TBA Announces 2012 YouTube Contest Winners

Students challenged to produce videos on the topic of freedom of communication are being honored today by the TBA as a part of the national Law Day celebration. Middle and high school students from across Tennessee created three-minute videos exploring issues related to free communication as part of the second annual TBA YouTube Video Contest. Students were asked to examine one of several themes, including the value of an "invaluable" right; whether limits can, or should, be imposed on freedom of communication; whether there should be consequences for abusing freedom of communication; and how the concept of freedom of communication applies in a digital era. First place in the high school division went to Vivian Hughbanks of Signal Mountain and Ben Panak of Murfreesboro won the middle school division. Read more about the winners and watch their videos

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
05 - 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


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James E. Kirby, Antioch, Tennessee for Defendant/Appellant Kevin Mastaw.

Byron C. Hamlett, Nashville, Tennessee for Plaintiff/Appellee LVNV Funding, LLC as assignee of Sears Gold MasterCard.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal concerns the collection of credit card debt. The plaintiff, a subsequent purchaser of the debt, filed this collection action against the appellant debtor. On appeal, the appellant debtor argues, inter alia, that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence various documents from a previous owner of the debt, pursuant to the hearsay exception for business records under Tenn. R. Evid. Rule 803(6). We hold that two of the exhibits were not appropriately admitted into evidence under the business records exception. Without those exhibits, we find that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s judgment in favor of the creditor, and reverse.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John R. Rucker, III, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the Petitioner-Appellant, Gary V. Bullard.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; William C. Whitesell, Jr., District Attorney General and Trevor Lynch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Gary V. Bullard, appeals from the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. After trial, a jury convicted him of attempted aggravated rape, a Class B felony, and aggravated assault, a Class C felony. In this appeal, Bullard argues that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel based on a failure to (1) sufficiently cross-examine the investigating police officer, (2) cross-examine the victim, and (3) offer any proof in defense. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of 1 the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Richard Hughes, District Public Defender, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner- Appellant, Dennis Burnett.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and James H. Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Dennis Burnett, appeals the Monroe County Criminal Court’s denial of postconviction relief from his second degree murder conviction. He argues that trial counsel was ineffective in (1) failing to admit at trial a statement of an alleged witness who invoked the Fifth Amendment upon being subpoenaed to testify; (2) advising the jury during voir dire that he, trial counsel, had been previously indicted; (3) failing to respond to a judgment of conviction belonging to Burnett’s co-defendant found in the jurors’ bathroom during trial; (4) failing to adequately prepare Burnett to testify; (5) failing to investigate and call Michael Gibson as a trial witness; and (6) failing to preserve issues in a motion for new trial thereby securing review on direct appeal. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Hershell D. Koger, Pulaski, Tennessee (on appeal), and William C. Barnes, Jr., Columbia, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Jeffrey Martin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Brent A. Cooper, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Jeffrey Martin, was convicted by a Maury County jury of sale of cocaine in an amount of .5 grams or more, a Class B felony. Following a hearing, the trial court sentenced him, as a Range III offender, to twenty-five years in the Department of Correction. The court further ordered that the sentence be served consecutively to prior unserved sentences in separate cases. On appeal, the defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in sentencing him as a Range III offender; and (3) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Following review of the record, we find no error and affirm the conviction and sentence.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William P. Holloway (on appeal) and Sandra L. Wells (at trial), Franklin, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Jeffrey Wade Osborne

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General and Kate Yeager, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


Defendant-Appellant, Jeffrey Wade Osborne, was convicted after a bench trial for failure to appear, a Class E felony. He was sentenced to five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction as a Range III, persistent offender. On appeal, Osborne argues that the trial court erred by (1) denying his motion for judgment of acquittal at the conclusion of the State’s proof, (2) relying on evidence that was not introduced at trial, namely Osborne’s signature on a form waiving his right to a jury trial, and (3) allowing the case to proceed to trial before the completion of a mental evaluation assessing Osborne’s diminished capacity at the time of the offense. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Elaine Heard, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon Watson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Brandon Watson, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for two counts of aggravated robbery and his effective eight-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Court Exempts Pro Bono Credit from Filing Fee

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday issued an order amending Supreme Court Rule 21, Section 4.07(c) to exempt all credit hours awarded for pro bono legal representation from the per-hour fee imposed by Section 8 and collected by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. Under court rules, the commission may award one hour of ethics and professionalism credit for every five billable hours of pro bono legal representation. The court said that the per-hour fee that was being charged to cover administrative costs no longer would be collected. It noted in the order that lawyers who perform pro bono work provide an invaluable service not only to their clients but also to the state’s system of justice, and should be exempt from the fees. Download the order

DOJ: Juvenile Court Misunderstands Its Role

The U.S. Justice Department report released last week about the Shelby County Juvenile Court not only found evidence of discrimination, but also found issues with the culture of the court. According to the Memphis Daily News, the study by the department’s Civil Rights Division found that many of those involved with and working in the juvenile justice system have “a fundamental misunderstanding about the purpose of juvenile court and the roles and responsibilities of its participants.” The study also raised questions about the court’s ability to handle matters involving allegations of serious violent crimes.

In related news, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Memphis Chapter today called for greater oversight of the court by the Memphis Juvenile Court Advisory Board. Dwight Montgomery says he is a member of the board, but that the group never meets and needs to be revived. The Commercial Appeal has more

May 'Journal' Out Today

In this month's issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, John Day takes a look at how ‘Mills v. Fulmarque’ will impact tort law in the state. Brook Lathram and David S. Mitchell Jr. detail what is permitted and what is not in parallel investigations, while Marlene Eskind Moses and Beth A. Townsend show you the good, bad and the ugly sides of having a parenting coordinator mixed into your client’s divorce settlement. TBA President Danny Van Horn reminds you to speak carefully about high-profile cases and the need for them to be decided without regard to public opinion. And you may want to Tweet this one: humor columnist Bill Haltom dishes on keeping your briefs brief — and under 140 characters. Read it online

District Attorney Bell Won't Run Again

Third Judicial District Attorney General Berkley Bell said yesterday that he's sticking to his decision not to run again when his current term ends in 2014. Bell has served as the DA for Hawkins, Greene, Hamblen and Hancock counties for 30 years. Tri-Cities.com has more on his time in office

Court to Consider Retroactivity of Padilla Decision

The Supreme Court agreed today to consider the retroactivity of its 2010 decision finding that lawyers have a Sixth Amendment obligation to warn their clients when guilty pleas can result in deportation. At issue is whether the ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky applies to defendants whose convictions became final before the date of the opinion. According to the cert petition, “federal and state courts are openly and intractably divided” over whether the Padilla holding applies retroactively. Read more in the ABA Journal

Additional Lawyers Suspended for Fee, IOLTA Issues

The Tennessee Supreme Court last week issued two new orders suspending Tennessee-licensed attorneys who did not pay their 2012 registration fee to the Board of Professional Responsibility and/or 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 lists reflect lawyers not in compliance as of their March birthdates. Previous orders covered lawyers with January birthdates. See the updated lists and download the orders

Project Salute Planned for Nashville

The American Bar Association YLD is holding its spring meeting in Nashville this week and will be hosting a Project Salute Clinic on Friday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. The program, which is the group's primary public service initiative for the year, educates American veterans on the benefits available to them and helps them obtain those benefits. The program is being led this year by Nashville attorney Matt Potempa. To participate in the clinic, volunteer lawyers must be VA-accredited and complete a three-hour training session. To volunteer for the Nashville clinic, contact Knoxville lawyer Troy Weston at tweston@ebtlaw.com or (865) 544-2010.

Wills for Heroes Clinic Set for Saturday

Attorneys in upper East Tennessee will provide free wills for emergency responders on Saturday as part of the TBA Young Lawyers Division’s Wills for Heroes program. Event organizer and YLD District Representative Rachel Ralston says both attorney and non-attorney volunteers are still needed. The event takes place at the Washington County/Johnson City EMS Center at 296 Wesley St. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact Ralston at (423) 943-3101 or rralston@hsdlaw.com for more information or to volunteer. The Johnson City Press has more

Stations Cover Call for Law Day Involvement

Stories from News 12 in Chattanooga and News 5 in Nashville covered TBA President Danny Van Horn’s call for Tennesseans to get involved in Law Day activities. In a joint press release with the Tennessee Supreme Court issued yesterday, Van Horn urged greater public understanding of the American judicial system, while Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark took the opportunity to recognize those working within the judicial system and emphasize the importance of a fully funded court system. Read the release


Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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.

© Copyright 2012 Tennessee Bar Association