Lewis is Chair of ATJ Commission, New Members Named

Memphis lawyer George T. “Buck" Lewis was appointed chair of the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission on Friday. Board member Douglas Blaze was reappointed, with his term expiring in 2015. New members Anthony Alan Seaton of Johnson City, David R. Esquivel of Nashville, and Marcia Eason of Chattanooga were appointed for three-year terms. The terms of Margaret L. Behm, Kathryn Reed Edge and Gregory Ramos expired March 31. All but Blaze did not wish to be reappointed. Commissioner Maura Abeln Smith, whose term expires in 2014, and Commissioner Frank Anthony Thomas, whose term expires next year, resigned. Sharon Rose Beth Ryan of Memphis will serve the remainder of Smith’s term, and J. Houston Gordon of Covington will serve out Thomas’s term. Download the court's order

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.

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


Court: TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court


Archie Sanders, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Angela G. Brown, Charles C. Brown, Jr., Cheryl Brown Giggers, and JoAnn Fisher.

Joe Lee Wyatt and William Joseph Wyatt, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Scruggs Security and Patrol, LLC.

Charles Wesley Fowler, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Memphis Housing Authority.


The plaintiffs, survivors of a tenant killed by the criminal act of another tenant, filed suit against the defendant housing authority. The plaintiffs alleged the housing authority was negligent in failing to evict the other tenant at the first instance of violent behavior. The housing authority filed a motion for summary judgment claiming federal regulations preempted the plaintiffs’ negligence claim and that it was immune from suit under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (“the GTLA”). The trial court denied summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. We granted review to determine whether the plaintiffs’ negligence claim is preempted by federal law or, in the alternative, whether the housing authority is immune from suit under the discretionary function exception of the GTLA. We conclude that the plaintiffs’ negligence suit is not preempted by federal law. We further conclude that the housing authority’s failure to evict is an operational decision and that the housing authority is not entitled to immunity under the GTLA. We reverse the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


C. J. Gideon, Jr., J. Blake Carter, and Brian P. Manookian, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cardiac Anesthesia Services.

Daniel H. Rader, III and Daniel H. Rader, IV, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jon Jones.


This case involves the application of the statute of limitations to a legal malpractice action. Appellee attorney drafted a contract for Appellant medical provider; the contract contained a fee-split clause in contravention of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 63-6-225. When the other party to the contract, a hospital, allegedly breached the contract and sued the medical provider, the medical provider counterclaimed for breach of contract. The hospital answered the complaint and filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the contract was illegal and unenforceable. The trial court ruled that Tennessee Code Annotated Section 63-6- 225 did not apply to the contract at issue. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the medical provider for more than one million dollars. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Tennessee Code Annotated Section 63-6-225 invalidated the contract, and remanded the case for dismissal. Within one year of the Court of Appeals opinion, the medical provider filed this legal malpractice case against the drafting attorney. The trial court dismissed the case as beyond the one-year legal malpractice statute of limitations. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Deana C. Hood, Franklin, Tennessee for Respondent/Appellant Virginia Evans.

John Michael Garrett, Nashville, Tennessee for Petitioner/Appellee, Sandy Green.

Karen D. Huddleston Johnson, Brentwood, Tennessee as Guardian Ad Litem.

Judge: KIRBY

This is a grandparent visitation case. The child at issue was adjudicated dependent and neglected; the appellant paternal great-grandmother was awarded legal custody. Months later, the child’s mother died. The appellee maternal grandmother then filed a petition in juvenile court seeking both custody and alternatively grandparent visitation. The order denying the grandmother’s petition was appealed to the circuit court for a de novo hearing. The circuit court denied the grandmother’s petition for custody, but awarded grandparent visitation. The custodian great-grandmother now appeals. We reverse and dismiss the grandmother’s petition.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Cherie Cash-Rutledge, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ashley Renee Reed.

Karla C. Hewitt, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael Eugene Reed.


Mother appeals from the trial court’s post-divorce determination that a substantial and material change of circumstances occurred that warranted a modification of the parenting plan and the designation of Father as the primary residential parent of their children. Mother also appeals the termination of her alimony payments and an award of attorney’s fees to Father. We affirm the finding that a substantial and material change of circumstance occurred and that it is in the best interests of the children that Father be the primary residential parent. We affirm the termination of alimony to Mother and the award of attorney’s fees to Father.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Claiborne H. Ferguson, Memphis, Tennessee for the Defendant-Appellant, Anthony Brown.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and W. Chris Scruggs, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Anthony Brown, of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, a Class B felony, simple possession of cocaine, a Class A misdemeanor, and simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. The conviction for simple possession of cocaine was merged with the Class B felony, and Brown received an effective twenty-year sentence as a Range II offender. On appeal, Brown argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of possession with intent to deliver, (2) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct at trial, and (3) the trial court erred in instructing the jury. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William L. Johnson and David Stowers, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nero Oswald Jones.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General; Joe Van Dyke and Lisa Borden, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Nero Oswald Jones (“the Defendant”) appeals jury convictions for first degree premeditated murder and voluntary manslaughter, claiming that the trial court erred in: (1) allowing statements made by the Defendant to law enforcement officials; (2) excluding the Defendant’s line of questioning on cross-examination of a witness regarding potential bias based upon alleged romantic interest; (3) excluding testimony of one witness purporting to impeach the testimony of another witness; and (4) allowing the testimony of a lay witness based on her experience with firearms. The Defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for both convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John P. Pritchard (at trial) and Lance R. Chism (on appeal), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eric Sims.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Steve Jones, Assistant District Attorney, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Eric Sims, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of two counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a standard offender to eight years on each conviction to be served concurrently. The Defendant filed an untimely notice of appeal, raising three issues: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to support his convictions for aggravated robbery; (2) whether the trial court erred by allowing the State to question the Defendant about his arrest involving an explosive device at school when he was fourteen years old; and (3) whether the trial court erred by instructing the jury as to all three subsections of the criminal responsibility statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-402 (2006). After a careful review of the record, we hold that the trial court erred by instructing the jury as to all three subdivisions of the criminal responsibility statute. We, however, conclude that the Defendant failed to prove that this error probably changed the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Services Set for Coburn Dewees Berry III

Coburn Dewees Berry III died yesterday (April 1) in Franklin, after a brief illness. He was 89. Berry graduated in 1948 from Vanderbilt University Law School, where he was a staff member of the Law Review and member of Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. He practiced law for more than 60 years in Nashville and Franklin and was known for his expertise in real property, trust, probate and municipal law. A memorial service will be held at Historic Franklin Presbyterian Church on Thursday at 11 a.m. Visitation with the family will be at the church on Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m., and one hour before the service on Thursday. Memorial contributions may be made to the Historic Franklin Presbyterian Church. Read his obituary

Assistant PD Dies While Running Half-Marathon

Jackson lawyer Paul Meyers died on Saturday (March 31) while running the Andrew Jackson Half-Marathon. He was 33. The assistant public defender collapsed on the course and was transported to Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Jackson Sun has more. Funeral arrangements are not complete at this time.

Montgomery County Gets First Juvenile Court Clerk

Cheryl J. Castle, who has been Montgomery County's Circuit Court clerk since 1994, was recently appointed by general session judges as the county’s first Juvenile Court clerk. With the change, the county has joined ranks with the other 94 Tennessee counties who have juvenile court clerks overseeing their juvenile court systems. The Leaf-Chronicle has the story

Haltom Helping Teens Get 'A Step Ahead' in Shelby County

Memphis lawyer and retired Juvenile Court Judge Claudia Haltom has started a program to help Shelby County teens keep from getting pregnant before they are ready. In her new role as president and CEO of A Step Ahead Foundation, Haltom is finding ways to get free, long-term but reversible birth control for any young woman who wants it. Birth control can be provided for $267 a year, she says, but an average teenage birth costs Shelby County residents $4,688, not to mention the first three years of child-rearing costs which could cost more than $30,000 in indigent care paid for by taxpayers. The effort is “the most family friendly thing I can think of," she says. The Commercial Appeal has the story

Editorial: Prove Need for Judicial Complex and Start Building

In an editorial, Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal says that a proposed $50 million judicial complex just off the Public Square will be “a tough sell.” But the paper encourages supporters of the project to prove to the taxpayers that justice is poorly served in the existing Judicial Building and move forward with construction. “It is incumbent on the judicial community to make a more persuasive argument for the funds to move forward,” the editorial says.

Trayvon's Parents Ask for Justice Department Review

The parents of Trayvon Martin want the U.S. Justice Department to review the Seminole County prosecutor's investigation of their son's death, their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said. Crump, who represents parents Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, sent a formal request to the Justice Department today (April 2) to examine State Attorney Norm Wolfinger's interactions with police the night of Martin's shooting. Last week, it was revealed that the Sanford Police Department requested an arrest warrant from the Seminole County State Attorney's Office, but the office held off until the case could be further reviewed. NBC News has more

Opinion: Fee for Diversion 'Bad Idea'

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a new tax this week that will require people to pay to have their name cleared upon the completion of diversion. HB 2774, sponsored by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, introduces the new tax, which includes $100 that must be paid to the court when requesting diversion. Chattanoogan columnist and lawyer Lee Davis calls the new measure “a bad idea.” Read more

Campfield Blogs About Gingrich Diss

State Sen. Stacey Campfield responded on his blog to the Gingrich campaign’s request to not seat him at the Republican National Convention. It turns out, Campfield writes, it is up to the delegate, not the campaign, on whether or not a substitution can be made. “Not a good way to ingratiate yourself to the one person who can help you,” he writes. Humphrey on the Hill has more

Knoxville Attorney Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Knoxville attorney John O. Threadgill on March 30, pursuant to Section 14 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, based upon his plea of guilty to a serious crime, in this case, theft. The court further ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline to be imposed as a result of the conviction. Download the BPR release

April ‘Journal’ Covers Contractors to Puppets

In this month's issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, Scott Griswold explains recent Supreme Court rulings that affect general contractors and their liability for work done by subcontractors, while David Pitts and Kevin Reopel give you the scoop on calculating economic damages. TBA President Danny Van Horn reminds us that taking time for rest is not a bad thing — it’s okay to disconnect every now and then! Kathryn Reed Edge outines bank failures in Tennessee and Dan Holbrook takes a hard look at questionable will executions. Finally, you won’t want to miss Bill Haltom’s take on a news station’s recent depiction of a jury trial — using puppets. Read the Journal online


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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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