TBA Academy Offers Admission to U.S. Supreme Court

A select group of Tennessee attorneys will soon experience the honor of being admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court during the 29th Annual TBA Academy Nov. 26-27 in Washington, D.C. This year's program includes a welcome reception with TBA President Jackie Dixon, group lunch and dinner, breakfast and tour of the court and private admission ceremony. The group will stay at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel and will have the opportunity to network with some of the nation’s leading appellate practitioners. Registration is open through Oct. 15. Get details and directions on how to apply

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
01 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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

With Concurring Opinion

Court: TN Supreme Court


Arthur G. Seymour, Jr. and Benjamin C. Mullins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ready Mix, USA, LLC.

S. Douglas Drinnon and Larry Ray Churchwell, Dandridge, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jefferson County, Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The plaintiff, a producer of construction aggregates, acquired property with proven reserves for mining and quarrying operations. Afterward, Jefferson County enacted a comprehensive zoning ordinance limiting the use of the property to agricultural purposes. Before the passage of the ordinance, the plaintiff undertook various activities designed to establish business operations. When the county issued a stop work order, the plaintiff, without first receiving a decision from the county’s board of zoning appeals, filed a declaratory judgment action arguing that the portion of the property not previously subject to zoning qualified as a pre-existing non-conforming use, protected by Tennessee Code Annotated section 13-7-208 (1992). After concluding that the plaintiff was not required to exhaust its administrative remedies, the trial court ruled that the business activities on the property were “in operation” at the effective date of the ordinance for purposes of grandfather protection under section 13- 7-208. Because the Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, the judgment was set aside. We hold that the trial court, under these circumstances, did not err by ruling that the plaintiff was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies. We further hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the plaintiff had established operations sufficient to qualify for protection under Tennessee Code Annotated section 13-7-208.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Ralph T. Gibson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Danny E. Iloube, Sr.

Robert L. Moore, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Don M. Cain.


This action arises from an automobile accident. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on Plaintiff’s claim for damages for medical expenses at the close of proof. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s claim for pain and suffering and loss of earning capacity. On appeal, Plaintiff asserts the trial court erred by granting the directed verdict on his claim for medical expenses. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Paul Whetstone, Morristown, Tennessee, for appellant, Jonathan Curtis Austin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Greg W. Eichelman, District Attorney General; Ritchie Collins, Assistant District Attorney General; and Cecil Mills, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Jonathan Austin, was indicted by the Greene County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Harry E. Sayle, III (on appeal), and J.T. Harris (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Curtis Harper.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stacy McEndree, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Curtis Harper, was found guilty by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of attempt to commit second degree murder, a Class B felony, employing a firearm during the commission of a felony, a Class C felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-210(a)(1) (2010), 39-12-101(a) (2010), 39-17-1324 (Supp. 2008) (amended 2009), 39-13-102(a)(1)(A) (2006) (amended 2009, 2010, 2011). The trial court merged the aggravated assault convictions into the attempted second degree murder conviction, and sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twelve years’ confinement for attempted second degree murder and six years for employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. The trial court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, for an effective eighteen-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for attempted second degree murder. We affirm the Defendant’s convictions, but we vacate the aggravated assault and attempted second degree murder judgments and remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment reflecting the merger of the aggravated assault convictions into the conviction for attempted second degree murder.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Robert L. Jolley, Jr. (on appeal), Knoxville, Tennessee and S. Joanne Sheldon (at trial) Newport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon Sean Sutton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Jeremy Ball, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Jefferson County jury convicted appellant, Brandon Sean Sutton, of first degree murder, and he received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. On appeal, appellant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred when it admitted certain photographs; (3) emotional displays from the victim’s family violated his right to a fair trial; (4) the evidence did not support the sentence of life without parole; (5) the victim impact evidence was improper; and (6) the trial judge did not follow proper procedure when selecting the manner in which he removed alternate jurors. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Summers: Remember Past Experience with ‘Election’ of Judges

In an opinion piece in the Tennessean today, former state attorney general Paul Summers writes that those supporting direct election of appellate judges have forgotten the state’s past experience with that system. “Back when we had partisan elections for the judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Appeals, they were in theory elected by hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans. In truth, they were selected by a handful of party officials in Nashville...” Summers writes. He reminds readers that in those days, Democrats were in charge and often Republicans didn’t even put up a slate of judges. Today, under merit selection, he argues, the appellate courts are more evenly balanced.

Knoxville Considers 287(g) Program Amid Protests

On the heels of Nashville law enforcement deciding to withdraw from the federal 287(g) program, Knoxville Sheriff J.J. Jones reportedly is considering adopting the program, which checks the immigration status of those booked into local jails. Jones said he would meet with a group opposed to the program before making a final decision about whether to adopt it. WBIR.com reports on the program and protest that took place there this week.

Tennessee to Get $1.2 Million from E-Book Settlement

Tennessee will get $1.2 million from a settlement over e-book price fixing, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The agreement with the attorneys general for 54 states and territories was reached with three major publishers: Hachette, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster. The publishers agreed to a total fine of $69 million. Macmillan, Penguin and Apple declined to participate in the settlement. A federal lawsuit against them is pending.

Bebb Defends Record, Says Criticism is Political

District Attorney General Steve Bebb, the subject of a recent investigative series in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is speaking out, defending his record and calling allegations of wrongdoing unfounded and politically motivated, telling the Advocate and Democrat  that  "I have not broken any laws or violated any rules of ethics." He said he is proud of his 10th Judicial District staff, which prosecutes cases in Monroe, McMinn, Polk and Bradley counties. The Chattanooga paper has raised allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and misuse of public money by Bebb and his staff.

Judge Asks DOJ to Explain Position on Withers File

 U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is asking an assistant to Attorney General Eric Holder to explain why the government is fighting so hard to keep informant records of Memphis civil rights era photographer Ernest Withers sealed. Jackson reproved Justice Department lawyers in her Washington courtroom this week, questioning why they're protecting decades-old material involving a now-deceased informant. While Jackson would not reveal the contents of the file, she said she was "deeply, deeply troubled by it.'' The Memphis Commercial Appeal -- which is seeking access to the materials -- reports.

Corker Names New General Counsel

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker announced Wednesday that veteran Senate aide Rob Strayer will serve as his new legislative director and general counsel. A 2000 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, Strayer most recently worked at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., where he served as director of the Homeland Security Project. He previously served as deputy staff director of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Strayer replaces Ryan Berger who will remain on staff as a policy advisor. The office also announced that John Lipsey has been promoted to chief counsel. The Chattanoogan reported the news

Campfield Making News at GOP Convention

From the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield has renewed a feud with the legislature's Black Caucus and brought criticism from a top party official. Campfield reportedly said that his colleague Jim Summerville’s reference to a "rat’s ass" in a recent email to the Black Caucus has become a "catch phrase" among the Tennessee delegation. But, Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican Party, dismissed that idea as "simply ridiculous." Campfield made the comments in a blog post and subsequent telephone interview during which he also called the caucus a “race-based, segregationist organization.” Read more in The News Sentinel

Ceremony for Judge Fowlkes Tomorrow

A formal ceremony recognizing new federal judge John Fowlkes will be held tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at Memphis City Hall. Fowlkes was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed in July to replace U.S. District Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Fowlkes, a former criminal court judge, county chief administrative officer and federal prosecutor, was sworn in on Aug. 2. He began hearing cases on Aug. 6. The Commercial Appeal reported the news.

UT Law Hosts Admissions Workshop

Potential law school applicants are invited to attend an admission workshop and recruitment fair on Sept. 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Tennessee College of Law. The workshop is free and no preregistration is necessary. Scheduled activities include seminars on preparing for law school, understanding the admission process, tips for taking the LSAT and options for financing a legal education. Sessions include several panel presentations as well as a Q & A time with admissions officers from a variety of law schools in the southeast and a recruitment fair featuring representatives from 21 law schools. Learn more here


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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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