Lawyers Honored for Pro Bono Service

Community Health Systems and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC were recognized for their commitment to providing free legal services to the poor at the 6th Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Gala Saturday, March 24, in Nashville. CHS received the Corporate Legal Department Award for its dedicated staffing of a monthly legal advice clinic in Franklin. Baker Donelson received the Law Firm Award for its work in helping create, a website that allows lawyers to provide brief advice and counsel via the internet. The event featured remarks by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Connie Clark and Legal Counsel to the Governor Herbert Slatery. The Pro Bono Initiative is a partnership between the Tennessee Bar Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel, which encourages and supports pro bono activities by lawyers serving as in-house and corporate counsel in the state.

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.

03 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
02 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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

With dissenting opinion

Court: TN Supreme Court


David Lyle Franklin, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Allstate Insurance Company.

Charles S. Sexton, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellees, John Tarrant, Diana Lynn Tarrant, and Blue Ribbon Cleaning, Inc.

Billy J. Stokes, Jon M. Cope, and Hudson T. Ellis, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Charles E. Leatherwood.

Judge: LEE

After an automobile accident between the insured’s van and a motorcycle, the insurer filed a declaratory judgment action to determine whether the van was covered under a commercial policy with a liability limit of $500,000 or a personal policy with liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The insurer alleged that before the accident the insured had instructed his insurance agent to transfer the van from the commercial policy to the personal policy. The insured denied this and alleged that he had instructed the agent to retain the van on the commercial policy. The trial court ruled that because the insurer had sent the insured a letter and premium bills showing the change in coverage and the insured had paid the bills without objection, he had ratified the transfer and the van was covered under the personal policy. The Court of Appeals reversed. We hold that the action of the insurance agent in transferring the van to the personal policy was not subject to ratification by the insured because the insurance agent was not acting in the insured’s stead or for his benefit when it made the transfer. We further hold that the insurer is estopped from denying coverage under the commercial policy. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, although on different grounds.

TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court


Carl R. Ogle, Jr., Jefferson City, Tennessee, for the appellants, SNPCO, Inc. d/b/a Salvage Unlimited and Shawn R. Wilmoth.

John T. Batson, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, City of Jefferson City, Mayor Darrell Helton, Vice Mayor Karen Smith, Councilwoman Ann Cole, Councilman Ray Cain, and Councilman Mark Potts.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal involves the question of whether a city’s ordinance banning the sale of fireworks within its city limits implicates Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-208(b) (Supp. 2008) which permits pre-existing nonconforming businesses to continue to operate despite a “zoning change.” After the City of Jefferson City annexed the property on which a fireworks retailer’s business was located, the retailer filed suit in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County seeking compensation for a regulatory taking or, in the alternative, for a declaration that Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-208(b) permitted it to continue to sell fireworks. The trial court dismissed the retailer’s complaint in accordance with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), and the Court of Appeals affirmed. SNPCO, Inc. v. City of Jefferson City, No. E2009-02355-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 4272744, at *11 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 29, 2010). We granted the retailer’s Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application to clarify the application of the “substantial interference” test in Cherokee Country Club, Inc. v. City of Knoxville, 152 S.W.3d 466 (Tenn. 2004) to ordinances such as the one involved in this case. We have determined that our decision in Cherokee Country Club, Inc. v. City of Knoxville requires consideration of both the terms and effects of the challenged ordinance. Thus, the courts must first determine whether the challenged ordinance relates to the city’s “general plan of zoning.” If the courts determine that the challenged ordinance relates to the city’s general plan of zoning, then, and only then, may the courts ascertain whether the ordinance results in a “substantial interference” with the use of land. Based on this record, we have determined that Jefferson City’s challenged ordinance banning the sale of fireworks within its city limits is not related to the city’s general plan of zoning. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the courts below.

TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Christopher D. Markel and Adam S. Major, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Shoney’s North Georgia, LLC.

Gary E. Lester, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Erlanger Medical Center.

This appeal concerns a garnishment action. Erlanger Medical Center (“Erlanger”) obtained a judgment against Angela Strong (“Strong”), an employee, by the time of trial, of Shoney’s North Georgia, LLC (“the Garnishee”). Erlanger sought to garnish Strong’s wages. Erlanger argued that Strong’s tips should be included in the calculation of her disposable earnings for the purposes of garnishment. The Garnishee disagreed, arguing, among other things, that federal law and labor policy stood for the proposition that tips were not to be included as wages for garnishment purposes. The Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) held that tips were, in fact, to be treated as wages subject to the calculation for garnishment purposes. The Garnishee appeals. We hold that tips are not to be included in the calculation of disposable wages for the purposes of garnishment. We reverse the Trial Court’s judgment.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Richard A. Sedgley, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kenneth A. Ritchie.

Bernard E. Bernstein, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Elizabeth Widmaier Pew Ritchie.


After twenty-five years of marriage, Kenneth A. Ritchie (“Husband”) sued Elizabeth Widmaier Pew Ritchie (“Wife”) for divorce. After a trial, the Trial Court entered its Judgment for Divorce, which inter alia, awarded Wife a divorce, distributed the marital assets and debts, and awarded Wife alimony in solido. Husband appeals to this Court raising an issue about the alimony in solido. Wife raises an issue about the Trial Court’s refusal to award her attorney’s fees, and also requests an award of attorney’s fees on appeal. We affirm, and decline to award attorney’s fees on appeal.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Mack Garner, Maryville, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Aaron Switzer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn, District Attorney General; and Ellen Berez, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Aaron Switzer, was convicted in the Blount County Circuit Court of aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and domestic assault, and he was granted probation after service of nine months in confinement. Subsequently, the trial court revoked the appellant’s probation for failure to comply with the terms of release. After the revocation, the trial court imposed a sentence of split confinement, and the appellant appeals that ruling. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Donald E. Dawson and Kertyssa Austin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Ray Thacker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; and C. Philip Bivens, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Lake County jury convicted the Petitioner, Steven Ray Thacker, of first degree murder and sentenced him to death. On direct appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed both the conviction and sentence. See State v. Thacker, 164 S.W.3d 208 (Tenn. 2005). The Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, and the post-conviction court appointed counsel. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that: (1) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial; (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal; (3) the sentence of death violates his constitutional rights; (4) the aggravating circumstances of his case do not preclude a finding that he was prejudiced by his trial counsel’s performance; and (5) he is entitled to post-conviction relief based upon the cumulative effect of counsel’s errors. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Baumgartner Under Federal Investigation

Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner is now under federal probe, officials confirmed Friday. "The case remains open and ongoing, and TBI agents are continuing to investigate Baumgartner," federal prosecutor spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email. "Specifically, we are looking at possible federal violations with the U.S. Attorney's Office." Read more in the News Sentinel

First Up for Health Care Debate is Review of 1867 Law

The arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health care overhaul began today and will last for six hours over a three-day period, the longest argument in more than 40 years. The court has boiled the arguments down into four questions. The first question, argued today, asks the justices to decide whether an 1867 law called the Tax Anti-Injunction Act prevents the court from even considering this bill right now. The administration and the challengers to the overhaul law don't agree on much. But both sides agreed that the Anti-Injunction Act, which says people can't challenge a tax in court before they pay it, should not prevent the Supreme Court from deciding the constitutionality of the law. National Public Radio has more, while the Blog of Legal Times details the arguments.

Court Rules for Insured After Agent's Mistake

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that an insurance company must provide vehicle liability insurance coverage to the insured as he requested from his insurance company’s agent but did not receive because of a mistake by the agent. Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Court about Allstate Insurance Company v. Diana Lynn Tarrant and read  the dissenting opinion from Justice William Koch and Chief Justice Cornelia Clark.

First Suspension Order Entered Under New Monthly Schedule

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued the first order of the year on March 12, suspending attorneys who did not pay their 2012 registration fee to the Board of Professional Responsibility and did not file a mandatory compliance statement that eligible client funds are held in accounts participating in the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. The court also issued a separate order for those attorneys who paid their fee but did not file the IOLTA report. Beginning in January, the court began entering administrative suspension orders on a monthly basis, based on attorney birthdates. Suspension lists will be issued each month for those attorneys who do not meet filing requirements for that month. See the list of those suspended to date

Editorial: Overturned Convictions Will Continue

In an editorial, the Commercial Appeal points out that Tennessee's Court of Criminal Appeals has repeatedly ruled that Memphis police are violating the U.S. Constitution when they detain a suspect for up to 48 hours to gather evidence. The paper says the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office does it, and will continue doing it, explaining that no suspect in a crime is held without a judicial commissioner's determination that there is probable cause for the detention. The paper asks: “If an appeals court is overturning convictions because the detentions are illegal, is maintaining the status quo really serving justice?”

Lawyers in Trayvon Martin Case Speak Out

Attorneys for the family of Trayvon Martin and the Florida neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot the unarmed teen are speaking out in the case. An attorney representing the neighborhood watch captain, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, broadly defended his client and said he believes evidence will show that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was properly applied. Daryl D. Parks, the Martin family attorney, said federal officials and local officials met with the teen’s family Thursday and gave them “a strong sense that (the Department of) Justice was very committed” to investigating the case. Zimmerman has not been charged in the Feb. 26 shooting that has ignited racial tensions and raised questions about the local police’s handling of the case. The Columbia Daily Herald carried this AP story. In Nashville, about 600 people attended a rally at the base of Capitol Hill on Saturday, calling for justice in Martin's shooting death.

Ban of Fireworks for Newly Annexed Business Stands

In SNPCO Inc v. City of Jefferson City et al, the Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld previous rulings by the trial court and the Court of Appeals that a city ordinance prohibiting the sale of fireworks inside city limits did apply to businesses incorporated into the city even though the business had been selling fireworks since 2006. Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Court

Law Students Learn About Service First-Hand at 'Alternative Spring Break'

Sixty-two students from eight law schools spent their week off digging into real-world issues at Alternative Spring Break, hosted during March by the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Students chose from service tracks like assisting with special-case immigration, helping senior citizens write wills and health directives, or drafting public-interest legislation involving the mentally ill, money lending or human trafficking. The Commercial Appeal features the project

Attorneys General Class Previews at UT

The University of Tennessee College of Law will preview a pilot program on Tuesday that will focus on states’ attorneys general, combining classroom instruction with a summer externship experience. Bob Cooper and Jim Hood, attorneys general in Tennessee and Mississippi, respectively, will speak at the event, which is at noon in room 237 at the College of Law. The pilot course will cover a range of topics that fall under the scope of authority for attorneys general found under most state statutes. Students will learn the role of the attorney general and how a state’s attorney general represents the state itself and the interests of its citizen. Learn more

Social Issues Top Republican List

Republican leaders say they want their first term in control of the state Capitol to be remembered for their efforts to create jobs and reform schools. But social issues like abortion, evolution, guns and prayer are making their way to the top of the agenda. Read more in the Tennessean

Former State Rep Edwin Arnold Dies, Services Tonight

Edwin Arnold, who served in the Tennessee House of Representatives and was also an assistant prosecutor, has died after being struck by a car on Saturday, March 24. He was 77. A graduate of Cumberland University School of Law, he was in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1963-67. Arnold also served Blount, Loudon and Roane counties as an assistant district attorney. His funeral is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight (Monday) at First Baptist Church in Loudon. The News Sentinel has his obituary.


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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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