 feet of a school. Further, Appellant not only failed to raise any issue with regard to the motion to suppress in a motion for new trial but also failed to a provide a transcript of the hearing on the motion to suppress. Therefore, Appellant is not entitled to relief unless there is plain error. The record is not clear as to what happened in the trial court because of the lack of a transcript of the suppression hearing. Therefore, we will not review the issue for plain error. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


THOMAS NATHANIEL ALLEN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Roger G. Day, Johnson City, Tennessee for the Petitioner, Thomas Nathaniel Allen.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, Jr., District Attorney General; and Victor Vaughn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

After trial, a jury convicted the Petitioner, Thomas Nathaniel Allen, of first degree murder, and he received a life sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Petitioner appeals the Hamblen County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief and writ of error coram nobis. He argues that he is entitled to post-conviction relief based on the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel and prosecutorial misconduct committed by the State. The Petitioner claims that he received ineffective assistance 1 of counsel because trial counsel failed to (1) investigate or call several witnesses at trial and (2) retain a jury consultant. He asserts that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by instructing a witness not to talk to the defense. The Petitioner additionally argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying him coram nobis relief based on newly discovered evidence. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ROGER W. CHRISTY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender (on appeal); and Charles Bloodworth, Assistant Public Defender (at trial), for the appellant, Roger W. Christy.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorney General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Arthur Beiber, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

A Montgomery County grand jury charged the defendant, Roger W. Christy, with one count of sexual battery by an authority figure, see T.C.A. § 39-13-527 (2006), and one count of sexual battery accomplished by force or coercion, see T.C.A. § 39-13-505. Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the defendant of sexual battery by an authority figure and acquitted him of sexual battery accomplished by force or coercion. At sentencing, the trial court sentenced the defendant to three years’ probation as a Range I, standard offender. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. Having determined that a fatal variance exists between the offense charged in the indictment and the proof presented at trial, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the case.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RABON D. GIBSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Philip A. Condra, District Public Defender; and B. Jeffery Harmon, Assistant Public Defender, Jasper, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rabon D. Gibson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie Price, Assistant Attorney General; J. Michael Taylor, District Attorney General; and Steven Strain, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Rabon D. Gibson, pled guilty to three counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court denied all forms of alternative sentencing and sentenced appellant to an eight-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for an alternative sentence. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


JACKIE HARDIN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mart S. Cizek, Clinton, Tennessee (on appeal) and Russell Greene, Knoxville, Tennessee (at trial) for the petitioner, Jackie Hardin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; Kenneth F. Irvine, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Jackie Hardin, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from her aggravated assault conviction, claiming she was denied effective assistance of counsel. Petitioner alleges that trial counsel failed to call important witnesses, did not allow her to testify, and failed to conduct discovery. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARGARET L. HOLT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Eric Lutton and Keith E. Lowe, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Margaret L. Holt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Jeremy D. Ball, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellant, Margaret L. Holt, was convicted by a Jefferson County jury of attempted statutory rape by an authority figure, a Class D felony, and statutory rape by an authority figure, a Class C felony. The trial court sentenced her as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent sentences of three years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Holt argues: (1) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of a note and a kiss between her and one of the victims, and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ALEX C. NOLAN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Donna Orr Hargrove, District Attorney General, and A. Jackson Dearing, III, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Alex C. Nolan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Frank Crawford, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Alex C. Nolan, appeals the sentence of incarceration he received following the revocation of his probation by the Bedford County Circuit Court. He was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to sell and sentenced to eleven years of incarceration. However, the defendant was released onto probation by the Department of Correction through the boot camp program. Thereafter, a probation violation warrant was issued, charging the defendant with multiple violations of the terms and conditions of his probation. The defendant pled guilty to violating those terms, but he now contends that the trial erred by ordering the remainder of his sentence be served in incarceration. After review, we conclude that the defendant has not shown that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the revocation or in imposing a sentence of incarceration. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


FRED ALLEN OWENS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert L. Vogel, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fred Allen Owens.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; Ta Kisha M. Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Fred Allen Owens, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel failed to investigate and present a mental health defense. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BRANDON TRENT PATTERSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Claudia S. Jack, District Public Defender; and Michelle W. VanDeRee, Assistant Public Defender (on appeal), and John S. Colley, III, Columbia, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, Brandon Trent Patterson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General; Daniel J. Runde, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Brandon Trent Patterson, was indicted by the Maury County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder. By agreement between the parties, Defendant was also charged by criminal information with one count of aggravated assault. Following a jury trial, Defendant was acquitted of attempted first degree murder and convicted of aggravated assault. Defendant was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. Defendant appeals his conviction, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DENNY MERRILL PHILLIPS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Martha J. Yoakum, District Public Defender; Tina L. Sloan (on appeal) and Charles A. Herman (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Denny Merrill Phillips.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and Scarlett W. Ellis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Denny Merrill Phillips, was convicted of one count of solicitation to commit rape in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-528(a)(3), a Class C felony, on the grounds that he followed the victim into a public men’s room and verbally requested that the victim perform fellatio on him. The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction, arguing that the State failed to present any facts or evidence from which the jury could have reasonably concluded that the sexual penetration solicited by the defendant would have occurred without the victim’s consent. We note that a jury, when determining whether the sexual act being solicited is to be accomplished with or without consent, may consider the totality of a defendant’s conduct - not just the particular words used by the defendant. However, in this case, even viewing the defendant’s conduct in its entirety, we cannot conclude that the evidence presented was sufficient to establish that the sexual act being solicited by the defendant would have been accomplished absent the victim’s consent. A verbal request for sex or an offer to pay for sex, without more, is simply not a solicitation to commit rape as it lacks proof of the non-consent element which is required. We agree that the evidence presented was sufficient to support a conviction for solicitation to commit statutory rape. However, because our supreme court has established that statutory rape is not a lesser included offense of rape, see State v. Stokes, 24 S.W.3d 303, 305-06 (Tenn. 2000), the defendant’s conviction cannot be amended to reflect that charge. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction must be reversed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ANTHONY EUGENE POOLE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender; Emma Tennent, Assistant Public Defender; Rodney Caldwell, Assistant Public Defender; and J. Michael Engle, Assistant Public Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anthony Eugene Poole.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Jeff Burks, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Anthony Eugene Poole, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for aggravated assault. Defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of assault and sentenced by the trial court to 11 months and 29 days to be suspended on probation. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence and asserts that: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; 2) the trial court erred by not instructing the jury as to the defenses of duress and necessity; 3) the statute of limitations barred his prosecution; 4) his sentence of intensive probation and imposition of a fine was improper; and 5) the trial court erred by ordering Defendant to pay restitution to the victim. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MATTHEW WHITEHAIR

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

D. Brock East, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Matthew Whitehair.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; William Whitesell, District Attorney General; and Laural Heminway, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

The Rutherford County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Matthew Whitehair, for three counts of rape of a child, two counts of rape, eight counts of incest, three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, and one count of sexual battery by an authority figure. During the investigation of the case, officers interviewed Defendant at the police station and videotaped the interview. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress the videotaped interview. After a hearing, the trial court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress. The trial court held that the videotape was not relevant because Defendant’s answers were ambiguous. Following the granting of the motion to suppress the State moved the trial court for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9. The trial court denied this motion and the State applied in this Court for an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 10. This Court granted the State’s application solely on the basis that the trial court acted arbitrarily in denying the application for a Rule 9 appeal. This Court did not address the merits of the granting of the motion to suppress. On appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred. We have reviewed the record on appeal and conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to suppress. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s decision to grant Defendant’s motion to suppress.


Tennessee Law Schools Score Top Spots in Magazine's Ratings

The just-released U.S. News & World Reports’ ranking of the country’s best law schools again places Vanderbilt University’s law school in its top 20 – holding steady at the number 16 slot it had last year. The University of Tennessee’s law school is rated number 69 by the magazine and moves up to number 11 in the rankings of  top schools for clinical training.


Knox Law Job Changing Hands Early

Knoxville lawyer Bud Armstrong may be taking over the Knox County Law Director position sooner than he expected. Armstrong defeated Joe Jarret in last week’s Republican primary and is expected to be appointed to take office soon, following Jarret’s resignation Friday. Jarret, who moved up from chief deputy to lead the office when Law Director Bill Lockett resigned, said he is leaving the post now so that Armstrong can be involved in the charter review process that gets underway this summer.


Firm Recognizes 3 Law Students

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP recently awarded $15,000 in diversity scholarships to Vanderbilt University law students Zeterrika C. Tanner and Wendy P. Wright, and first-year University of Alabama law student Rhojonda A. Debrow Cornett. The three were also awarded summer clerkships at one of the firm’s offices.


Nashville Woman Fighting for Dog's Life

A Nashville-area woman has raised $16,000 and collected more than 11,000 signatures on a petition to save her dog’s life after the 4-year-old pit bull mix was ordered euthanized for attacking other dogs. Learn more from the News Sentinel about her legal battle that has now gone before three courts.


UM Law Professor Dies at Home

University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Professor Francis A. Gabor died this weekend at his home. A memorial service and reception to honor his contributions to the law school and the legal community will be held in April, with details to be announced.  Professor Gabor was a Holocaust survivor who came from his native Budapest to the United States in 1968. In addition to receiving his first law degree in Budapest, he received law degrees from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and Tulane.


Former Loudon Judge Dies at 81

Family, friends and acquaintances paid their respects to longtime Loudon County General Sessions Court Judge John O. Gibson during funeral services Friday. During the services, many former colleagues shared memories of Judge Gibson, including General Sessions Judge Rex Dale who said, "His life was one dedicated to the service of others. Countless thousands reaped the benefits of his generous heart during his life. His military service, legal practice, judicial duties, church and civic activities have created fond memories and humorous stories from those who were honored to have been in his presence.” Read more from the News Herald.


Vanderbilt to Host Forum on Freedoms

Hear legal scholars discuss the intersection of religious freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of association and freedom of speech on a range of contemporary issues at a Vanderbilt University forum this Thursday at 7 p.m. in Flynn Auditorium. Moderated by Carol M. Swain, professor of law and political science, the event will include presentations by James F. Blumstein of Vanderbilt, Robert P. George of Princeton University and Michael Paulsen of St. Thomas School of Law. The event is free and open to the public.


Bill to Limit Doctor Liability Criticized

A bill that would give hospitals and emergency room doctors an additional layer of protection from law suits is being criticized for setting such a high standard for negligent behavior that there would be no accountability or protection for patients. Tennessee Association for Justice President Keith Williams said that if the bill passes, “In effect, a doctor would have no responsibility for careless errors that could ultimately cost you your life.” Read more the Knoxnews’ Humphrey on the Hill blog.


'Don't Say Gay' Bill on Hold

Tennessee lawmakers backing the controversial "don’t say gay" legislation have agreed to put off debating the measure — a procedural move that usually signals they do not intend to pursue it. Legislators who had originally supported the measure are expected to shift their focus to an abstinence education measure.


Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The TBA has a number of tools to help you track action in the 107th Tennessee General Assembly. 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.


 
 

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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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