New Journal Looks at Consumer Protection Cuts, More

In the February Tennessee Bar Journal, James M. Davis covers the effects updates to the TCPA had on relief available to consumers and businesses. Steven W. Feldman analyzes employee handbooks and makes the distinction between employee contractual rights and workplace policies. Columnists cover differences in state and federal pleading standards, demonstrative evidence and long-term care planning.

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
04 - 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

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TN Supreme Court

CORRECTION: On page 11, lines 20-21, "milieu[" at the end of line 20 is moved to line 21 by using a hard return so it reads "milieu[ that]" without breaking up the brackets. On page 13, line 17, "979 S.W.2d at 584" is changed to "979 S.W.2d at 583"

Court: TN Supreme Court


Robert L. Jolley, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Kinte Echols.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe and Mark A. Fulks, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Philip Morton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant, convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison, appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals alleging a number of errors in the conduct of the trial, particularly the trial court’s failure to suppress a statement the defendant had made to the police. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the statement was the product of an unlawful arrest, but held that the admission of the statement qualified as harmless error. This Court granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal in order to determine the propriety of the defendant’s arrest and to consider whether the Court of Criminal Appeals had used the appropriate standard of review in its harmless error analysis. Because the arrest of the defendant was supported by probable cause and there was no other prejudicial error during the course of the trial, the judgment is affirmed.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Peter T. Skeie, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, David and Connie Prince.

John A. Barney, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellees, Wilson & Associates, PLLC, Aaron Squyres and Leslie Garrett Sarver.


Plaintiffs appeal the dismissal pursuant to Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure of their claims for conspiracy, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress arising from an alleged wrongful foreclosure. We affirm the trial court in all respects.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Laurie Y. Young, Joe M. Brandon, Jr., Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nicolle M. Johnson.

Daryl Miller South, David O. Haley, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Brian Keith Johnson.


Mother and Father were divorced, and Mother was named the primary residential parent of their three children. Mother remarried and decided to relocate to California. Father opposed the relocation and sought to be named the primary residential parent. By the time of hearing, relocation of only one child was at issue. Father introduced expert testimony that the relocation would pose a threat of specific and serious harm to the child that outweighed the threat of harm to the child from a change of custody, as set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. §36-6- 108(d)(1)(B). Relying on the expert’s testimony, the trial court denied Mother the opportunity to relocate with the child to California. Mother appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Howard L. Upchurch, Pikeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronald Van Jolley.

William A. Cameron, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Connie Lou Jolley.


In this divorce proceeding, Husband appeals the trial court’s determination that, pursuant to the unclean hands doctrine, he is not entitled to proceeds of property sold in a partition action. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


C. David Briley and Charles Robert Bone, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, The 4-J, L.P.

Edward D. Russell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Chicago Title Insurance Company.


In this case regarding title insurance company’s duty to seller of real property, the trial court found no factual dispute regarding the escrow agent’s apparent agency and granted summary judgment to title insurance company against seller of real property. Discerning no error, we affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael E. Scholl, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fredrick Milan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Stephanie Johnson, Assistant District Attorney General; Betsy Weintraub, Assistant District Attorney General; and Marline Iverson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Petitioner, Fredrick Milan, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. More specifically he contends that (1) trial counsel failed to convey a twenty-five year offer by the State; and (2) trial counsel failed to call certain witnesses to testify at trial. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to show that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

CORRECTION: On page 10, last paragraph, 3rd line "molested and sexual abused" to "molested and sexually abused".

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


D. Brent Gray (on appeal) and Robert W. Scott (at trial), Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph Nathaniel Nance.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Matthew Bryant Haskell, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; Scarlett W. Ellis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Joseph Nathaniel Nance, was convicted of six counts of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an 18-year sentence for each rape of a child conviction and a 10-year sentence for the aggravated sexual battery conviction. The court ordered consecutive service of several of the convictions, resulting in a total effective sentence of 64 years. On appeal, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred by excluding sexual entries from the victim’s MySpace page as irrelevant and inadmissible; (2) whether the trial court erred by allowing evidence of the victim’s prior sexual history to be used only for impeachment purposes; (3) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions; and (4) whether the Defendant’s effective 64-year sentence was excessive. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Edwin C. Lenow, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Antonio Starks.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jennifer Nichols and Carrie Shelton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Antonio Starks, of first degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse, and the trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of life and fifteen years, respectively. On appeal, the appellant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (2) the trial court erred by allowing witnesses to testify about his previous abuse of the victim; (3) the trial court erred by refusing to allow him to question the victim’s mother about a prior conviction; (4) the trial court should have granted a mistrial when a police officer testified that the victim had been sexually abused; (5) the trial court should have given a curative instruction when the State made an improper comment during closing arguments; and (6) the trial court should have granted a new trial because the State failed to disclose that the victim’s mother received favorable treatment in return for her testimony. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Religious Groups Win Fight Over Contraception Coverage

The Catholic Diocese of Nashville and other faith-based groups won their fight to be exempt from having to provide contraception coverage for workers under new rules released today by the Obama administration. The Tennessean states that the new rules expand the exemption for religious groups to include religious hospitals, charities and schools.

Christian-Newsome Defendant Sentenced to 35 Years

Vanessa Coleman was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the 2007 torture-slayings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsome, Knoxnews reports. In November, a jury found her guilty of facilitating the kidnapping, rapes, and death of Christian. Coleman was tried and found guilty in May 2010, but was granted a new trial in the wake of a pill scandal involving former judge Richard Baumgartner who presided over the original proceedings.

Widower of Meningitis Victim Sues St. Thomas

Widower Wayne Reed filed a lawsuit against the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center and its owners after his wife died in last year’s meningitis outbreak from tainted injections she received at the clinic. The Nashville Ledger reports that the lawsuit also challenges caps on medical malpractice awards in a new state law, and seeks $12.5 million in compulsory damages. Reed is disabled and the suit claims his wife was his primary caregiver.

Perfume Patent Holder Sued for Defamation

Derek Bishopp, the inventor of the now ubiquitous pull-apart paper strip used by perfume advertisements in consumer magazines, is being sued by Chattanooga company Arcade Inc. for defamation, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Bishopp posted online allegations and other negative comments alleging Arcade owes him nearly $3 million stemming from a 1993 contract. Attorneys for Arcade claim the contract was fulfilled years ago and have asked Hamilton Circuit Court Judge Marie Williams to stop Bishopp from continuing disparaging statements.

Police Investigate Attorney Shootings

Two attorneys have been shot and killed over work-related grievances this week. Phoenix attorney Mark Hummels was gunned down after an arbitration meeting at a north-Phoenix law office, azcentral reports. His client — Steven D. Singer, CEO of Fusion Contact Centers — was also killed. The gunman was identified as Arthur Douglas Harmon who had been in a nearly yearlong legal battle with Singer over a business deal. He was found dead yesterday morning from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Texas prosecutor Mark Hasse was fatally shot multiple times while walking to work at a courthouse. Gunmen ambushed him in the parking lot, and then drove off from the scene together. Kaufman County authorities are investigating and have offered a $20,000 reward for the capture and conviction of the assailants.

Knox County Sues School Security System Installer

Knox County and the Public Building Authority (PBA) have filed suit against Professional Security Consultants and Design, which installed security systems throughout all Knox County schools, Knoxnews reports. An independent audit of security system installation at the Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School revealed a host of problems with the work. The lawsuit seeks more than $400,000 to fix the firm’s “breaches, deficiencies and code violations” at Hardin Valley and Powell Middle. The firm in turn filed a countercomplaint alleging PBA and the school system owe it nearly $300,000 for additional work done to satisfy PBA’s complaints.

Legal Panel Re-examines 1860s Trial

Sumner County criminal court judge Dee David Gay, Chancellor Tom Grey, Penny White and James E. Mackler participated on a panel that re-examined the 1865 trial of Mary Surratt, the first women executed by the federal government. Surratt was convicted of being co-conspirator of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Following a viewing of the 2010 film “The Conspirator,” the analysis concluded that Surratt had been tried in a mock court that set out to convict her without following the rules of justice or fairness. The event took place during a continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the Sumner County Tennessee Bar Association, the Tennessean reports.

New Healthcare Ruling Puts Pressure on Employers

Under a new reform released this week by the U.S. Treasury Department, large employers will now face penalties for every employee who receives federally subsidized coverage. The Affordable Care Act provides federal subsidies to workers who aren't able to get "affordable" insurance through their employers, which is defined as less than 9.5 percent of household income. The rule applies that 9.5 percent to the cost of a worker's individual coverage however, not the cost to cover an entire family. Businesses with 50 or more full time workers must now “face decisions on the amount their employees contribute to their own health insurance,” John Graves said in an email to the Nashville Business Journal.

Southern Law Students at Bar Center for Mock Trial

Law students from across the Southeast were at the Tennessee Bar Center today and Jan. 31 for the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial competition that was part of the 2013 Southern Regional Black Law Student Association (SRBLSA) Regional Convention in Nashville. A number of local attorneys and judges volunteered to serve as judges in the competition.

Appeals Court Clerk to Retire After 25 Years

Nashville appellate court clerk Janice Rawls will retire at the end of March after 25 years of service, the court announced Thursday. Rawles has served as chief deputy clerk since 1999, and has been with the clerk’s office since 1987.

States Propose Judicial Selection Legislation

Several states have recently announced their support for merit selection over judicial election, according to the newsletter of the Justice at Stake Campaign. Gavel Grab reports that 61 percent of voters in Kansas oppose rewriting the state’s constitution to change the merit selection process for choosing Kansas Supreme Court justices to judicial elections. Numerous newspaper editorial boards have called for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to do away with its judicial election system. A Beloit Daily News editorial says, “Political manipulation has infected Wisconsin’s system of justice. That is intolerable.” The Pennsylvania legislature recently introduced a bill to end judicial election in the Supreme Court in the wake of corruption charges surrounding suspended justice Joan Orie Melvin.


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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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