Mock Trial Underway; Justice Wade to Preside Over Finals

The 32nd annual Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition kicks off today at the Historic Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville. After prevailing at district competitions throughout the month of February, 13 teams from across the state are battling for the state championship title and the right to represent Tennessee at the National Mock Trial Competition May 3-6 in Albuquerque, N.M. The competition will wrap up Saturday evening with the championship round, which will be presided over by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade.

The lineup of teams is: Beech High School, Hendersonville; Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association (CSTHEA); Chattanooga; Columbia Academy, Columbia; Dyersburg High School, Dyersburg; Harpeth Hall, Nashville; Jefferson County High School, Dandridge; Kingsport Area Christian Home Education Association (KACHEA), Kingsport; McCallie School, Chattanooga; Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville; Ravenwood High School, Brentwood; St. George's Independent School, Memphis; St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Memphis; and West High School, Knoxville. Watch for competition results on Monday. Learn more about mock trial

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
01 - TN Court of Appeals
06 - 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

THE ESTATE OF NOEL C. HUNT, III, H. WAYNE GRANT, EXECUTOR v. TRISHA L. JOLLEY HUNT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Steven W. Grant, Kathleen V. Gibson and John P. Konvalinka, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, The Estate of Noel C. Hunt, III, H. Wayne Grant, Executor.

Marvin B. Berke and Megan C. England, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Trisha L. Jolley Hunt.

Judge: STAFFORD

Appellant Estate sought declaratory judgment against Appellee widow for return of proceeds from the widow and Decedent’s jointly filed federal and state tax returns. The Estate contends that, under an Antenuptial Agreement entered by and between Decedent and Appellee, the income tax refunds were Decedent’s separate property, which thus belong to the Estate. Appellee widow contends that the filing of a joint tax return transmuted the separate property into marital property and, in the alternative, that a tenancy by the entirety was created in the tax refunds. The trial court found that, although the tax refunds were Decedent’s separate property under the Antenuptial Agreement, part of those proceeds should, nonetheless, pass to the wife. We conclude that the filing of a joint tax return does not create a property right, and that a tenancy by the entirety was not established. Consequently, as Decedent’s separate property, the tax refunds should have been awarded to the Estate. Reversed and remanded.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CHRISTOPHER M. BLACK
CORRECTION: The opinion previously filed on February 26, 2010, is vacated and this opinion is substituted in lieu thereof.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Richard Tennent, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Christopher M. Black.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Elizabeth Bingham Marney, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Deborah Housel and Roger Moore, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

Defendant-Appellant, Christopher M. Black, was convicted by a Davidson County Jury of two counts of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, and two counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. For each aggravated rape conviction, Black received a twenty-year sentence to be served consecutively to one another. For each aggravated robbery conviction, Black received a ten-year sentence to be served concurrently with one another. The trial court ordered the aggravated rape sentences to be served consecutively to the aggravated robbery sentences, for an effective sentence of fifty years. On appeal, Black 1 argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the prosecution failed to establish a legitimate chain of custody for the evidence swabs collected from the crime scene; (3) it was constitutionally improper to allow a witness, Dwight Brewer, to identify Black at trial; (4) it was improper to admit proof of the original “CODIS hit” without establishing a chain of custody; and (5) the imposition of consecutive sentencing was improper. We affirm Black’s convictions but remand for a resentencing hearing regarding Black’s sentencing status with respect the 2005 sentencing act and regarding the issue of consecutive sentencing.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CHRISTOPHER M. BLACK
CORRECTION: In order to correct a misstatement by the court the original opinion filed in this case on December 13, 2011 is withdrawn and this opinion is substituted in lieu thereof.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Richard L. Tennent, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher M. Black.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Roger D. Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Christopher Black, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of two counts of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, and two counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and sentenced to an effective term of fifty years imprisonment. On direct appeal, this court affirmed the convictions but remanded for a resentencing hearing “regarding [the defendant’s] sentencing status with respect to the 2005 sentencing act and regarding the issue of consecutive sentencing.” State v. Christopher M. Black, No. M2007-00970-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Feb. 26, 2010). Following a hearing on remand, the trial court, applying the single enhancement factor for prior criminal history, sentenced the defendant to twenty-five years for each count of aggravated rape and to ten years for each count of aggravated robbery. The court further found the defendant to be a dangerous offender and ordered that the two aggravated rapes be served consecutively, but concurrently to the sentences for robbery, again resulting in an effective sentence of fifty years. On appeal, the defendant contends that the trial court erred in the imposition of consecutive sentences. Following review of the record, we find no error and affirm the sentences as imposed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ROBERT WAYNE COOPER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender; Charles S. Bloodworth, Assistant Public Defender, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Robert Wayne Cooper.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; Arthur Bieber and Timothy J. Peters, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellant, Robert Wayne Cooper, entered guilty pleas to four counts of burglary, a Class D felony, in the Montgomery County Circuit Court. The trial court sentenced him to forty-two months for each count, imposed concurrent sentences for three of the burglary counts, and ordered that these sentences be served consecutively to the remaining burglary count, for an effective sentence of eighty-four months in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Cooper argues that the trial court erred by: (1) imposing a partially consecutive sentence alignment, and (2) imposing a sentence of total confinement. Upon review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LATROY LEE ROBERTSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William E. Griffith (on appeal); and Thomas A. Longaberger (at plea and sentencing), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Latroy Lee Robertson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Pamela Sue Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

In this delayed appeal, the defendant contends that the trial court erred by imposing a fullyincarcerative sentence of 12 years following his pleas of guilty to three counts of the sale of .5 grams or more of cocaine and three counts of the sale of 26 grams or more of cocaine. Discerning no error, we affirm.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BRANDON LLOYD RUSSELL

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Dan R. Alexander, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Brandon Lloyd Russell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Robert Homlar, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

Following a bench trial, the Defendant-Appellant, Brandon Lloyd Russell, was convicted of two counts of violating a commercial fishing proclamation that prohibited cutting paddlefish to check for eggs or “roe.” The trial court sentenced Russell to two consecutive six-month sentences, which the trial court suspended and ordered him to serve on probation. In addition, the trial court allowed the State to retain the property that was seized as a part of these offenses, ordered Russell to serve eighty hours of community service, and suspended Russell’s hunting and fishing license for three years and his commercial fishing license for six years, retroactive to the date of the offenses. On appeal, Russell argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the charges because: (1) the General Assembly, in enacting Tennessee Code Annotated section 70-4-102, unlawfully delegated its legislative authority to enact criminal law, thereby violating the constitutional separation of powers doctrine; (2) the relevant wildlife proclamations were not valid because the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission was improperly constituted at the time that the proclamations were enacted; and (3) he had insufficient notice of the wildlife proclamations and, therefore, insufficient notice of the criminal offenses with which he was charged. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


MAURICE WILSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Maurice Wilson, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

This matter is before the Court upon the State’s motion to affirm the judgment of the trial court by memorandum opinion pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Petitioner, Maurice Wilson, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his motion to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief. Upon a review of the record, we are persuaded that the trial court was correct in finding that the Petitioner is not entitled to reopen his petition. This case meets the criteria for affirmance pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Accordingly, the State’s motion is granted, and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


'Conversation' Starts on Judicial Selection

Legislation, characterized by backers as a “conversation starter” on judicial selection, quickly emerged and cleared its first hurdle this week. HJR 753 by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, proposes to amend the Tennessee constitution to explicitly establish merit selection, performance evaluation and retention elections as the method for selecting appellate judges in Tennessee. The proposal also inserts a requirement that judges nominated by a commission and selected by the governor also be confirmed by both houses of the General Assembly before facing the voters. The Tennessee Bar Association has consistently and firmly expressed the view that it is critical that extension of the present plan be accomplished while a constitutional amendment is under discussion and that legislative confirmation causes practical problems of delay in filling vacancies while adding little to the process other than unwanted political influence.


AG Holder Promises More Resources to Middle Tennessee Office

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today in Nashville that the traditionally understaffed U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee will be getting new resources to fight crime in the region. Holder, along with U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, met with Nashville reporters to discuss health care fraud initiatives nationally and locally when he made the commitment. “This district is one of 25 that we have determined to be ‘distressed,’” said Holder, promising that Martin and his district would receive additional personnel to remedy the situation. NashvillePost.com has the story


Nashville Lawyer Wins Athena Award

Andrea Perry, a lawyer with Bone McAllester Norton in Nashville, was awarded the 2012 Athena Young Professional Leadership Award this week. Perry is a Vanderbilt University Law School graduate and a member of the Tennessee Bar Association's Leadership Law Class of 2008. Her candidacy for the Athena award was sponsored by the Marion Griffin Chapter of the Lawyers Association for Women. NashvillePost has more


State Supreme Court to Look Into Attorney Ethics Rules Violations, More

The Tennessee Supreme Court granted review in four cases this week. The two criminal cases involve the issue of whether a violation of the attorney’s ethical rules may constitute a basis for criminal contempt, and whether a conviction can be based solely upon the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. The two civil cases concern subject matter jurisdiction based on breach of contract claim in a will contest, and federal pre-emption in state tort claims. The Raybin-Perkey Hot List offers details and analysis.


Rutgers Student Convicted of Hate Crime

A jury today convicted former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi of hate crimes for using a webcam to spy on his roommate kissing another man in their dorm room. Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge three days after Ravi viewed him on the webcam. The case became a symbol of the struggles facing gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers and the problem of cyberbullying in an era when laws governing hate crimes have not kept up with evolving technology. The New York Times tells you more


Flooding Causes Court Closure in Memphis

Heavy rains today caused flooding in the basement of the Shelby County Courthouse in Downtown Memphis, prompting the cancellation of cases scheduled in General Sessions Civil Division courts. The court will reopen Monday, and cases have been rescheduled for March 23. Read more from the Commercial Appeal.


Davidson Election Commission Hopes for Electronic Campaign Reports

The Davidson County Election Commission is working on a proposal that would allow campaign financial disclosure reports to be posted online. The plan would provide easy access for Davidson County residents who want to check the financial disclosures of candidates, and local campaign committees filing such disclosures. Currently the Election Commission maintains only paper copies of the reports, and some say the process for making copies of the forms is tedious. The Tennessean has more


Chattanooga Launches Mentoring Program

The Chattanooga Bar Association this month is launching a mentoring program to help its younger members tap into the collective wisdom of some of its elders. “I hope a younger lawyer would see value in bouncing things off an experienced attorney, and in asking a mentor, ‘I’m having trouble with a client. What am I missing?’” Chattanooga attorney David Kesler says. Read more from the Hamilton County Herald.


Baker Donelson Center Sold for $47.1 Million

The building that houses the Nashville office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz -- known as the Baker Donelson Center -- has been sold for $47.1 million. It was owned by the Mathews Co. and Ayers Asset Management and sold to the Toronto-based Sun Life Financial. The Tennessean has more


Davidson Election Commission Hopes for Electronic Campaign Reports

The Davidson County Election Commission is working on a proposal that would allow campaign financial disclosure reports to be posted online. The plan would provide easy access for Davidson County residents who want to check the financial disclosures of candidates, and local campaign committees filing such disclosures. Currently the Election Commission maintains only paper copies of the reports, and some say the process for making copies of the forms is tedious. The Tennessean has more


 
 

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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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