Judges: Be Careful with Facebook, Other Social Media

Although no instances have been reported in Tennessee of judges misusing their social media accounts, a recent advisory opinion from the Tennessee Judicial Ethics Committee seeks to head off such awkward situations before they arise. Tennessee judges who use Facebook or Myspace are being advised to choose their social media friends, well, judiciously. What you want to avoid, the committee says, is a situation like the city judge in Philadelphia who last year came under scrutiny after prosecutors learned he was Facebook friends with a drunken-driving defendant who got key parts of his case thrown out by the judge. The Commerical Appeal reports

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.

01 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - 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


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Amelia C. Roberts, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellants, Jolyn Cullum and Andrew Cullum.

G. Andrew Rowlett and Behnaz Sulkowski, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP.


This is a negligence case in which Jolyn Cullum and Andrew Cullum sued Jan McCool, William H. McCool, and Wal-Mart for injuries arising in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Wal-Mart filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Cullums had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The trial court dismissed the suit against Wal-Mart. The Cullums appeal. We reverse the decision of the trial court and remand the case.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John S. Colley, III, Columbia, Tennessee (on appeal); and M. Wallace Coleman, Jr., Lawrenceburg, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Michael E. Fischer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Jennifer Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

A Lewis County Circuit Court jury convicted the defendant, Michael E. Fischer, of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, see T.C.A. § 39-13-103; driving under the influence (“DUI”), fifth offense, see id. § 55-10-401; driving while his license was revoked (“DWLR”), fifth offense, see id. § 55-10-504; and violation of the open container law, see id. § 55-10-416. At sentencing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of three years’ incarceration by the agreement of the parties. In addition to challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction of DUI, the defendant also argues that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Lloyd A. Levitt, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, John Lindsey, III

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Charlie Minor, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for one count of resisting arrest, for one count of vandalism over $1,000, and for one count of theft over $10,000. At the conclusion of a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of one count of resisting arrest, one count of vandalism over $1,000, and the lesser included offense of theft over $1,000 but less than $10,000. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an effective sentence of twelve years. On appeal, Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of vandalism over $1,000 and resisting arrest. In addition, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to declare a mistrial. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that there was ample evidence to support his convictions and that the trial court did not err in denying his motion to declare a mistrial.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; and Phyllis Aluko (on appeal) and Dianne Thackery (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marcus Pope.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Muriel Malone, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Marcus Pope, was indicted by a Shelby County grand jury for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court granted appellant’s motion for judgment of acquittal on the charge of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and a jury convicted him of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. The trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of ten years for aggravated robbery and six years for aggravated burglary. Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the length of his sentences. Discerning no reversible error in the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

One Idea: Workers' Comp Would Bypass Courts

Since Gov. Bill Haslam asked during the 2012 legislative session that major changes in workers' comp be delayed until 2013, a lot of work has been done on it, columnist Tom Humphrey writes. Among recommendations made by consultants retained by the state is a proposal, broadly embraced by business groups, that would take trial courts out of the system. Haslam says he is looking at that option "real seriously" and it would be a significant overhaul. The consultants propose creation of "ombudsmen" in each region — 31 is a suggested number — to try and resolve claims through mediation. If there's still a dispute, the case would go to "workers' compensation judges" — about 20 — overseen by a "chief judge." The Knoxville News Sentinel has more

Baumgartner Sentencing Set for March 27

Sentencing is set for March 27, 2013, for former judge Richard Baumgartner, convicted in federal court last week of five counts of misprision of a felony. Baumgartner faces a three-year sentence and $250,000 fine on each count of the conviction, according to federal prosecutors. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports

Opinion: New Laws Make State More Business-Friendly

University of Tennessee Law professor Joan M. Heminway writes in a column in the Knoxville News Sentinel about how two new federal laws -- JOBS and STOCK --  and updates to the Tennessee Business Corporation Act, relate to funding and forming business associations in Tennessee. She explains what their implications are for investors and businesses.

Ben F. Jones NBA Chapter Elects New Officers

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association has elected new officers and board members for 2013. They are: President Imad Abdullah, Vice President/President-elect Alicia Washington, Treasurer James Jones, Corresponding Secretary Amber Floyd, Recording Secretary Shayla Purifoy and Parliamentarian Rod Holmes. New board members are Andre Wharton and Joanne Coston-Holloway.

New Davidson County Juvenile Judge to Be Sworn in Next Week

The newest Davidson County Juvenile Court judge, Sophia Brown Crawford, will be sworn in at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Juvenile Justice Center on Woodland Street in Nashville. Crawford was appointed by the Metro Council on Oct. 16 to complete the term of Judge Betty Adams Green, who retired in September. Crawford was appointed to the bench as magistrate in 2002 by Green and has presided continuously since that time. Prior to her appointment, Craword spent 14 years in private practice with a focus on family and juvenile law. During that time, she was appointed as a contract attorney by the governor to prosecute termination of parental rights cases for the state Department of Children’s Services for 14 counties.

Former Court Clerk Says He is 'Sovereign from U.S.'

Since being charged with four counts of official misconduct, former Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson has publicly declared himself sovereign from the Unites States, and recently told Judge Walter Kurtz that he doesn't believe in the procedures and he should not be in court. Jackson was indicted last year for allegedly coercing his employees to raise money for his reelection campaign. WMC-TV reports

DOJ to Monitor Nashville and Memphis Polls

Davidson and Shelby counties are two of 51 jurisdictions in 23 states where U.S. Justice Department officials will monitor the polls in Tuesday's election, the Tennessean reports. The agency announced Friday that it plans to station more than 780 federal observers and department personnel across the country. A Justice Department news release didn’t say specifically why the Tennessee counties were chosen.

Editorial: Create Library Cards to Meet ID Requirements Statewide

Now that the state Supreme Court has ordered state and local election officials to accept Memphis' library photo identification cards for voting purposes, the Commercial Appeal says in an editorial that it's a good time to update that part of the system. The paper calls on the General Assembly "to work with local mayors across the state to create library cards that meet the identification requirements in the state law."

Lawyer Defends Privacy for PAC Donations

Knoxville lawyer William S. Rose has been facing heavy media scrutiny after campaign finance reports filed last month show that the super political action committee FreedomWorks for America received seven donations totaling $5.28 million from Knoxville-based Specialty Group Inc. Rose is CEO, president and general counsel of Specialty Group, and in an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel he defends his right to not disclose private information regarding his political activity.

Judge Releases Most of DesJarlais Divorce Records

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Bolton has ruled that most of the records from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ messy divorce could be made public, The Tennessean reports, but the release of a potentially embarrassing transcript will be delayed until Election Day or later. DesJarlais has been fighting allegations that he slept with at least two patients before his 2001 divorce was finalized.

New Attorneys Being Welcomed to Practice of Law

The Tennessee Bar Association will welcome several hundred new attorneys to the practice of law Tuesday, with an open house and luncheon held between two admissions ceremonies at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Other services are being this week across the state.


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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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