Learn Key Changes to Code of Judicial Conduct

For the first time in more than 20 years a new set of Judicial Conduct rules has been adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Make sure you know what the new rules mean for you and your clients by attending this May 9 program in Nashville. The seminar will cover disqualifications/recusals, and offer an advanced overview of the amended code. Speakers include: TBA Task Force Chair T. Maxfield Bahner of Chambliss Bahner & Stophel, Task Force Reporter Sarah Y. Sheppeard of Sheppeard & Mynatt, and Task Force Member Lucian T. Pera of Adams and Reese LLP.

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
03 - TN Court of Appeals
11 - 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

DONNA BELLOMY v. AUTOZONE, INC.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Grace E. Daniell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Donna Bellomy.

Stacy Lynn Archer, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Laurie M. Chess, Miami Florida; and Tracy E. Kern, New Orleans, Louisiana, for the appellee, AutoZone, Inc.

Judge: SUSANO

The plaintiff in this case is Donna Bellomy. The defendant is a prior employer of hers, AutoZone, Inc. In Bellomy v. AutoZone, Inc., No. E2009-00351-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 4059158 (Tenn. Ct. App. E.S., filed Nov. 24, 2009) (“Bellomy I”), we vacated, in part, a summary judgment dismissing the Plaintiff’s entire complaint. We held that the Plaintiff had created genuine issues of material fact with respect to her Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”) claims. On remand, the case progressed through discovery and opening statements, following which the trial court granted a mistrial, holding that the Plaintiff had violated certain rulings made by the court on AutoZone’s motions in limine. The court later granted the defendant partial summary judgment and dismissed the constructive discharge aspect of the Plaintiff’s THRA claims. In the same order, the trial court 1 held the Plaintiff in civil contempt and ruled that the dismissal of the constructive discharge claim was also appropriate as a sanction for violating the court’s rulings entered on AutoZone’s motions. The Plaintiff appeals. We vacate the judgment of dismissal and all other orders of the trial court inconsistent with this opinion and remand for further proceedings.


PAUL VINCENT GIANNINI v. AMANDA PROFFITT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Bradley C. Ball, Lakeland, Tennessee for Plaintiff/Appellant, Paul Vincent Giannini

William M. Jeter, Memphis, Tennessee for Defendant/Appellee, SafeCo Insurance Company of Illinois

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves a limitation of liability in an insurance policy. The plaintiff was working in a volunteer capacity for the city. While doing so, the plaintiff sustained injuries in an accident caused by the negligence of the defendant. The plaintiff’s medical expenses were paid through the city’s on-the-job-injury program. The plaintiff had uninsured motorist coverage under his insurance policy with the appellee insurance company. The appellee insurance company denied the plaintiff’s claim based on language in the policy reducing the insurance company’s liability by sums paid under laws similar to workers’ compensation laws. The insurance company asserted that the city’s on-the-job-injury program was similar to workers’ compensation. The plaintiff filed this lawsuit, and the plaintiff and the insurance company filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of coverage. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company, finding that the plaintiff’s benefits under the city’s on-the-job-injury program were similar to workers’ compensation. The plaintiff now appeals. We affirm the grant of summary judgment, for the reason stated by the trial court.


KAREN JOHNSON v. BEVERLY NUNIS AND FARMER’S INSURANCE EXCHANGE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Martin W. Zummach, Germantown, Tennessee for Plaintiff/Appellant, Karen Johnson

Christopher M. Myatt, Memphis, Tennessee for Defendant/Appellee, Beverly Nunis

Robert L. Gatewood, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee for Appellee/Cross-Appellant, Farmer’s Insurance Exchange

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves remittitur of a jury verdict. The defendant driver caused a vehicular accident that resulted in substantial personal injuries to the plaintiff. At trial, several witnesses testified to the amount of the plaintiff’s economic damages as well as the noneconomic impact of her injuries. After a trial, the jury returned a special verdict with awards for various categories of economic and non-economic damages. The trial court denied the defendant insurance company’s motion for a new trial but suggested an overall remittitur as to the total verdict. The plaintiff accepted the remittitur under protest and filed this appeal. We affirm the denial of a new trial, reverse the suggestion of remittitur, and reinstate the original jury verdict.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NATHANIEL P. CARSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Dwight E. Scott, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellant, Nathaniel P. Carson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire and Sarah Davis, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Davidson County Criminal Court jury convicted the appellant, Nathaniel P. Carson, of two counts of first degree felony murder and two counts of especially aggravated robbery. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of life for the murder convictions and fifteen years for the especially aggravated robbery convictions. On appeal, the appellant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, (2) the trial court allowed improper evidence under Rule 404(b), Tennessee Rules of Evidence, and (3) the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress telephone records. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


RICKY TERRELL COX v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mark E. Davidson, Covington, Tennessee (on appeal); and George Douglas Norton, Jr., Ripley, Tennessee (at hearing), for the appellant, Ricky Terrell Cox.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Julie K. Pillow, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Ricky Terrell Cox, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ROBERT EARL GRADY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

George Morton Googe, District Public Defender; and Gregory D. Gookin, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Robert Earl Grady.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; James G. (Jerry) Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun A. Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Robert Earl Grady, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and theft of property over $1,000, a Class D felony. After a sentencing hearing, he was sentenced to five years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in denying him an alternative sentence. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s imposition of a sentence of confinement.


MARQUETTE HOUSTON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Marquette Houston, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Paul Goodman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Marquette Houston, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Correction, appeals the dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The trial court summarily dismissed the petition as time-barred by the statute of limitations. On appeal, Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his petition without holding an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the petition was timely filed. The State concedes that the petition was timely filed because Petitioner delivered his petition to the appropriate prison official for mailing within the applicable limitations period. Following a review of the record, we agree and accordingly reverse the order of dismissal and remand this case to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the petition for postconviction relief.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DORIS MILLER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gerald S. Green, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Doris Miller.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Betsy Weintraub, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Doris Miller, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of assault by provocative contact, a Class B misdemeanor, and sentenced to three months in the county workhouse. On appeal, she challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the sentence imposed by the trial court. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


JULIUS PERKINS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

G. Kerry Haymaker, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Julius Perkins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Dan Hamm, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Julius Perkins, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s order denying his petition for post-conviction relief challenging his 2002 jury conviction of first degree felony murder on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, trial court errors, and prosecutorial misconduct. Determining that the evidence does not preponderate against the post-conviction court’s findings, we affirm the order of the post-conviction court.


LAKKY PHOSY v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gerald L. Melton, District Public Defender; Kevin N. Lowry, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the Petitioner-Appellant, Lakky Phosy.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorney General; William C. Whitesell, Jr., District Attorney General; Trevor H. Lynch and Jude Santana, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Lakky Phosy, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief, contending that (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and (2) his guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.


DON ALLEN RODGERS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Don Allen Rodgers.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; James G. (Jerry) Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Don Allen Rodgers, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that his guilty pleas were unknowing and involuntary. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.


MILTON LEON SIMPSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Milton Leon Simpson, Memphis, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and David Zack, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Milton Leon Simpson, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal on the grounds that the petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. STEVEN VAN TUCKER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Vanedda Prince Webb, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Van Tucker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; C. Phillip Bivens, District Attorney General; and Julie Pillow, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Steven Van Tucker, was convicted of the indicted charge of theft of property valued greater than one thousand dollars and less than ten thousand dollars, a Class D felony. Defendant was sentenced by the trial court to twelve years as a career offender. On appeal, Defendant asserts that 1) the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s objections to the State’s challenges of three African-American jurors under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986); 2) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support Defendant’s conviction; 3) the trial court erred in admitting Defendant’s prior convictions for impeachment purposes; and 4) the trial court improperly denied Defendant’s request to be sentenced to Community Corrections. After a careful review of the entire record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CORDELL REMONT VAUGHN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Stacey B. Edmonson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Douglas Thompson Bates, III, Centerville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Cordell Remont Vaughn.

Judge: WILLIAMS

In this extraordinary appeal, the State of Tennessee appeals the trial court’s decision to order a new trial for the defendant, Cordell Remont Vaughn, after a jury returned a guilty verdict of first degree (premeditated) murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The trial court, after a hearing, granted the defendant’s motion for a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. The State contends that the trial court abused its discretion because the court: (1) erroneously concluded that a State’s witness committed perjury at a suppression hearing based solely on the defendant’s submission of an affidavit that conflicted with that witnesses’ testimony at that hearing, and (2) erroneously concluded that the outcome of the defendant’s trial would have been different had this alleged perjury not occurred and had the defendant’s motion to suppress been granted. The defendant responds that the trial court properly considered the affidavit and reached the proper conclusion concerning whether the State’s witness committed perjury. Furthermore, the defendant contends that because the perjury at issue related to a constitutional right, the State was required to establish that the effect of the perjury was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and it failed to meet that burden. After careful review of the record, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct because it failed to make any finding that the prosecution had, in fact, engaged in any misconduct. Moreover, the defendant has failed to show any prejudice resulting from the alleged perjury. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court granting a new trial is reversed.


Former Knox Trustee, 4 Others, Charged with Felony Theft

Five Knox County employees, including former trustee Mike Lowe, were charged with felony theft following an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the state Comptroller's Office and the Knox County District Attorney's Office. The grand jury also recommended moving the trustee's office and its functions into the mayor's office, with spending and contracts to be handled through the finance department, WATE reports. The charges lead some members of the county commission to say that officeholders should face more scrutiny. "We have to start all over again, regaining the public trust," Commission Chairman Mike Hammond said.


Editorial: Special Veterans' Court Not Needed

In an editorial, the Commercial Appeal weighs the pros and cons of the Shelby County proposal to fund a new special court to process former warriors who are facing criminal charges. Creation of the court would acknowledge that post-traumatic stress disorder and varying degrees of brain damage resulting from combat injuries are sometimes at the root of domestic violence, assaults, alcohol and drug abuse, or worse, among veterans. However, the paper, although supportive of the concept, questions whether the court is needed since there is already a "smorgasbord of veteran and support services available to veterans." Read the editorial


E-Filing on the Rise Nationwide

According to the National Center for State Courts, electronic filing is up and running statewide in Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Nebraska and Utah, with a number of other states phasing in new requirements. While building an electronic filing system can be expensive, the potential for long-term cost savings and efficiencies is driving the trend. Several chief justices surveyed for the report also said that ongoing budget cuts and space constraints have required them to find a new business model. The Pew Center has this report


Lawmaker Plugs Legal Resource for Low-Income Tennesseans

In his column, Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, touts the website OnlineTNJustice.org as an "important new resource for low-income Tennesseans to receive free legal advice and counsel from lawyers who generously volunteer their time." The site is an effort created by the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. Read more in the Leaf-Chronicle.


Federal Courts Increasingly Citing Wikipedia

Federal appeals courts are increasingly citing the reader-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia, though the trend has not spread to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to a search by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, federal appeals courts have cited Wikipedia about 95 times in the last five years. The news source also found that the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited Wikipedia 36 times, more than any other federal appeals court.


New Non-Compete, Trade Secret Blog Launched

The Nashville law firm of Burr & Forman LLP has launched a new blog dedicated to non-compete and trade secret laws. See a list of blogs from Tennessee attorneys and others in all practice areas on the TBA website. If you or your firm authors a blog that is not listed please send the link to tbatoday@tnbar.org.


Maury Co. Celebrates Law Day with Justice Wade, Awards

Law Day ceremonies got underway in Maury County on Thursday, with Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary R. Wade as the featured speaker. The event also included presentation of the Liberty Bell Award, given to senior chairman of First Farmers & Merchants Bank Virgil Moore. The award, presented by Chaz Molder, president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Maury County Bar Association, recognizes citizens who inspire a deeper sense of individual civic responsibility. Columbia Academy students were also presented with the 2012 Mock Trial Regional Competition Award by the Maury County Bar Association. The Columbia Daily Herald has the story and pictures


Stevens, Albright and Doar Also to Receive Presidential Medal

If you are in Tennessee, you probably heard the shouts from Knoxville last week when it was announced that legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. On the list of 13 recipients, however, are also former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold that position; and civil rights hero John Doar, who was assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in the 1960s. USA Today has more


Former President Calls for Abolition of the Death Penalty

A recent poll showed that 61 percent of Americans would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder and just 1 percent of police chiefs think that expanding the death penalty would reduce violent crime, former President Jimmy Carter writes in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He points out that 90 percent of all executions are carried out in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States, and that while Southern states carry out more than 80 percent of the U.S.'s executions they have a higher murder rate than any other region. "Our nation’s focus is now on punishment, not rehabilitation," he writes in the opinion piece, which calls to abolish the death penalty. Read his column


Services Set for Memphis Lawyer Nancy Kay Kenley

Nancy Kay Kenley, 54, of Memphis died yesterday (April 26) after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was Senior Counsel for Legal Regulatory Affairs at Federal Express and a 1990 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. Visitation is today from 5 to 8 p.m. at Memorial Park Funeral Home on Poplar Avenue in Memphis. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at White Station Church of Christ. Donations may be made to the Nancy K. Kenley Hope Fund at Independent Bank Memphis. Read her obituary


YLD Leader in the News

Memphis lawyer and TBA YLD Diversity Committee Chair Ahsaki Baptist is featured in a Memphis Daily News article this week focusing on the family influences that led her to a career in the law and the satisfaction she finds in pro bono and volunteer service. She specifically mentions her role with the TBA YLD and the work she has done as chair of the group’s leadership program for law students. Read more here


Nashville Bar Holds Law Day Lunch Monday

The Nashville Bar Association will hold its annual Law Day Luncheon on Monday at the Downtown Renaissance Hotel from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The event will feature a keynote speech by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, who will recount the events that led to the early removal of former Tennessee governor Ray Blanton. The luncheon also will feature various awards and an announcement of the winners of the local art and essay contest. Learn more from the NBA.


Memphis Bar to Hold Naturalization Ceremony

The Memphis Bar Association is holding its annual naturalization ceremony on Monday at 10 a.m. at The Cannon Center. The event is one of several the MBA is hosting to celebrate Law Day. Learn more from the MBA.


Nashville Lawyer Disbarred

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Nashville lawyer Bennett Farris Bratcher, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 18.5. The court issued the order April 26 for the disbarment that will become effective May 6. Bratcher consented to disbarment because he could not successfully defend himself against complaints filed with the board alleging that he misappropriated funds relating to the representation of three clients. His actions violated Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8, Section 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). Download the BPR release


Memphis Lawyer Suspended

Memphis lawyer Michael Brandon Barber was suspended April 26 for five years by the Tennessee Supreme Court for neglecting the representation of several former clients and ultimately abandoned his practice. By the aforementioned acts, he violated Rules 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication), 1.16 (terminating representation), 3.2 (expediting litigation), 8.1 (bar admission and disciplinary matters), and 8.4(a), (c), and (d) (misconduct) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Download the BPR release


Chattanooga Lawyer Moved to Disability Inactive

The law license of Chattanooga lawyer Lori Ann Spencer was transferred to disability inactive status on on April 26 by the Tennessee Supreme Court, pursuant to Section 21 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. 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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