Conservatership Hearings Wrap Up in E. Tenn.

The Tennessee Bar Association this week held its final two public hearings on how current conservatorship law is working or could be improved. The events were held Tuesday, Nov. 13, in Morristown and Wednesday, Nov. 14, in Chattanooga. Learn more about the public hearings and the issue.

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
03 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - 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


Larry R. Dillow and Katherine L. Tranum, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Beeler.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Anthony Wade Clark, District Attorney General; and Janet Hardin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: CLARK

We accepted this appeal to determine whether a lawyer’s potential violation of the ethical rule governing communications with a person represented by another lawyer constitutes criminal contempt pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-9-102(1), (2). Although a lawyer’s violation of an ethical rule may in some circumstances constitute criminal contempt, the evidence in this case is insufficient to support the “willful misbehavior” element of the offense of criminal contempt. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, and we vacate Mr. Beeler’s conviction.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kristin Fecteau, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Latif Abdulsayed and Afaf Hanna.

Joseph T. Zanger, White House, Tennessee, for the appellees, Randal Hand and Linda Hand.


This appeal arises from two very unorthodox contracts by which Buyers purchased a retail convenience market, the equipment and inventory of the market, and the underlying real estate. Within four months of the purchase, Buyers commenced this action seeking rescission of the contracts on the basis of Sellers’ breach of contract, fraud, and misrepresentation. Sellers prevailed on all issues in the trial court and recovered the business and real estate. The trial court also ruled that Sellers were entitled to keep the $190,000 down payment on the real estate. On appeal, Buyers raise several issues, inter alia, they contend the trial court erred in finding they did not prove fraudulent inducement or intentional misrepresentation, that the court erred in finding that Buyers breached the contract, and that the trial court erred in awarding Sellers the $190,000 down payment as damages for Buyers’ breach of the contract when Sellers did not plead damages in their counter-complaint. We have determined the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that Sellers did not make intentional misrepresentations, and that, to the contrary, the preponderance of the evidence established that Sellers made intentional misrepresentations for which Buyers are entitled to a rescission of the contracts and return of their $190,000 down payment.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Lisa Smith, Spring Hill, Tennessee, Pro Se.

John Edward Quinn, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, HFH, Inc. d/b/a DHL and Pacific Employers Insurance Company.

Terry Renease Clayton, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

David J. Deming, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Gerald Wayne Davis, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.


This is an appeal from an order denying a motion to set aside an order of dismissal for failure to state a claim. Because the appellant did not file her notice of appeal with the trial court clerk within the time permitted by Tenn. R. App. P. 4, we dismiss the appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Phillip C. Lawrence, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dennis A. Pettigrew.

Robin L. Miller, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Linda M. Pettigrew


In this divorce case, the Trial Court awarded the wife her attorney's fees as alimony in solido. The husband appeals this issue arguing that the wife's property settlement was such that she should pay her attorney's fees out of the property settlement. On appeal, we affirm the Trial Court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David M. Hopkins (on appeal), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Paul David Childs.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Thomas Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Paul David Childs, convicted of sexual battery, appeals from the summary dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition on the basis that the Petitioner failed to provide any factual grounds in support of his claims for relief. The State concedes that the post-conviction court acted in error. Following our review, we reverse the order of summary dismissal and remand this case to the post-conviction court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William B. “Jake” Lockert, III, District Public Defender; and Kathleen Mitchell, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Betty L. Darden

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Ray Crouch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Betty L. Darden, appeals the Dickson County Circuit Court’s denial of her petition to waive court costs and fines. The petitioner pled nolo contendere to conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, both Class D felonies, and received an effective sentence of two years, which was suspended to probation. Her probation agreement required payment of court costs and fines on a monthly basis. The petitioner filed a “Petition to Remit Fines and Costs and Waive Probation Fees.” A hearing was held on the petition, after which the trial court waived probationary fees but ordered the petitioner to complete payment of her court costs and fines. Following review of the record, we find no abuse of discretion in the decision and affirm the denial.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael A. Colavecchio, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellant, Ronaldo Regala Puno, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sarah Davis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Ronaldo Regala Puno, Jr., of attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the appellant to seventeen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for attempted first degree murder. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the appellant’s conviction, but we remand the case to the trial court for entry of a single judgment reflecting the merger of the convictions.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael J. Flanagan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terry Sanders.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Craig Monsue, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Terry Sanders, was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-417. He was sentenced, as a Range III persistent offender, to fifteen years for each count, to be run consecutively, for an effective sentence of thirty years. The defendant appeals his convictions, asserting that the trial court should have granted his motions for a mistrial based on testimony introduced at trial that the defendant was on community corrections and based on juror bias. After a careful review of the record, we conclude that the defendant is not entitled to a new trial and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender; Jeffrey A. DeVasher (on appeal); and Gary C. Tamkin and Jonathan F. Wing (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dwaniko Martez Sudberry.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Katrin Novak Miller and Brian Holmgren, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Davidson County jury found appellant, Dwaniko Martez Sudberry, guilty of three counts of reckless aggravated assault, one count of attempted aggravated child neglect, and one count of reckless homicide stemming from the death of his infant daughter. The trial court merged the convictions of reckless aggravated assault with the conviction for reckless homicide and sentenced appellant to four years. The trial court sentenced appellant to twelve years for attempted aggravated child neglect and ordered the sentences to be served consecutively for an effective sixteen-year sentence. Appellant contests his convictions and sentences on the following grounds: (1) the convicting evidence was insufficient; (2) the combination of his convictions offends the principles of double jeopardy; (3) the trial court erred in failing to order the State to make an election on the offense of aggravated child neglect; (4) the trial court erred in admitting certain expert testimony; and (5) the trial court committed multiple errors in sentencing him. Following our careful review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we discern no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

AG Reaches $90 million Agreement over Unlawful Drug Promotion

The Tennessee Attorneys General office, along with 37 other Attorneys General, reached a $90 million agreement with GlaxoSmithKline LLC to resolve allegations that GlaxoSmithKline unlawfully promoted its diabetes drug Avandia by engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by misrepresenting Avandia’s cardiovascular risks and safety profile. Tennessee will receive $3 million as part of this multistate consumer protection investigation. Download the press release.

Obama Announces 7 Judicial Nominations

President Barack Obama announced seven nominations for federal district courts, asking the Senate to promptly consider all his judicial nominees because “too many of our courtrooms stand empty.” If confirmed, the nominees would bring more women, minorities, and openly gay judges to courts to better reflect the nation they serve, says Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The new nominees include: Valerie Caproni, Analisa Torres, Beverly O’Connell, Kenneth Gonzales, Raymond Moore, William Thomas, and Derrick Watson. The Legal Times has the full story.

BP to Pay $4.5 billion in Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

BP will pay $4.5 billion to resolve federal criminal and securities allegations in connection with the Gild oil spill, the ABA Journal reports. As part of the plea deal, BP will plead guilty to 14 criminal charges, including 11 felony counts related to loss of life in the oil spill and one felony count for obstruction of Congress. According to the Wall Street Journal, the settlement includes $1.26 billion in criminal fines, and for BP to pay $2.394 billion to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to the National Academy of the Sciences.

Ogletree Deakins Announces Plans to for International Expansion

Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart will soon open two offices in Europe, the ABA Journal reports. The firm, which specializes in labor and employment law, has offices in Nashville and Memphis and plans to open the Berlin office Dec. 1 and the London office soon after. The move is a significant step toward greater global practice by the firm, which presently has no other international offices, according to its website.

Court Rules Against Michigan Affirmative Action Ban

A federal appeals court ruled 8-7 that Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions is unconstitutional, six years after state voters said race could not be an issue in choosing students. WXYZ Action News 7 reports that the court said the 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution is illegal because it presents an extraordinary burden to opponents who would have to mount their own long, expensive campaign through the ballot box to protect affirmative actions. Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., who wrote for the majority at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, stated the burden “undermines the Equal Protection Clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change” and that supporters and opponents should debate through the governing boards of each public university.

LMU Students Experience Live Court Proceedings On Campus

Judge Bill Swann brought his 4th Circuit courtroom to the halls of the Duncan School of Law at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) this morning to give students a live and in-person look at court proceedings in action. Swann told WATE Knoxville that although it is difficult to have the sheriff, clerks, and extra security travel to the school, the benefit to students in invaluable.

Atheist Group Sues IRS over Church Political Endorsements

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist, nonprofit organization based in Madision, Wisc., has sued the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for not taking action against churches that illegally endorsed political candidates. The group claims the IRS allowed them an unfair advantage over secular groups by being able to preferentially engage in electioneering. Despite IRS rules that bar churches from endorsing candidates or intervening in political campaigns, several Nashville clergy gave public support to both candidates this past year. The Tennesseean has the story.

TennBarU Offers CLE on the Affordable Care Act for General Practitioners

The election is over, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act is now very real and very near. Your clients and your firm have little time to grasp the fundamental changes that will be taking place in health care over the next 13 months as governments, insurance companies, health care providers and employers make the changes called for in the law. On Dec. 7, TennBar U will present a program that will help you get up to speed on the Affordable Care Act and help you serve your clients. Sessions include an overview of the Affordable Care Act, how to advise your small to mid-sixe business owner, a session on what lawyers need to do for law firm management, and answers to the top 10 questions your clients will ask.

Court Overturns Contempt Charge Against Attorney

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision today that a judge may not properly charge an attorney with contempt of court when the behavior neither disrupts the proceedings nor disparages the court, even if the judge believes the attorney behaved unethically. The ruling came after a judge convicted attorney James Beeler of criminal contempt of court for speaking to his client's husband who was being represented by another attorney during trial. The judge stated Beeler broke the ethical rule that forbids attorneys from speaking with a person represented by another attorney about the subject matter of that representation without permission. The Court reversed and vacated Beeler's convicton. Download the full court opinion.



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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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