Programs to Help Law Students Underway

The TBA YLD again this year will be offering two programs specifically for law students. The Diversity Leadership Institute is a six-month leadership program for Tennessee law students in their second, third or fourth years of study. Student participants must be TBA members and commit to attend two in-person programs. The second initiative, the Judicial Internship Program, matches first and second year law students with Tennessee trial judges for summer internships. Application information and forms for both of these programs are available online and will be distributed on all Tennessee law school campuses next week.

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
07 - 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

JOHN BROCKMAN v. WESLEY WOLFE, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Harold R. Gunn, Humboldt, Tennessee, for the appellant, John Brockman

Russell E. Reviere, Nathan E. Shelby, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Wesley Wolfe, et al.

Judge: HIGHERS

Plaintiff sued multiple parties after trees on his property were allegedly erroneously removed during the development of an adjacent subdivision. The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment to a subdivision developer, who was sued in his individual capacity, finding that it was his limited liability company which had developed the property, and that the developer had not instructed that Plaintiff’s trees be removed. The trial court also granted summary judgment to the developer’s limited liability company, finding the claims against it were time-barred. A trial was held against the remaining defendant and a judgment was entered against him. However, the trial court then reduced the judgment against the remaining defendant based upon the comparative fault of the limited liability company. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm the trial court in all respects.


TASHA DAYHOFF v. JOSHUA D. CATHEY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Joshua D. Cathey, Bells, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Jennifer King, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tasha Dayhoff.

Judge: STAFFORD

Father appeals the Madison County Juvenile Court’s judgment, entering a permanent parenting plan, setting child support, awarding a child support arrearage, awarding attorney fees to Mother, and granting a wage garnishment. We affirm the trial court’s ruling that Father is the legal and biological parent of the children at issue. However, having determined that no testimony was elicited at the hearing on this cause, and thus no evidence was presented from which the trial court could make a determination, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for an evidentiary hearing on all other issues in this case.


BRENDA GRIFFITH, NEXT OF KIN OF DECEDENT, BOB GRIFFITH v. DR. STEPHEN GORYL AND UPPER CUMBERLAND UROLOGY ASSOCIATES, P.C.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael D. Galligan, Susan N. Marttala, and John P. Partin, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brenda Griffith, next of kin of decedent, Bob Griffith.

Daniel H. Rader III, Lane Moore, and Daniel H. Rader IV, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Dr. Stephen Goryl.

Judge: CLEMENT

In this medical malpractice, wrongful death action the plaintiff alleges the defendant physician, a urologist, failed to timely diagnose and treat the decedent’s bladder cancer which caused his death. At the close of the plaintiff’s case in chief, the defendant moved for a directed verdict. The trial court held that the plaintiff’s only medical expert witness erroneously defined the standard of care and, upon that basis, excluded his testimony concerning the standard of care and breach thereof. With the exclusion of the plaintiff’s only expert testimony, the trial court held that the plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case for medical malpractice and granted the motion for a directed verdict. We have determined the plaintiff’s medical expert did not erroneously identify the standard of care, he is competent to testify and, thus, the trial court erred in excluding his testimony and directing a verdict in favor of the defendant. We, therefore, reverse and remand for a new trial.


TOMMY WRIGHT, ET AL. v. THE CITY OF SHELBYVILLE BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Josh A. McCreary, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellants, Tommy Wright, Norma Wright, Wright Paving Company, Inc., and Custom Stone, LLC.

Ginger Bobo Shofner, Shelbyville, Tennessee; Robert M. Burns, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, The City of Shelbyville Board of Zoning Appeals, The City of Shelbyville, Tennessee, and Ed Dodson, Director of the Shelbyville Planning and Codes Department.

Judge: COTTRELL

This case involves a prolonged dispute over a proposed stone quarry that the plaintiff landowners, the Wrights, wished to establish on their property. While their application was pending, the city changed the zoning ordinance to rezone the Wrights’ property so that a quarry was no longer permitted as a conditional use. The Wrights filed suit, and on appeal this court held that the notice of the zoning amendment had been defective and that the zoning change was therefore void. The Wrights subsequently asked the Board of Zoning Appeals to consider their application under the property’s original zoning, but the BZA refused to put the application on its meeting agenda. The Wrights filed a petition for writ of certiorari. The trial court found that the BZA’s action was arbitrary and illegal, but ruled that the Wrights were nonetheless precluded from obtaining any relief because of the operation of res judicata. We reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the petition on the basis of res judicata, because we find that doctrine inapplicable. We agree with the trial court that the BZA’s actions were arbitrary and capricious.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TANYA FINNEY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gerald L. Melton, Public Defender, and Sean G. Williams, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Tanya Finney.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; William Whitesell, District Attorney General; and Jennings Jones, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant pled guilty to one count of simple possession of marijuana, reserving a certified question of law concerning the legality of her detention and warrantless search by police. After carefully reviewing the record and the arguments of the parties, we conclude that the defendant has failed to clearly outline the scope and limits of the question presented at the trial court level and thus has failed to properly preserve her certified question. We dismiss the appeal accordingly.


LYNN GARRY FRYER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Lynn Garry Fryer, Tiptonville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

The Petitioner, Lynn Garry Fryer, appeals the Lake County Circuit Court’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


DAVID KYLE GILLEY v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ann C. Short, Robert R. Kurtz, Gianna Maio, Heather G. Parker. Rebecca S. Parsons, and Lindsay N. Graham, of the University of Tennessee College of Law Innocence Clinic, Knoxville, Tennesse (on appeal); John Drake, Murfreesboro, Tennessee (at the postconviction hearing), for the appellant, David Kyle Gilley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Mark A. Fulks, Assistant Attorney General; William C. Whitesell, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

After a trial by jury, the petitioner was found guilty of first degree (premeditated) murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was affirmed by this court on direct appeal. The petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied by the post-conviction court following an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the post-conviction court erred by: (1) ruling that the State did not violate the petitioner’s due process right to favorable evidence by failing to provide information related to the testimony of a State witness; (2) ruling that the petitioner did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel at this trial, and (3) denying his request for post-conviction DNA analysis. After carefully reviewing the record and the arguments of the parties, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the post-conviction court’s finding that the State in fact provided the petitioner with access to the favorable evidence in question and that the trial court did not err in its conclusion that the petitioner received effective assistance of counsel at trial. We further conclude that the post-conviction court was within its discretion in denying the petitioner’s request for additional DNA analysis. Consequently, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DEONTE MATTHEWS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Paul Julius Walwyn, Madison, Tennessee, for the appellant, Deonte Alesio Matthews.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, District Attorney General; and Jennifer McMillen, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: HARRIS

Appellant, Deonte Matthews, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of especially aggravated robbery and the trial court sentenced Appellant to seventeen years at 100%. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant initiated this appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we conclude that the proof supports the conviction for especially aggravated robbery.


ANDRE L. MAYFIELD v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Andre L. Mayfield, Wartburg, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, District Attorney General; and Dan Hamm, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Andre L. Mayfield, filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 in the Davidson County Criminal Court. The lower court treated this motion as a petition for writ of habeas corpus and summarily dismissed it. In this appeal as of right, the Petitioner contends that his sentence is void because it is in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-20-111(b). Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOSEPH DARRYL TAYLOR

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Donna Orr Hargrove, District Public Defender; and Andrew Jackson Dearing, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Joseph Darryl Taylor.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Crawford, District Attorney General; and Michael Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

A Bedford County Circuit Court jury convicted the defendant, Joseph Darryl Taylor, of two counts of rape, see T.C.A. § 39-13-503(a)(1), (2); one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, see id. § 37-1-156; and one count of simple possession of marijuana, see id. § 39-17-418(a). At sentencing, the trial court merged the rape convictions into a single judgment of conviction and imposed an effective sentence of 20 years plus 11 months and 29 days’ incarceration for the offenses. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions, the trial court’s allowing his impeachment by prior convictions of aggravated assault and statutory rape, and the trial court’s sentencing determination. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOSHUA JERMAINE WHITEHEAD
CORRECTION: The trial court judge was changed from Baumgartner to McGee.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

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.

Judge: BIVINS

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.


Supreme Court OKs Library Cards for Voter ID

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that photo ID cards issued by the Memphis public library qualify as a valid and acceptable form of identification required to vote, the Tennessean reports. State election officials announced that only residents of Shelby County will be allowed to use library-issued IDs in next week’s Presidential election, after which the court will take up the question of whether the state’s new voter ID law is constitutional.


Baumgartner Jury Still Divided

For the second day, jurors weighing six federal counts against former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner could not come to a verdict. Knoxnews reports that the panel told Judge Ronnie Greer they’d reached unanimous verdicts on some counts but were deadlocked on others. After deliberating for more than 12 hours over the past two days, the jury will try again tomorrow morning to reach a full and final verdict.


DHS Awards Access to Justice Grants

Seven agencies throughout Tennessee have been awarded more than $200,000 as part of the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Initiative. Funding came from the Department of Human Services (DHS) Access and Visitation grant program, intended to develop or support initiatives that will aid self-represented litigants in child support cases obtain access to and visitation with their children. The agencies awarded include: Community Legal Center, Juvenile Court of Shelby County/Memphis, Fayette County Sessions/Juvenile Court, Nashville Conflict Resolution Center, Quality Time Project, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, and Southeast Tennessee Legal Services. Read more from the  Administrative Office of the Courts.


Memphis Bar Foundation Grants Making an Impact

Within the last three years, the Memphis Bar Foundation has given the largest amount of grants to local causes in the foundation’s history, the Memphis Daily Press reports. The foundation awarded almost $44,00 to seven causes in 2010, $50,000 to eight groups in 2011, and $30,000 to nine groups in 2012. The foundation supported causes in four primary areas: scholarship, equal access to justice, professionalism, and lawyer assistance.


Judge Takes Witness Stand in Appeals Case

In an unusual turn Tuesday, Sessions Court Judge John Walton was called to the witness stand in Criminal Court regarding Aaron Keever’s appeal of two criminal contempt convictions he received in Walton’s court. The Johnson City Press reports Keever spent several days in jail after allegedly failing to appear in court twice on charges of driving with a suspended license. Charges were dismissed after Keever's attorney stated he was held without arraignment, without notice of the facts of the charge, without notice of when the hearing would take place, and without the appointment of a lawyer.


Red Bank Commissioners Settle 2 of 5 Lawsuits

Red Bank commissioners have settled two of the five lawsuits filed against them in federal court between 2010 and 2011 in the wake of the controversial firing of Chief Larry Sneed, the Times Free Press reports. The commission voted 3-1 to settle suites filed by former police officers Bradley Hannon and Rebecca Chauncey Morgan for $36,000 and $21,000, respectively. The city is still battling lawsuits from Sneed, officer Isaac Cooper, and officer Stephen Satterwhite.


Memphis Lawyer Sees Career with MALS as 'Mission Work'

The Tennessee Supreme Court asks lawyers to "aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year,” and many do that and more. In Memphis, Linda Warren Seely is there to help them make those hours count. As director of private attorney involvement for Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS), Seely coordinates pro bono work for the principal provider of civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and the elderly in the area. She tells the Memphis Daily News that  her long career in bringing pro bono help to those in need is personally rewarding and feels like “mission work.”


Former Police Officer Sentenced on Drug Charges

News Channel 3 reports former Memphis police office Michael Jane Sinnock has been sentenced to four years in jail on drug charges after he attempted to buy marijuana and Lortab pills from an informant. He arrived to pick up the drugs in full police uniform and in a squad car. “Mr. Sinnock brazenly abused the trust placed in him by the citizens of our community and today he faced the consequences of his actions,” said Edward L. Stanton III, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.


Vanderbilt Law School Welcomes New Members to Board of Advisors

Vanderbilt University Law School announced six new members to its Board of Advisors: Andrew T. Bayman (1989), Rachel A. Beck (2012), Robert Beck Jr. (1975) David R. Gelfand (1987), Michael B. Hammond (1975) and Christine E. Lagod (1980).  Members serve three-year terms, and a member of Vanderbilt Law School's most recent graduating class serves a one-year term. 


UT Honors Former Reagan Aid with Alumni Award

The University of Tennessee (UT) honored former White House counsel A.B. Culvahouse with an Accomplished Alumni Award, recognizing his work in helping national leaders make Supreme Court nominations, chose vice presidential candidates, and write treaties. A 1970 UT graduate, Culvahouse served as chief legislative assistant to Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. and counsel to President Ronald Reagan. He currently chairs O’Melveny and Meyers, an international law firm. Knoxnews has the story.


Court Hears Arguments Over Police Dog Use

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about the use of drug-sniffing dogs in investigations following complaints of illegal searches and insufficient proof of the dogs’ reliability, the Times News reports. The arguments revolved around cases involving two Florida police dogs. Confiscation of 179 marijuana plants came after one dog sniffed the odor from outside the front door, but a trial judge threw out the evidence claiming the dog’s sniff was an unconstitutional intrusion into the defendant’s home. Another dog alerted his officer to the scent of drugs during a traffic stop which resulted in an arrest, but the dog’s training and certification to detect narcotics did not hold up in court. The state of Florida appealed both cases to the Supreme Court which will rule in the cases sometime next year.


Services Monday for Veteran Knoxville Lawyer

Longtime Knoxville attorney John B. Rayson died yesterday at the age of 79. Mr. Rayson graduated from The University of Tennessee College of Law in 1958, where he was a member of The Tennessee Law Review. He joined the firm Kramer Rayson in 1959 and concentrated his practice primarily in the area of employment/labor law in federal and state courts and administrative agencies. For many years he served as vice-chancellor (legal counsel) for the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee. He was a Fellow of the Tennessee Bar Foundation, served as President of the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society and is a past president of Legal Aid of East Tennessee. A memorial service will be held on Monday at 4 p.m. at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 800 Northshore Drive. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Episcopal Church of the Ascension or Legal Aid of East Tennessee.


Services Friday for Memphis Attorney

Memphis attorney Donnie McFerren, 55, died on Oct. 23 after a long illness. Mr. McFerren practiced in the Public Defender’s Office for a number of years, then practiced in both the civil and criminal areas. Visitation will be held tomorrow from 4-6 p.m. at the N.J. Ford & Sons Funeral Home, 12 S. Parkway West. The memorial service will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. Donations are being accepted to help defray the funeral expenses. Contact Carolyn Watkins at (901) 494-2965 or (901) 222-1104 or Viola Johnson at (901) 355-3269 to donate.


Opinion: Merit Selection Keeps Judges Out of Politics

The Center for American Progress Action Fund released its third report in a series focusing on different policies intended to mitigate the influence of corporate campaign cash in judicial elections and improve access to justice. The nonpartisan education and advocacy organization talks about the benefit of judicial merit selection and retention elections.


 
 

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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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