6 Apply for Chancery Court Vacancy

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced today that six attorneys have applied to fill the chancery court vacancy in the 8th Judicial District created by the death of the Judge Billy Joe White. The Judicial Nominating Commission will hold a public hearing on Jan. 18, 2013, at 9 a.m. in Tazewell to interview the follow candidates: Elizabeth C. Ashbury of Jacksboro, James L. Cotton Jr. of Oneida, Kathy Parrot of Jacksboro, Charles Patrick Sexton of Oneida, Thomas Jackson Tabor Jr. of Tazewell and Andrew R. Tillman of Knoxville. Learn more about each of the candidates on the AOC website.

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
05 - 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

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TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court


Richard L. Colbert and Courtney L. Wilbert, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Saundra Thompson.

Robert L. J. Spence, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Memphis City Schools Board of Education.

Judge: CLARK

We granted this appeal to determine whether a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave amounts to a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. We hold that, although a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. Accordingly, by dismissing the plaintiff tenured teacher without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing, the defendant board of education violated her rights under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional right to due process of law protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Thus, the plaintiff is entitled to reinstatement, back pay consisting of her full salary, compensatory damages for the actual harm she sustained, and attorney’s fees. Accordingly, we reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals, reinstate the judgment of the trial court, and remand to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this decision.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Wendal D. Jackson, Bristol, Tennessee, for the appellants, Rose A. Chapman and Alfred C. Chapman.

Russell W. Adkins, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center, a member of Wellmont Health System.


Rose A. Chapman and Alfred C. Chapman (“Plaintiffs”) sued Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center (“the Hospital”) regarding a fall Ms. Chapman suffered while a patient at the Hospital. The Trial Court entered judgment upon the jury’s verdict finding and holding that the Hospital was not at fault. Plaintiffs appeal raising one issue regarding whether the Trial Court erred in granting the Hospital’s motion in limine to exclude testimony about an apology and offer to pay bills allegedly made by one of the Hospital’s nurses. We find this issue has been waived, and we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chona S. Hall.

John R. Morgan, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Herbert L. Hall.


This appeal arises from a divorce. After approximately four years of marriage, Herbert L. Hall (“Husband”) sued Chona S. Hall (“Wife”) for divorce in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court granted the parties a divorce and divided the marital estate. Wife filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied. Wife appeals to this Court, arguing, among other things, that the Trial Court erred in entering a decree for divorce when the parties had not engaged in mediation, and, that the Trial Court failed to adhere to applicable local court rules. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Al H. Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Theresa A. Kerby.

Dixie W. Cooper, Kim J. Gruetzmacher, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Melinda J. Haws, MD, and The Plastic Surgery Center of Nashville, PLLC.


A woman who suffered a series of persistent infections after surgery filed a malpractice complaint against the defendant surgeon. Her complaint alleged that the infections were cause by a small metal object that the defendant had negligently left in her body during the surgery. The plaintiff attached to her complaint the statutorily required certificate of good faith, which certified that she had consulted with an expert, who provided a signed statement confirming that he believed, on the basis of the medical records, that there was a good faith basis to maintain the action. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122. After the object was discovered to be a surgical clip of a type that was designed to be retained by the patient’s body, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the plaintiff did not oppose. The defendant surgeon subsequently filed a motion for sanctions against the plaintiff under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122 (d)(3), which gives the court the authority to punish violations related to the certificate of good faith. The trial court granted the motion, and awarded the defendant doctor over $22,000 in attorney fees. We reverse.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Johnny V. Dunaway, LaFollette, Tennessee, for the appellants, James Lueking and Jim Reed.

John R. Wingo, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Cambridge Resources, Inc., PDC Resources, Inc., Oneida Gas, Inc., and Lick Branch Unit Joint Venture.


Plaintiffs filed an action in the Circuit Court for a declaratory judgment and damages against defendants. Plaintiffs are property owners and lessors to defendants/appellees, who are lessees and operators of an oil and gas production unit. The Trial Court bifurcated the issues raised in the Complaint, and a trial was held before a jury. The jury found in favor of plaintiffs, determining that there was an oral lease "expanding the said storage yard from approximately 1/3 acre to approximately 2 and ½ acres." Based upon the jury's verdict, the Trial Court found there was proof of a lease and that plaintiffs were entitled to rentals of $1,000.00 per month from October 1994 through November 2010, totaling $194,000.00 with pre-judgment interest of $243,043.04. The Trial Court, in its discretion, referred the remaining issues to the Tennessee Oil and Gas Board for resolution and entered final Judgment. Plaintiffs appealed and we affirm the Trial Court Judgment, as modified.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Allen Barnes, Hermitage, Tennessee, for the appellants, Sandy Womack and Stacey Womack.

James I. Pentecost and Brittani C. Kendrick, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Corrections Corporation of America.


This appeal involves the transfer of a state prisoner’s action based on improper venue. The prisoner was housed in a correctional facility located in Hardeman County, Tennessee. The correctional facility is operated by a private entity. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-803, the Circuit Court of Davidson County transferred this action to Hardeman County, where the correctional facility is located. Discerning no error, we affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Andrew S. Basler, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gregory N. Brown.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and David Schmidt, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Gregory N. Brown, was charged in a two-count indictment with domestic aggravated assault and cruelty to animals. Defendant pled guilty to domestic aggravated assault, a Class C felony, and the cruelty to animals charge was dismissed. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve six years as a Range I standard offender in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). Defendant appeals his sentence and argues that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum sentence within the applicable range. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jackie Caldwell, pro se (on post-conviction appeal); Steve Sams and J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (at post-conviction hearing); for the appellant, Jackie Caldwell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and Scarlette W. Ellis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Jackie Caldwell, appeals the Campbell County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner stands convicted of aggravated rape and is serving a twenty-two year sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, she raises the issues of ineffective assistance of counsel and an improper sentence. Following review of the record before us, we affirm the denial of relief.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Elaine Heard, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charmon D. Copeland.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Chris Buford and Stacey Smith, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Charmon D. Copeland, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-305 (2010). He was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to twenty-five years’ confinement at 100% service as a violent offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the prosecutor engaged in three instances of improper conduct, and (3) the trial court improperly sentenced him. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joseph F. Harrison, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ricky Ray Starnes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Joseph Eugene Perrin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Ricky Ray Starnes, pled guilty to a violation of a habitual traffic offender order, a Class E felony, and a violation of registration, a Class C misdemeanor. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of two years. On appeal, the appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of community corrections. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Brent Horst, Nashville, Tennessee for the appellant, Thomas D. Taylor (a/k/a “James Ray McClinton”).

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; Cynthia A. LeCroy-Schemel and Joseph Y. McCoin, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


This case is the consolidation of appeals by the Defendant, Thomas D. Taylor (a/k/a James Ray McClinton), of two cases, a direct appeal and the appeal from a the denial of a petition for a writ of error coram nobis. A Bradley County jury convicted the Defendant of especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony, and aggravated assault, a Class C felony. The trial court imposed a sentence of sixty years, at 100%, for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and ten years, at 35%, for the aggravated assault conviction. The trial court ordered these sentences to run consecutively for a total effective sentence of seventy years. In his direct appeal, the Defendant contends the following: (1) for numerous reasons, he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel; (2) the trial court erred when it limited cross-examination of the victim; (3) prosecutors engaged in misconduct; and (4) the trial court erred in failing to consider new evidence presented during the motion for new trial. In the appeal from the trial court’s denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his petition because the victim’s medical records contained newly discovered evidence. After consolidating the appeals and thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, in the Defendant’s direct appeal, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. In the Defendant’s appeal from his petition for a writ of error coram nobis, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

AG Announces Free Mortgage Hotline

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has announced that his office has partnered with the Homeownership Preservation Foundation to provide a free hotline to help distressed homeowners find mortgage relief programs. Residents in need of reliable information or referrals to foreclosure prevention counseling are encouraged to call the hotline at (855) 876-7283. Chattanoogan.com has more

Duncan Law Preparing Second Accreditation Application

One year after being denied accreditation by the American Bar Association, the faculty and staff at Lincoln Memorial University John J. Duncan Jr. School of Law have worked tirelessly preparing a second application due Dec. 31. In October, LMU hired a new interim dean, dropped its federal lawsuit against the ABA and began working cooperatively with the accrediting body during the reapplication process. The Knoxville News Sentinel has the story.

ABA Report Finds Non-J.D. Degree Enrollment Up

Although law school application numbers are down, enrollment in non-J.D. programs at ABA-approved law schools has increased substantially, the ABA Journal reports. According to preliminary data released Friday by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, schools have experienced a 52 percent increase in enrollment over the last 12 years, and a 39 percent increase in just the past seven years. Popular programs include those for nonlawyer professionals who want to learn about basic concepts in the law or about the legal and regulatory environments that apply to their field of work, and lawyers who want to pursue additional degrees, such as a master of laws, to develop expertise in a particular practice area.

Patent Attorney Merges Science Background with Law

After obtaining his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, Hermant Gupta prepared for a promising career in medical research until he met a patent lawyer. Instead of completing his master degree as he originally intended, Gupta entered the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. He is now one of a handful of patent lawyers in private practice in Memphis. The Memphis Daily News has more in its Law Talk column

Court Rules Against Death Row Inmate's Disability Claim

The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision that death row inmate David Keen may not reopen his post-conviction proceeding 19 years after his original death sentence to assert he is intellectually disabled. In an opinion authored by Justice William C. Koch, the court ruled that the statute permitting inmates to reopen their post-conviction proceedings did not apply to Keen’s claims since the statute allows reopening a proceeding when there is scientific evidence that an inmate is “actually innocent of the offense,” and Keen was not claiming that he did not commit the crime for which he was convicted.

Ramsey to Join GOPAC Advisory Board

Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville will join the Legislative Leaders Advisory Board of GOPAC in 2013, reports the Nashville Ledger. Formed in 1978, GOPAC is a conservative political group that recruits and trains Republican political candidates. According to Ramsey, the group was crucial to his early success in the legislature.

Judge Dismisses Suit Challenging Senate Filibuster

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed a legal claim that Senate filibusters, a stalling tactic often used to block judicial nominations, deny majority rule in an unconstitutional fashion, Gavel Grab reports. Judge Sullivan said that Common Cause and other plaintiffs did not have a legal right to litigate the issue, and that it would infringe on the Senate’s power if the court took the case.

ABA Promotes Equality Through Town Hall Series

The American Bar Association will hold a Town Hall Discussion “Advocating for Equality in the Next Generation – Disability Rights” at Vanderbilt University Law School on Jan. 25, 2013, in the Moore Room. The ABA Town Hall Series is designed to encourage dialogue among law students, young lawyers, experienced members of the bar, and others in the community about how the legal profession should address issues of inequality, intolerance and discrimination in the profession and in society. Paula Pearlman, executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center will be the keynote speaker. Registration is free. Please RSVP by Jan. 23 to irr@americanbar.org

Volunteers Needed for College Mock Trial Tournament

The opening round of the American Mock Trial Association’s 29th National Intercollegiate Tournament will be held at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis on March 22, 23 and 24, 2013. Attorneys in the state are invited to serve as judges for one or more of the four rounds. Informational session will be held one hour prior to each round. To volunteer or to get more information, contact Barbara Pohlmann at (901) 624-0309 or pohlmannb@rhodes.edu, or Marcus Pohlmann at (901) 843-3843 or pohlmann@rhodes.edu.


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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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