New Online Videos Educate Lawyers, Public

The Tennessee Supreme Court and its Access to Justice Commission today launched a new video service to equip lawyers with the skills needed to handle pro bono cases outside their regular practice areas and effectively work with different client groups. Two videos – one on orders of protection and domestic violence issues, and one on providing legal services to persons with disabilities – are available now, with more to come.

A second part of the project will educate the public about the law and how to navigate the court system. In announcing the service, Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary. R. Wade said the initiative is part of the commission’s strategic plan and is “a priority for our judiciary.” He also thanked the Tennessee Bar Association and its Access to Justice Committee, which are promoting the service as well as contributing to the content and production of the videos.

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
02 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Danny Ray Ellis, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Esmat Eslami.

Robert W. Briley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellees, Mark Derrick and Songbird Enterprises.


On June 6, 2012, Esmat Eslami (“Plaintiff”) filed a notice of appeal of an order entered by the Trial Court on May 9, 2012. On November 5, 2012, this Court entered an order directing Plaintiff to show cause why this appeal should not be dismissed as premature. Plaintiff did not respond to the show cause order. We dismiss this appeal for lack of a final judgment.

CORRECTION: "gHood" changed to "Hood"

Court: TN Court of Appeals


James W. Brooks, Jr., Wartburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ellen W. Hood.

Ernest A. Petroff and Stephen A. Marcum, Huntsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Martha R. Scent.


Martha Scent filed a declaratory judgment action against multiple defendants to establish her rights with respect to a deed of trust that granted her a lien on a tract of land. In addition, Scent sought to establish that “her” signature on a release of her deed of trust is a forgery. The trial court granted Scent partial summary judgment voiding and nullifying the release of her trust deed. The case proceeded to a bench trial with the focus on the priority of trust deeds as between Scent and the defendant Ellen W. Hood. Based upon the application of the doctrine of merger, the court ruled that Scent held the priority position. The court awarded judgment in her favor and Hood appeals. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David L. Raybin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph Brennan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Lawrence R. Whitley, District Attorney General; and Lytle Anthony James, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Joseph Brennan, pled guilty to two counts of incest and two counts of attempted rape of a child in Sumner County. As a result, he was sentenced to ten years for each attempted rape conviction and three years for each incest conviction. The trial court ordered the attempted rape convictions to run consecutively with one another but concurrently to the incest convictions, for a total effective sentence of twenty years in the Department of Correction. State v. Joseph Brennan, No. M2009-00895-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 1425540, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Apr. 9, 2010), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Sept. 23, 2010). On direct appeal, Petitioner challenged the denial of an alternative sentence. Id. This Court affirmed Petitioner’s sentence. Id. Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition in which he alleged that the sentencing judge was impartial. Petitioner also requested a new sentencing hearing and recusal of the trial court. The trial court denied the request for recusal. An amended petition was filed by Petitioner along with a second motion for recusal of the trial court. The trial court denied the motion for recusal and the petition for postconviction relief. Petitioner appeals. After a review of the record and authorities, we determine that the post-conviction judge properly denied recusal and where the record indicates that Petitioner was sentenced by an impartial tribunal, properly denied postconviction relief.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Manuel Haynes, Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Summer Morgan, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The pro se Petitioner, Manuel Haynes, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely. Because the petition was untimely and the Petitioner has not shown that due process concerns tolled the one-year statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David N. Brady, District Public Defender; and E. J. Mackie, Assistant Public Defender, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gary Randall Moser.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; William E. Gibson, District Attorney General; and Anthony Craighead, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

The Putnam County Grand Jury indicted Appellant, Gary Randall Moser, for two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of aggravated assault resulting from an altercation with his girlfriend. Following a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two lesser included offenses of false imprisonment. These offenses were merged into one count, and the trial court sentenced Appellant to 319 days in the county jail. Appellant appeals his conviction based upon his arguments that the trial court erred in admitting hearsay testimony alleging it violated Appellant’s right under the Confrontation Clauses of both the Tennessee and United States Constitutions. Appellant also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We have determined the statement in question was nontestimonial and properly admitted under the excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule and, therefore, there is no error in its admission. We have also determined that the evidence was sufficient to support Appellant’s conviction. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Terry L. Jordan, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Amanda Kay Profitt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Barry Staubus, District Attorney General, and Joseph Eugene Perrin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Amanda Kay Profitt, pled guilty to four counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and to one count of willful abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an adult. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to three years incarceration as a Range I, standard offender, at thirty percent, for the controlled substance offenses and to two years incarceration as a Range I, standard offender, at thirty percent, for the willful abuse of an adult offense. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently, for an effective sentence of three years at thirty percent. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it ordered the Defendant to serve her sentence in confinement, specifically when it: (1) denied judicial diversion; and (2) denied alternative sentencing or probation. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we conclude that the trial court properly sentenced the Defendant. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Kristin B. Green, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Terrell Robinson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Crawford, District Attorney General, and Richard Cawley, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Christopher Terrell Robinson, was found guilty by a Bedford County jury of violating the Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender (“HMVO”) Act, evading arrest, and violating the light law. In a separate case, Petitioner pled guilty to felony failure to appear. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to an effective sentence of twelve years, to be served as a Career Offender at 60 percent. Petitioner’s convictions and sentence were upheld on direct appeal. See State v. Christopher Terrell Robinson, No. M2010-01183-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 1671809, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Apr. 29, 2011), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Jul. 13, 2011). Subsequently, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The petition was dismissed after an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner appeals the dismissal of the petition for post-conviction relief. After a review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief because Petitioner has failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that he is entitled to postconviction relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Summers Appointed Senior Judge

Former Attorney General Paul G. Summers, a partner in the Waller law firm in Nashville, has been appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to a four-year term as a senior judge. He will depart the firm to replace Walter C. Kurtz on Jan. 1, 2013. Four senior judges serve the state at any one time and are assigned on a temporary basis to state courts as needed. Summers said serving as a senior judge will be the “ultimate professional challenge” and that while “working at Waller has been an absolute pleasure… I couldn’t resist the urge to return to public service and complete the circle of my legal career.” The Nashville Post reports

Opinion: Tort Law Likely to Get Day in Court Soon

Knoxville lawyer Deborah Stevens, president and managing shareholder of Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop, writes in that the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 is likely headed for a courtroom soon as challenges to the law are winding their way through the system. She points to one specific case pending in the Middle District of Tennessee, which could expedite review of the law. In addition to asserting that the law is unconstitutional, the case asks the federal judge to “certify” the question to the Tennessee Supreme Court. If the judge were to do so, the case would be "fast-tracked" to the court.

Company Wants Meningitis Cases Moved to Federal Court

Lawyers for the New England Compounding Center -- blamed for a deadly nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis -- are moving forward with a strategy to consolidate lawsuits in a Boston federal court. Records show that 37 cases originally filed in state and county courts already have been transferred to federal courts across the country at the request of company lawyers. That includes six suits filed in Nashville circuit court. Three Nashville legal experts talk about the process in this Tennessean story.

Official Responsible for 'Fast and Furious' to Resign

Gary Grindler, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's chief of staff, will resign Friday as part of the fall out from the botched "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scheme. Prior to serving as Holder’s top aide, Grindler was acting deputy attorney general and oversaw the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which led the program that allowed hundreds of weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. He joins several others who have stepped down since the Justice Department's inspector general issued a report recommending disciplinary action for 14 employees. WCYB Channel 5 has this story from CNN.

Williamson Sheriff Settles Immigrant Detention Suit

A federal suit accusing the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office of illegally holding suspects while deputies determined their immigration status has settled after the judge overseeing the case ruled that the county was obligated to hold the suspects on a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With that opinion, the Tennessean reports, the city opted to make a small settlement rather than pursue a jury trial. Six plaintiffs will receive $2,500 in damages, while an additional $7,000 in attorney’s fees will be paid.

Commission Approves Legal Fees in Schools Fight

A week after the Shelby County Commission won a major argument in the federal suit over the creation of multiple municipal school districts, commissioners approved $473,549 in contingency funds to pay ongoing legal fees in the lawsuit. The Memphis Daily News has more.

U.S. Joins International Effort Against Pedophilia

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom will launch a global alliance targeting online child sexual abuse this week. Officials from 27 EU member nations and 22 other countries will gather for a conference tomorrow in Brussels to being laying the foundation for the effort. The participating nations are making a commitment to care for victims, enhance efforts to prosecute offenders, increase children's awareness of online risks and reduce the availability of child abuse material online. has this AP story

Jackson Lawyer Dies After Battle With Cancer

Albert Benton Merkel Sr., 68, died at his home in Jackson on Dec. 1 after a six-year battle with cancer. Merkel earned his law degree in 1975 from Memphis State University and returned to Jackson to practice law. During his 36-year career, he practiced primarily in the area of bankruptcy law and served his local bar, the Jackson-Madison County Bar Association, in a variety of roles, including a term as president. Funeral services were held this morning. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorials be made to Youth Town of Tennessee, P.O. Box 1385, Jackson, TN 38302. Read the full obituary in the Jackson Sun.

Attorneys Suspended for Not Paying Privilege Tax

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended 41 attorneys on Nov. 29 for failing to pay the state professional privilege tax as required by Tennessee Code Annotated 67-4-1702. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 32, attorneys who fail to pay the fee for at least two consecutive years are summarily suspended. Those who since have complied with the rule are noted as reinstated. See the full list or download the suspension order

State Constitutions Unveiled Tomorrow

The Tennessee State Library and Archives staff moved all three versions of the original handwritten state constitution to the Supreme Court building today as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the court building. Public viewing – the first time the three documents will be presented together – begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. Also on display will be a diorama of a judge’s chambers as it would have been when the building opened in 1937, a display of artifacts and documents from the Scopes Monkey Trial, and a display of court records from the early part of Tennessee’s judicial history. After a week, the documents will return to the State Library and be replaced with digital facsimiles at the Supreme Court. Get details here


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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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