Civility Forum to Focus on Free Speech

A forum on the tensions between free speech and civility will take place in Nashville on Oct. 16. The event, sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA), the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University, will take place in Lipscomb's Ezell Center from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Following the program, attendees are invited to stay and watch the second presidential debate scheduled for that night beginning at 8 p.m. Central. A panel of three experts will discuss civility in interacting with the courts. and take questions from the audience. Panelists include the Hon. Lyle Reid, retired chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court; Frank Sutherland, former editor of The Tennessean; and Phyllis Hildreth, academic director at the Institute for Conflict Management and adjunct professor at Lipscomb University. Memphis lawyer and former TBA President Bill Haltom will moderate the discussion.  Learn more

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.

00 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
04 - TN Court of Appeals
09 - 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 Court of Appeals

TERRY GUPTON, ET AL. v. GARY A. DAVIS d/b/a GARY A. DAVIS & ASSOCIATES, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Rebecca C. Vernetti, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vernetti Law Group, P.C., and, pro se appellant.

Gary A. Davis, Stephen Crofford, and Mary Parker, pro se appellees.

Judge: SWINEY

This appeal arises from what essentially is a fee dispute between lawyers. A Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) coal ash spill in 2008 damaged the farm of Sandra and Terry Gupton (“the Guptons”). The Guptons signed contingent fee agreements with Gary A. Davis (“Davis”), Stephen Crofford (“Crofford”), and Mary Parker (“Parker”) (“the Defendants,” collectively) to pursue their case. Rebecca Vernetti (“Vernetti”), a lawyer in Davis’s firm who worked on the Guptons’ case, left Davis’s law firm to start her own law firm. The Guptons fired Davis and hired Vernetti. The Guptons later reached an agreement with TVA to sell their farm to TVA, and Vernetti received her fee. The Guptons sued the Defendants in the Chancery Court for Roane County (“the Trial Court”), seeking judgment to the effect that they need not pay any fees to the Defendants. The Defendants counterclaimed and also sued Vernetti, arguing that they should be paid as per their original agreement with the Guptons. The Trial Court declined to award the Defendants their original contingency fee, but instead granted a judgment to the Defendants against Vernetti and her law firm on a quantum meruit theory for their legal services to the Guptons. Vernetti appeals, and the Defendants raise additional issues. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court in its entirety.


REBECCA LITTLE v. CITY OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John R. Anderson and Mark W. Litchford, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rebecca Little.

Phillip A. Noblett and Keith J. Reisman, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This action involves requests made by the appellant pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 10-7-501, et seq. and 6-51-108(b), to the appellee city. After not receiving access to certain records to which she felt entitled, the appellant filed this petition. The trial court ruled that the city never refused to disclose the records but it just had not done much as of the time the petition was filed. However, because appellant did not prove that the city acted in bad faith as a result of its slowness in producing the public record requested the appellant was denied an award of attorney’s fees for the filing of the petition. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.


IN THE MATTER OF MELANIE T., BAILEY T., AND MILES R.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Christopher Brent Keeton, Manchester, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Jason R.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, for the Appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge: DINKINS

Father, who was previously found to have committed severe abuse against his two children, appeals the finding that termination of his parental rights to his biological son was in the son’s best interest. Finding no error, we affirm the termination of his rights.


MARK T. WICKHAM v. SOVEREIGN HOMES, LLC

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Erich M. Shultz, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mark T. Wickham.

James B. Summers and Jessica A. Benton, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sovereign Homes, LLC.

Judge: FARMER

Plaintiff homeowner brought an action against Defendant builder alleging, inter alia, breach of warranty and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court awarded summary judgment to Defendant builder. We affirm summary judgment on Plaintiff’s breach of warranty claim; reverse summary judgment on Plaintiff’s Consumer Protection Act claim; and remand for further proceedings.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BENJAMIN E. BARLOW

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Greg W. Eichelman, District Public Defender; and Deanna Snyder, Assistant Public Defender, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Benjamin E. Barlow.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, Jr., District Attorney General; and Victor Vaughn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Benjamin E. Barlow, pled guilty in the Criminal Court of Hamblen County to Driving Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (DUI), 1st offense, properly reserving for appeal a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A). The certified question is “[d]id the officer have specific and objective facts on which to have reasonable suspicion that the defendant was engaged or had engaged in any criminal activity to warrant a traffic stop of defendant’s vehicle.” After a thorough review of the record and the briefs we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RAYMOND BUFORD

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert Wilson Jones, District Public Defender; and Tony N. Brayton, Assistant Public Defender, Memphis, Tennessee, (on appeal); and Cary Woods, Yollander Hardaway, Brooke Hyman, and William Kelly, Memphis, Tennessee, (at trial) for the appellant, Raymond Buford.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Stephen Crossnoe and Carla Taylor, Assistant District Attorneys General; for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

A Shelby County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Raymond Buford, charging him with premeditated first degree murder. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the offense and received a life sentence. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and (2) that the trial court erred in allowing testimony of prior bad acts committed by Defendant against the victim. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LATICIA GAIL CAMPBELL

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Dan T. Bryant, District Public Defender; and Trenena G. Wilcher, Assistant Public Defender, McMinnville, Tennessee, (on appeal); and Robert Peters, Winchester, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, Laticia Gail Campbell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Lisa S. Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; Thomas J. Miner and Taffy Wilson, Assistant District Attorneys General; for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

A Warren County Jury convicted Defendant, Laticia Gail Campbell, of reckless aggravated assault. She received a sentence of three years, with split confinement, to serve 364 days and the balance on probation, including twenty-four hours of public service work. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction; and (2) that the trial court improperly sentenced her. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOHN TYLER GILLEY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Thomas Marshall, Jr., District Public Defender; and Katherine J. Kroeger, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, John Tyler Gilley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; David S. Clark, District Attorney General; and Sandra N.C. Donaghy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

In May 2010, the Defendant, John Tyler Gillery, pled guilty to aggravated burglary; as a condition of his plea, he was placed on probation for four years and agreed to pay restitution, with the amount of restitution to be determined at a later date. Following a hearing, the trial court ordered restitution in the amount of $3,240, with the Defendant to make installment payments of $90 a month. The Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court’s imposed restitution was excessive. The Defendant also asserts that the restitution award reflected on the judgment, $9,370 (the victims’ pecuniary loss), is incorrect and contrary to law, requiring him to pay beyond the expiration of his sentence. After reviewing the record, we affirm the restitution amount but remand the case for correction of the judgment to reflect the proper award of $3,240.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JAMES ALLEN GOOCH, JR.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph B. Freedle (on appeal) and Kenneth J. Phillips (at trial), Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Allen Gooch, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Lawrence Ray Whitley, District Attorney General; and Lytle Anthony James, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A jury convicted appellant, James Allen Gooch, Jr., of one count of the sale of not less than one-half ounce of marijuana, a Schedule VI controlled substance, within 1,000 feet of a school, a Class D felony, and one count of attempted sale of .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance, a Class C felony. The trial court ordered appellant to serve consecutive sentences of twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction for the Class D felony and fifteen years for the Class C felony. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever and in sentencing him as a persistent offender. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable law, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to sever the offenses and that the trial court properly sentenced appellant. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MONTEZ JAMES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Constance Wooden Alexander, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Montez James.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and P. Neal Oldham, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Montez James (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of five counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of aggravated assault upon nine separate victims. The trial court subsequently sentenced the Defendant as a persistent offender to an effective sentence of seventy years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in the following evidentiary rulings: (1) allowing “cumulative” witnesses to testify; (2) allowing a witness to testify about the Defendant’s gang involvement; (3) admitting the recording of a co-defendant’s guilty plea; (4) admitting testimony about information previously redacted from a co-defendant’s statement to the police; and (5) refusing to admit a police report containing the Defendant’s statement. The Defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and his sentence. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we have determined that the Defendant is not entitled to relief on any of these issues. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


CHARLES MONTAGUE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles Montague, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Charles Montague, appeals from the Washington County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In this appeal, the Petitioner claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief because (1) he was deprived of pretrial jail credits; (2) his sentence is disproportionate to other sentences from the trial court; (3) an illegal fine was imposed; (4) he was ordered to serve his sentence in “installments”; and (5) the indictment was improperly amended without his consent. We conclude that the Petitioner has stated a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief with regard to his possible entitlement to pretrial jail credits. We remand for a hearing and the appointment of counsel on that issue alone. In all other respects, the judgment of the habeas corpus court is affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. OWEN PRESLEY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Clifford K. McGown, Jr., Waverly, Tennessee (on appeal); Donna Hargrove, District Public Defender, and William J. Harold, Assistant District Public Defender, Lewisburg, Tennessee (at trial) for the appellant, Owen Presley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Frank Crawford, Jr., District Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Marshall County jury convicted appellant, Owen Presley, of two counts of aggravated kidnapping and six counts of rape. The trial court merged the two counts of aggravated kidnapping into one count and the six counts of rape into one count and ordered the appellant to serve concurrent sentences of twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him and that the trial court should have merged his conviction for aggravated kidnapping with his rape conviction. After reviewing the record, we conclude that appellant untimely filed his notice of appeal and that the interest of justice does not require this court to waive the timely filing requirement. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KAILYN LOREN MCKEOWN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Brian L. O’Shaughnessy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kailyn Loren McKeown.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, District Attorney General; and Bates Bryan, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Kailyn Loren McKeown, entered a best interest plea to one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”), see T.C.A. § 55-10-401, and reserved a certified question of law concerning the propriety of her detention and arrest. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 37(b). Determining that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings as they relate to the scope of the certified question of law, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the charge.


Behm, Kittos to Receive Equal Justice Awards

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services will present awards to Margaret L. Behm and Adrienne Kittos on Wednesday at the annual Equal Justice University. The 2012 B. Riney Green Award will be presented to Behm, who was the first chair of the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission. The 2012 New Advocate of the Year Award will be presented to Kittos from Justice for Our Neighbors-Tennessee. Equal Justice University, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Alliance of Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association, is the annual gathering of about 250 lawyers, advocates, professionals and pro bono attorneys involved in providing civil legal assistance across Tennessee. The event is at at Paris Landing State Park through Friday. Learn more about the awards


Cocke County Adds 10 Commandments to Courthouse Display

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes has placed the 10 Commandments on display in the county's courthouse, making him the 25th sheriff in Tennessee to request the framed document from a conservative activist, WBIR.com reports. The religious document is accompanied in the frame by copies of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. Under a new Tennessee law that took effect this spring, cities and counties can display the Ten Commandments as an historical document alongside other historical documents.


DNA Cases at FBI Moving Quicker Through System

The FBI laboratory has reduced its backlog of forensic DNA cases by 87 percent in two years, from 3,211 cases to 403 cases, the Associated Press reports. The Justice Department's inspector general attributes most of the decline to increased staffing and use of automated technology. Also, the FBI is focusing on cases where DNA testing of biological evidence is more likely to yield useful information.


Feds Step Up Effort to Combat Crime Against Memphis Area Hispanics

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton joined Latino leaders in Memphis Monday to announce a partnership to attack crime against the Hispanic community, the Commercial Appeal reports. Regional Mexican Consul David Manuel Preciado Juarez came from Little Rock to express his support for strengthening relations between law enforcement and the region's more than 700,000 Hispanic residents.


Sheriff, DA Explain System in Wake of Shooting Charge

Responding to questions of why a Tennessee State trooper and his family were charged in the death of his grandchild, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office and the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office issued a joint statement Monday. In part, the statement said "Every death by any weapon is investigated by law enforcement. After the investigation is finished often cases are submitted to the grand jury for their review. While all of us regret the suffering of those who loved [the 3-year-old], we respect the findings of 12 Bradley County citizens who returned an indictment." The statement went on to say it was now their duty to evaluate the case and "search for justice." The Cleveland Daily Banner has the story


Supreme Court Announces Cases for New Term

The U.S. Supreme Court today added six new cases to its docket, including a case asking whether the litigation exception to the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act protects lawyers who use car buyers' personal information for a potential class action. The new term officially begins on Oct. 1, but as has been the practice in recent years, the justices released an orders list of newly granted petitions the day after meeting in their summer conference. The National Law Journal looks at the upcoming cases


Demolition Derby to Benefit CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cumberland County will have a demolition derby Oct. 6 to benefit its work. According to program director Lee Chiomos, it costs $950 per child per year to have a CASA volunteer. In 2011, the group had 13 advocates working with 41 children in Cumberland County. Chiomos said that number could be doubled if there were enough volunteers, but funding is needed to provide the extensive training necessary. Donations of food for concessions and sponsorships are needed, as are volunteers to work at the event, which will be at the Cumberland County Community Complex at 6:30 p.m. Learn more from CASA and The Crossville Chronicle


Boot Scoot at NBA's Annual Picnic

The Nashville Bar Association's Annual free member picnic is Thursday at the Hall of Fame Park. This year the picnic has a Country Western theme, and a local Nashville band, The Western Swingers, will perform. A barbeque dinner and open bar will also be provided. Register online


Lawyers Reinstated After Administrative Suspension

Nineteen Tennessee-licensed lawyers have been reinstated after being administratively suspended for failure to (1) file the 2012 registration fee and IOLTA report, (2) file the 2011 registration fee and IOLTA report, (3) pay the annual registration fee from 2009 to 2012, (4) pay the professional privilege tax, (5) and complete CLE requirements in 2011, 2010 and 2007. See the updated lists at the links above.


 
 

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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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