Five Apply for Circuit Court Vacancy

Five attorneys have applied to fill the 17th Judicial District Circuit Court vacancy created by the Hon. Robert Crigler’s retirement. The 17th district serves Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties. The candidates are Forest A. Durard Jr. of Shelbyville, Brooke Charles Grubb of Fayetteville, Barbara G. Medley of Lewisburg, John Harvey Norton III of Shelbyville and Michael Randles of Lewisburg. The Judicial Nomination Commission will hold a public meeting March 8 at the Blue Ribbon Circle Club/Celebration Grounds in Shelbyville to interview the applicants.

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
07 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
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00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR
00 - TN Supreme Court - Disciplinary Orders









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TN Court of Appeals

MARVIN BERNATSKY AND PATRICIA BERNATSKY v. DESIGNER BATHS & KITCHENS, LLC
With concurring opinions.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Steven R. Walker, Oakland, Tennessee, for the Plaintiffs/Appellants Marvin Bernatsky and Patricia Bernatsky

Robert A. Wampler, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant/Appellee Designer Baths & Kitchens, LLC (no brief filed)

Judge: KIRBY

In this case, we address the bond requirements for an appeal from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court. The plaintiffs sued the defendant for damages in General Sessions Court, and a judgment was entered in favor of the defendant. The plaintiffs sought a de novo appeal to Circuit Court. Within ten days of the General Sessions Court judgment, the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal and paid $211.50 to the General Sessions Court clerk, pursuant to T.C.A. § 8-21-401(b)(1)(C)(i). The plaintiffs did not file any further bond at that time, but later filed a $500 cost bond. The Circuit Court dismissed the appeal sua sponte, holding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the plaintiffs had failed to comply with the appeal-bond requirement in T.C.A. § 27-5-103. The plaintiffs now appeal. After careful review of the statutes and caselaw, we overrule this Court’s prior decision in Jacob v. Partee, No. W2012- 00205-COA-R3-CV, 2012 WL 3249605 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug 10, 2012), and conclude that payment of a cash bond in the amount of the statutory court costs set out in Section 8-21- 401(b)(1)(C)(i) satisfied the plaintiffs’ obligation to “give bond with good security . . . for the costs of the appeal” under Section 27-5-103(a), and so the Circuit Court had subjectmatter jurisdiction over the appeal. Accordingly, we reverse the Circuit Court’s dismissal of the action and remand for further proceedings.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

TIMOTHY A. BAXTER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Timothy A. Baxter, Tiptonville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

The Petitioner, Timothy A. Baxter, appeals the Circuit Court of Madison County’s dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the trial court’s dismissal pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


CURTIS KELLER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Curtis Keller, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Curtis Keller, appeals the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


JOHN JOSEPH KRATOCHVIL v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William Justin Conway (on post-conviction), Nashville, Tennessee; for the appellant, John Joseph Kratochvile.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Katrin Miller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, John Joseph Kratochvil, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner pled guilty to second degree murder and received an agreed to sentence, out of range, of thirty-five years as a multiple offender. On appeal, he contends that his plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by: (1) failing to explain the difference between Range I and II sentences, sentencing outside of range, and the elements of the crime; (2) failing to inquire, investigate, or explain how the various circumstance in his case might have led to a competent defense involving “heat of passion”; (3) failing to investigate and move to suppress search warrants issued in the case; and (4) failing to inform the petitioner that the prosecution was statutorily required to provide a Notice of Enhanced Punishment within ten days of trial. Following review of the record, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.


JARVIS McCLAIN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Zipporah C. Williams, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jarvis McClain.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Lora Fowler, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Jarvis McClain, entered a guilty plea in the Shelby County Criminal Court to especially aggravated robbery and received the agreed-upon sentence of thirteen and one-half years in prison as a mitigated offender to be served at 100% release eligibility. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied after an evidentiary hearing. In this appeal, petitioner claims that trial counsel was ineffective for several reasons: (1) failing to explain the terms of his plea agreement; (2) failing to explain the range of punishment for the offense for which petitioner was indicted; and (3) failing to disclose to petitioner evidence discovered by the investigator. He also claims that the ineffective assistance of counsel rendered his guilty plea involuntary. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


EVETTA MAI MCGEE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Forest Durard, Jr. (on post-conviction) Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Evetta Mai McGee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, Evetta Mai McGee, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner entered an open plea to one count of rape and was subsequently sentenced to a term of eleven years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, she contends that her plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily because she did not comprehend that a “best interest” plea was actually a plea of guilty. She further contends that her plea was not proper because trial counsel was ineffective in failing to adequately prepare and interview witnesses. Following review of the record, the denial of post-conviction relief is affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KEN PARKER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph S. Ozment (on appeal) and Larry Copeland (at trial) Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ken Parker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Neal Oldham and Paul Hagerman, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Ken Parker (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of first degree felony murder and first degree premeditated murder. The trial court merged the first degree premeditated murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in not granting a mistrial with respect to a police officer’s testimony. Additionally, 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.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GREGORY G. SPICELAND

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gregory G. Spiceland, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; and Dan Mitchum Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Following a jury trial, Defendant, Gregory G. Spiceland, was convicted of one count of initiating the process to manufacture methamphetamine and one count of promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to eight years and two years respectively for his convictions, and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently. Defendant was ordered to serve a sentence of split confinement with one year of his effective sentence in confinement and the remainder suspended on probation. In this direct appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by ordering a sentence of split confinement. Specifically, Defendant argues that the trial court should not have found that Defendant was engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct and that Defendant’s failure to complete his presentence report indicated that Defendant would not be successful on probation. Defendant also contends that the trial court erred by not ordering Defendant to serve his sentence on community corrections. Following a review of the record, we find that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering Defendant to serve a full year of his sentence by incarceration. We therefore reverse Defendant’s sentence and modify it so that Defendant serves 30 days of his sentence in confinement with the balance of his effective sentence served on probation, and remand to the trial court for entry of a judgment in accordance with this opinion.


Tennessee Rejects Health Care Exchange Partnership

Tennessee will not participate in a partnership with the federal government to establish a health care exchange, Knoxnews reports. In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Resources Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Haslam said the partnership model does not address his concerns over what he called misguided federal policies, aggressive timelines and a lack of flexibility for  states. He noted he had the same complains when he rejected a state-based exchange in December.


Nominations Accepted for Chancery Court Vacancy

Nominations are being accepted for the 3rd Judicial District Chancery Court seat, which became vacant when Chancellor Thomas R. “Skip” Frierson’s was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The 3rd district serves Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins and Greene counties. Applications are due to the Judicial Nominating Commission by March 11.


Mississippi Bill Would Allow Arming School Staff

In the ongoing national debate on curbing school violence, the Mississippi House is moving strongly to the side of arming school staff. This week it passed legislation giving school boards the authority to arm an unlimited number of authorized school personnel. An amendment to require psychological evaluations for those designated to carry weapons failed. The Memphis Business Journal has the story.


Judge Approves Transocean Guilty Plea

A federal judge has approved Transocean Deepwater Ltd’s criminal plea as part of a $1.4 billion settlement with the Justice Department over liability for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Law Journal reports. The company pleaded guilty on Jan. 3 to one misdemeanor count of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act by contributing to the discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and agreed to pay $400 million in criminal penalties.


Exhibit Highlights African American Lawmakers

An online exhibit dedicated to the 14 African Americans elected to the Tennessee General Assembly between 1874 and 1887 is being updated and expanded in honor of Black History Month. “This Honorable Body: African American Legislators in 19th Century Tennessee” was created in 2006 at the request of the state legislature’s black caucus, and has become one of the most popular online exhibits according to WATE News 6. Updates feature more detailed biographies of the each of the lawmakers and texts of the bills they sponsored while serving in the General Assembly.


Judicial Selection Vote Delayed

State Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, requested to delay a vote on a constitutional amendment that would abolish Tennessee’s current method of judicial selection during Thursday’s legislative session. Ford said she had questions and wanted to wait until the state attorney general addressed them. Despite controversy and brief confusion over delaying the vote, the motion to roll the bill until next Thursday was approved. WMC News 5 has the story.


Memphis-Area Lawmakers Try Again At Creating Municipal Schools

Lawmakers have filed a new bill to legalize the creation of municipal school systems despite the previous attempt being overturned in November by U.S. District Judge Samuel Mays, the Memphis Business Journal reports.


Charter School Bill Targets Nashville, Memphis

A new bill that would allow groups looking to open charter schools to circumvent the local school board and apply straight to the state Board of Education appears targeted at the Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) system, the Nashville City Paper reports. The proposal would only apply to ounties with a population of at least 600,000 -- Davidson and Shelby counties -- but was likely prompted by last year's dustup between MNPS and the state over the rejection of a charter school proposal. After passage by a House subcommittee this week, the bill is headed to the full Education Committee.


Memphis Attorney Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court today suspended the law license of David J. Johnson based on his conviction for wire fraud. Johnson was ordered to fully comply with the provisions of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 18, which requires, in part, withdrawal from representation and prohibits undertaking any new representation. 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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