Report Calls for ‘Structural Change’ to Workers Comp

Gov. Bill Haslam reportedly is gearing up for workers' compensation reform, saying he plans to propose legislation on the issue while drawing on a new report that makes a range of recommendations. The report, just released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, recommends a "structural" change to the state's system, largely moving it out of the courts and altering a range of legal definitions. The Nashville Business Journal has 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
03 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James G. King, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Merlina Elijah (Williams) Draper.

Joseph Y. Longmire, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ryan Ashley Williams.


This case involves the modification of a parenting plan. The trial court modified the parenting plan upon its finding that a material change in circumstances had occurred such that primary residential custody with Mother was no longer in the child's best interest. On appeal, Mother argues that the trial court erred in granting primary residential custody to Father, and Father argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for attorney’s fees. Discerning no error, we affirm.

With dissenting opinion

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jacqueline B. Dixon, James L. Weatherly, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Harold W. Duke, III.

Helen Sfikas Rogers, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kathryn A. Duke.


The father in this post-divorce action has filed a petition for recusal appeal seeking an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the trial court’s denial of his August 13, 2012, motion for recusal. We have reviewed the petition pursuant to the de novo standard of review as required by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B § 2.06, and we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Christina M. Burdette, Germantown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cathey J. Tillman, Conservator

Audrey J. Grossman, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ronald Marvell Thomas


The probate court appointed a conservator for a disabled young adult. The court awarded attorney’s fees to the petitioner who was appointed as conservator, and to the guardian ad litem, to be paid from the estate of the disabled ward. The court also ordered that another party, who originally sought to be appointed as conservator but withdrew his petition before the hearing, would likewise receive an award of attorney’s fees to be paid from the estate of the ward. The conservator appeals, arguing that the probate court lacked the authority to make such an award to the party who withdrew his petition. We agree, and therefore, we reverse the award of attorney’s fees and remand for further proceedings.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Louis W. Alford, Pro Se, Forrest City, Arkansas.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Assistant Attorney General; and C. Michael Layne, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Louis W. Alford, was convicted of second degree murder in Coffee County in 1990. As a result, Appellant received a forty-year sentence. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed Appellant’s sentence and conviction. State v. Louis William Alford, No. 01C01- 9110CC00300, 1992 WL 50968, at *5 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Mar. 19, 1992), perm. app. denied, concurring in results only (Tenn. Jun. 15, 1992). In a separate case, Appellant pled guilty to several charges and received a four-year sentence. This sentence was ordered to be served consecutively to the second degree murder sentence. On direct appeal from the burglary conviction, this Court remanded the matter for resentencing because the judgment form failed to reflect the range of punishment. State v. Louis William Alford, No. 01-C01-9007CR00170, 1991 WL 4951, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Jan. 24, 1991). On remand, the trial court held a sentencing hearing and sentenced Appellant as a Range II, multiple offender. Appellant again initiated an appeal, arguing that his five prior felonies could not be used to enhance his sentence because they pre-dated the Sentencing Reform Act of 1989. This Court affirmed the sentence on appeal. State v. Louis William Alford, No. 01C01-9108CC00227, 1992 WL 50963, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Mar. 19, 1992), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Jun. 8, 1992). Appellant filed a motion to correct his sentence in September of 2011, in which he complained about the miscalculation of his parole date and joinder of his sentences for burglary and second degree murder. The trial court denied the motion. Appellant filed a motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, a notice of appeal. The trial court issued a second order in which it determined that it had no authority to order the relief sought by Appellant. Appellant filed a notice of appeal. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine that Appellant does not have an appeal as of right from the order under Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Steven D. Bagby, Assistant Public Defender, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Linton Griffith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Greeley Wells, District Attorney General, and Barry P. Staubus, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Steven Linton Griffith, was convicted in Sullivan County of both the sale and delivery of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school zone. See State v. Steve Griffith, No. E2008-01962-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 1956713, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Jul. 8, 2009), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Dec. 14, 2009). The trial court merged the convictions into a single judgment. Appellant appealed. Id. This Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court on appeal. Id. Appellant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief in which he argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After a hearing, the postconviction court denied relief. Appellant argues on appeal that the petition was improperly denied. After a review of the record, we determine that Petitioner failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that he is entitled to post-conviction relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael G. Hatmaker and Brent Gray, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eddie Joe Whitaker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and Natasha Wassom, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Eddie Joe Whitaker, was indicted by the Campbell County Grand Jury for driving under the influence (DUI). Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced by the trial court to 11 months and 29 days to be served at 75 percent incarceration. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence and asserts: 1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; and 2) his sentence was excessive. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joshua Hedrick, Knoxville, Tennessee for the appellant, Joshua Jermaine Whitehead.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Randy Nichols, District Attorney General; and Charme Knight, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Joshua Jermaine Whitehead (“the Defendant”) pled guilty in February 2004 to one count of attempted aggravated sexual battery and one count of aggravated assault. The Defendant was sentenced in May 2004 as a Range I offender to an effective sentence of nine years, suspended after service of one year. Due to repeated probation violations, the Defendant eventually served his entire sentence in confinement. The Defendant was released on August 19, 2011. On October 5, 2011, he filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea on the basis that he was not informed of the lifetime community supervision consequence of his conviction for the sex offense. After a hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant’s motion, and this appeal followed. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Anthony Troy Williams, Pro Se, Nashville, Tennessee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, District Attorney General; and Kyle Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Anthony Troy Williams, was indicted by the Davidson County 1 Grand Jury for driving on a canceled, suspended or revoked license, second offense. Appellant was convicted by a jury and sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of $2,500. On appeal, Appellant, pro se, challenges the constitutionality of the State’s requirement that he have a license to drive in Tennessee. After a review of the record, we determine that Appellant was properly convicted of driving on a canceled, suspended, or revoked license. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Tennessee Wal-Mart Workers File Class Action

Women who work for Tennessee’s largest private employer filed a court case Tuesday claiming pay discrimination. The federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart follows an unsuccessful case that involved women coast-to-coast. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a nationwide class-action lawsuit last year in part because the women didn’t have enough in common to constitute a class. The Tennessee case is the first in an expected wave of smaller, regional suits, brought by civil rights attorneys with Nashville’s Barrett Johnston law firm. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

General Sessions Judge Stepping Down

Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Ron Durby is stepping down from the bench because of a disability, according to a letter sent to Gov. Bill Haslam. However, Durby indicated that he hopes his replacement will be temporary and that he will be able to return quickly to his duties. According to the Times Free Press, Durby was not at the courthouse yesterday and did not respond to requests for comment. has a list of possible replacements. The AOC reports that the Governor’s Office is accepting applications to appoint and commission a special judge for the position.

U.S. Attorney Warns of Church-based Fraud Schemes

The Department of Justice is seeing more church-based investment fraud in the Nashville area, and a rise in financial schemes across the country generally. This year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee has made indictments totaling $60 million. According to U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, many of these schemes involve a church-goer who uses his or her fellow members as sources to invest in a phony product or money-making opportunity. He reminds Tennesseans that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. An event today at the Vanderbilt Law School is designed to educate the public about investment fraud. Read more from WPLN

Court Stays Retrial of Christian/Newsom Defendants

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a stay in the proceedings involving three of four defendants in one of Knoxville's most horrific criminal cases. The move comes after the state Attorney General's Office filed an appeal of Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood's refusal to step down from the cases. According to the News Sentinel, the court gave the attorneys for the defendants until Monday to respond to the state’s appeal. The state is seeking to remove Blackwood from the case. 

Audit of Shelby County Elections Issued

The state comptroller issued results of his agency's investigative audit of the Shelby County Election Commission yesterday, concluding that the commission "demonstrated an inability to conduct elections without significant inaccuracies..." However, the report found no “discernible evidence of intentional misconduct or other actions intended to affect or influence the election process or…outcomes.” The audit criticizes the local election commission for not exercising enough oversight and criticizes the administrator of elections and the county commission for failing to approve new district lines before early voting. Read key findings in the Commercial Appeal

Memphis Event Features Bill Courtney

Join former football coach Bill Courtney for breakfast tomorrow beginning at 8 a.m. and stay for pro bono training. The training session, presented as part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month, will focus on handling debt collection, pro se divorce forms and employment issues at legal clinics. The Memphis Bar Association, Memphis Area Legal Services, Community Legal Center and University of Memphis School of Law host the event in the Ball Reading Room of the law school. Contact Linda Seely or Callie Caldwell for details. 

Education Program for Seniors Thursday

An education and outreach program will be offered for seniors at noon Thursday in Gruetli-Laager. The event is sponsored by the Legal Aid Society of East Tennessee. For details, contact Charlie McDaniel at (423) 756-4013 x 1113 or The program is one of more than 40 events planned across the state this month.

Free Legal Clinic in Murfreesboro

The Rutherford-Cannon County Bar Association hosts a free legal clinic Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Greenhouse Ministries, 309 South Spring Street, Murfreesboro. Contact Andrae Crismon at (615) 890-0905 or for more information.

Free Legal Clinic in Morristown

A free legal clinic will be held in Morristown on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. The event, sponsored by Hamblen Legal Link, will take place at 1125 W. First North St., Ste. A. For details contact Dale Darby by email or by phone at (423) 307-6198 See all events planned for Celebrate Pro Bono Month

KBA and Barristers Host Charity Golf Outing

The Knoxville Bar Association and its young lawyer group, the Barristers, team up to co-host the association’s annual four-person golf scramble on Oct. 12 at Avalon Landmark Golf Club. The entry fee of $100 per player includes green fees, cart, range balls, box lunch, a commemorative tournament gift, two tickets for beverages during the tournament, great prizes and BBQ following the tournament. All entries and payments must be received by Oct. 5. Proceeds benefit the various charitable endeavors of the Barristers. Learn more or register here

Wilson County Lawyer Disbarred

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Wilson County lawyer Gary Wayne Vandever on Oct. 1, retroactive to his Nov. 24, 2010, order of temporary suspension. Vandever consented to disbarment believing he could not successfully defend himself again charges that he had been convicted of three counts of Theft of Property Over $60,000.00 due to the misappropriation of funds for his own use and benefit. The court found his actions to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(a), (b), (c) and (d). 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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