TBA Hosts Civics & Law Academy

The Tennessee Bar Association hosted a Civics & Law Academy at McGavock High School in Nashville yesterday as part of the first Metro Nashville Public Schools Intersession, which provides additional learning opportunities for students during the district’s fall break. Volunteer lawyers and law students presented an introduction to law and justice issues and lead discussions about corrective and distributive justice with a group of high school juniors and seniors. Volunteer presenters included Michael Abelow with Sherrard & Roe and Krisann Hodges with the Board of Professional Responsibility, as well as Belmont College of Law students Katie Blankenship, Jaz Boon and Kelsey Boyle. See photos from the event

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
06 - 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


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Michael S. Kelley, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Old Line Life Insurance Company of America.

Bruce T. Hill, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Erik Hood.


This appeal involves a claim for breach of a life insurance contract issued by Old Line. Father named his son, a minor, as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. When Father died, the proceeds of the policy were issued to minor’s older sister, who depleted the funds. Beneficiary filed suit against Sister and Old Line, alleging that Sister misappropriated the life insurance proceeds and that Old Line erroneously awarded the proceeds to Sister without proper documentation. A default judgment was entered against Sister. Following a trial on Beneficiary’s claim against Old Line, the court ordered Old Line to re-issue a portion of the proceeds to Beneficiary. Old Line appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Martin E. Dunn, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert E. Smith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General and Warren Jasper, Senior Counsel, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, ex rel., Tonia Bernard.


Appellant/Father appeals the trial court's finding that he was in criminal contempt for failure to pay child support. Upon review of the record, we reverse and dismiss the criminal contempt charges.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


B. Nathan Hunt, Clarksville, Tennessee (on appeal), and Jeffery Cherry, Lebanon, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Quinton A. Cage.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Arthur Bieber, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The petitioner, Quinton A. Cage, filed an application to reopen his petition for postconviction relief, asserting that he was incompetent when his post-conviction petition was filed. The post-conviction court denied the motion, and the petitioner appeals. Upon review, we dismiss the appeal as untimely.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Olin J. Baker, Charlotte, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Shane Neblett.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, and Billy Henry Miller, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Dickson County jury convicted the Defendant, Steven Shane Neblett, of aggravated assault, and the trial court sentenced him to three years, to be suspended after the service of one year of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction, in part, because the State failed to prove that he did not act in self-defense; (2) the trial court offered the jury vague and inappropriate jury instructions; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced him by not applying applicable mitigating factors and by imposing an excessive sentence. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Mark A. Fulks, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Hugh Ammerman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Peter J. Strainse, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellee, Brandon Keith Ostein; and Cynthia M. Fort, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellee, Jamie Lynette Dean.


The Davidson County Grand Jury returned a two-count indictment charging Brandon Keith Ostein (hereinafter “Ostein”) and Jamie Lynette Dean (hereinafter “Dean”) as co-defendants. Count 1 charged possession with intent to sell or deliver 300 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, and Count 2 charged possession of drug paraphernalia. The evidence was seized as a result of the search of Ostein’s person during a traffic stop of a Hummer driven by Dean, the search of a Ford F-150 pickup truck registered to Dean and parked at a location away from the traffic stop, and the search of a residence leased to Ostein’s father for which Ostein paid the rent. Ostein filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the use of all evidence against him based upon unconstitutional seizures and searches. Dean did not file a motion to suppress the use of evidence against her, and did not join in Ostein’s motion. Dean did not participate in the suppression hearings. The trial court granted Ostein’s motion to suppress evidence. Upon the State’s request to dismiss charges against both Ostein and Dean, the trial court dismissed all charges against them based upon the State’s representation that it could not proceed to trial. Promptly thereafter, the State filed a notice of appeal as to both Ostein and Dean. After a thorough review of the record we dismiss the State’s appeal from the trial court’s order dismissing, upon request of the State, the charges against Dean. As to the trial court’s order suppressing evidence against Ostein, we affirm in part and reverse in part.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Hershell D. Koger, Pulaski, Tennessee, for the appellant, Demetrie Owens.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Marshall County jury convicted the Petitioner, Demetrie Owens, of aggravated burglary and two counts of theft of property valued over $1000, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range II offender to an effective sentence of ten years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions and sentence. State v. Demetrie Darnell Owens, No. M2009-02611-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 3448138 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 2, 2010), no perm. app. filed. The Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief, which the post-conviction court dismissed after a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel did not adequately cross-examine the State’s witnesses and because he improperly “opened the door” to proof of a prior bad act by the Petitioner. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender; Jeffrey A. DeVasher (on appeal); Melissa Harrison (at trial and on appeal); and Jessamine Grice (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Henry Floyd Sanders.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Sharon Reddick and Kristen Menke, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Henry Floyd Sanders, was indicted for six counts of aggravated sexual battery and four counts of rape of a child. On appellant’s motion, the trial court dismissed one count of aggravated sexual battery on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The jury returned verdicts of guilty on all remaining counts. The trial court ordered appellant to serve partial consecutive sentences of ten years each for the aggravated sexual battery convictions and twenty years each for the rape of a child convictions, yielding an effective forty-year sentence. Appellant raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements to a third party; (2) whether the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal due to a variance between the bill of particulars and the State’s election; and (3) whether the trial court erred in ordering partial consecutive sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ronald G. Freemon, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Antonio Jamarc Warfield.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Daniel J. Runde, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Maury County jury convicted appellant, Antonio Jamarc Warfield, of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony, and especially aggravated burglary, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced him to serve an effective sentence of twenty-one years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the conviction of especially aggravated robbery, modify the conviction of especially aggravated burglary to aggravated burglary, and remand for entry of a judgment on the aggravated burglary conviction consistent with this opinion.

Memorial Service Set for Paul Campbell Jr.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Oct. 22 at First Centenary United Methodist Church in Chattanooga for Paul Campbell Jr., who died last Friday. Visitation will begin at 1:30 in the church. A funeral service was held on Monday for the longtime Chattanooga lawyer. Memorials may be made to any charity, but the family notes its collective appreciation for hospice services as well as their parents' attachment to the church. Read Mr. Campbell's obituary in the Times Free Press

Lawsuits from Meningitis Outbreak Expected to Rise

Legal experts foresee lawsuits related to the meningitis outbreak to grow, News Channel 5 reports. According to recent reports, there have been 39 cases of infection and six deaths in Tennessee, while the national death toll has risen to 11. While no suits have been filed yet, many law firms say they have been contacted about legal rights regarding the outbreak.

Evidence Issues in Baumgartner Case Go to Judge

In the upcoming federal trial of former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner, both sides have a laundry list of details they would like to keep from jurors, but it will be up to U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer to decide what jurors will learn about the many issues involved in Baumgartner’s downfall, reports the News Sentinel. Meanwhile, one of the defendants in a murder case thrown into chaos by Baumgartner’s actions is defending special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who is overseeing possible retrials of cases heard in Baumgartner’s court. George Thomas, a defendant in the Christian-Newsom case, and his attorney say Blackwood should be kept on the case, arguing he is impartial and has done nothing wrong. Prosecutors have argued for his removal. Read more from WBIR

State to Spend $3.96 Million to Fix DCS Computer System

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has identified more than 1,700 defects in its computer system, the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System. The system, which has been in place since 2009, is said to account for a multitude of DCS problems such as skipped payments to foster parents and failure to identify children's abuse histories. The $27 million system will cost the state $3.96 million to fix. The Tennessean has the story

AG: Law Prohibits Whiskey Distillery in Chattanooga

A Prohibition-era state law prevents the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. from opening their distillery in Chattanooga, according to the state attorney general. In 2009, Tennessee lawmakers circumvented the law, allowing Lincoln, Moore and Coffee county commissioners to approve liquor production. But since Hamilton County was excluded from that bill, commissioners there do not have the authority to approve distilleries. The Times Free Press has a history of the issue

Ex-Police Chief Discrimination Suit Dismissed

U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen has dismissed a lawsuit by a former Bolivar police chief alleging racial discrimination related to his firing last year, the Jackson Sun reports. Bill Irons sued the city of Bolivar and city officials in December 2011 on claims, among others, of conspiracy and First Amendment retaliation after the city council voted to fire him in August 2011. Irons’ attorney, Michael G. Floyd, said he did not know yet if Irons would appeal.

Legal Aid Holds Clinic Tomorrow

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands will host a free clinic from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday. The event will take place at the Martha O’Bryan Center, 711 South 7th Street, Nashville 37206. For information contact Lucinda Smith at lsmith@las.org or (615) 780-7127. Other partners include the Nashville Pro Bono Program and the law firm of Walker, Tipps & Malone PLC. See the full list of this month's events

Memphis Lawyer Suspended for Engaging in UPL

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Memphis lawyer Anthony Bernard Norris for five years on Oct. 8 for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The court found that Norris, who has been suspended since 1995, assisted in the formation of the law firm of Bruce, Norris & Bass PLLC in 1998, and in 2000, began serving as general counsel for Worldwide Label and Packaging LLC. In addition to the suspension, the court ordered Norris to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding and set two conditions for reinstatement: (1) that he pay his Board of Professional Responsibility registration fees from 1996 to present, and (2) that he pay any professional taxes assessed by the Department of Revenue. Download the BPR notice

Suspension Continued for Rogersville Lawyer

The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the temporary suspension of Rogersville attorney John Douglas Godbee on Oct. 4 based on a petition from the Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) that he continues to pose a threat of substantial harm to the public. Godbee had petitioned the court on Aug. 13 to dissolve his suspension. A hearing panel of the BPR recommended that the petition be denied. The court accepted the recommendation and rejected Godbee’s petition. Download the BPR notice

Memphis Lawyer Censured

William H. Thomas Jr. of Memphis was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court for failing to abide by a court order requiring him to comply with discovery requests in a civil proceeding. The court found his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(d) and (g). Download the BPR order

Shelby County Lawyer Placed on Disability Status

Shelby County lawyer Gail Ostby Mathes was transferred to disability inactive status by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 8. Mathes may not practice law while on disability inactive status. She may return to the practice of law after showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and she 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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