Judge Taylor Indicted on 41 Counts

Former Hawkins County Judge James "Jay" Taylor has been indicted on 41 counts of theft for allegedly filing false claims for legal services he never performed, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Taylor surrendered himself to authorities on the charges this morning and was booked into the Davidson County jail. He is being held in lieu of $175,000 bond. The case is being jointly prosecuted by the Davidson County District Attorney General's office and the Tennessee Attorney General's office.

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
07 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
07 - 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

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GUY ALVIN WILLIAMSON

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Gary Antrican, District Public Defender; and Parker O. Dixon, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Guy Alvin Williamson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and James Walter Freeland, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

After an investigatory stop and frisk, the defendant was charged with the unlawful possession of a handgun after a felony conviction and the unlawful possession of a handgun while under the influence of alcohol and was convicted on both counts. The trial court imposed probationary sentences of three years and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively. The defendant appealed, arguing that his motion to suppress evidence should have been granted. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. This Court granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal. Because the investigatory stop and frisk of the defendant was not supported by specific and articulable facts establishing reasonable suspicion that a criminal act was being or about to be committed, the trial court erred by failing to suppress the handgun found by the police and presented as evidence at trial. The judgments of conviction are, therefore, reversed and the cause dismissed.


TN Court of Appeals

IN RE: THE MATTER OF CHEETAH LOUNGE, INC., DBA “THE CHEETAH LOUNGE” ET AL. v . SARASOTA COUNTY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Luke Lirot, Clearwater, Florida, and Matthew A. Grossman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Cheetah Lounge, Inc., dba “The Cheetah Lounge,” and Sarasota Eateries, LLC.

Stephen S. Duggins and Scott D. Bergthold, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Sarasota County, Florida, and Scott D. Bergthold.

Judge: SUSANO

After a subpoena duces tecum was served on Chattanooga attorney Scott D. Bergthold (“the Attorney”) requiring him to appear for a deposition in Hamilton County and to produce documents regarding ordinances enacted by Sarasota County, Florida (“the County”) pertaining to “adult businesses,” he filed this action as a motion for a protective order pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 24-9- 201, et seq. (Supp. 2011). The Attorney asserted, on behalf of himself and the County, that the information sought was protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine and that the discovery was overly broad and unduly burdensome. The trial court granted the protective order and quashed the subpoena. The subpoena had been issued and served at the request of Cheetah Lounge, Inc., dba “The Cheetah Lounge” and Sarasota Eateries, LLC (“the Adult Clubs”) as a part of their discovery in a Florida case wherein they challenged the constitutionality of the subject ordinances. The Adult Clubs appeal. While this matter was pending oral argument before us, the County filed motions asking that this Court consider dual facts, i.e., (1) that, following the entry of the trial court’s judgment, the Florida court dismissed the underlying case and (2) that court later denied the Adult Clubs’ motion to rehear. We directed the parties to brief the issue of whether this ancillary matter is rendered moot by the dismissal of the underlying action. We now hold that this case is moot. Accordingly, this appeal is dismissed.


CONSUMER ADVOCATE & PROTECTION DIVISION OF THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TENNESSEE v. TENNESSEE REGULATORY AUTHORITY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General; and Vance L. Broemel, Assistant Attorney General, for the Petitioner/Appellant Consumer Advocate & Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Tennessee.

J. Richard Collier and Kelly Cashman-Grams for the Respondent/Appellee Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

J. W. Luna and Jennifer L. Brundige, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellee Chattanooga Gas Company.

Henry Walker, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner/Appellee Chattanooga Regional Manufacturer’s Association.

Judge: KIRBY

This is an appeal from an order of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (“TRA”). The appeal was filed by the Consumer Advocate and Protection Division of the Office of Tennessee’s Attorney General. It challenges the TRA’s authority to allow a gas company to recover attorney fees that were incurred in a proceeding before the TRA that did not involve ratemaking, and the TRA’s authority to order that the attorney fees be recovered from asset management funds. We conclude that the TRA has the authority to order that such litigation fees be recovered as any other reasonable and prudent operating expense of the utility, and that the TRA acted within its authority in ordering that the fees be paid out of asset management funds. The TRA’s decision, therefore, is affirmed.


IN RE: DAKOTA L. M.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph O. McAfee, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon M.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Joshua Davis Baker, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Whittney N. L. Good, Bulls Gap, Tennessee, guardian ad litem for the minor, Dakota L. M.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services sought to terminate the parental rights of Brandon M. and 1 Anthony T. to their minor child.2 The trial court terminated Brandon M.’s parental rights, finding that there was clear and convincing evidence to support termination based upon, abandonment, substantial non-compliance with the permanency plans, and persistence of conditions and that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the child. Brandon M. appeals the court’s best interest determination. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


IN RE: ETHIN E.S., ET AL

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Andrew J. Crawford, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Donna J.S.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Joshua Davis Barker, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Robert W. Rogers, Knoxville, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.

Judge: SUSANO

Donna J.S. (“Mother”) appeals an order terminating her parental rights to her minor children, Ethin E.S. and Mary J.C. (collectively “the Children”). The younger child, Ethin, was born drug-exposed and required intensive care for treatment of his withdrawal symptoms. As a result, the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) became involved. In the weeks after Ethin’s birth, a protective order was entered and DCS took temporary custody of the Children. Following a two-day bench trial, the court found that there are multiple grounds for terminating Mother’s rights and that termination is in the best interest of the Children, both findings by the court said to be based upon clear and convincing evidence. Mother challenges both of these determinations and, in addition, contends that DCS failed to provide reasonable efforts to assist her toward reunification with the Children. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


JRM INVESTMENTS, INC. v. NATIONAL STANDARD, LLC

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

David G. Mills, Cordova, Tennessee, for the appellant, JRM Investments, Inc.

Jere Robert Lee, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, National Standard, LLC.

Judge: FARMER

The circuit court granted the Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12.02(2) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. We affirm.


JANICE RIDDLE v. KEITH CARLTON

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Janice Riddle, Memphis, Tennessee, pro se.

William B. Walk, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Keith S. Carlton.

Judge: HIGHERS

Former client filed a pro se complaint for legal malpractice against her former attorney. She had previously filed a complaint against the attorney with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, and that matter had been resolved in the attorney’s favor nearly two years before she filed the malpractice complaint. The trial court dismissed the complaint for malpractice, finding it barred by the one-year statute of limitations for such claims. The former client appealed. We affirm.


HARRIET TUBMAN DEVELOPMENT/CHA v. REGINALD LOCKLIN

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Emily O’Donnell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Cecil VanDevender, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Reginald Locklin.

Larry L. Cash and Jade D. Dodds, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Harriet Tubman Development/Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Judge: SUSANO

The Chattanooga Housing Authority (“CHA”) evicted its tenant, Reginald Locklin (“the Tenant”), after two of his sons were involved in an incident with neighbors. The eviction was accomplished by order of the trial court giving CHA possession of the property. The Tenant appeals arguing that CHA, which is a public housing authority (“PHA”), made the decision to evict him and his family arbitrarily and without due process. We affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TERRY BONDS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Wesley D. Stone, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal); and James W. Clements, III, Chattanooga, Tennessee (at hearing), for the appellant, Terry Bonds.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Lance Pope, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Terry Bonds, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, claiming that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to revoke his probation because his sentence had expired. Appellant also claims that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. The State contends that this court should dismiss the appeal because the notice of appeal was untimely and deficient in form. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


EDWARD JEROME HARBISON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Edward Jerome Harbison, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Edward Jerome Harbison, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis seeking relief from his 1983 convictions for first degree murder, second degree burglary, and grand larceny. Petitioner claims that an order of a previous coram nobis court establishes a new predicate for review. Petitioner also claims that a statement of a prosecutor during a previous hearing constitutes “new evidence.” Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the error coram nobis court.


TIMOTHY L. JEFFERSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Timothy L. Jefferson, Nashville, Tennessee, pro se.

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

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Timothy L. Jefferson, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis which challenged his 2001 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.


DANNY MILLER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Lindsay N. Graham, Alisa N. Livaditis, and Gianna Maio (on appeal) and Wells Trompeter and Jessica Van Dyke (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee for the appellant, Danny Miller.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner, Danny Miller, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 1979 conviction of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and resulting life sentence. On appeal, he argues that the post-conviction court erred by denying his petition to test DNA evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.


MELVIN J. REED, JR., v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Melvin J. Reed, Jr., Pikeville, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, 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 petitioner, Melvin J. Reed, Jr., appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief as untimely. In this appeal, he asserts that the post-conviction court erred by summarily dismissing his petition because principles of due process require the tolling of the statute of limitations in his case. Because we agree that the petitioner alleged grounds for due process tolling of the post-conviction statute of limitations, we reverse the dismissal of his petition and remand the case for a hearing to determine whether due process requires tolling of the statute of limitations.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. VINCENT D. STEELE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender (on appeal); and Crystal Myers, Assistant Public Defender (at plea and sentencing), for the appellant, Vincent D. Steele.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Daniel Brollier, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

Following his guilty pleas to reckless aggravated assault, assault, and possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine, the Montgomery County Circuit Court sentenced the defendant, Vincent D. Steele, as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of four years, 11 month and 29 days, and 11 years’ imprisonment, respectively, to be served consecutively to a previously-imposed sentence. On appeal, the defendant argues that the sentence imposed was excessive both in length and manner of service. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TRACY DIRELL WOODARD

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Trisha S. Bolen, Bell Buckle, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tracy Direll Woodard.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Crawford, District Attorney General; and Richard Cawley, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Tracy Direll Woodard, entered open guilty pleas to three counts of the sale of less than .5 grams of cocaine, see T.C.A. § 39-17-417(c)(2)(A); three counts of the delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine, see id.; sale of a counterfeit controlled substance, see id. § 39-17-423(a)(1); and delivery of a counterfeit controlled substance, see id. § 39-17- 423(a)(2). At sentencing, the trial court merged each delivery conviction into the corresponding sale conviction and imposed an effective sentence of 16 years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant argues that the sentences are excessive. We affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court. On remand, however, we direct the trial court to correct the judgments to properly effectuate merger of the alternative counts of sale and delivery.


TN Attorney General Opinions

Greenbelt Rollback Tax Liability on Land Purchased Through the Wetlands Acquisition Fund

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-31

Opinion Number: 51


Payment of Fines in Installments

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-31

Opinion Number: 52


Authority of the Tennessee Historical Commission

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-31

Opinion Number: 53


Wholesale Beer Tax and Quality Control Standards Determination

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-31

Opinion Number: 54


Property Tax Exemption for Low-Income Housing Property

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-31

Opinion Number: 55


Recall Petitions in Multi-District Cities or Counties

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-21

Opinion Number: 56


Sheriff's Civil Service Law

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2012-05-21

Opinion Number: 57


Defense of Marriage Act Struck Down

A battle over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman appears headed for the Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled today that denying benefits to married gay couples is unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples. But the court did not rule on the law's requirement that states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's legal. It also did not address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. WRCB-TV has this story from the Associated Press.


Rutherford Judicial Building Evacuated after Bomb Threat

The Rutherford County Judicial Building was evacuated this morning after a bomb threat came in around 8:45 a.m. Officials said a man called the court clerk saying there were three bombs inside the building and that Judge Don Ash was the target. The judge was moved to a secure location and the building was evacuated so Tennessee Highway Patrol and an ATF bomb squad could bring in bomb-sniffing dogs. Nothing was found and the building reopened around noon. News Channel 5 reports


Kyle Asks for State Investigation of Voting Rolls

State Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, asked the Tennessee secretary of state yesterday to conduct a "formal investigation" into allegations that the voting histories of 488 Shelby County registered voters were deleted from Election Commission records. He also suggested the office hold public hearings in Shelby County. Secretary of State Tré Hargett later confirmed that his office is investigating the matter. Kyle's letter follows a similar request by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., for investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. Read more in the Commercial Appeal


County Won't Halt Mosque Construction

Rutherford County has no immediate plans to revoke the building permit for an embattled Murfreesboro mosque, says county attorney Jim Cope. “The county is going to look at all the possibilities" and "this could take weeks.” Construction at the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was set to continue today, despite a judge’s decision that voided the county planning commission’s approval of the project. County officials say they will wait for a court order from the judge to stop the construction. The Tennessean has more


Baumgartner's Pill Dealer Headed to Prison

Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood rejected Christopher Lee Gibson Sr.'s claim he was simply trying to keep watch over his mother's oxycodone pills when he was found with four of the prescription painkillers in his pocket earlier this year. "I don't believe the explanation of the defendant," Blackwood said at a hearing Wednesday in Knox County Criminal Court according to the News Sentinel. Gibson was on probation in former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner's court when, in 2009, he began selling Baumgartner prescription painkillers. In late March, police stopped him and found the pills – a violation of probation. In court yesterday he was sentenced to finish his original four-year prison term.


Judges Criticized for Summer Schedule

Two Shelby County probate judges are being criticized for implementing a "summer schedule" from Memorial Day to Labor Day, a concept that dates back to a time when there was no air conditioning in the courtroom. During this period, the judges are holding court only in the morning, which does not sit well with some who say the judges are getting paid to have an easy summer. Probate Court Clerk Paul Boyd responded saying, "The judges don't sit on the bench or don't have scheduled court in the afternoon, but they are still here. Just because there's not court doesn't mean they're not working." WMCTV has more


Mistrial Declared in Edwards Case

Two-time Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards walked out of court a free man this afternoon after a jury cleared him of one federal corruption count and deadlocked on five others. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles declared a mistrial. Prosecutors had accused the onetime North Carolina senator of using nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to keep his pregnant mistress a secret as he ran for president in 2008. The jury spent 50 hours over nine days deliberating the case. CNN has more


Paper Looks at Romney's Record on Judicial Appointments

A story in today's issue of the Washington Post analyzes Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's position on judicial appointments, beginning with his pledge as a new governor to clean up Massachusetts' system -- which he said was "riddled with patronage and backroom deals" -- to his 2008 decision to dismiss members of the nominating commission he had created after clashes over appointments. The story suggests that Romney ended his time in office pushing through "a surge of judicial nominees, some with controversial records, others with the kind of political connections he once condemned." The Romney campaign defended his record saying he “put in place groundbreaking reforms” and selected judges "he felt had the appropriate temperament, judicial philosophy and demonstrated capability" to be on the bench.


Former Germantown City Judge Dies at 92

Memphis attorney and former Germantown City Judge Cecil G. Keltner has died at the age of 92. A graduate of the Southern Law School (now the University of Memphis School of Law), Judge Keltner practiced law for 53 years in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi and was a co-founder of Gatti & Keltner Law Firm. Arrangements, being handled by Memphis Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens, were incomplete as of press time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to Union Avenue Baptist Church. Read more about his life


Judge's Widow, Past MBA Auxiliary President Dies

Emma Jean Pierotti, widow of former Probate Judge Leonard D. Pierotti, died May 26 at the age of 87. A past president of the Memphis Bar Association Auxiliary, Mrs. Pierotti served on several local boards including the Memphis City Beautiful Commission and the American Cancer Society. Funeral services were held today. The family requests that memorials be sent to the scholarship fund of St. Agnes Academy, Madonna Circle or Ave Maria Home. Read more about her life


 
 

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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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