Judicial Conduct Bill Wins Committee Nod

A compromise bill that would alter the handling of ethics complaints against judges won Senate Judiciary Committee approval Tuesday afternoon. The bill last week won approval from the House Judiciary Committee and was slated for action today at the House Government Operations Committee. The legislation would rename the Court of the Judiciary as the Board of Judicial Conduct, and would also change the appointing authorities and revise the standard for proceeding to a hearing. It would preserve the balance of 10 judges, three lawyers and three citizen members. Read more from 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 Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
02 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
06 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR
00 - TN Supreme Court - Disciplinary Orders









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TN Court of Appeals

COMMERCIAL BANK, INC. v. RAYMOND E. LACY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Cynthia L. Wagner, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Raymond E. Lacy.

J. Calvin Ward and Lindy D. Harris, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Commercial Bank, Inc.

Judge: STAFFORD

This appeal results from the grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee bank. Appellant defaulted on promissory notes executed in favor of Appellee, resulting in a foreclosure sale. After the sale, a foreclosure deficiency existed. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the bank, awarding deficiency damages including amounts for unpaid taxes on the property. Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.


JAMES W. SWAFFORD, JR. v. COMMISSIONER OF REVENUE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

David M. Eldridge and Loretta G. Cravens, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, James W. Swafford, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General and Nicholas G. Barca, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Commissioner of Revenue.

Judge: FARMER

After the Tennessee Supreme Court declared the tax on unauthorized substances to be unconstitutional, Plaintiff taxpayer filed a claim with the Department of Revenue seeking a refund of taxes paid. The Commissioner of Revenue denied Plaintiff’s claim for refund on the grounds that it was filed beyond the applicable limitations period. Plaintiff filed suit challenging the denial in the chancery court. The chancery court granted the Commissioner’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WILLIAM ALEXANDER GANT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Emma Rae Tennent (on appeal) and J. Michael Engle (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Alexander Gant.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Davidson County Criminal Court jury found the appellant, William Alexander Gant, guilty of the sale of less than .5 grams of cocaine, tampering with evidence, and evading arrest. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of fifteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to sentences from two prior convictions. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for selling less than .5 grams of cocaine, that the trial court erred “in allowing the State to present proof derived from evidence that it intentionally destroyed,” and that the trial court erred in sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOSE GARCIA (a/k/a HILBERTO ALEJANDRO RENTIRA LERMA)

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jordan D. Mathies, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jose Garcia.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; Helen O. Young, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Defendant, Jose Garcia, of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated kidnapping, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of sixteen years, to be served at 100%. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; and (2) the trial court erred when it made several evidentiary rulings. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


ANTHONY M. PATTON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Francis X. Santore, Jr., Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anthony M. Patton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, Jr., District Attorney General; Victor J. Vaughn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

The Petitioner, Anthony M. Patton, pled guilty to one count of especially aggravated kidnapping and one count of facilitation of first degree murder. The trial court sentenced him to an agreed upon effective sentence of fifty years. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, and the post-conviction court dismissed the petition after holding a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that: (1) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel; and (2) his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ron E. Munkeboe, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael D. Williams.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Katrin N. Miller and Anton Jackson, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Michael D. Williams, of first degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to life in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TINA GAIL WILLIAMSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Patricia L. Snyder, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tina Gail Williamson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; William Whitesell, District Attorney General, and Jude Santana, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Tina Gail Williamson, was convicted by a Rutherford County Jury of second degree murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the second degree murder conviction into the felony murder conviction. Appellant was sentenced to life plus twenty years. On appeal, Appellant argues that the circumstantial evidence was insufficient to support her convictions and that the trial court erred in instructing the jury with a sequential jury instruction. We have thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal and have concluded that the circumstantial evidence presented is sufficient to support the conviction. With regard to the jury instructions, Appellant has failed to include them in the record. It is Appellant’s responsibility to do so. Therefore, we are unable to review this issue and it is waived. For these reasons, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


TN Attorney General Opinions

Use of County Funds to Support Referendum to Increase Local Option Sales Tax

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-08

Opinion Number: 31


Courtroom Security

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-09

Opinion Number: 32


Imposition of Penalties for Simple Possession or Casual Exchange of a Controlled Substance

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-09

Opinion Number: 33


Authority of Municipal Electric Boards to Provide Telecommunications Services

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-12

Opinion Number: 34


Authority of Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to Regulate Flight Training Schools

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-12

Opinion Number: 35


Class E Felony Punishable by Fine Only

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-13

Opinion Number: 36


Fowlkes Set To Have Confirmation Hearing

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. was set to go before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today for a confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. district judge for Western Tennessee. Fowlkes was nominated by President Barack Obama on Dec. 16, 2011, to replace Judge Bernice B. Donald of Memphis, who was elevated to the Sixth Circuit last October. Fowlkes has been a criminal court judge since 2007. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has more about his experience and the hearing.


Senate Ends Judicial Nomination Standoff

Senate Republican and Democratic leaders ended their standoff today over President Barack Obama's judicial nominations and agreed to debate a small-business bill that both parties favor. On the brink of 17 grueling votes to fill vacant judgeships, leaders announced a schedule that would speed up the confirmation process. Under the deal, the Senate will consider two or three noncontroversial nominees per week between now and May 7. The parties had been at odds over whether the body should be spending its time confirming judges or handling other business. Read more from the AP in the Memphis Daily News


1 Dead, 3 Wounded In Texas Courthouse Shooting

One person was killed and at least three others were injured today when a gunman opened fire at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont, Texas. Eyewitnesses said the suspect fled the scene and injured another victim, possibly a family member, when he hit her with his pickup truck attempting to leave the area. After a standoff at a nearby business, the suspect was taken into custody. Today's incident is the third in just a week. Last Wednesday, a shooting occurred outside a courthouse in Tulsa, Okla. Last Friday, a shooting took place at a historic courthouse in the state of Washington. The ABA Journal has more


DOJ Supports New Category of Secret Documents

The Obama Justice Department urged Congress this week to keep secret a whole new category of information, even under the Freedom of Information Act. Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the department's office of information policy, testified before the Senate that lawmakers need to outlaw public disclosures of material about cybersecurity, critical U.S. computer networks, industrial plants, pipelines and more, citing a 2011 Supreme Court decision that limits federal agencies' ability to protect critical infrastructure. Learn more in the Columbia Daily Herald


Inmate Seeks to Challenge Alabama's Execution Method

Alabama death-row inmate Tommy Arthur says she wants a chance to argue in court that the procedure the state plans to use this month to execute her may be unconstitutional. In 2011, the state changed the first of three drugs administered during lethal injections, substituting pentobarbital when supplies for sodium thiopental ran low. Arthur and her lawyer argue that the change could result in cruel and unusual punishment, and should be significant enough to trigger an appeal. WKRN News 2 Nashville has the story.


Virginia Tech Found Negligent in 2007 Shooting

A jury has found Virginia Tech negligent for delaying a campus warning of the first shootings in a 2007 campus massacre that left 33 dead. Jurors returned the verdict Wednesday in a wrongful death civil suit brought by the parents of two students who were killed in the rampage. National Public Radio has the story


House Panel Acts on Voter ID Bills

The House State and Local Government Subcommittee today advanced a Democratic proposal to change Tennessee's new voter ID law, but rejected a second bill and delayed a third. The panel voted 4-3 in favor of a measure that would allow people without government-issued identification to vote after being photographed at the polling place. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said the bill would eliminate the need for voters who don't have the proper ID to cast provisional ballots. The panel went on to reject another Fitzhugh proposal to move the responsibility for making voter IDs to local election commissions instead of the state Department of Safety, and delayed until a later meeting, another Fitzhugh bill that would exempt people over age 60 from the ID requirement. Memphis Daily News has more


Haslam Wants Standardized Open-Records Process

Gov. Bill Haslam is calling for a standardized process to guide how state agencies handle requests for public documents. Saying that "blanket fishing expeditions" threaten to waste government staff-time and taxpayer resources, Haslam has been meeting with interested parties to gather ideas for addressing the patchwork of regulations that govern open-records requests. Some government observers, however, have expressed concern that the proposal will go too far. Read more in TN Report


Additional CAMP TLAP Details Announced

The Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program will host its 7th annual CAMP TLAP March 30 to April 1 at Montgomery Bell State Park. Educational programming includes sessions on mitigating compassion fatigue, how to handle a BPR complaint and the role narcissism plays in addiction. The two-day retreat also will provide opportunities for personal reflection and group social events. Download the full agenda and reservation form here


Reception Honors Former Cheatham Judge

A reception honoring former Cheatham County General Sessions Judge Bill Baker will be held April 21 from 3-5 p.m. at the Senior Center in Ashland City. Baker was elected Cheatham County General Sessions judge in 1966. He went on to serve as Ashland City's municipal judge from 1981 to 1988 and was the city attorney from 1988 to 1996. From 1995 to 2004, he was Tennessee's claims commissioner for the middle division. Read more in The Tennessean


Nashville Lawyer Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court on March 9 suspended Nashville lawyer David E. Danner for 30 days and ordered him to pay $2,500 in restitution to a client and complete an ethics course at an accredited law school within 18 months. The court found that Danner failed to provide competent representation, act in a diligent manner and adequately communicate with his client. In addition, after withdrawing from the case, he failed to promptly return unearned fees to his client. Download the BPR 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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