AG Weighs in on Pending Legislative Issues

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper recently issued opinions on a number of issues moving through the General Assembly. In an opinion released this week, Cooper said a bill that would require businesses to allow guns in their parking lots is constitutionally defensible. He said that while the legislation, SB 3002, pits two constitutional principles against each other – the right to bear arms and the right of businesses to control their property – courts in other states have found such laws constitutional. Read more in the Tennessean's political blog. On another issue, Cooper said that the state cannot broadly drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare benefits. That opinion comes in response to several bills pending in the state legislature. Cooper states that such requirements would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan, as well as the constitutional rights of welfare recipients who have a right not be tested unless there is suspicion of illicit drug activity. The Memphis Daily News has that story.

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
01 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
03 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
04 - 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 Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Christopher L. Taylor, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mary D. Cole.

Amber E. Luttrell and Hailey H. David, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Marvin Windows of Tennessee.


An employee sustained a compensable injury to her hand and elbow. Employee’s authorized treating physician assigned an impairment rating of 1% to both her right and left arms. The employee’s evaluating physician assigned 16% impairment to her right arm and 15% to her left arm. Due to the disparity between the physician’s ratings, the parties selected a physician from the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) who assigned 5% impairment to each of the employee’s arms. The trial court based its award of disability benefits on the MIR physician’s rating. The employee has appealed, contending that she successfully rebutted the statutory presumption of correctness given to the MIR physician’s rating. We affirm the trial court’s ruling.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Orlando Fields, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.

James I. Pentecost, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Corrections Corporation of America, Cherry Lindamood, Leigh Kilzer, Tracy Sweat, and Phyllis Hodge. ATTORNEY 3: Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General; and Lee Pope, Assistant Attorney General, for the State of Tennessee and Assistant Commissioner Reuben Hodge.


An inmate at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Wayne County, Tennessee, filed this Petition for Writ of Certiorari to challenge the decision of the prison grievance board and that of the Commissioner. All of the respondents filed motions to dismiss the petition on several grounds including that Petitioner failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-805, that decisions by a prison grievance boards are not reviewable under a common law writ of certiorari, and Petitioner failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-806(b). The trial court dismissed the petition as to all respondents. We affirm.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Johnny Ralone and July Vaudreuil, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

David Willard Longley, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jhuliana Lopez, Sergio Lopez, and Isela Lopez.


The appellants have filed notices of appeal from a final judgment purportedly entered on February 25, 2011. Because the appellants did not file their notices of appeal with the trial court clerk within the time permitted by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

TN Court of Appeals

CORRECTION on page 15, in the third paragraph, changes the first word of the last sentence from "These" to "There"

Court: TN Court of Appeals


John D. Kitch, Nashville, Tennessee; David J. Callahan, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellant, Catherine Dockery.

Petitioner/Appellee Jerry Colley, Columbia, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves an attorney fee award. The appellee attorney was hired to represent the executor of an estate. After handling the estate, the attorney submitted a fee request to the trial court. The beneficiary of the estate objected, but the trial court awarded the fee amount requested. The beneficiary appeals, arguing that the attorney fee request was so excessive that it should be disallowed entirely under White v. McBride, 937 S.W.2d 796 (Tenn. 1996). In the alternative, if the fee request is not disallowed in its entirety, the beneficiary contends that the trial court erroneously relied on a percentage formula in the local rule, and that the fee should be reduced because the attorney sought fees for work that was either delegated to others or which did not benefit the estate. We hold that the amount of the attorney’s fee request and fee award is excessive. While the case presents a close question as to whether any fee should be allowed, we conclude that the lawyer should not be precluded from receiving any fee, and so modify the fee award to a reasonable amount.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Tommy K. Hindman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sean Nauss, alias.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; Eric M. Counts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Sean Nauss, alias, appeals as of right from the trial court’s denial of judicial diversion following his guilty plea to three counts of statutory rape, a Class E felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the court imposed a sentence of three years’ probation. The Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his application for judicial diversion because the applicable factors weigh heavily in favor of diversion. After a review of the record, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Establishment of New School Districts by Municipalities in Shelby County

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-20

Opinion Number: 39

TN Attorney General Opinions

Constitutionality of Bill Limiting Property Owner‟s Prohibition of Firearms in Vehicles

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-20

Opinion Number: 40

TN Attorney General Opinions

Limitations on Drug Testing as a Condition of Receiving Public Assistance

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-20

Opinion Number: 41

TN Attorney General Opinions

Authority to Award Child Support in the Absence of a Divorce or Separation Decree

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-03-20

Opinion Number: 42

Trial Date Set for Judge Taylor

The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary has set a trial for Hawkins County Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor on April 25 at 9 a.m. at the Hawkins County Justice Center in Rogersville. Taylor faces four theft charges levied by the court. He was defeated in the March 6 Republican primary and will be leaving the bench at the end of August regardless of what happens in his case. In addition, Taylor is facing a criminal investigation regarding allegations of bribery of at least one county commissioner and several charges levied by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, The Times News reports. Follow filings in Taylor’s case on the AOC website

Tennessee also has 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Tennessee is among 23 states that have sweeping self-defense laws like Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law that has come into focus with the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin outside of Orlando. In 2005, Florida became the first state to explicitly expand a person's right to use deadly force for self-defense. Under that law, and a similar version in Tennessee, deadly force is justified if a person is gravely threatened, in the home or "any other place where he or she has a right to be." There is no duty to retreat, and once self-defense is invoked, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove the claim. Pro Publica looks at the issue

Six Pull Papers for Soddy Daisy Judge

Six lawyers have picked up papers to run for Soddy Daisy judge. They are Chris Lanier, Marty Lasley, J. Chad Hogue, Mike Little and Mitchell Meeks. The former judge, David Norton, recently resigned after being named a judge in Hamilton County General Sessions Court. has more

Pair Try to Spring Death Row Inmate from Prison

Authorities have arrested a former corrections officer and a New Jersey man accused of planning to break the state's lone female death row inmate out of the Tennessee Prison for Women. Christa Gail Pike was sentenced to death in March 1996 for the murder of Colleen Slemmer, 19, in Knoxville in 1995. She's also serving time for trying to murder another female inmate in 2004. The complicated plot involved a canoe, guitar and paper tracings of prison door keys. Both men are being held on bond. Learn more from

Assistant U.S. Attorney Humble Retires

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble retired this week after 30 years in the U.S. Attorney's office in Chattanooga. During his career, Humble prosecuted several high-profile cases including the 2008 trial of former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long on drug conspiracy, firearms, money laundering and extortion charges; a case involving professors at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma who were convicted of helping students cheat on their graduate theses; and the 1987 case against U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr., who was accused of conspiracy, bank and mail fraud. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more on Humble's career and plans for the future.

Courthouse Overcrowding on Commission's Agenda

The Bedford County Commission is again considering the possibility of buying the Regions Bank building on the square to help alleviate its severely overcrowded judicial system. Late last year, local fire department officials said there was dangerous overcrowding of existing courtroom facilities, prompting an evaluation of how many people can safely occupy court chambers. There have also been concerns about security due to the numerous entrances to the courthouse. Proposals to build a new jail and justice center have met resistance from downtown merchants who say moving the court system would be a devastating blow to the downtown. Read more in the Shelbyville Times Gazette

Memphis Mediation Team Takes 1st Place in Regionals

Two University of Memphis Law School Advocacy in Mediation Teams recently competed in an ABA Regional Competition in Williamsburg, Va. The team of Christopher Martin and Thomas Williams placed first in the competition, while the team of Caroline Giovannetti and Ryan Hagenbrook placed fourth among the 12 teams. The teams were coached by Steve Shields, with help from various members of the Memphis Bar Association's ADR Section. The first place team will continue to Washington D.C. in April for the national competition. The team is raising funds for its trip. Anyone interested in donating may send a check, made payable to the MBA ADR Section, to Linda Warren Seely at 109 N. Main, Suite 200, Memphis 38103.

Judge Dismisses Case Against Law School

A New York trial judge has dismissed a proposed class action brought against New York Law School by nine alumni who claimed the school misrepresented its graduates' success in finding legal jobs. Supreme Court Judge Melvin Schweitzer ruled yesterday that the school's job statistics were not deceptive and that prospective students had access to ample information to make their decisions. The suit is one of 14 similar cases brought by plaintiffs' attorneys against law schools around the country. One suit has survived a motion to dismiss. Other suits are pending. has this story from The National Law Journal.

MBA Hosts Event with Justice Holder

The Memphis Bar Association, its Young Lawyers Division and Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC, sponsored a "Law Rules" presentation at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law yesterday. The event featured Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder, who spoke about the importance of a fair and impartial justice system. MBA President Gary Smith encouraged students to partner with an attorney to present the association’s "Law Rules" program at area venues, particularly high schools. A reception followed the presentation and students were able to meet and discuss the topic with Justice Holder and bar leaders. Learn more about the "Law Rules" initiative

Off the Bench and on the Stage

Memphis Circuit Court Judge Robert Childers took off his judicial robe long enough to provide Mary Jowers, 83, with a special Crossroads Hospice Gift of a Day. Jowers has been a fan of Elvis' music for decades, so the judge tuned up his Elvis impersonator skills to provide a special performance. See a photo of the event from the Commercial Appeal

Rep. McDonald Latest Democrat to Retire

Rep. Mike McDonald, D-Portland, has announced he will retire after nine terms in the House – becoming the 10th Democrat to announce he won't seek re-election to the General Assembly this year. McDonald was first elected to the House District 44 seat representing northern Sumner County in 1994. The mostly rural district was significantly redrawn this year and now stretches into the cities of Gallatin and Hendersonville. The Commercial Appeal reports

Memphis Law Students Host 5K Run/Walk

The Student Bar Association at the University of Memphis School of Law is again sponsoring its annual Race Judicata – a 5K run/walk, to benefit Memphis Area Legal Services. The race will kick off Saturday at 5 p.m. at Jefferson Davis Park. Early registration is $20 and includes a t-shirt, food, drinks and a band after the race. Learn more or register here

Belmont University to Host West Memphis 3 Defendant

Belmont University College of Law on Monday will present the 2012 Academy Award-nominated HBO documentary "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" and a lecture with Jason Baldwin, one of the young men who came to be known as the West Memphis 3. The movie, the third in a series, details the story of the West Memphis 3 and the trio's ultimate release from prison. Baldwin will speak at 10 a.m. in the Massey Boardroom. The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Bunch Library Multimedia Room.

Court Sides with Property Owners over EPA

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that property owners have a right to prompt review of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance orders that block activities on lands determined to be protected. In the case, an Idaho couple contested the EPA’s determination that their lot contained wetlands regulated by the Clean Water Act. They also complained there was no reasonable way to challenge that determination without risking fines that could mount quickly. The court rejected EPA's argument that allowing judicial review would compromise the agency's ability to deal with water pollution, allowing the couple to contest the EPA’s determination in federal court. The News Sentinel has the 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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