List of 3 Goes to Governor for 16th District Spot

The Judicial Nominating Commission has recommended three candidates to Gov. Bill Haslam for the 16th Judicial District Circuit Court vacancy. They are Keta J. Barnes, Municipal Court judge, Smyrna; M. Keith Siskin, Rutherford County Juvenile Court magistrate, Murfreesboro; and Howard W. Wilson, an attorney with Wilson & Bradley in Murfreesboro. The commission met in Murfreesboro on Friday to review 13 applicants for the vacancy, which was created by the appointment of Circuit Court Judge Don R. Ash as senior judge.

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
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

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TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Katherine L. Tranum, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jason C.

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


Jason C. (“Putative Father”) appeals the termination of his parental rights to his minor child, Alexis M.M. (“the Child”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) pursued termination after Putative Father was incarcerated and the Child was adjudicated dependent and neglected in the care of her mother, LeAnn M. (“Mother”). Following a bench trial, the court applied Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(9)(A), applicable to non-legal parents, and terminated Putative Father’s rights based upon multiple grounds, including the failure to provide child support, to visit, or to establish his paternity. Putative Father challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting each of these grounds. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Carl A. Baker, Altamonte Springs, Florida, Pro Se.

Daniel D. Warlick, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Antoinette Welch.


Plaintiff in case alleging legal malpractice appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant attorney. Finding no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kathy A. Leslie, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Irtira Herbert.

Robert Greene, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jerald L. Harding.


The mother of an eleven year old boy asked his father to take care of the child for a few weeks because she was moving out of her apartment. The mother did not find a place of her own for the next six months. Meanwhile, the father enrolled the child in school, boy scouts and football, and filed a petition for change of custody. The father alleged that there had been a change of circumstances in that the mother’s unstable home life and frequent moves adversely affected the child at school and elsewhere, and that the child’s grades and his attitudes had greatly improved while he was under the father’s care. After a hearing, the trial court transferred custody of the child to the father. The mother argues on appeal that, contrary to the trial court’s finding, there had not been a material change of circumstances, and that the trial court’s decision placed too much emphasis on an incident when she was arrested for shoplifting in the presence of the child. We affirm the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and, Warren Jasper, Senior Counsel, General Civil Division; for the appellant, State of Tennessee ex rel. Ronda M. Letner.

Tom McFarland, Kingston, Tennessee, for the appellee, Raymond T. Carriger.


Raymond T. Carriger (“Carriger”) filed a petition to terminate his child support obligation in the Chancery Court for Meigs County (“the Trial Court”). The State of Tennessee ex rel. Ronda M. Letner (“the State”) opposed Carriger’s petition. Carriger argued that he suffered from a disability and, as a result, was unable ever to pay off the arrearages he had accumulated. The Trial Court granted Carriger’s petition and absolved him of his child support arrearages. The State appeals, arguing that such a retroactive modification of child support is prohibited under Tennessee law. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mary C. White, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Robert L. Marlow, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cody Cofer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Randy York, District Attorney General; Gary McKenzie and Amanda Hunter, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Cumberland County jury convicted the Defendant, Cody Cofer, of two counts of felony murder and one count of attempted especially aggravated robbery. The trial court imposed consecutive life sentences for the felony murder convictions, ordering those sentences to run concurrently with the twelve-year sentence it imposed for the attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed the jury to determine whether a witness was an accomplice; (3) the trial court erred by refusing to give a missing witness instruction to the jury; (4) the State’s closing argument was improper; and (5) the trial court erred when it imposed consecutive life sentences. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Johnny Marvin Highsmith, II.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Flynn, District Attorney General; and Betsy Smith, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

On January 31, 2011, Appellant, Johnny Marvin Highsmith, II, entered guilty pleas to one count each of theft of property over $1,000, identity theft, and theft of property over $500 with an effective sentence of eight years. He was placed on community corrections with all but 165 days of his sentence suspended. The trial court issued a violation of community corrections warrant on May 2, 2011, and amended that warrant on June 3, 2011. The trial court held a hearing and revoked Appellant’s community corrections sentence and ordered that he serve his original sentence in incarceration. On appeal, Appellant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering him to serve his sentence in incarceration. After a thorough review of the record, we determine that the trial court did not abuse it discretion. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Sidney Cleve Metcalf, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

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


The Petitioner, Sidney Cleve Metcalf, appeals the Johnson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In this appeal, the Petitioner claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief because of alleged defects in the indictment. The crux of his argument is that his indictment is invalid because it did not allege all of the elements of the offense of aggravated rape, i.e., that the penetration of the victim was accomplished while being armed with a weapon. He also contends that he is entitled to relief because the grand jury foreman did not sign the indictment. We conclude that there is no error in the judgment of the habeas corpus court and affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Sally A Goade, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert Keith Ward.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; and James B. Dunn, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

Following his jury conviction of aggravated rape, the petitioner filed an untimely petition for post-conviction relief alleging that his conviction resulted from the ineffective assistance of counsel and that due process considerations should toll the statute of limitations. The postconviction court ruled that the petitioner failed to establish a basis for due process tolling and summarily dismissed the petition. Discerning no error, we affirm the order of the postconviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William A. Kennedy, Assistant Public Defender, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, O’Dell Taylor Wisdom.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Greeley Wells, District Attorney General, and Joseph E. Perrin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Odell Wisdom, pled guilty in Sullivan County to the charge of felony failure to appear in exchange for a five-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender. The trial court held a sentencing hearing specifically for the purpose of addressing Appellant’s request for probation or alternative sentencing. The trial court denied Appellant’s request and ordered Appellant to serve the sentence in confinement. Appellant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in denying an alternative sentence. However, after a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the trial court properly denied probation or alternative sentencing. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Comment Period Open for Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure

The public comment period has opened for several proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure. The comment period closes Feb. 15, 2013. When you submit your comments you will notice a revamped website for the Federal Rules, which the court intended to be "simpler and more logical."

Belmont Dean Looks Toward ABA Accreditation Visit

After Belmont University's School of Law christens its new 71,000-square-foot building, the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center, on Tuesday, Dean Jeff Kinsler plans to focus on the next big hurdle: accreditation from the American Bar Association. The ABA is set to visit Belmont Sept. 23-26. “I think about [the ABA standards] in my sleep, to be honest,” Kinsler said. “Compared to schools I’ve been watching, we’re in really good shape.” As the school welcomes the 130 members of its second class, Kinsler says big draws for attracting students have been the school's specialized area in entertainment law, and its most controversial professor, Alberto Gonzales. The City Paper has the story

Law School Demand Down, Price Keeps Going Up

The number of applicants to U.S. law schools declined drastically during the past two years, yet the average tuition this fall will climb by more than double the rate of inflation, the National Law Journal reports. Average tuition and fees at private law schools will increase approximately 4 percent over last year to $40,585, according to an examination of published rates by the publication. That's the first time private-school rates have crossed the $40,000 threshold. In-state resident students at public law schools will see a 6 percent increase on average, to approximately $23,590, the report says. In-state tuition at public law schools will remain lower than at private institutions but on average has been increasing at a faster clip for decades. It grew by 10 percent in both 2009 and 2010 and by another 9 percent last year. This year's increase will be the lowest since 2000.

Blackwood Says He Will Stay on Case for Retrials

Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood today refused to step aside in the criminal cases involving Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price argued that Blackwood's disgust with the misdeeds of disgraced former Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over the trials of the torture slaying defendants, had caused him to lose objectively in the case.

Cases Backing Up With 50+ Recusal Requests from PD

Claiming that Judge Barry Steelman is biased against her office, Public Defender Ardena Garth filed more motions today asking the judge to recuse himself from cases in which her office is involved. So far, she has filed for recusals in more than 50 cases, beginning last week. Cases are backing up in Steelman's division of Hamilton County Criminal Court, the Chattanoogan reports.

Pro Se Litigants More Likely to Lose, Survey Says

The need for lawyers to provide pro bono services continues. Judges say self-represented people are slowing down court dockets because they typically don’t know what legal points to argue or what motions to file.  And an American Bar Association survey last year said 75 percent of lawyers believe that people who represent themselves are more likely to lose their cases. “Courthouses are being filled with people just showing up, trying to figure out what their rights are," said Legal Services Corp. Chair John Levi. "If you're a low-income person and you have a legal need, it is not easy to get it addressed.” Legal Services funds 135 legal aid groups across the country and serves about 900,000 clients a year, but it has to turn away about the same number of people because of too few staff. The Leaf Chronicle has this AP story

A Year of Freedom for the West Memphis 3

It has been one year since the "West Memphis 3" reached a plea deal that allowed them to go free and keep proclaiming their innocence of the gruesome 1993 murders of three young boys. They spent nearly two decades in jail. Today, one of them is about to go on a tour with his book, "Life After Death." Another has spent time on the set of "Devil's Knot," an upcoming movie about the case starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. The third is living a quiet life in the trailer park where he grew up near West Memphis. They are all getting used to how different life is from when they were last free. "My greatest piece of technology as a 16-year-old kid was my Super Nintendo," said Jason Baldwin, who was 16 when he was arrested. "Now I've got this thing called the iPhone." The Commercial Appeal reports

Life Sentences for Juveniles Under Scrutiny

On Thursday, the California Assembly passed a bill that would give "juvenile lifers" -- those who killed as juveniles and are serving life in prison without parole -- in that state a shot at freedom. Nationwide, there are roughly 2,500 inmates who fit into this category. "Because their brain is still developing, they have the ability to rehabilitate," said Michael Harris, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. Despite the legal rulings and the legislative activity, some survivors of people killed by juveniles are pushing back and arguing that a life sentence is appropriate punishment for juveniles who commit heinous murders. NewsChannel 5 has this AP story

John Ford Released from Prison

Former Tennessee State Senator John Ford, 70, was released from a federal prison in Mississippi today. Ford, who has been behind bars since 2007, is now at a half-way house in Memphis, NewsChannel 3 reports. He was convicted for his role in undercover investigation called Operation Tennessee Waltz. He was serving 19-and-a-half years following separate corruption convictions in Memphis and Nashville, but an appeals court threw out the Nashville conviction, which shaved several years off his sentence.

Greeneville Attorney Nat Coleman Services, Memorials

Services for Greeneville attorney Nathaniel Ragsdale "Nat" Coleman Jr. were this weekend. He died Aug. 13 at age 89. Memorial contributions may be made to St. James Episcopal Church, 107 W. Church St., Greeneville 37743. Read his obituary in the Greeneville Sun

Reception Honoring General Phillips Set

Members of the bar and the public are invited to a retirement reception honoring William Paul Phillips, district attorney general for the Eighth Judicial District, Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. The event is set for the White Rock Baptist Church, 2745 Howard Baker Highway in Huntsville. Phillips’ staff is hosting the event, and encourages all "to come say farewell and thank you" for his service to the citizens of Fentress, Scott, Campbell, Claiborne and Union counties over the past 33 years.


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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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