Former KBA President Dies, Services Saturday

Knoxville lawyer Robert H. Leonard died Monday (Nov. 12) at age 87. He received his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1947, then began his practice with the firm of White and Leonard, with O.L. White and his father, R.H. Leonard. He served as president of the Knoxville Bar in 1964-1965. In 1980, Mr. Leonard was elected the first mayor of Farragut, serving a total of six terms until 1993. He retired in 2010 after practicing law in Tennessee for 63 years. The family will receive friends 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday in the Click Funeral Home Farragut Chapel with a memorial service at 3 p.m. Interment at Pleasant Forest Cemetery will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Christian Church of Knoxville, 211 West Fifth Ave., Knoxville 37917 or to The Optimist Club of Knoxville's Henry Naff Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 358, Knoxville 37901. Read his obituary

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
10 - 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

FILIPPO CARBONE v. BRENDA BLAESER

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Bede O. M. Anyanwu, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brenda Blaeser.

Laura A. Keeton, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Fillipo Carbone.

Judge: STAFFORD

This is a child custody case. Appellant/Mother appeals the denial of her Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59.04 motion to vacate the order granting Father/Appellee’s petition for custody of the minor child and for enrollment of a foreign decree on custody. Mother received, at most, three days notice before the hearing on Father’s petition in violation of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 6.04. Because Mother did not receive adequate notice, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying Mother Rule 59 relief. Reversed and remanded.


COVISTA COMMUNICATIONS, INC. v. OORAH, INC. d/b/a CUCUMBER COMMUNICATIONS, INC.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

William H. Horton, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Covista Communications, Inc.

Sam D. Elliott, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Steven G. Storch and Matthew D. Kane, New York, New York, for the appellee, Oorah, Inc. d/b/a Cucumber Communications, Inc.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This appeal involves in personam jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant. The chancery court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12.02(2) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The court found that the defendant had not purposely availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Tennessee and did not have sufficient contacts with Tennessee to be subjected to jurisdiction in this state. The plaintiff, a corporation that claims its principal place of business is in Tennessee, appeals. We find that the circumstances do not support the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant foreign corporation by a Tennessee court. Accordingly, we affirm.


TIKITA JONES v. SHELBY COUNTY GOVERNMENT CIVIL SERVICE MERIT BOARD & SHELBY COUNTY DIVISION OF HEALTH SERVICES

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

James E. King, Jr., and P. Craig Grinstead, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Petitioner/Appellant Tikita Jones

Martin W. Zummach, Germantown, Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellees Shelby County Government Civil Service Merit Board and Shelby County Division of Health Services

Judge: KIRBY

This is an appeal from an administrative decision on the termination of the employment of a municipal employee. The appellant employee was fired from her job with the appellee municipal health department for accessing patient medical records without authorization. The appellee civil service merit board of the municipality conducted an administrative hearing and upheld the termination of her employment. The employee filed a lawsuit in chancery court seeking judicial review of this decision. The trial court affirmed the decision of the civil service merit board and upheld the termination. The employee now appeals this decision, arguing that her due process rights were violated and that the decision of the civil service merit board was not supported by substantial and material evidence. We affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. COLBY TERRELL BLACK

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Richard H. Dunavant, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Colby Terrell Black.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Larry Nickell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Colby Terrell Black, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his original twelve-year sentence in the Department of Correction. He argues that the trial court violated his right to due process by making insufficient findings at the revocation hearing, and the State agrees. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for entry of an appropriate written order that summarizes the evidence and clearly sets forth the reasons for the revocation of probation.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LINDSEY BUTLER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert C. Richardson, Jr., Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lindsey Butler.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Daniel J. Runde, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Defendant, Lindsey Butler, appeals the Maury County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation for possession of cocaine with the intent to sell and two counts of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, and ordering the remainder of his effective eight-year sentence into execution. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court (1) abused its discretion in revoking his probation and (2) failed to exercise “separate discretion” in determining his punishment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TERRELL LOVERSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Juni S. Ganguli (on appeal); Handel Durham and Samuel Perkins (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terrell Loverson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Raymond J. Lepone and Jennifer Nichols, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Terrell Loverson (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of second degree murder, misdemeanor assault, and obstructing arrest. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant challenges (1) the trial court’s admission of a photograph of the victim; (2) the sufficiency of the evidence; and (3) his sentence. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we have determined that the Defendant is not entitled to relief on any of these issues. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


CELSO V. MELENDEZ v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

John E. Herbison, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Celso V. Melendez.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Roger Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner, Celso V. Melendez, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his guilty pleas to two counts of facilitation to deliver over 300 grams of cocaine and resulting effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because his guilty pleas were based upon trial counsel’s assurance that he would be eligible for the boot camp program. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Petitioner received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Therefore, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed, the judgments of conviction are vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


SALVATORE PISANO, JR. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Salvatore Pisano, Jr., Savannah, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Hansel McCadams, District Attorney General; and Ed N. McDaniel, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, Salvatore Pisano, Jr., was convicted of four counts of aggravated sexual battery and sentenced to serve eight years in prison for each count, all counts to be served concurrently. The petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition, which was dismissed by the post-conviction court without a hearing or the appointment of counsel. The petitioner then filed a motion to reopen his post-conviction petition; the motion was denied. The petitioner filed a notice of appeal. Because the petitioner has not complied with the statutory requirements surrounding appeal of an application to reopen a petition for post-conviction relief, we are without jurisdiction to hear the appeal, and the appeal is dismissed.


HENRY DEQUAN RHODES v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

F. D. Gibson, III, Maryville, Tennessee, and Melanie Bean, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Henry Dequan Rhodes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, District Attorney General; and Bobby Hibbett, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner was convicted in 1998 of one count of first degree murder in Wilson County. He was sentenced to life in prison. Petitioner was unsuccessful on appeal. State v. Henry Dequan Rhodes, No. M1999-959-CCA-R3-CD, 2000 WL 264327, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Mar. 10, 2000), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 30, 2000). On March 16, 2011, Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition. On appeal, Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in its dismissal of his petition. We conclude that the post-conviction court did not err because the decisions in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), did not create a new constitutional right that was required to be retroactively applied; Petitioner did not provide adequate support for his argument that the statute of limitations had been tolled based upon the violation of a due process right; and Petitioner did not meet the requirements set out to present a writ of error coram nobis to the court. Therefore, we affirm the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DAVID EARL SCOTT
With dissenting opinion

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kevin Angel, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Earl Scott.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, David Earl Scott, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated assault, claiming that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, that his kidnapping convictions run afoul of the precedent set in State v. Anthony and its progeny, and that the sentence imposed by the trial court is excessive. Because the evidence of serious bodily injury was insufficient, the defendant’s conviction of especially aggravated kidnapping is reversed and modified to a conviction of aggravated kidnapping, and the sentence is modified from 25 years to 12 years. The judgments of the trial court are affirmed in all other respects.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CURTIS DEWAYNE STAGGS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

M. Wallace Coleman, Jr., Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Curtis Dewayne Staggs.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Christie L. Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

A Lawrence County jury convicted the Defendant, Curtis Dewayne Staggs, of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the first degree murder convictions and imposed a life sentence, and imposed a consecutive twelve-year sentence for the aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a new trial based upon a State witness recanting his testimony; (3) the trial court erred when it issued a material witness attachment; (4) the trial court erred when it imposed consecutive sentences; and (5) the trial court erred when it did not grant his motion for a new trial based upon the prior knowledge of the case by a juror. After thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we find that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions and that the trial court committed no error. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


LADERIUS STEPHENS V. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Juni S. Ganguli, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Laderius Stephens.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Katie Ratton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Laderius Stephens (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for especially aggravated robbery and attempted second degree murder. Pursuant to his plea agreement, the Petitioner received an effective sentence of fifteen years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In his petition for relief, he argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in conjunction with his guilty plea and that his plea was constitutionally infirm. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. The Petitioner now appeals, raising the same two issues. As his bases for ineffective assistance of counsel, the Petitioner contends that his counsel at trial: (1) failed to file the appropriate discovery motions; (2) failed to prepare adequately for trial; and (3) failed to hire an investigator in a timely manner. Upon our thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


CHRISTOPHER L. WILLIAMS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Christopher L. Williams, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Christopher L. Williams, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. He claims that the postconviction court erred in dismissing his petition as time-barred. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition.


Judge Dismisses 'Contributer' Suit Against Brentwood

U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee Judge Todd Campbell dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Brentwood ordinance that prevents street vendors of the newspaper The Contributor from selling to vehicle occupants from sidewalks, the City Paper reports. The American Civil Liberties Union backed The Contributor, which is sold by homeless and formerly homeless vendors. The suit claimed the ordinance suppressed its constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of the press. Judge Campbell ruled in favor of the city of Brentwood whose attorneys argued that the sale of the newspaper from sidewalk to vehicles at stoplights was a safety and traffic issue.


Fillers' Finances to be Reviewed by Court

Don Fillers, who was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence in a well-publicized asbestos case, still has a court-appointed attorney although documents presented to the court show he purchased more than $2 million in property and valued his home at $403,000, the Chattanoogan reports. Federal Magistrate Judge Bill Carter said there were still unanswered questions about Fillers' finances, and set another hearing for Tuesday. Fillers is scheduled to go into federal prison Friday.


Secession Petition Receives No Official Support

After the re-election of President Barack Obama last week, citizens from states across the county began filing petitions on the White House’s We the People website requesting to peacefully secede from the United States of America. Tennessee’s online petition has garnered more than 22,000 signatures, although state officials do not expect it to get much traction. Gov. Bill Haslam told the Tennessean he didn’t “think that’s a valid option for Tennessee. I don’t think we’ll be seceding.” Even Nashville Tea Party president Ben Cunninham, who was heavily opposed to Obama’s re-election, said he wouldn’t support succession.


Tenn. Lawyers Head to D.C. for Meningitis Hearings

Linda Lovelace, widow of Judge Eddie C. Lovelace who died in September after being exposed to tainted steroid injections in Nashville, has been invited to testify at the congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. against the New England Compounding Center that is accused of shipping thousands of vials of contaminated drugs across the country. Lawyer Mark P. Chalos with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, along with another attorney and client, were invited to the hearings as well. Chalos’ firm represents several affected families across the county, including at least four in Tennessee. The Tennessean has the story.


Memphis NBA Chapter to Work for Access to Justice

Imad Abdullah, who in January will be the new president of the Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association in Memphis, talks to the Memphis Daily News about the group's continuing service to the Memphis community. Initiatives include scholarships for minority students at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and working with  Memphis Area Legal Services. “Our work has basically been focused on issues such as access to justice,” Abdullah said.


Family Law Forum to Offer Credit for Mediators, Too

The TBA Family Law Section's annual Family Law Forum is tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center. The centerpiece will be presentations on two issues of critical importance to family law attorneys. Mark Sullivan, a nationally renowned military divorce and family law expert, will present three modules on the special concerns that arise when one or both parties are serving or have served in the Armed Forces, from dividing military pensions, to military benefits, to unique parenting issues. Dr. Kathryn Steele will provide an extensive review of the role of neuropsychology in family law, how to use psychological tests and reports to bolster your own case and attack the other side’s position. In addition to offering five hours of general and one hour of dual CLE credit, CME credit for Rule 31 mediators will also be offered. For more information, visit TennBar U.


Knoxville Bar Association Memorial Service Set for Friday

The Memorials and Resolutions Committee of the Knoxville Bar Association is sponsoring an opportunity to honor the members of the bar who have passed away in the last year. Hon. Gary R. Wade, Hon. Sharon Lee and Rev. Charles W.B. Fels will lead the service this Friday at 3 p.m. in the Tennessee Supreme Court Courtroom, located at 505 Main St. in Knoxville. A reception will follow the service.


Davidson County Lawyer Censured

Davidson County lawyer Hugh Edward Garrett received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility Nov. 6 for failing to render competent representation; failing to act with reasonable diligence; failing to maintain reasonable communication with his client; and failing to take reasonable steps to expedite litigation. He essentially abandoned his client’s case on appeal and ignored the requests of the Court of Criminal Appeals to either file a brief or dismiss the matter, the court said. Download the BPR notice.


Sumner County Lawyer Censured

Sumner County lawyer Michael Scott Collins was publically censured yesterday by the Tennessee Supreme Court pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 44. Collins entered into a representation agreement with a client that was vague, ambiguous, and without sufficient clarity for the client to understand the scope of Collins’ representation. He also billed the client for work performed by a paralegal without first obtaining the client’s consent. 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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