Need for More Lawyers in Legislature a Bipartisan Issue

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has come right out and said it: "We need more attorneys in the House of Representatives. We need more attorneys in our (Republican) Caucus." It's a non-partisan feeling, with Phillip North, a Democratic lawyer who is running for the state Senate in Nashville, making a similar point in recent fund-raising materials. A century or so ago, columnist Tom Humphrey writes, "close to half of our citizen legislators were lawyers. More importantly, the committees that control bills dealing with the legal system were completely dominated by lawyers." In the just-completed 107th General Assembly, he points out that there were only three lawyers among the nine members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and just three among the 16 members of the House Judiciary Committee. The chairmen of the judiciary committees were almost always lawyers in recent decades. Today, they are nonlawyers — former court reporter Sen. Mae Beavers in the Senate and former deputy sheriff Rep. Eric Watson in the House.

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
06 - TN Court of Appeals
00 - 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


Larry M. Warner, Crossville, Tennessee, and Leif E. Jeffers, Assistant Public Defender, Huntsville, Tennessee (at trial); William P. Redick, Jr., Whites Creek, Tennessee, and Peter D. Heil, Nashville, Tennessee (amended motion for new trial); James A. Simmons, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Richard L. Gaines, Knoxville, Tennessee (final amended motion for new trial and on appeal), for the appellant, Hubert Glenn Sexton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; Mark E. Davidson and James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorneys General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and John W. Galloway, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant, tried and convicted of two counts of first degree murder, was sentenced to death for each offense. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. In our review, we have found that the trial court erred by admitting detailed evidence of a prior claim of child sex abuse and by allowing references to the defendant’s refusal to submit to a polygraph examination. Further, the record demonstrates several instances of prosecutorial misconduct during the opening statement and during the final arguments of both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. Because, however, the defendant admitted to at least three witnesses that he committed the murders and the evidence of guilt was otherwise overwhelming, the errors had no effect on the verdicts rendered at the conclusion of the guilt phase of the trial. Each of the convictions is, therefore, affirmed. Nevertheless, because certain of the inadmissible evidence was particularly inflammatory and the prosecution made several inappropriate comments, the sentences of death must be set aside. The Court of Criminal Appeals is, in consequence, affirmed in part and reversed in part. The cause is remanded to the trial court for new sentencing hearings.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Sarah E. Coleman, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Amanda M.

Wilton Marble, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joshua D.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Marcie E. Greene, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

No appearance by Guardian ad Litem.


This is a termination of parental rights case with respect to Johnny J.E.M. (“the Child”), the minor son of Amanda M. (“Mother”) and Joshua D. (“Father”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed the Child from Mother’s home as a result of “serious environmental neglect.” The Child was adjudicated dependent and neglected in Mother’s care; he had no relationship with Father, who was serving a lengthy prison sentence throughout these proceedings. After taking the Child into custody, DCS soon placed him with Janice M. (“Foster Aunt”) and her husband, Sonny M. (collectively “Foster Parents”), the prospective adoptive parents, where he remained for a year and a half before DCS sought to permanently sever the rights of the biological parents to the Child. Following a bench trial, the court granted the petition to terminate based on its dual findings, by clear and convincing evidence, that multiple grounds for termination were established as to both parents, and that termination was in the best interest of the Child. Mother and Father, represented by separate counsel, appeal. We affirm.

JANICE LACROIX, et al., v. L.W. MATTESON, INC., et al.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Scott N. Davis, and Patrick B. Hawley, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellants, W.W. Transport, Inc., and Sparta Insurance company, as Statutory Subrogees of Janice LaCroix, surviving spouse of Larry James LaCroix, and Timothy J. LaCroix.

Simon Tonkin and Richard D. McNelley, St. Louis, Missouri, and Tony R. Dalton and Dean T. Howell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, L.W. Matteson, Inc., and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, LLC.

S. Morris Hadden, Kingsport, Tennessee, and Christopher D. Owens, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sevenson Environmental Services, Inc.

Jefferson C. Orr, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.


Deceased, a resident of Iowa, an employee of plaintiff, delivered materials to the State of Tennessee, and while the materials were being unloaded sustained injuries which resulted in his death, which arose out of the course and scope of his employment. His widow could claim benefits either under the Iowa worker's compensation laws or the State of Tennessee worker's compensation laws, which contain essentially similar provisions. The widow claimed benefits under the Iowa worker's compensation law, and the employer under both laws was entitled to seek subrogation recovery for benefits paid from the alleged third party tort feasors. The State of Iowa would not have jurisdiction over some of the alleged tort feasors, and the employer brought his subrogation action in the State of Tennessee under the Tennessee worker's compensation statutes. Defendants moved for summary judgment and the Trial Court concluded that since the claimant elected to sue under the Iowa worker's compensation statutory scheme, that the employer could not rely on the Tennessee worker's compensation statutes to maintain its action in Tennessee, and dismissed plaintiffs' action. On appeal, we hold that the employer was entitled to employ the Tennessee worker's compensation statute in an effort to recover subrogation benefits against the third party tort feasors.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James S. Higgins, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Herschel Charles Lehman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and Heather C. Ross, Senior Counsel, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


Claimant filed a claim with the Tennessee Claims Commission to recover for the wrongful death of his father, a resident of Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute; the Commission awarded damages for loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and medical and funeral expenses. Claimant appeals the amount of damages awarded for loss of consortium and pain and suffering. We affirm the damages awarded for loss of consortium and modify the award of damages for pain and suffering.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


William A. Cohn, Cordova, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rain and Hail, Inc.

No appearance on behalf of the appellee, Craig A. Stewart.


Rain and Hail, Inc. (“the plaintiff”) obtained a judgment in the state of Iowa against Craig A. Stewart (“the defendant”). The plaintiff filed this present action to register and enforce the foreign judgment in Tennessee, where the defendant resides. The defendant denied being served with a copy of the complaint in Iowa. The court set a hearing date at which neither the plaintiff nor its counsel appeared. The plaintiff’s counsel advised the 1 court that it would submit the matter on the papers it had filed in support of its position. The court dismissed the action with prejudice. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kevin W. Shepherd, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronnie Summey.

Arthur F. Knight, III, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Monroe County Board of Education.


This appeal arises from an employment dispute between Ronnie Summey (“Summey”) and the Monroe County Board of Education (“the Board”). Summey worked as head football coach and as a teacher at Sequoyah High School (“Sequoyah”) in Monroe County. Summey sued the Board in the Chancery Court for Monroe County (“the Trial 1 Court”), alleging, among other things, breach of contract and violation of various constitutional rights stemming from when Summey was relieved as head coach and offered a new assignment in the school system. The Trial Court ruled in favor of the Board, finding that it was Summey who had breached the contract when he refused to accept the new assignment. Summey appeals. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Ronald D. Krelstein, Germantown, Tennessee for Plaintiff/Appellant, Al Thomas.

Ricky E. Wilkins & Sharon Harless Loy, Memphis, Tennessee for Defendant/Appellees, Joseph Lee, III and Robert L. J. Spence, Jr.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves a lawsuit by a taxpayer. The taxpayer filed this action on behalf of the citizens of the municipality to prevent a disputed disbursement of funds, naming as defendants the municipality, the municipality’s utility district, and three private citizens. By the time the initial hearing in this matter took place, the only defendants who remained in the suit were the three private citizens. Finding that the taxpayer lacked standing to pursue this action, the trial court dismissed the case. The taxpayer then filed a motion to alter or amend, seeking to continue to pursue the lawsuit, pursuant to Bennett v. Stutts, 521 S.W.2d 575 (Tenn. 1975). The trial court denied the motion to alter or amend. The taxpayer appeals. We affirm, finding the exception in Bennett v. Stutts inapplicable.

Judge Stops Mosque Construction

Judge Robert Corlew III ruled today that construction of a controversial Murfreesboro mosque must cease immediately because not enough notice was given about a May 2010 public meeting. Corlew ruled in favor of Kevin Fisher and other Rutherford County residents who sued claiming adequate notice wasn't given when the site plan was approved for the new Islamic center. The opinion does not prevent the Rutherford County Planning Commission from reconsidering the issue and approving the mosque site plan again. Construction of the mosque is well under way. WSMV has more

Interim Dean Named at Memphis Law

William P. Kratzke has been named interim dean of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. He will begin June 1, 2012, and will succeed Kevin Smith, who is returning full-time to teaching and research. Kratzke has taught at the U of M law school since 1979. He served as associate dean from 1989 to 1991, and in 1995 he was named Cecil C. Humphreys Professor of Law. Kratzke’s areas of expertise are in business law and he has taught torts, civil procedure, administrative law and environmental law. He received his degree from Valparaiso University School of Law, and an LL.M. centered on labor law from Georgetown University.

Court Clarifies Parole Procedures

The Tennessee Supreme Court clarified on Friday the procedures an inmate must follow to dispute the determination of parole eligibility for consecutive sentences, clarifying that the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (BOPP) are separate entities with distinct roles. TDOC is responsible for calculating release eligibility dates, the court said in the case, and BOPP decides whether to release inmates on parole. Inmates may obtain judicial review of these decisions, but the procedure differs. has more

Lane New Bar President in Greene County

The Greene County Bar Association recently elected new officers. They are President Lindsey Wise Lane with Leonard, Kershaw & Hensley LLP; Vice President J. Bradley Mercer; and Secretary/Treasurer Brandy M. Burnette with Milligan & Coleman. All are from Greeneville.

Court Grants Review of 4 Criminal, 1 Civil Case

Five new cases were granted review by the Tennessee Supreme Court last week. This includes four criminal cases addressing constructive possession of drugs, pretrial diversion, the failure of trial court to inform jury of judgments of acquittal, and suppression of statements. The civil case concerns invalidation of a marriage for want of sufficient mental capacity. The Raybin-Perky Hot List details the cases and offers predictions of how the Supreme Court may act.

Judges Learn Their Fathers Were in POW Camp Together

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee has spoken often of her father's experience as a World War II POW, but it was some time before she learned he had been held in the same camp at the same time as a fellow Tennessee jurist's father. Staff Sgt. Charles James Lee of Tellico Plains and Lt. Harold Leibowitz -- the father of Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz and also of Knoxville lawyer Larry Leibowitz -- both ended up in a prison of war camp in Barth, Germany  before being liberated on May 13, 1945. The judges talk about their fathers experiences in this News Sentinel story. When Lee recounts these events in speeches, she also tells about others who served, including Hugh Ross, father of Criminal Court Judge Carroll Ross of Athens; David Goldin, father of Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin, and E. Bruce Foster Sr., father of Knoxville lawyer Bruce Foster Jr.

Columnist: Call the Judge to Sway Horse Trainer Outcome

A newspaper columnist published the phone number for U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr., suggesting readers call to influence him about the decision he will make in September regarding Tennessee Walking Horse trainer who pleaded guilty last week for violating the federal Horse Protection Act. Gail Kerr also gave information on how to contact representatives and to sign a petition. Regarding Mattice's number she said, "Judges are not supposed to be influenced by public opinion, though obviously some are." Read the column

Immigration Law Protestors Go to Alabama Capitol

Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at the Alabama state Capitol to protest the recent passage and signing of a bill that makes some changes to Alabama's tough law targeting illegal immigration. WKRN carried the AP story

Justices' Teaching Jobs a Clue to End of Session

U.S. Supreme Court justices' summer travel schedules are a clue that blockbuster health care and immigration cases will be decided by the end of June. Several of the justices have teaching gigs that begin in July, including Chief Justice John Roberts who will be in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta; Antonin Scalia who will teach in Innsbruck, Austria; Samuel Alito is teaching in Florence; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will take part in programs in Venice and Vienna. Justices can accept roughly $25,000 in additional income for teaching and speaking, beyond their salary of $213,900 a year. The chief justice earns about $10,000 a year more. has the AP story


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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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