Judicial Redistricting May Be on Legislature’s Docket

Tennessee’s judicial districts have not been redrawn since 1984 and some powerful voices in the General Assembly are saying it is time to rework the borders to reflect changes in the state’s population, according to TN Report. “Rural counties have become suburban counties, and suburban counties now wrestle with issues similar to urban counties,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said in a statement. “Put simply, our state is a dramatically different place than it was when the last redistricting occurred. This naturally results in inefficiency and misallocation of resources.” Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, the new chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which likely would handle the task, said the issue is “worthy of consideration.” The TBA has obtained a draft map and talking points supporting its proposed changes. Both were circulated last fall.

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
01 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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


Sharlina Pye-Mack, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Antonio Freeman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jennifer L. Smith, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

On December 19, 2012, Appellant, Antonio Freeman, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, section 2.01, filed a petition for an interlocutory appeal as of right. The petition sought an appeal of the trial court’s order denying his motion to have the trial judge recused. The Appellant asks this Court to review the trial judge’s order denying his motion to recuse. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B, Sec. 1. Appellant presents the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether a person of ordinary prudence in the trial court’s position, knowing all the facts known to the trial court, would find a reasonable basis for questioning the trial court’s impartiality in the present case; and (2) whether Rule 10B requires specific language as to why the motion for recusal is not presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation. After a thorough de novo review of the record and relevant authorities, we conclude that the trial court properly denied Appellant’s motion for recusal. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joe M. Gilbert, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Kim Helper, District Attorney General; and Mary Katharine White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Williamson county jury convicted the Petitioner, Joe M. Gilbert, of aggravated child abuse in 2006, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to fifteen years in prison. In 2012, the Petitioner filed a writ of error coram nobis, which the trial court dismissed without a hearing after finding that coram nobis relief was not applicable to the Petitioner’s claim. The Petitioner appeals, claiming that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing the petition without an evidentiary hearing. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James John Lewis, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; and Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


James John Lewis (“the Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that the trial court erred in not investigating the medications the Petitioner was taking when he entered his guilty plea and accordingly erred in accepting the Petitioner’s guilty plea. The habeas corpus court summarily denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael D. Cox, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeffrey Martin.

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


The Petitioner, Jeffrey Martin, entered a best-interest guilty plea in two cases. In one case, he pled guilty to statutory rape in exchange for a suspended two-year sentence. In the second case, the Petitioner pled guilty to the sale of .5 grams or more of cocaine, and he received a sentence of twenty years in prison as a Range II, multiple offender. The trial judge ordered that the sentences run concurrently, and it ordered that the sentences run concurrently with all other Maury County convictions. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, causing his guilty pleas to be entered unknowingly and involuntarily. The Petitioner also argues that the post-conviction court erred when it required him to testify at the post-conviction hearing about the underlying facts of his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we conclude that the Petitioner did not establish that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, that his guilty pleas were knowingly and voluntarily entered, and that the post-conviction court did not err in requiring the Petitioner’s testimony. Accordingly, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of the petition for post-conviction relief.

New Trial Granted for 1 in Torture-Slaying Case

Senior Judge Walter Kurtz today denied new trials for two brothers convicted in the 2007 slayings of a Knox County couple, but granted a retrial for a third defendant, Knoxnews.com reports. Lemaricus Davidson, who is facing the death penalty, and his brother, Letalvis Cobbins, who is serving life without parole, will not get new trials because, according to Kurtz, there was DNA evidence linking them to the killings. Their friend George Thomas, however, will get a second chance because former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over the original trial, did not rule on whether he could serve as a "13th juror" in the case. The issue of new trials for several defendants arose in the wake of a pill scandal that implicated Baumgartner and raised questions about the legitimacy of verdicts handed down in his court.

Firm Expands to Middle Tenn., Relocates Memphis Office

Divorce Incorporated, a family law firm based in Jackson, has opened a new office in Clarksville and moved its Collierville office to Memphis. The Clarksville office is located at 318 Franklin St., Clarksville 37040. It can be reached at (931) 896-2400. The firm’s new office in Memphis is located in the Forum I Building at 6750 Poplar Ave., Memphis 38138. It can be reached at (901) 672-7745. Divorce Incorporated is a boutique family law firm, focusing on, but not limited to, the areas of divorce, child custody, child support and other family law matters.

Tennessee Native, Former ABA President Dies

Wm. Reece Smith Jr., whose legal career was recounted in the book "A Consummate Lawyer", died Jan. 11 after a brief illness. He was 87. Smith was president of the American Bar Association from 1980-1981 and during that time established the ABA Center for Pro Bono. He also chaired the ABA's Committee on Legal Services for 12 years. During the 1980s, Smith opposed the Reagan Administration's efforts to defund the Legal Services Corporation and is credited with leading a lawyer "March on Washington" – an event that eventually led to the creation of ABA Day. Though he was born in Athens, Tenn., Smith attended the University of Florida College of Law and practiced in Tampa with the firm of Carlton Fields. Funeral services will be held Thursday at the Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the ABA Fund for Justice and Education, the Florida Bar Foundation, Bay Area Legal Services or the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation. Learn more about his life and the funeral arrangements from Carlton Fields.

Court Weighs Whether Judge or Jury Can Impose Sentence Enhancement

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a jury or a judge should have the final say on facts that can trigger mandatory minimum sentences in criminal trials, reports the Associated Press. The justices heard arguments yesterday in the case of Allen Alleyne, who was convicted of robbery and firearm possession. The jury found that Alleyne's accomplice did not brandish a weapon, but the judge said he did, raising Alleyne's minimum sentence from five to seven years on that charge. Alleyne's lawyers say the brandishing decision should have been the jury's, and it should have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not the lower standard used by the judge.

Court Will Hear 6 New Cases in April

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear six cases during its April sitting, which begins April 15. The cases include questions of whether an individual who has not been arrested but is interviewed by police has the right to remain silent; whether federal funds can be withheld from anti-AIDS groups that do not actively oppose prostitution; whether federal law preempts port regulations that limit the operations of federally licensed truckers; whether state or federal law controls the right to receive death benefits from a federal employee’s life insurance policy; whether the federal anti-extortion act applies to a private individual fighting a government recommendation about a pension fund; and whether Congress has authority to make failure to register for a sex crime a federal offense long after the sentence imposed for the crime is completed. Learn more on SCOTUSBlog.

Justice Thomas Breaks Years of Silence on Bench

It was just a few words and a joke at that, but Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas broke his seven-year long silence on Monday when he spoke at oral arguments. What Thomas said is not clear, other than he appears to have joked about Ivy League lawyers, reports the Associated Press. The argument transcript only records a few words. It quotes Thomas as saying, "Well, he did not..." Several justices laughed in response. Louisiana lawyer Carla Sigler replied: "I would refute that, Justice Thomas." Two lawyers in the courtroom said Thomas was joking about Ivy League law school graduates, although one said it was at the expense of Thomas' alma mater, Yale. The other said rival Harvard was the butt of the joke. Thomas hasn't asked a question in court since Feb. 22, 2006.

Urness to Chair Legal Aid Fundraising Campaign

A item in Monday's TBA Today omitted a leader in the Legal Aid Society’s 2013 Campaign for Equal Justice and misidentified the campaign chair. Bradley Arant Boult Cummings partner and Nashville Pro Bono Program Chair Thor Urness will serve as the overall campaign chair for the 2013 fundraising effort, while Vic Alexander with KraftCPAs PLLC will serve as community chair.

Volunteers Needed for Moot Court, Mock Trial Events

Lawyers and sitting judges are needed to preside over the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition and the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, both of which are being held by the Southern Region of the National Black Law Students Association Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 in Nashville. Volunteers are needed for a variety of time slots. See the schedule and sign up online for the moot court competition or the mock trial competition. For additional information, contact the southern region at srblsa.mocktrial@nblsa.org.

Censure Imposed on Davidson County Lawyer

Davidson County lawyer Quenton White received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Jan. 15. The board found that for over a month, White practiced law while his license was administratively suspended for IOLTA noncompliance and failure to pay the annual registration fee. His actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5. 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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