Court: No Benefits for Babies Conceived After Father's Death

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a man's children who were conceived through artificial insemination after his death cannot get Social Security survivor benefits. Justices unanimously ruled that twins born to Robert Capato's surviving wife Karen did not qualify for survivor benefits because of a requirement that the federal government use state inheritance laws. Capato died a Florida resident, and Florida law expressly bars children conceived posthumously from inheritance, unless they are named in a will. NPR has this analysis

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.

01 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
07 - 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

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TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John C. Lee, Franklin, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Joanie Lucie Abernathy, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Melinda B. Busler (Lee).


CORRECTION: Per Ms. Busler's request, we have deleted her daughter's name and birth date from the opinion. Changes were made on pages 2 and 5. On page 2, we added a footnote stating, "Upon Mother's request, the name and birth date of the parties' child has been removed from the opinion."

Father appeals the trial court’s decision to decline to exercise jurisdiction and to transfer his petition to modify custody to a Florida court pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Alan-Paul Wilsey and Sandra Louise Wilsey, Defendants/Appellants, pro se

Peter L. Lublin and J. Kelsey Grodzicki, Norcross, Georgia, for the Plaintiff/Appellee, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves an unlawful detainer action. After foreclosure, the defendants refused to leave the subject property. The plaintiff filed this unlawful detainer action against the defendants, and ultimately filed a motion for summary judgment. In response, the defendants, acting pro se, filed documents suggesting fraud and/or unlawful foreclosure practices. The defendants filed no evidence to support their claims and no other response to the plaintiff’s motion. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The defendants now appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s decision.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Romalis Gray, Henning, Tennessee, pro se.

Dianne Stamey Dycus, and James Lee Pope, Nashville, Tennessee.


Appellant, Romalis Gray, pro se, filed a Notice of Appeal in this Court and Motions. On April 19, 2012 this Court ordered the appellant to show cause why this appeal should not be dismissed and recites that the record reveals that the Notice of Appeal was not filed within 30 days following the Final Judgment in the Trial Court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Matthew Edwards, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellant, F.E.R.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.


The Department of Children's Services filed a Petition inter alia, to terminate the mother's parental rights to her three minor children. Following trial on the issues, the Trial Court ruled there were several statutory grounds for terminating the mother's parental rights, including that the mother had failed to substantially comply with the permanency plan requirements, and abandonment of the children. The Court also determined that the evidence established that it was in the best interest of the children to terminate the mother's parental rights. The mother has appealed and we affirm the Judgment of the Trial Court and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


William R. Bruce and Duncan E. Ragsdale, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Diane R. Cannon Kellon and William T. Kellon.

David M. Cook and Albert G. McLean, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Marsha Lee, M.D.

Stephen W. Vescovo and Margaret Cooper, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Semmes Murphey Clinic.


This is a medical malpractice case wherein a patient suffered permanent neurological impairment after delay of surgery to correct a ruptured disc in her spine. The patient sued the doctor who treated her at a minor medical clinic, and a neurological clinic, alleging that both failed to ensure that the patient was treated promptly. The jury found that the doctor did not breach the standard of care, but awarded damages against the neurological clinic. The neurological clinic moved for judgment in accordance with a motion for a directed verdict on the ground that the patient failed to prove causation. The trial court granted the motion, as well as a conditional motion for new trial as to the neurological clinic only. The trial court concurred in the jury verdict in favor of the doctor. We reverse the grant of the motion for judgment in accordance with a motion for a directed verdict and affirm the grant of a new trial as to the neurological clinic only. The jury verdict in favor of the minor medical clinic doctor, as concurred in by the trial court, is affirmed. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert D. Massey, Pulaski, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kymberli Stacey.

Appellees did not participate.


Father filed petition to modify custody, and maternal grandmother objected to Tennessee court’s subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case because she had cared for child in Indiana for preceding thirty months. Grandmother also sought to intervene in father’s action. The trial court concluded it had jurisdiction to determine the child’s custody pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-217(a) because both parents reside in Tennessee and the child has significant contact with Tennessee. The trial court allowed Grandmother to intervene only to protect her visitation rights. Grandmother appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects. Grandmother’s only rights with respect to the child are any visitation rights she may be entitled to under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-306.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Russ Heldman, Franklin, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Donna Lisa Vinson Milam.

Helen Sfikas Rogers and Lawrence James Kamm, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Thomas James Milam, Jr.


This appeal involves a post-divorce petition to modify child support. The trial court reduced Father’s child support obligation from $4,500 monthly to $2,500. Mother appeals. Finding that the trial court erred in the calculation of Father’s income and the number of days of his parenting time, we vacate the child support award and remand for a redetermination of the appropriate award under the Child Support Guidelines.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Howard Upchurch, Pikeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ruby Graham.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Mark Tribble, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Ruby Graham, appeals from her White County Circuit Court jury conviction of the sale of morphine, see T.C.A. § 39-17-417(a)(3), claiming that the trial court erred by denying her request for a mistrial and by refusing her bid for judicial diversion. Because the defendant failed to prepare an adequate record for review of either issue, we must presume that the rulings of the trial court are correct, and we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Bruce S. Rishton, Pikeville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General; and Barry P. Staubus, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Bruce S. Rishton, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his attempted rape and incest convictions, arguing that (1) he was constructively denied counsel at a critical stage of the proceedings against him; (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which caused him to enter unknowing and involuntary pleas; (3) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct; (4) the post-conviction court denied him a full and fair hearing; and (5) the trial court denied him a speedy trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Comments on Interpreters, Translators Due June 15

The Tennessee Supreme Court is now accepting comments regarding the Administrative Office of the Courts' proposal that expands and updates the provisions of Supreme Court Rule 42. Rule 42 governs the appointment and compensation of court interpreters and translators in this state. Read the proposed amendments and submit a comment by June 15 at the Administrative Office of the Court web site

Supreme Court, Governor to Be at Boys' State

The American Legion Boys' State program began this weekend at Tennessee Tech University, and for the eighth year features the SCALES program (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students), during which the Tennessee Supreme Court will hold a special session to hear oral arguments in two cases. Gov. Bill Haslam was also scheduled to speak to the group. Judge John J. Maddux Jr. has overseen the program as Tennessee Boys' State chairperson for almost three decades. The Herald-Citizen has the story

Knox Lawyer Barcus Honored with Spirit of Justice Award

The East Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women (ETLAW) has honored Heidi Barcus of Knoxville’s London Amburn law firm with its 2012 Spirit of Justice Award. The award is given in recognition of outstanding service to the legal profession. Barcus, who is the Knoxville Bar Association's President Elect, is also a past historian and board member of ETLAW, and was one of the first female attorneys in the state to achieve certification as a medical malpractice specialist, heading up that division at her firm. Past award recipients include Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee and Knoxville lawyer Wanda Sobieski.

Study Shows 2,000 Exonerations in 23 Years

More than 2,000 people have been exonerated of serious crimes since 1989 in the United States, eight of them in Tennessee, according to a report by college researchers who have established the first national registry of exonerations. Researchers say that the leading causes of wrongful convictions are perjury, faulty witness identification and misconduct by prosecutors. The registry itself, which looks deeply into 873 specific cases of wrongful conviction, examined cases based on court documents as well as from groups that have long documented wrongful convictions. That group of wrongfully convicted spent more than 10,000 total years in prison, according to the report, with an average of 11 years each. CNN has more

Justice Center Repairs May Cause Suit

Cumberland County attorney Randal Boston will review a report and documents from the renovation and remodeling of a portion of the Justice Center to determine if a civil suit could be pursued by the county. Renovations done about three years ago, commissioners say, have had to be repaired many times, causing water damage and mold. One architecture firm estimates the needed repairs to be more than $400,000. The Crossville Chronicle reports

Alexander Vows to Clarify Lacey Act or Work to Change It

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., wants to make it "absolutely clear" that the Lacey Act was not intended to seize instruments made of wood harvested before 2008. "I don’t want the musicians from Nashville who are flying to Canada to perform this summer to worry about the government seizing their guitars," he said, adding that he hopes to get a clear ruling from the Justice Department in a few weeks. If not, he says he'll introduce legislation to change the Lacey Act. Read more in the Chattanoogan

Is Evading Arrest A Violent Felony?

Chattanooga lawyer Lee Davis writes about a 6th Circuit case, United States v. David Earl Doyle, that concerns whether a defendant’s prior conviction for evading arrest is a “violent felony” for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Read his column in the Chattanoogan

Interpretation and Translation Different in Eyes of Court

The U.S. Supreme Court says interpretation and translation are not the same thing when it comes to paying fees associated with federal civil lawsuits. The high court ruled today that Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd. did not deserve compensation for interpreters for fighting off a lawsuit from a Japanese professional baseball player. The company argued that translating written documents was the same as "compensation of interpreters," which can be charged to losing parties, but the court disagreed. has this AP story

TLAW Annual Meeting Set for June 8

The Tennessee Lawyers' Association for Women (TLAW) will hold its annual meeting over breakfast on June 8 at The Peabody in Memphis. TLAW has several events planned for the annual meeting, which is being held in conjunction with the Tennessee Bar Association Convention. For more information e-mail Wynne Caffey, call 865-766-0056 or download registration information.

Fallen Politicians Talk About Lessons Learned

Politico has a story on four former politicians who left office after each had "a dramatic press conference, a shame-filled public apology, a tearful spouse and the end of a promising political career." One is former Tennessee state Sen. Paul Stanley, who resigned in 2009 after news of an affair with his 22-year-old intern broke. Among his advice now is not to be alone "with someone of the opposite sex after 5 p.m. or after business hours. There's nothing good that can come of it."

Rep. Hawk's Assault Case Continued

Greene County General Sessions court moved back a scheduled appearance by Rep. David Hawk to July 16 in a domestic assault case filed by his wife.. The Greeneville Republican lawmaker had been scheduled to appear today. The five-term representative pleaded not guilty a day after the charge was filed March 18. The News Sentinel has more


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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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