Judge Says Redistricting would Cost $700k

Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Seely Jr. outlined his opposition to a proposed judicial redistricting plan in a letter to state lawmakers. Seely wrote that the plan to pull three counties from the 1st Judicial District into its own region could cost the state more than $700,000 a year and destroy a system that does not need fixing. “It may well be that some districts need to be changed, but the 1st Judicial District has worked fine as it is for the 28 years that I have been a circuit judge and it is certainly going to cost the state quite a bit yearly to separate our district,” Seeley said in the letter, which he povided to the Johnson City Press.

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
01 - 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

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

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Jerome Douglas, Memphis, Tennessee, pro se

M. Dean Norris, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Ledic Realty Service and Liberty Mutual Group


An employee alleged that he sustained a compensable injury to his lower back. His employer denied his workers’ compensation claim. At trial, the employee failed to present expert medical testimony. At the conclusion of the employee’s case, the trial court granted the employer’s motion for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02(2) because the employee did not present any expert medical testimony. The employee has appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Mark Robert Olson, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Durrett Investment Company, LP.

James L. Murphy, III, Joel Eckert, and Molly Devlin Loughney, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Clarksville, Tennessee.


City enacted an ordinance imposing a temporary moratorium on development of land within a 250 foot corridor abutting land owned by developer. Developer sued City asserting claims for inverse condemnation, wrongful taking, tortious interference with business relationships, and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; City filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which the trial court granted. Developer appeals, contending that the temporary moratorium constituted a taking and that the tortious interference with business relationships and interference with contract rights claims were allowed pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s tort claims and reverse the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s inverse condemnation and takings claims.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Randall J. Fishman and Richard S. Townley, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Plaintiffs/Appellants Norma Ellington and Clifton Ellington, individually and on behalf of Jerome Ellington

Richard Glassman and James F. Horner, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendants/Appellees Jackson Bowling & Family Fun Center, L.L.C., and Jackson Bowling & Recreation Center, Inc.

Judge: KIRBY

This is a wrongful death action predicated on premises liability. The lawsuit arose out of a fight in the parking lot of a bowling alley owned by the defendants. After the plaintiffs’ 19- year-old son punched a member of a rival gang, another member of the rival gang drove up and shot the plaintiffs’ son in the chest, killing him. The plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the defendant bowling alley owners for the wrongful death of their son; they asserted that the defendants acted negligently or recklessly in failing to provide adequate security on their premises. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion on two bases: (1) the defendants did not owe a duty to the plaintiffs’ son to protect him from the criminal acts of others, and (2) the undisputed evidence demonstrated that the plaintiffs’ son was at least 50% at fault for his death. The plaintiffs now appeal. We reverse, finding that the standard for summary judgment under Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Company has not been met in this case.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


George L. Rice, IV, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bradley Webb Wilkinson.

Laura D. Rogers, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Susan Crosby Wilkinson.


This is a post-divorce case. Appellee Wife and Appellant Husband entered into a marital dissolution agreement, which was incorporated, by reference, into the final decree of divorce. The agreement provided for transitional alimony payments, which would “self-terminate” upon the occurrence of certain conditions, including cohabitation. Husband developed a belief that Wife was cohabitating and, relying on the self-termination clause, ceased payment of spousal support without court intervention. Wife subsequently filed a petition for civil contempt, seeking a monetary judgment in the amount of alimony arrears and attorney’s fees. The trial court determined that Husband was not in contempt, but awarded alimony arrears and attorney’s fees in favor of Wife. Husband appeals. Affirmed and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Patrick Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terresa V. B.

Kevin D. C., Jackson, Tennessee, appellee, Pro Se.


The Juvenile Court Referee named Mother as the child’s primary residential parent and awarded visitation rights to Father. Mother requested a rehearing of the Referee’s decision before the Juvenile Court Judge, alleging that “visitation was unfairly decided.” Prior to the rehearing, the parties filed numerous petitions and motions related to visitation and custody, including requests for orders of protection and petitions for contempt. After a ten-day hearing, the Juvenile Court found that it was in the best interest of the child that Father be named her primary residential parent. Mother argues on appeal that the Juvenile Court should have applied the “material change of circumstances” standard to the evidence before it, and that, in any case, naming Father the primary residential parent was not in the child’s best interest. We find, however, that the court was correct to decide the question of custody solely on the basis of the best interest of the child since this was not a modification action. Because the Mother has attempted to prevent Father from having any relationship whatsoever with his child, we also affirm the trial court’s judgment naming Father as the primary residential parent.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael A. Colavecchio, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mousen Yisak Aden.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Rob McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Mousen Yisak Aden, of aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jeanne L. Wiggins, Assistant Public Defender, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mark Zane Gibson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and Andrew Freiberg, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Mark Zane Gibson, was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury for one count each of aggravated sexual battery, rape, and incest. At the conclusion of trial, the jury convicted Appellant of attempted aggravated sexual battery and rape. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an effective sentence of fifteen years. On appeal, Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred in setting the length of his sentences by not applying any mitigating factors and in denying his request for alternative sentencing. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. With regard to his sentence, Appellant committed the crime between July 1, 1982, and June 7, 2005. Therefore, the prior sentencing law should apply to his sentence unless Appellant executed an ex post facto waiver. There is no such waiver in the record, and it appears that the trial court applied the new sentencing act when sentencing Appellant. Therefore, Appellant’s sentence must be reversed and a new sentencing hearing must be held. For these reasons, we affirm Appellant’s convictions and reverse his sentence and remand for a new sentencing hearing.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Greg W. Eichelman, District Public Defender; and DeAnna M. Snyder, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Leia Mellott.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General; and Dan Armstrong, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Leia Mellott, challenges her jury conviction for filing a false report, contending that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain her conviction. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury’s verdict that the Defendant made a knowingly false statement to law enforcement to obstruct their apprehension of a fugitive and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Study Shows Racial Disparity in Sentencing

According to a report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, black men on average are given sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those served by white men for similar crimes. The ABA Journal reports that the findings show the racial divide in sentencing has widened since the Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in U.S. v. Booker, which struck down a 1984 law requiring judges to impose sentences within the sentencing guidelines. The study showed black men are also 25 percent less likely to receive a sentence below the sentencing guidelines. 

Court Rules Police Dogs Don't Have to Prove Training

The Supreme Court ruled today that police do not have to extensively document and log the work of drug-sniffing dogs to be able to use the results of their work in court. Knoxnews reports Justice Elena Kagan wrote for a unanimous court stating that courts should apply the same tests to dog sniffs they do when they look at other issues of whether police have probable cause to take an action. The court’s ruling overturns a decision by the Florida Supreme Court in a case involving Aldo, a drug-sniffing dog used by the Liberty County sheriff’s department.

Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Campaign Donation Limits

The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging campaign finance laws that limit how much an individual can give to political campaigns, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Shaun McCutcheon of Alabama and the Republican National Committee are arguing that it is unconstitutional to stop a donor from giving more than $46,200 to political candidates and $70,800 to political committees and PACs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington DC upheld the limits, but the high court decided to review the decision.

Thursday’s Civility Forum Gets Coverage

The TBA’s upcoming civility forum in Knoxville was highlighted in a recent Knoxnews article. The event, which features Gov. Bill Haslam and former governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist, will explore the conflict between civility and free expression when it comes to politics — especially in campaigns, debates, legislative sessions and citizen interactions. A question-and-answer session will follow. The program runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center at the University of Tennessee. It is free and open to the public.

Volunteers Needed for Saturday Events

The TBA Young Lawyers Division has two events taking place on Saturday that still need attorney volunteers. First, in Franklin, the Williamson County Mock Trial Competition begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs throughout the day. Attorneys are needed to serve as scorers while law students or legal staff are needed to serve as bailiffs. Please contact Shauna Billingsley at (615) 550-6603 or shauna.billingsley@franklintn.gov for more information. On the western side of the state, the Memphis Wills for Heroes clinic is drawing record numbers of first responders. Approximately 10 attorneys are still needed for the afternoon shift at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Please contact Joann Coston-Holloway at (901) 577-8223 or jholloway@bakerdonelson.com for details.

Proposed Bill Would Allow Non-Attorney Judges

Existing Tennessee law requires judges of all the state’s court to be attorneys, but legislation proposed by Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper, D-Memphis, and Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, would change that. The bill would repeal the requirement and allow for non-attorney judges, Gavel to Gavel reports.

Dearborn & Ewing Founding Partner Dies

Martin Ernest Simmons died Feb. 12 at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer. A Mississippi native, Simmons earned a bachelors degree from Louisiana State University where he held a leadership roles in a number of student organizations, including ROTC. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia and served two years in the military before joining the legal department of Life & Casualty Insurance Company in Nashville. Simmons later was a founding partner of the Dearborn & Ewing law firm and helped form the Nashville office of Frost Brown Todd LLC in 2001. Visitation was held Saturday, with funeral services following. The family has asked that memorials be made to Nashville Symphony Association, Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Sarah Cannon Research Institute, Ingram Cancer Center, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Franklin or Alive Hospice.

Free Food and Learning, Too, at Law Tech Un-Conference

Thursday's Law Tech Un-conference will give Tennessee lawyers free access to a full slate of programs, materials, networking and more. There will even be a drawing for a free iPad4 to go along with free food and refreshments all day long. Visit TennBarU for more details.


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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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