Comments Sought on Bankruptcy Candidates

A merit selection panel of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council has recommended five candidates for possible appointment to the bankruptcy judge vacancy in west Tennessee. They are: Richard F. Clippard of Nashville; Michael P. Coury of Millington; James L. Croom of Greenfield; and William B. Mauldin and Jerry P. Spore of Jackson. The council must narrow the list to three individuals and is accepting written comments regarding the qualifications of the candidates. Comments should be submitted to the Office of the Circuit Executive, 503 Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, 100 East Fifth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202, no later than Oct. 22. The final selection will be made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Download the notice from the court

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.

02 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
05 - 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









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 Supreme Court

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TRAVIS KINTE ECHOLS

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Robert L. Jolley, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Kinte Echols.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe and Mark A. Fulks, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Philip Morton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant, convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison, appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals alleging a number of errors in the conduct of the trial, particularly the trial court’s failure to suppress a statement the defendant had made to the police. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the statement was the product of an unlawful arrest, but held that the admission of the statement qualified as harmless error. This Court granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal in order to determine the propriety of the defendant’s arrest and to consider whether the Court of Criminal Appeals had used the appropriate standard of review in its harmless error analysis. Because the arrest of the defendant was supported by probable cause and there was no other prejudicial error during the course of the trial, the judgment is affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. HUBERT GLENN SEXTON
CORRECTION: Page 20, near the end of 1st full paragraph, "Hutchinson" was changed to "Hutchison", Page 20, FN 8, "Anderson, 4 P.3d at 307-08" was changed to "Anderson, 4 P.3d at 377-79", Page 26, 1st full paragraph, 4th line down, "his abilities to either disregard" was changed to "his ability to disregard", Page 35, last line of the 1st full paragraph, "S.W.2d 299 at 303" was changed to "S.W.2d at 303"

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Larry M. Warner, Crossville, Tennessee, and Leif E. Jeffers, Assistant Public Defender, Huntsville, Tennessee (at trial); William P. Redick, Jr., Whites Creek, Tennessee, and Peter D. Heil, Nashville, Tennessee (amended motion for new trial); James A. Simmons, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Richard L. Gaines, Knoxville, Tennessee (final amended motion for new trial and on appeal), for the appellant, Hubert Glenn Sexton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; Mark E. Davidson and James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorneys General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and John W. Galloway, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant, tried and convicted of two counts of first degree murder, was sentenced to death for each offense. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. In our review, we have found that the trial court erred by admitting detailed evidence of a prior claim of child sex abuse and by allowing references to the defendant’s refusal to submit to a polygraph examination. Further, the record demonstrates several instances of prosecutorial misconduct during the opening statement and during the final arguments of both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. Because, however, the defendant admitted to at least three witnesses that he committed the murders and the evidence of guilt was otherwise overwhelming, the errors had no effect on the verdicts rendered at the conclusion of the guilt phase of the trial. Each of the convictions is, therefore, affirmed. Nevertheless, because certain of the inadmissible evidence was particularly inflammatory and the prosecution made several inappropriate comments, the sentences of death must be set aside. The Court of Criminal Appeals is, in consequence, affirmed in part and reversed in part. The cause is remanded to the trial court for new sentencing hearings.


TN Court of Appeals

STEPHEN G. BUTLER v. MICHELE G. BUTLER

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Helen Sfikas Rogers, Lawrence James Kamm, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephen G. Butler.

Roger Alan Maness, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michele G. Butler.

Judge: COTTRELL

The parents of a three year old girl were divorced by order of a Georgia court, and their settlement agreement was incorporated into the divorce degree. The parties subsequently moved to this state, and after several years Father petitioned the Tennessee court to name him as the child’s primary residential parent. He also asked the court to modify his child support. After a hearing, the trial court declared that Mother would remain the child’s primary residential parent, and it granted Father additional visitation. The court also found that Father was not entitled by law to a reduction in his child support obligation, but it adopted Mother’s proposal that the obligation be reduced by about one fourth. On appeal, Father contends that the trial court erred by failing to apply the Tennessee child support guidelines to determine his support obligation. We vacate the child support order and remand for setting Father’s support using the Child Support Guidelines. Despite concerns expressed by Father, we find the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction.


SARA EIGEN FIGAL v. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Julie Faye Travis, Richard J. Braun, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sara Eigen Figal.

John C. Callison, William N. Ozier, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Vanderbilt University.

Judge: PER CURIAM

This appeal arises out of an action for breach of contract and misrepresentation brought by a former university faculty member who was denied tenure. The faculty member has appealed from the trial court’s dismissal of her lawsuit and subsequent denial of her Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59 motion to alter or amend. We hold that the order denying the Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59 motion complied with the service requirements of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 58, and thus entry of the order was effective on May 29, 2012. Because the faculty member did not file her notice of appeal within thirty days after the entry of that order as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4, we dismiss the appeal.


BRIAN LEE HILL v. KIMBERLY DAWN HILL

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Melissa A. King, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brian L. Hill.

Kimberly Dawn Hill, no brief filed.

Judge: BENNETT

In this divorce appeal, Husband disagrees with the trial court’s decision regarding a residence he purchased during the pendency of the divorce and with the calculation of his child support obligation. We find merit in Husband’s arguments, vacate the relevant portions of the divorce decree, and remand.


ERIC HOLLEY, Individually and on behalf of SUSIE HOLLEY, Deceased v. MELROSE BLACKETT, M.D.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Al H. Thomas, Aaron L. Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Felicia Corbin Johnson, next friend and/or attorney ad litem of M.H., daughter of Eric Holley, deceased.

Darrell E. Baker, Jr., Deborah Whitt, M. Jason Martin, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Melrose Blackett, M.D.

Judge: HIGHERS

This appeal involves an attempt to substitute parties after the original plaintiff in this wrongful death case died. The trial court struck the motion to substitute parties and dismissed the case. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.


IN RE: MARIAH K. D.
CORRECTION: On first page of opinion, the appellant has been changed from "J.C.B." to "J.M.D."

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jonathan Caulley Brown, Huntsville, Alabama, for the appellant, J. M. D.

Melissa Thomas, Fayetteville, Tennessee, for the appellee, M.J.D., and R.D.

Judge: COTTRELL

The great aunt and the great-grandmother of a little girl obtained an emergency order giving them temporary custody of the child when she was less than eight months old. The child’s mother was informed that she was entitled to appear at a preliminary hearing and an adjudicative hearing on a more permanent custody order, but she failed to appear for those hearings. The trial court found that the child was dependent and neglected, and awarded custody of the child to her two older relatives. They subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother on the grounds of abandonment and of persistence of conditions. The trial court found that both grounds were proved and granted the petition. We affirm the termination on the ground of persistence of conditions.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

JOEL ERNEST BLANTON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

G. Jeff Cherry and David H. Veile, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the petitioner, Joel Ernest Blanton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Beth Willis and Douglas Crawford, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A White County jury convicted petitioner, Joel Ernest Blanton, of one count of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery, for which the trial court ordered an effective twenty-four-year sentence. Following the direct appeal, petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging several instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. On appeal, petitioner pursues only one claim of error, that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain visitor logs from the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) that could have been used to impeach the primary material witnesses against him. Following our review of the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable case law, we agree with petitioner and reverse and remand this case for a new trial.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. THOMAS DEE HUSKEY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gregory P. Isaacs (trial and appeal) and Herbert S. Moncier (trial), of Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas Dee Huskey.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Jennifer H. Welch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

After a trial by jury, the defendant was found guilty of one count of especially aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated rape, all Class A felonies. He received four twenty-year sentences, all to run concurrently. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred by using criminal convictions he received for crimes committed after those committed in the instant case to enhance his present sentences from fifteen to twenty years. After review we conclude that the trial court did not err by enhancing the defendant’s sentences. We affirm.


TONY L. PIRTLE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William D. Massey and Lorna S. McClusky (on appeal), and Lauren Massey-Fuchs (at trial) Memphis, Tennessee, and Craig M. Cooley (at trial and on appeal) and Peter J. Neufeld (on appeal), New York, New York, for the appellant, Tony L. Pirtle.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffery D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General, and Joe L. Van Dyke, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The petitioner, Tony L. Pirtle, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, and facilitation of aggravated rape. The petitioner received an effective sentence of thirty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a motion for postconviction DNA testing, alleging that testing would exonerate his co-defendant and, thereby, exonerate the petitioner. The court denied the motion, and the petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


New Director of Development Named at Memphis Law

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law recently hired Holly Hazlett as its new director of development. She will handle fundraising, work with alumni and generally promote the school. Speaking to the Memphis Daily News,Hazlett also expressed interest in starting a health law program, along with other initiatives. “We have this great facility, and we had a great campaign for the move downtown, so my role will be stewarding those donors that contributed to the law school but also finding sources of funding for programs,” she stated. A graduate of the University of Dayton, Hazlett has lived in Memphis for eight years and previously served as director of development for the university's College of Arts and Sciences.


Court Upholds COLAs for Federal Judges

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled this week that Congress violated the Constitution’s compensation clause when it withheld cost of living adjustments from federal judges. Congress promised cost of living increases for judges in exchange for limits on outside income in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. But it consistently blocked those increases in the 1990s. Six judges have been fighting for restoration of the cuts. The ABA Journal reports that the case likely will be appealed to the Supreme Court. 


South Carolina Voter ID Law Upheld but Postponed

A three-judge panel of a U.S District Court ruled unanimously today that South Carolina's law requiring photo identification for voting does not discriminate against racial minorities. However, to avoid confusion during this year's election, the panel delayed implementation of the law until 2013. The Washington Post has more


County Commission to Audit Legal Bills

The Shelby County Commission recently voted to have its Audit Committee review legal charges accrued during the ongoing court battle to stop municipalities from forming their own school districts. The board also authorized $71,490 to cover existing bills from its outside counsel -- the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell -- and set aside $800,000 for future legal expenses. The board did not approve a proposal to hire an outside audit agency to review the legal bills. The Commercial Appeal has the story


Deberry Defends DCS Commissioner

Tennessee state Rep. John Deberry, D-Memphis, is defending Department of Children’s Service (DCS) Commissioner Kate O’Day from the critical media scrutiny she has been under since the agency released a report showing 31 children died during the first six months of 2012. Although Gov. Bill Haslam reviewed the report and said he found no evidence that DCS acted inappropriately, the Memphis Daily News reports that critics are calling for O’Day to be replaced. Deberry, who has criticized DCS over the years, stated in a letter, "In my opinion, Commissioner O'Day should be given a reasonable amount of time to assimilate a plan of action that will combat these ongoing issues involving the children of Tennessee.”


Memphis Seeks Alternatives to Juvenile Lockup

As part of a national trend to reform the juvenile detention system, the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore is holding a two-day training workshop in Memphis for local law enforcement, school officials, nonprofit organizations and city workers, among others, the Commercial Appeal reports. The training was intended to find ways to decrease the disparate treatment of black youth in the juvenile system, and to replace lockup with counseling, mentoring and mental health services. 


TJC Launches Raising the Bar Campaign

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) has launched Raising the Bar, a fundraising campaign to connect Nashville-based legal service organizations with law firms throughout the state. The campaign is a pledge program that encourages firms to support the TJC through three-year donation commitments. Founding firms include: Bass, Berry & Sims; Bradley Arant Boult Cummings; Waller; Bone McAllester Norton; Burr & Forman; Harwell, Howard, Hyne, Gabbert & Manner; Sherrard & Roe; and Stites & Harbison. Read the full press release here


Briefs from Legal Community Overwhelmingly Support UT

Law schools, law professors and legal organizations across the country are actively supporting the University of Texas in its highly publicized affirmative action case, which went before the high court today. Of the 73 amicus briefs filed in the case, virtually all of the briefs from law schools and legal organizations defend affirmative action in higher education, reports Law.com. Though the case involves an undergraduate student, the law schools argue that banning consideration of race in admissions would hamstring efforts to boost diversity in their schools, and in the profession at large. One notable exception was a brief filed by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, who argues that affirmative action hurts minority students who are not prepared to meet the academic standards required at some universities.


Court Considers Role of Inmate Competence

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday considered whether appeals should wait until inmates are mentally competent enough to assist their lawyers, and according to an Associated Press story in TriCities.com, seemed inclined to eliminate the authority of federal judges to indefinitely delay appeals. However, the justices spent considerable time talking about the differences in a proposed delay of six or nine months, or as much as a year. Lawyers for two death row inmates, however, urged the court to leave that discretion to the sitting judge. “No individual should lose potentially meritorious claims because of mental illness,” one of them argued.


Free Legal Clinic at Greenhouse Ministries

The Rutherford-Cannon County Bar Association will host a free legal advice clinic for the public tomorrow from 4-6 p.m. at Greenhouse Ministries, 309 South Spring St. in Murfreesboro. Contact Andrae Crismon for more information. The event is part of the month-long Celebrate Pro Month initiative. See a list of all events here


LAET Hosts Pro Bono Hall of Fame

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) will host its Pro Bono Attorney Hall of Fame reception and induction ceremony tomorrow in Chattanooga. The event begins at 5 p.m. at 535 Chestnut St., Ste. 369. For more information, contact Charlie McDaniel.


 
 

Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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