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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
01 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
06 - TN Court of Appeals
11 - 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 Workers Comp Appeals

STEPHEN D. GOOD v. SUNKOTE PLASTIC COATINGS CORPORATION ET AL.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys:

Mary Dee Allen, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Sunkote Plastic Coatings Corporation and Lemic Insurance Company.

Mandi P. Parl and Marshall H. McClarnon, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Stephen D. Good.

Judge: CLARK

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that he injured his back at work on September 30, 2008, and is now totally and permanently disabled. The employer denied that the employee sustained a compensable work-related injury, but alternatively argued that the employee is not totally and permanently disabled. The trial court concluded that the employee sustained a compensable work-related injury and awarded 80% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed, arguing that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the injury was compensable and that, even if the employee proved a compensable injury, the evidence preponderates against the award of 80% permanent partial disability benefits. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.


TN Court of Appeals

ANTONIO J. BULLARD v. TURNEY CENTER DISCIPLINARY BOARD, DERRICK D. SCHOFIELD, BRUCE WESTBROOKS, JACK MIDDLETON, AND JOSH PASCHALL

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Petitioner/Appellant Antonio J. Bullard, Only, Tennessee, self-represented

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General, and Lee Pope, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellees Turney Center Disciplinary Board, Derrick D. Schofield, Bruce Westbrooks, Jack Middleton, and Josh Paschall

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves an inmate’s petition for common law writ of certiorari. The petitioner inmate was convicted of disciplinary offenses by the respondent prison disciplinary board. The inmate filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari, seeking judicial review of the convictions for the disciplinary offenses. The trial court found that the inmate’s petition was not timely filed, and therefore that the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the petition. We affirm.


GARY CLARKE v. METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, ACTING BY AND THROUGH THE ELECTRIC POWER BOARD AS NASHVILLE ELECTRIC SERVICE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Waverly David Crenshaw, Jr., Bahar Azhdari, John E. B. Gerth, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, acting by and through the Electric Power Board as Nashville Electric Service.

Christopher Dale Van Atta, Michelle Blaylock Owens, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gary Clarke.

Judge: COTTRELL

An employee of NES married a co-worker’s daughter and was found by the NES civil service board to be in violation of the utility’s nepotism policy that precluded related employees from working in the same “section.” The employee sought judicial review, and the trial court reversed the administrative decision. We affirm the trial court’s judgment because the administrative decision was arbitrary and capricious.


THE STATE OF TENNESSEE IN ITS OWN BEHALF AND FOR THE USE AND BENEFIT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY v. DELINQUENT TAXPAYERS AS SHOWN ON THE 2006 REAL PROPERTY TAX RECORDS OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY,

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert John Notestine, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Edwin Knestrick.

Jackson Leroy Hill, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Judge: COTTRELL

Purchaser of condominium at delinquent tax sale sought excess funds remaining after taxes and court costs had been paid. Purchaser prepared a Quitclaim Deed that transferred Taxpayer’s title and redemption rights in property to Purchaser. Purchaser next prepared a Deed of Correction that corrected the spelling of Taxpayer’s name, but that also included a clause purporting to transfer to Purchaser Taxpayer’s right to the excess funds. Purchaser then prepared an Assignment of Excess Funds Payout that also purported to transfer Taxpayer’s right to the excess funds to Purchaser. Trial court awarded excess funds to Taxpayer rather than to Purchaser after finding there was no meeting of the minds and that Purchaser failed to carry his burden of proving he provided consideration for Taxpayer’s conveyance of the excess funds to him. Purchaser appealed and we affirm the trial court’s judgment. We conclude there was no consideration for the Assignment of Excess Funds Payout and that the Deed of Correction is unenforceable because it is beyond the expectations of an ordinary person for a document titled Deed of Correction to transfer a right to receive $14,000 of excess funds to a purchaser of property.


IN RE: DRAKO J. M., & SKYLER B. M.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Kathryn Amy Strong, Gallatin, Tennessee for the appellant, A. N. W. M.

Paul A. Rutherford, Wende J. Rutherford, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, L. J. M. and T. L. B. M.

Judge: COTTRELL

The parents of two young children agreed to give the paternal grandparents custody of the children. The grandparents subsequently filed a petition for termination of their parental rights on the ground of abandonment, and for adoption. The father agreed to surrender his rights during the hearing on the termination petition, but the mother insisted that she had not abandoned her children. The trial court terminated the parental rights of both parents on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to pay financial support in the four months prior to the filing of the petition for termination. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1). Mother appealed. She acknowledges that she failed to pay support during the relevant period, but she insists that her failure was not willful. We affirm the trial court.


ROBERT THOMAS EDMUNDS v. DELTA PARTNERS, L.L.C., ET AL.
With concurring opinion

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John B. Holt, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellants, Delta Partners, L.L.C. and Michael Richard Garrison.

Richard L. Colbert and Courtney L. Wilbert, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Robert Thomas Edmunds.

Judge: STAFFORD

Appellant corporation appeals the trial court’s rulings finding it liable for breach of contract damages, prejudgment interest, and damages pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, the corporation’s president appeals the trial court’s action in piercing the corporate veil to hold him personally liable for the contract damages. We reverse the trial court’s finding with regard to veil piercing, but affirm the trial court in all other respects.


IN RE: ESTATE OF LEE AUGUSTUS GRIMMIG

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Edward Thomas Autry, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, John Paul Grimmig and Mariann Steffens.

John D. Horne, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Anna Sabina Safarik and Charlotte Grimmig Smith.

Judge: PER CURIAM

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DONNIE PAUL BOLING, JR.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Steve Wallace, District Public Defender, and Joseph F. Harrison, Assistant District Public Defender for the appellant, Donnie Paul Boling, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General; Brandon Haren and Josh Parsons, Assistant District Attorneys General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Donnie Paul Boling, Jr., pled guilty to reckless endangerment, a Class E felony, and to driving under the influence, possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana, and possession of Alprazolam, all Class A misdemeanors. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of one year. In this appeal, the defendant’s sole claim is that the trial court erred by denying him probation or an alternative sentence. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. PAMELA J. BOOKER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen M. Wallace, District Public Defender; and William Andrew Kennedy, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Pamela J. Booker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Emily Smith, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Defendant, Pamela J. Booker, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s order revoking her probation for her three convictions for violating a habitual traffic offender order and ordering her to serve her effective fifteen-year sentence. On appeal, she contends that the court erred in ordering her to serve the sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


WALTER RAY CARTER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Walter Ray Carter, Terre Haute, Indiana, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, Walter Ray Carter, pro se, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his pleadings entitled “Motion of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel” and “Motion to Dismiss Indictment and/or Arrest Judgment” filed on July 18, 2011 in four separate cases. The motions sought relief from certain drug-related convictions entered in 1996 and in 2005. Following our review of the record, we conclude that the trial court was within its discretion to construe the pleadings as petitions for post-conviction relief which are now time barred pursuant to the statute of limitations. The summary dismissal is affirmed.


MIKEL HAMRICK v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Samuel Rodriguez, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mikel Hamrick.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and David Zak, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Shelby County grand jury returned a seven-count indictment against petitioner, Mikel Hamrick. He entered guilty pleas to four of the counts, including aggravated burglary, especially aggravated stalking, domestic assault, and theft of property less than $500, for which he received an effective four-year sentence. The remaining counts were dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, alleging that his mental instability rendered his guilty pleas involuntary and that the infirmity was compounded by trial counsel’s failure to adequately advise him of the consequences of pleading guilty. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL R. MALONE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

B. Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender; and Robert G. Morgan, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Michael R. Malone.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; J. Michael Taylor, District Attorney General; and William B. Copeland, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Michael R. Malone, pled guilty to reckless endangerment, a Class E felony, and was sentenced to two years in the Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to a prior three-year sentence for which he was on community corrections at the time he committed the present offense. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NGOC DIEN NGUYEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender; and Ann Kroeger, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Ngoc Dien Nguyen.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Jason White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Ngoc Dien Nguyen, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his sentences of probation. Defendant pled guilty to two counts of writing or passing worthless checks over $1,000. He received a sentence of two years for each count, as a Range I standard offender, to be served concurrently on probation. Subsequently, a probation violation warrant was filed, which alleged that Defendant had violated his probation by committing new offenses, failing to report the new offenses to his probation officer, failing to notify his probation officer that he was back in Tennessee after serving a parole violation in California, and failing to provide proof of payment of court costs and fines. Following the hearing the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve the remainder of his effective two-year sentence in confinement, with credit for time served. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


SCOTTY V. NUNN v. TONY HOWERTON, WARDEN AND STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Scotty V. Nunn, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; and Russell Johnson, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Petitioner, Scotty V. Nunn, appeals the Morgan County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief from his 1994 convictions for fraudulent breach of trust and misapplication of contract payments and resulting sentence of fourteen years. The Petitioner contends that he is entitled to relief because of an improper extradition from the Commonwealth of Virginia. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


PATRICK POPE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stanley K. Pierchoski (on post-conviction), Memphis, Tennessee; Rhonda Hooks-Kendricks (at trial and direct appeal), Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Patrick Pope.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Daniel J. Runde, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, Patrick Pope, appeals the Maury County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner is currently serving an effective eleven-year sentence for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and aggravated robbery. On appeal, he contends that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to investigate possible alibi witnesses in preparing the case for trial. Following review of the record, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.


NATHANIEL RICHARDSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nathaniel Richardson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy Weirich, District Attorney General; and Betsy Weintraub, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Nathaniel Richardson (“the Petitioner”) entered a best interest plea to second degree murder and received a sentence of twenty years. The Petitioner subsequently filed for postconviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied following an evidentiary hearing. Upon our thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


DONALD KEITH SOLOMON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James R. Tucker, Jr., Shelbyville, Tennessee (on appeal), for the appellant, Donald Keith Solomon.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Richard A. Cawley, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Donald Keith Solomon, appeals as of right from the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the postconviction court erred by summarily dismissing his petition for being untimely filed. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JAMES MICHAEL WATKINS, ALIAS MICHAEL WILSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Christopher H. Jones (on appeal) and Jay Underwood (at trial), Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, James M. Watkins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Brian Finlay, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

James M. Watkins (“the Defendant”) appeals his jury convictions for burglary of a business, vandalism of property worth $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, and possession of burglary tools. He received an effective sentence of twelve years as a Range III, career offender. On appeal, he asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the contents found as a result of a stop and subsequent search of the Defendant and a bag in his possession. He also argues the following: that the trial court erred in overruling the Defendant’s objection to a jury instruction; that newly acquired evidence exists that would have affected the outcome of the trial; and that Officer Rogers’ testimony was perjury that prejudiced the Defendant. Lastly, the Defendant alleges that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions.


Obama Presses for Swift Gun Control Policy Changes

In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last Friday, President Barack Obama is pressing for “concrete proposals” to curb gun violence, the Chattanooga Free Press reports. Obama asked Vice-President Joe Biden, a longtime gun control advocate, to lead the group that will include members of Obama’s administration and outside groups. The president said once he receives recommendations from the group, he will push legislation “without delay.”


Suit Demands DCS Release Public Records

The Tennessean and a coalition of the state’s newspapers, television stations and other media organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Davidson County Chancery Court against the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), alleging the agency is violating the law by refusing to make public the records of children who died after being brought to the agency for attention. According to Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis attorney Robb Harvey, who represents the Tennessean, this is the largest coalition of Tennessee media organizations in terms of number, geographic scope, readership and viewership ever to file a public records lawsuit.


TALS Hires New Legal Referral Attorney

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services has hired Tim Hughes to staff a new toll-free legal information and referral line that will be active in mid-January. Hughes formerly worked in private practice and at Memphis Area Legal Services. The new service will allow Tennessee residents to call 24-hours a day, seven days a week to request assistance finding resources to deal with civil legal issues.


Waller Announces New Partners

Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis in Nashville recently announced the appointment of five new attorneys from diverse practice backgrounds as partners. They are R. Steven Conner, John “Jeb” E.B. Gerth, Justin F. McNaughton, John Park, and Keith E. Thompson. The Nashville Post has the story.


HCA Hires Former Bass Partner

Health care law expert Scott Noonan of Bass Berry & Sims has resigned in order to assume the role of vice president and operations counsel at HCA on Jan. 7, the Nashville Post reports. Noonan replaces Steve Clifton who occupied the chief legal position for more than 18 years.


Legislators to Consider Plans for Approving Charter Schools

Tennessee legislators are considering proposals for trumping local school boards who resist the formation of charter schools in their districts. The proposals come in response to Metro’s repeated resistance to approve Great Hearts Academies, House Speaker Beth Harwell told the Tennessean. Harwell said it is likely there will be two versions of bills involving charter authorization drafted during the next legislative session, one allowing charter operators to apply directly to a panel created solely to review and grant charters instead of  the Tennessee Board of Education.


Court Upholds 'John Doe' Warrant

The  Tennessee Supreme Court  upheld the conviction of a man known as the “Wooded Rapist” in a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade. The opinion maintains that the state can prosecute an unknown suspect by issuing a John Doe warrant that identifies them by gender and/or unique DNA profile if that criminal prosecution is properly and timely commenced within the statute of limitations.


GOP Speaker Proposes House Overhaul

Republican Speaker Beth Harwell today announced a proposal to overhaul and restructure the House committee system in order to streamline the process and save money, she says. State House members would be limited to introducing 10 bills per legislative session and could no longer be able to vote on legislation for colleagues away from their seats. Additionally, the Judiciary Committee would be split into civil and criminal justice panels, and the State and Local Government Committee split into one panel dealing with state legislation and the other regarding local laws. The proposal faces review by the House Rules Committee.


Complete List of Foundation Fellows

Due to an editing error, the complete list of 2012 Tennessee Bar Foundation fellows was not included in Tuesday's TBAToday. What follows is the complete class, which will be inducted during the annual Fellows’ Dinner Jan. 18 in Nashville. This year’s class is made up of Roy L. Aaron, C. Dale Allen, Adrienne L. Anderson, Kyle C. Atkins, John T. Bobo, Jacqueline E. Bolton, Edward T. Brading, George H. Brown Jr., Douglas M. Campbell Sr., Angelita Blackshear Dalton, David R. Esquivel, Randall J. Fishman, Patrick A. Flynn, Stephen D. Goodwin, W. Stanworth Harris, William L. Jenkins, Jon E. Jones, W. Morris Kizer, Linda R. Koon, Patricia Head Moskal, Roger A. Page, Ernest A. Petroff, Timothy A. Priest, J. Michael Sharp, Daniel L. Smith, J. Mark Stewart, Shea Sisk Wellford, John Everett Williams, Marianna Williams and Joseph A. Woodruff.


Former Federal Judge and Conservative Icon Bork Dies

Federal Judge Robert Bork died early Wednesday in Arlington, Va., from complications from heart disease at the age of 85, the Washington Post reports. Known as a conservative icon, Bork was famously known for firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, and whose failed nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 sparked an enduring political schism.


 
 

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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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