TBA Finds Need for Conservatorship Law Changes

The Tennessee Bar Association Board of Governors approved a series of proposed changes in state conservatorship law at its winter meeting Saturday. The recommendations now will be forwarded to legislative leaders. Among the proposed changes, the recommendation establishes a uniform emergency placement process, clarifies the role of guardians ad litem, requires court orders to specify rights being taken away and calls for more frequent financial reports. The recommendations follow a series of hearings held across the state at which committee members heard from witnesses who lost all of their assets as victims of conservatorships. Read more in The Tennessean or download a copy of the TBA’s recommended changes.

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.

02 - TN Supreme Court
01 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - 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


Court: TN Supreme Court


Molly Glover and Jeffrey E. Nicoson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Dyer’s Employment Agency, Inc. and United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company.

Jay E. DeGroot, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Timmy Dale Britt.

Judge: CLARK

The employer, a temporary staffing agency, assigned the employee to work temporarily at a manufacturing facility. The employee sustained a compensable work-related injury three weeks into the assignment and reported the injury to the employer. At about the same time, the manufacturing facility notified the employer that employee’s assignment had ended. Consistent with its business practice, the employer terminated the employee’s employment and did not return the employee to work after the injury. The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court awarded benefits; however, citing the temporary nature of the employment, the trial court applied the statute capping the award at one and one-half times the medical impairment rating. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(A) (2008 & Supp. 2012). The Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel vacated the judgment of the trial court and remanded for a determination of whether the employee had a meaningful return to work. We hold that because the employer neither returned the employee to work after his injury, nor offered him an opportunity to return to work, nor terminated his employment for misconduct, the award of benefits is governed by the statute authorizing benefits up to six times the medical impairment rating, see id. § 50-6- 241(d)(2)(A), not by the statute capping benefits at one and one-half times the medical impairment rating, see id. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). The judgments of the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel and trial court are vacated, and this case is remanded to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this decision.

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Timothy W. Conner and Meredith B. Weaver, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, S & ME, Inc. and Ohio Casualty Insurance Company.

Tony Seaton and Robert Bates, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael Draine.


In this workers’ compensation case, a Hawkins County employee sustained a compensable injury in September 2000. His claim was settled in July 2003. The settlement, which was approved by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, provided that the employer would continue to provide medical care for the injury in accordance with the workers’ compensation law. In 2009, the employee and his employer’s insurer entered into an agreement closing future medical benefits in exchange for a lump sum payment, subject to approval by Medicare. This settlement closing future medical benefits was approved by the Circuit Court for Knox County by agreement of the parties. Medicare declined to approve the proposed agreement and suggested an alternate, much larger, lump sum payment. The employee filed a petition in the Circuit Court for Sullivan County to enforce the settlement agreement as amended by Medicare. The employer and insurer moved to dismiss, based on improper venue. That motion was denied. After a series of non-evidentiary hearings, the trial court ordered the employer’s insurer to make a lump sum payment in excess of $500,000. The employer and insurer have appealed, contending that the trial court erred by denying their motion to dismiss, and by ordering the $500,000 payment. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the 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. We conclude that the trial court erred by denying the motion to dismiss, and therefore reverse.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Matthew C. Haralson, Melanie E. Davis, and Andrew S. Trundle, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Norma Jean Wallace.

Ashley Harrison Shudan, Loudon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Estate of James Edgar Miller.


Many years prior to the decedent’s death, he was ordered to pay child support. Upon his death, the decedent’s ex-wife filed a claim against his estate seeking recovery of child support arrearages. The personal representative filed an exception, and the trial court denied the claim. The ex-wife appeals. We reverse.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Tom Perry Bell, Whiteville, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; and John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Tom Perry Bell, appeals pro se from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 1979 and 1984 convictions of second degree criminal sexual conduct and attempt to commit a felony, respectively. Discerning no error, we affirm the post-conviction court’s order.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Charles P. Dupree, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randy B. Braswell, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rene W. Turner, Senior Counsel; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Cameron Williams, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Randy B. Braswell, Jr., appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his 2006 convictions for second degree murder and aggravated child abuse and his effective twenty-two-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred by finding counsel provided the effective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender, Patrick Leonard, Assistant Public Defender; James K. Scott; and Darren V. Berg and Brett D. Stokes (on appeal), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Matthew James Chakales.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Zane M. Scarlett, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Matthew James Chakales, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, two counts of robbery, Class C felonies, and two counts of attempt to commit robbery, Class D felonies. See T.C.A.§§ 39-14-403, 39-13-401 (2010). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to an effective five years on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred (1) by reconsidering its previous grant of judicial diversion and (2) by revoking its previous grant of judicial diversion. Because the trial court erroneously reconsidered its previous grant of judicial diversion, we reverse the judgments of the trial court, reinstate judicial diversion, and remand for a probation revocation hearing.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Andrew S. Basler, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Lee Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; William B. Cox, District Attorney General; and Bates Bryan, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, James Lee Harris, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s orders revoking his probationary sentences and ordering the sentences to be served in confinement. The defendant’s counsel has filed a motion to withdraw pursuant to Rule 22 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. We find the motion well-taken and, in accordance with Rule 22(F), affirm the trial court’s orders pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Andrew Lee Moats, Jr., Pikeville, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; and Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Andrew Lee Moats, Jr., filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis alleging that newly discovered evidence—a recorded interview with Marlene Walker and the prior criminal record of Richard Breeden—mandated a new trial. He further argued that he was entitled to relief because the State failed to disclose this evidence and failed “to reveal all deals with witnesses.” The Knox County Criminal Court summarily dismissed the petition concluding that the Petitioner did not state a cognizable claim for coram nobis relief. Following a review of the record, we conclude that the Petitioner has failed to allege the existence of subsequently or newly discovered evidence that would warrant relief under a writ of error coram nobis. The order of summary dismissal is affirmed.

Tate Keynotes Public Service Luncheon

Former Federal Communications Commissioner Deborah Tate challenged the crowd at the Tennessee Bar Association's Public Service Luncheon in Nashville to keep their work in perspective. Her address followed the recognition of a number of Tennessee lawyers who have performed outstanding public and pro bono service during past year. See photos from the event.

Butler Snow to Expand Memphis Office

The Memphis Business Journal reports that Mississippi-based law firm Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada will invest about $1 million into its East Memphis home at Crescent Center with the anticipation of hiring as many as 25 new attorneys within the next three years. The firm, according to the paper, is just a few employees shy of maxing out its capacity on the building’s fifth floor. The new space will accommodate 20 to 25 offices on the fourth floor. Construction is expected to begin around April 1.

BPR Reinstitutes Newsletter, Releases First Issue of 2013

The Board of Professional Responsibility today announced the return of Board Notes – a semi-annual publication of the board offering information to Tennessee attorneys and judges – and released the First Quarter 2013 issue. The board will email the publication to attorneys and judges as well as post each issue on its website. Sign up here to receive Board Notes by email. See past issues here.

Court to Consider Rape Accomplice Law

Under Tennessee law, a victim of statutory rape can be considered an accomplice in the crime, but the state Supreme Court will review a case that could overturn that interpretation, reports The Tennessean. The case involves a 14-year-old girl from Arkansas and a Memphis man, who was convicted of aggravated statutory rape in 2010. Based on a decision from 1895, women in statutory rape cases may be considered accomplices if no “evidence of force” is found. That fact alone is disturbing, but also raises the question of whether evidence beyond the woman’s testimony is necessary to convict the defendant. Observers suggest the court likely will use the case to narrow the definition of “accomplice” to exclude victims of sex crimes.

Legal Clinic Saturday for Artists

Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts will hold a pro bono legal clinic for artists of every genre this Saturday at the Church of the Redeemer, 920 Caldwell Lane, Nashville 37204. The Nashville Arts & Entertainment Law Clinic will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteer attorneys will answer questions about intellectual property (including copyrights, trademarks and licensing) and entertainment law issues. Prospective clients should sign up for 30-minute appointments by emailing vlpa@abcnashville.org.

Reception to Honor New BPR Chief Counsel

The Memphis Bar Association and Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) will host a reception honoring Sandy Garrett, the new chief disciplinary counsel for the Board of Professional Responsibility, on Jan. 30 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Burch Porter & Johnson, 130 N. Court Ave., Memphis 38103. Please RSVP to Mary at (901) 271-0660 or mlynes@memphisbar.org to attend the event.

Environmental Law CLE on Tap Thursday

The TBA Environmental Law Section is hosting it annual CLE on Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. Registration opens at 8 a.m. The seminar -- titled Environmental Considerations in Mergers and Acquisitions – is designed for corporate and commercial practitioners as well as environment lawyers, who focus on environmental issues associated with the merger or consolidation of entities, and/or asset transfers that include real estate. The seminar will address applicable environmental challenges from the perspectives of the surviving entity, seller and buyer. Speakers include Catherine Anglin, David L. Henry, Rick L. Hitchcock, Darlene T. Marsh, G Scott Thomas, Devin Wells and Randy Womack. Learn more or register here.


Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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