Congress Passes Bankruptcy Judge Bill

Congress has passed a bill authorizing a replacement judge in Jackson after U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge G. Harvey Boswell retires in July. Boswell handled cases in Jackson but reported to the court in Memphis. Until Congress passed the stalled bankruptcy judge bill, it appeared Boswell’s position would lapse. That would have meant more work and travel for the four judges in Memphis. Lack of congressional action on the bill also would have meant the loss of almost one-tenth of the nation’s 351 bankruptcy judges. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law. Learn more in the Memphis Daily News

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
04 - 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


Rachael E. Putnam and Jason D. Nowlin, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randall Eric Culbertson.

Amy J. Amundsen and Mary L. Wagner, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Hannah Ann Culbertson.


This extraordinary appeal arises from the trial court’s order granting Wife’s motion for disclosure of Husband’s psychological records. After thorough consideration, we conclude that the trial court erred by failing to consider Husband’s claims that his psychological records were protected from disclosure by the psychologist-client privilege, and that he did not waive the privilege. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Andre Dotson, Memphis, Tennessee, pro se.

Taylor A. Cates, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, John Branston and Contemporary Media, Inc. d/b/a the Memphis Flyer.


This is a libelous defamation case that was dismissed on grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellees, a newspaper and its reporter. Appellant, who was a then-incarcerated inmate, filed the instant lawsuit, purportedly in forma pauperis. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees on grounds that: (1) Appellant’s failure to pay all fees and costs in other lawsuits, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 41-21-812, required dismissal of the lawsuit; (2) Appellant could not renounce his indigency in order to avoid the operation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 41-21-812; (3) Appellant failed to issue service of process on the newspaper, thus requiring dismissal of this Defendant/Appellee; (4) the allegedly defamatory statement was protected by the fair reporting privilege. After review, we hold that: (1) because there is no Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 29 uniform affidavit of indigency in this record, we cannot conclude that Tennessee Code Annotated Section 41-21-812 was triggered; (2) having failed to establish in the record that he was, in fact, proceeding as a pauper in this case, Appellant’s attempt to renounce his indigency was a nullity; (3) Appellee newspaper was properly dismissed from the lawsuit for lack of service of process; and (4) it was error for the trial court to rule on the motion for summary judgment without first lifting the stay on discovery to allow Appellant to conduct discovery. Vacated in part, reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

With Concurring Opinion

Court: TN Court of Appeals


John H. Dotson and Allison Wannamaker, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, The Catholic Diocese of Memphis and Church of the Incarnation School.

Dan N. Norwood and Steven W. Barnat, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Carol Petschonek.


Defendant employer moved for summary judgment in this common law retaliatory discharge action on the grounds that Plaintiff employee was not an employee-at-will and that Plaintiff had failed to identify any law or clear public policy allegedly violated by Defendant. The trial court denied the motion. We granted permission for interlocutory appeal. On appeal, Defendant raises the issue of whether the courts lack jurisdiction under the ministerial exception. We hold that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. We also hold that Plaintiff was not an at-will employee, and therefore cannot establish a prima facie case of common law retaliatory discharge. The trial court’s judgment denying Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is reversed.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Michelle Blaylock Owens, Michael Clifford Gillespie, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Phillip Sullivan.

Jeffrey M. Beemer, Kelly Marie Telfeyan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wilson County, Jonathan Daniel, Lane Mullins, and John Edwards.


An employee was terminated by a local power board after a detective sent his employer a letter stating the employee sold narcotic drugs from the truck the employee used during his shift and that the employee admitted selling the drugs. The employee denied selling illegal drugs or making such an admission to the detective, but the administrative law judge in charge of the evidentiary hearing determined the statements in the detective’s letter were true. The employee later filed suit against the detective who authored the letter, his supervisors, and the county employing the individual defendants. The former employee asserted causes of action for defamation, negligence, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court concluded the former employee was collaterally estopped from relitigating the veracity of the statements in the detective’s letter leading to the former employee’s termination and dismissed the complaint in toto. We affirm. All of the employee’s causes of action were based upon statements the detective made in his letter to the employer, which the employee alleged were false. Because the employee is estopped from denying the truth of those statements, he has no basis on which to pursue any of the causes of action set forth in his complaint.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Mack Garner, District Public Defender, Maryville, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Edward L. Baird.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn, District Attorney General; and Matthew Dunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Edward L. Baird, entered guilty pleas without recommended sentences to three felony offenses involving distribution of controlled substances. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered appellant to serve an effective sentence of ten years in confinement. Appellant contests the manner of service of his sentence, arguing that the trial court should have ordered split confinement. Finding no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Peggy R. Smith, White Bluff, Tennessee, for the appellant, Horace Hollis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorney General; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Ray Crouch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

A Dickson County Circuit Court jury convicted the defendant, Horace Hollis, of two counts of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The trial court merged the convictions of aggravated sexual battery into the convictions of rape of a child and imposed a sentence of 40 years’ incarceration. In this appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mark R. Olson, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dontrel D. Pittman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and John E. Finklea, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Dontrel D. Pittman, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s order revoking his 12-year community corrections sentence and ordering service of the sentence in the custody of the Department of Corrections. He argues that no substantial evidence supports the trial court’s order and that the sentence imposed is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Drew Justice, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fred Ratliff, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and John W. Galloway, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


In February 2011, the Petitioner, Fred Ratliff, Jr., filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, wherein he challenged his 1976 conviction for first degree murder. The Petitioner claimed that he had “compelling” new evidence of his innocence because the State failed to disclose a key prosecution witness’s juvenile record in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). After an evidentiary hearing, the coram nobis court first dismissed the petition as time-barred, finding that due process did not require tolling of the one-year statute of limitations. Then, addressing the merits of the Petitioner’s Brady claim, the coram nobis court concluded that the Petitioner had not shown that the new evidence may have resulted in a different judgment had it been presented at trial. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the Scott County Circuit Court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Emma Rae Tennent (on appeal) and Richard Strong (at hearing), Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Terry Maurice Thomas.

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

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Terry Maurice Thomas, appeals from the revocation of his community corrections sentence, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Raines to Replace Taylor as Hawkins Judge

Hawkins County commissioners have appointed attorney Carroll Chris Raines to replace General Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor, who resigned May 1 after being charged with misconduct by the Court of the Judiciary. Raines prevailed over attorney John Anderson. He will hold the seat until county residents vote in the Aug. 2 general election. In that race Republican J. Todd Ross faces Democrat Terry Risner. Last July, commissioners appointed Taylor following the death of Judge David Brand. The Citizen Tribune has more

Defendants Fight State's Appeal of New Trials

Attorneys for three defendants granted new trials in the wake of allegations that former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was involved in inappropriate and unethical activity while presiding over cases, are urging the Tennessee Supreme Court to reject the state's emergency appeal request. The state has challenged a decision by Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood to grant the new trials, arguing there is no evidence of actual prejudice against the defendants or any flaws in Baumgartner's rulings before and during the trials. The state Court of Criminal Appeals has already rejected the state's appeal request. According to the News Sentinel, there is no timetable for when the high court must render a decision.

Trial Set for Former Drug Task Force Employees

An October trial has been scheduled for two former employees of the 24th Judicial District Drug Task Force facing charges in both Henry and Carroll counties. Steve Lee was director of the task force until March 2011, when he was suspended after $4,200 in missing drug proceeds sparked an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. Leona Simoneau was fired as secretary of the task force that same month. They both have been indicted on charges of theft, conspiracy, tampering with evidence, official misconduct and giving false statements to auditors. The Paris Post Intelligencer reports

UM Law Names New Staff Member

Jamie B. Kidd has been named assistant director for Law School Administration at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Her responsibilities will include matters concerning human resources, accreditation, budgeting, academic regulations and other administration-related projects. A native of Huntsville, Ala., Kidd graduated from the law school in 2011. While a student, she served as chief justice of the Moot Court Board and as a member of the Law Review. The law school announced the hiring this week.

Agency Recognizes Retiring Judge Ward

The East Tennessee Human Resource Agency recognized Hamblen County General Sessions Court Judge Joyce Ward at its quarterly advisory board meeting recently for her support and dedication to the agency and the Misdemeanor Probation Service. Ward intends to retire at the end of May. The meeting and party in her honor featured tributes and a presentation of a key to the city by the Morristown mayor. The Citizen Tribune has more

Workers' Comp Changes Likely on Horizon

Tennessee companies could see a reduction in workers' compensation premiums later this year according to The Tennessean, depending on the outcome of complex negotiations over the rates doctors receive for treating workers' comp patients. Several business groups support the measure, saying that an overall rate reduction would help make Tennessee more competitive with neighboring states, but many in the health care community say cuts would hurt medical providers and even force some of them to stop treating patients. Gov. Bill Haslam chose not to tackle workers' compensation reform this year, but is exploring major changes. Many observers expect this will be a major issue for the legislature in 2013.

Services Friday for Oak Ridge Lawyer

Laurence Revelle Dry Jr. died May 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 72. Originally from Minnesota, Dry earned his medical degree in 1966 from Northwestern University in Chicago. He took a job as a general/vascular surgeon in Oak Ridge but later decided to attend law school at the University of Tennessee. He earned his law degree in 1988 and practiced in Oak Ridge until his death. Visitation will be Friday from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 212 N. Tulane Ave., in Oak Ridge. A memorial service will follow at 3:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Carleton College, Gift Accounting, One N. College St., Northfield, MN 55057 or to the Cemetery Fund care of Nina McClure, Bank of Jamestown, P.O. Box 6, Jamestown, KY 42629. The News Sentinel has this obituary

NBA Memorial Service Thursday

The Nashville Bar Association (NBA) will hold its spring memorial service tomorrow, May 24, at 11 a.m. in the Downtown Presbyterian Church. Chancellor Russell Perkins will preside and a reception at the church will follow. Attorneys to be memorialized are: Judge Elmer Davies, Marilyn Devine, James (Jim) Hill, Hugh Howser, Alfred Knight III, Harold Levinson, James Meyer, John Roberts, Judge Leon Ruben, Robert (Bob) Sullivan and Sonny West. Beginning this year, the NBA will hold two memorial services per year -– one in May and one in November. The services honor the memory of Nashville lawyers and judges who have passed away during the preceding period. Learn more on the bar's website

Jackson YLD Hosts Wine Tasting for CASA Tomorrow

The Jackson-Madison County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division will host "Pour Your Heart Out for CASA" tomorrow, May 24, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Charlie Bulldog's in downtown Jackson to benefit Madison County CASA. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Admission includes appetizers and various types of wine to sample. Contact YLD President Terica Smith at (731) 426-1337 or for more information or to buy tickets.


Questions, comments: Email us at

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