Former Judges Lead Fight for Missouri Merit Selection

Defenders of Missouri’s nationally recognized merit selection plan for choosing judges have unveiled a campaign to defeat proposed changes when voters go to the polls this fall. According to critics, the proposed state constitutional amendment would insert politics into choosing appellate judges and give too much influence to the governor. A group of former judges, state bar leaders and community representatives have formed the Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Committee to fight the initiative. Among the leaders are six former state Supreme Court judges. Read more from Gavel Grab

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.

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00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
05 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
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TN Court of Appeals

IN RE ESTATE OF MAVIS A. COMBS

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jessie Ray Akers, Jr. and David Matthew Dolan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Vicki Spurlock, William Stephen Earl Patterson, Mavis Jennie Lynette Lew, and Mary Michelle Shawhan.

Cynthia Ellen Gross, Jason Paul Bobo, and Kathryn S. Evans, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Judge: BENNETT

Decedent’s adult daughter and three adult grandchildren appeal from the trial court’s judgment that the grandchildren are not entitled to survivor pension benefits under decedent’s employee pension plan. Summary judgment was appropriate because there are no genuine issues of material fact and because there exists no legal basis on which to extend survivor pension benefits to the grandchildren. We affirm.


CITY OF MEMPHIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION FOR THE USE AND BENEFIT OF MEMPHIS LIGHT GAS AND WATER v. TANDY J. GILLILAND FAMILY, L.L.C., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Randall D. Noel, John C. Henegan, Elizabeth E. Chance, and Charlotte Knight Griffin, Memphis, Tennessee, and Norman P. Hagemeyer, Ellendale, Tennessee, for the appellants, City of Memphis, A Municipal Corporation for the Use and Benefit of Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division.

Robert A. McLean and Allison Kay Moody, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Tandy J. Gilliland Family, L.L.C., Tandy Jones Gilliland, Trustee, Tandy J. Gilliland and Rudolph Jones, Jr., L.L.C., and Regina Morrison Newman, Shelby County Trustee.

Judge: STAFFORD

This is a condemnation case. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, the landowners, finding that Appellant MLGW’s attempted condemnation was not necessary. The evidence clearly establishes that MLGW had the right to take, and that the taking was for a public purpose. Therefore, the burden fell to Appellees to show that MLGW’s taking was arbitrary or capricious. The evidence contained in the record does not establish that the taking was arbitrary or capricious with the result being that the condemnation is “conclusive upon the court.” Because the court considered necessity and location in contravention of MLGW’s condemnation power, we reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand to the trial court.


SONYA FRANCES KELLY RUTLEDGE v. DAN KENNETH KELLY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jack Robinson Dodson, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dan Kenneth Kelly.

David Scott Parsley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sonya Frances Kelly Rutledge.

Judge: BENNETT

Father was found guilty of five counts of criminal contempt for his failure to pay child support and was sentenced to 50 days in jail. On appeal, Father argues the trial court failed to make the requisite finding regarding his ability to pay. We have determined that the evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that Father did have the ability to pay the child support obligation, but that the maximum sentence is not appropriate based on the circumstances. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court with modifications to Father’s sentence. We also award Mother attorney fees for this appeal and remand the case to the trial court for a determination of the appropriate amount.


SAPINDER SINGH v. LARRY FOWLER TRUCKING, INC.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles H. Barnett, III and Sarah E. Barnett, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sapinder Singh.

Nicholas E. Bragorgos and Pam Warnock Blair, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Larry Fowler Trucking, Inc.

Judge: STAFFORD

This case arises from an accident involving two semi-trucks. The truck owned by Appellee trucking company rear-ended the truck driven by Appellant, causing injury to Appellant’s back. Litigation ensued and the Appellee filed a motion in limine to exclude portions of Appellant’s medical expert’s testimony concerning Appellant’s possible future need for surgery and the costs thereof. The trial court granted the motion, and Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.


LORI ANNE YATTONI-PRESTWOOD v. JOHN STEWART PRESTWOOD

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Sandra J. Bott, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lori Anne Yattoni-Prestwood.

John Stewart Prestwood, Chattanooga, Tennessee, appellee, pro se.

Judge: SUSANO

This is a divorce case that focuses on the parties’ debt and the issue of attorney’s fees. The trial court dissolved the marriage of Lori Anne Yattoni-Prestwood (“Wife”) and John Stewart Prestwood (“Husband”). During their brief time together, the parties accumulated only debt, no assets. Husband’s liability for the parties’ debts was discharged in bankruptcy. In considering the issue of property division and allocation of debt, the trial court found that expenditures made by Wife to and for Husband’s benefit, both before and during the marriage, were “gifts” to him; accordingly, the court declined to treat the after-marriage payments as marital obligations. Instead, the court decreed that each party would be responsible for that party’s “own respective liabilities.” Wife appeals and contends that the trial court erred in failing to properly classify and equitably divide the marital debt and in denying, after first approving, her request for an award of attorney’s fees. She also seeks an award of her fees for legal work on appeal. We modify the judgment as it pertains to the parties’ debt in a way that results in an alimony in solido award to Wife. As additional alimony in solido, we award Wife her reasonable attorney’s fees for work at the trial court level. We further grant Wife’s request for an award of her attorney’s fees incurred for work on appeal as further alimony in solido. In all other respects, the judgment is affirmed.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ROGER WEEMS HARPER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Carrie W. Gasaway and John E. Herbison, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Roger Weems Harper.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General, and Helen Young, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Roger Harper, was convicted by a Montgomery County jury of evading arrest. The trial court sentenced Appellant as a Range I, standard offender to three years and six months. The trial court set the sentence to run consecutively to a five-year diversion sentence imposed under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313 that Appellant was serving from another case. On appeal, Appellant argues that the trial court erred because: (1) the jury failed to specify that it found the aggravating factors required to find Appellant guilty of a Class D felony and furthermore, the trial court sentenced Appellant as if the conviction was a Class D felony; (2) Appellant’s sentence is excessive due to the presence of mitigating factors that the trial court failed to find; and (3) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. We have reviewed the record on appeal and conclude that the trial court committed no error. However, the judgment form must be corrected to reflect that Appellant was convicted of the Class D felony. Therefore, we affirm Appellant’s conviction and sentence but remand for the trial court to enter a corrected judgment.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KENDELL EDWARD JOHNSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Anne M. Davenport, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kendell Edward Johnson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Kathy Morante and Benjamin J. Ford, III, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Kendell Edward Johnson, appeals from his jury conviction for second degree murder, for which he received a fifteen-year sentence. In this direct appeal, the Defendant argues (1) that the trial court erred by admitting the redacted recording of a conversation between the Defendant and his father made at the police station following the Defendant’s arrest on an unrelated charge, (2) that the trial court erred by permitting the irrelevant testimony of the victim’s brother, and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MAURICIO MORALES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ashley Preston (on appeal) and Joseph Davidow (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mauricio Morales.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Roger Moore and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Mauricio Morales, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of three counts of rape of a child, one count of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of aggravated burglary, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence, that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury, and that the 100-year effective sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Summers to Lead Probe of DA

Former Tennessee attorney general and judge Paul Summers has been asked to lead an investigation into allegations of misconduct in the 10th Judicial District. Wally Kirby, executive director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, said he asked Summers to take the lead after current District Attorney Steve Bebb requested a pro tem DA. Bebb has been the subject of a six-day series in the Chattanooga Times Free Press that alleges financial and professional misconduct in his office and the district’s drug task force, and raises questions on procedures used in the seizure of cars and cash. The Cleveland Banner reports


PD Drops Recusal Motions Against Judge

A two-week standoff between the Chattanooga public defender and local criminal court judge that tied up 143 cases ended Tuesday with a one-sentence motion. Ardena J. Garth, public defender for the 11th Judicial District, gave notice yesterday that she is striking all of her motions for recusal effective immediately. The move may break the impass between the two, but the Times Free Press  reports that it may not settle the dispute, which has Garth on the record accusing the judge of creating a hostile work environment and questioning his impartiality. Likewise, the judge is on record accusing the public defender's office of poor management, sloppy lawyering and undermining justice. Both parties declined to comment about the recent dispute.


Mosque Opponents May Appear in Religious Freedom Case

Federal Judge Kevin Sharp ruled today that opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro have a legitimate interest in a religious freedom case involving the mosque’s new building, but he put strict limits on the issues they may address in court. For example, they may address whether a local court order violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, but cannot address accusations that mosque members have ties to terrorists. WTVC News 9 has this AP story.


County Commission to Continue Prayers For Now

Federal Judge Sandy Mattice, in a 37-page ruling released this morning, denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped opening prayers at Hamilton County Commission meetings. Instead, he set an Oct. 2 hearing to schedule a trial of the case on its merits. The county is facing a lawsuit over its practice of opening commission meetings with a prayer. Since the suit was filed, it has changed its practice to allow all area ministers, on a first come-first serve basis, to offer the prayer. In his ruling, Mattice said the commission bears responsibility for ensuring that its policy respects the rights of citizens and the First Amendment. Read more on Chattanoogan.com


LMU Law Classes Begin Amid Accreditation Worries

Eight months after its accreditation denial and subsequent federal lawsuit, students and administrators at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law have returned to the Knoxville campus for the new school year. And while accreditation remains a constant concern, new students are focusing on their studies and returning students are more determined than ever to prove critics wrong, according to the News Sentinel.


Federal Attorneys Delay Schools Visit

U.S. Departments of Justice and Education attorneys have notified the Robertson County School system that they plan to delay their scheduled visit by at least one month as they handle logistics for the visit, which is designed to assess allegations of ongoing segregation in the county. The Tennessean reports that the group now plans to be in Tennessee in late September or October.


Memphis Law Launches Curriculum Changes

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law has been making changes to its curriculum that it hopes will better prepare students for the changing nature of the legal profession. One such change is a new pro bono requirement that will require students entering the school this fall to complete 40 hours of supervised pro bono work before they graduate. Also starting this fall, students will have more flexibility in classes they take earlier in their education. The Memphis Daily News has more


State to Remedy Votes Cast in Wrong Primary

State election officials say they will help voters erase records of voting in the wrong primary, an issue that came to light after Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said he was given a Republican ballot even though he wanted to vote as a Democrat. Tennessee elections coordinator Mark Goins says voters cannot take back a ballot, but they can erase any record of it. By signing a form, documents will reflect an error. Davidson County’s election administrator reported that if poll workers failed to ask which primary a voter wanted, a Republican ballot was automatically selected. He said a new procedure would be put in place to require poll workers to ask each voter their preference. WPLN has the story.


Todaro Joins TBA Staff, Will Handle Public Ed, Access to Justice

Elizabeth “Liz” Slagle Todaro joined the TBA staff this week to begin training as the new Access to Justice and Public Education Coordinator. She will take over later this fall when Sarah Hayman, who currently fills those roles, departs to have her first child. Todaro, a graduate of the City University of New York Law School, most recently led Nashville Debate – a comprehensive debate program for high school students. She also has served in a consulting role with the YWCA as a community educator and outreach coordinator for the agency’s Domestic Violence Center, and as program director for the Family and Children’s Service Crisis Center. A native of Nashville, Todaro graduated from Hume-Fogg High School. She earned her undergraduate degree from Emory University and worked in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., prior to attending law school.


New York Lawyer Takes Disability Inactive Status

The law license of James Edwin Kissel of Buffalo, N.Y., was transferred to disability inactive status on Aug. 27. Kissel may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law. Download the BPR notice


 
 

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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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