Governors Agree on Importance of Civility

More than 300 people heard Gov. Bill Haslam and former governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist take on the topic of civility and effective governance during a lively panel discussion sponsored by the TBA's Public Education Committee Thursday in Knoxville. The panel was moderated by former TBA President Bill Haltom, who has just completed a book about civility and politics using former U.S. Senator and ambassador to China Howard Baker as the exemplar. All three governors acknowledged the powerful example of respect and cooperation set by Baker, who was in the audience accompanied by his wife Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker. "We cannot preserve our democracy without finding the right balance between civility and free speech," TBA President Jackie Dixon said of the event, which was the final of three held across the state and made possible by a grant from the American Bar Association Division for Public Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The TBA partnered with the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the First Amendment Center for the event. Read more from Knoxnews.

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
05 - TN Court of Appeals
04 - 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


Todd I. Heird, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Spherion Atlantic Workforce, LLC.

Michael Anthony Walker, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Christopher Furlough.

Judge: CLARK

We accepted review of this appeal to determine whether, when a workers’ compensation settlement involving an employee represented by counsel is approved by the Department of Labor and the SD-1 form is submitted contemporaneously with the settlement agreement, a court may set the settlement aside as non-final based on the court’s determination that the SD-1 form was not “fully completed.” We hold that when the Department of Labor approves a settlement, it implicitly approves the accompanying SD-1 form, and a court has no authority to set the settlement aside based on its independent finding that the SD-1 form was not “fully completed.” We therefore reverse the judgments of the Panel and of the trial court and dismiss the employee’s petition.

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Lori J. Keen, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Electric Research & Manufacturing Cooperative, Inc., and Ace American Insurance Co.

Jeffrey A. Garrety and Charles L. Holliday, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joseph E. Smith.


Joseph E. Smith (“Employee”) alleged that he injured his back in the course and scope of his employment with Electric Research & Manufacturing Cooperative, Inc. (“Employer”). Employee’s evaluation physician assigned a 12% permanent impairment rating to the body as a whole as a result of the injury. A physician selected through the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) process assigned a 3% permanent impairment rating to the body as a whole. The trial court found that Employee rebutted the statutory presumption of accuracy afforded the MIR physician’s rating by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(d)(5) (2008) and awarded 40% permanent partial disability to the body. Employer has appealed. After reviewing the record as we are required to do, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Keith A Hopson, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kenneth Wayne Cradic.

Phillip L. Boyd, Rogersville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gwendolyn Ann Cradic.


This case focuses, in the context of the parties’ divorce, on the distribution of their marital assets and debts. Gwendolyn Ann Cradic (“Wife”) filed a complaint for divorce against Kenneth Wayne Cradic (“Husband”) on October 24, 2008. The parties went to trial in October 2011 on the issues of fault and division of property. The court awarded Wife a divorce on the ground of inappropriate marital conduct. It then divided the parties’ assets and debts. Husband appeals the trial court’s classification of one asset and its division of marital property. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Garrett P. Swartwood, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Michael J. Jackson, Sr., and Nata M. Jackson.

Mark S. Dessauer, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellee, Roy W. Keith.


This appeal arises from a dispute concerning a contract for employment. Roy W. Keith (“Keith”) sued Michael J. Jackson, Sr. and Nata M. Jackson (“the Jacksons”) 1 in the Circuit Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”), alleging that he was not paid separation payments due to him under an employment agreement. The Jacksons answered the complaint, arguing essentially that Keith waived these payments when he accepted a job in the new corporation. Keith filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Trial Court granted. The Jacksons appeal to this Court. We hold that the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment as there remained a material controversy regarding whether Keith waived his right to payment under the employment agreement. We vacate the judgment of the Trial Court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Byron K. Lindberg, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Republic Underwriters Insurance Agency.

Tonya Kennedy Cammon, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Government Employees Insurance Company.

Andrew L. Berke and Jeremy M. Cothern, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Donald K. Nelson.


This interlocutory appeal involves the question of whether the arbitration provisions contained in Tenn. Code Ann. §56-7-1206(f)-(k)(2008), a part of the Tennessee uninsured motorist (“UM”) statutory scheme, apply to policies with UM coverage that were issued and delivered in Texas. The trial court held that the arbitration provisions do apply. The UM carriers, brought into this action pursuant to the provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. §56-7- 1206(a), appealed that decision. We reverse the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert L. J. Spence, Jr., Bryan M. Meredith, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Manish Shrivastava.

Margaret M. Chesney, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Soumya Pandey.


Following a four-day trial in this divorce case, the trial court entered an order naming the Mother primary residential parent and permitting her to relocate to Arkansas with the parties’ minor child. The Father appeals. Because the trial court failed to provide any reason for its decision, we are unable to perform a meaningful review on appeal. Therefore, we remand this matter to the trial court to enter an order that contains the findings and conclusions mandated by Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


L. Rosillo Mulligan, Harriman, Tennessee, for the appellant, Valtrella C.

Timothy Grant Elrod, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jason C. and Edana B.


This is a termination of parental rights case pertaining to two minor children (collectively “the Children”) of the defendant, Valtrella C. (“Mother”). The Children were placed in the custody of the petitioners, Jason C. and Edana B., in November 2009. The Children had been removed from Mother by the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) because of Mother’s substance abuse problems. Jason C. and Edana B. filed a petition in June 2011 seeking to terminate the parental rights of Mother. They alleged that grounds for termination existed due to abandonment based on Mother’s willful failure to visit or pay more than token support. Following a bench trial, the court granted the petition after finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Mother had willfully failed to visit the Children. The court also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interest of the Children. Mother appeals. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James O. Martin, III (on appeal), and David S. Sadlow (at post-conviction hearing), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chanda Langston.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and James Milam and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Chanda Langston, pleaded guilty without a recommended sentence to six counts of forgery and one count of theft of property valued at $60,000 or more. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of twelve years in confinement. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal, petitioner now claims that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing hearing. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ashley Preston, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Otis Maclin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Hugh Ammerman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Otis Maclin (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions based upon guilty pleas to the offenses of kidnapping, sexual battery, and aggravated assault. In accordance with the plea agreement, the Petitioner received an effective ten-year sentence. In his petition, he argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in conjunction with his guilty plea and that his plea was constitutionally infirm. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Colin Morris, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Lamont Simpson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Thomas A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and Jim Cannon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, David Lamont Simpson, was convicted of one count of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. Thereafter, he was sentenced to a term of fifteen years, to be served at 100%, in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. Because the defendant failed to file a transcript of the evidence on appeal, he is entitled to no relief, and the judgment of conviction is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joshua L. Brand, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Denzel Wallace.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner, Denzel Wallace, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of second degree murder and resulting sentence of twenty years to be served at 100%. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he did not enter his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Workers’ Comp Gets First Review Thursday

The Haslam Administration's proposal for workers’ compensation overhaul may see its first legislative test next week when it comes before the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council on Thursday at 1 p.m. The council is set up to review and comment on bills but it cannot stop legislation. A TBA Workers’ Comp Working Group has been closely following the developments and is presently reviewing the latest draft of the legislation. The long-standing policy of the TBA is to oppose moving workers’ comp claims from the courts to a purely administrative process. The TBA hopes to continue playing a constructive role in whatever legislation emerges. The administration’s amendment would replace SB 200/HB 194. TBA members have voiced their views to many lawmakers. Among those commenting was LaFollette lawyer David H. Dunaway, who wrote this letter to the editor of the Tennessee Bar Journal.

Track Legislation of Interest to Tennessee Attorneys

The TBA has a number of tools to help you track action in the Tennessee General Assembly. Read TBA Today for regular news updates and follow the TBA Action List to track bills in the General Assembly that the TBA has a direct interest in -- those it has initiated, taken a position on, or has a policy on. The TBA Watch List is a broader list of bills of interest to the Tennessee legal community.

Applicants Sought for District Court Vacancy

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis is seeking applications from those interested in being considered for an upcoming vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, created by Chief Judge Jon McCalla’s transition to senior status. Those interested should send a letter stating reasons for interest in the position and listing qualifications, a resume and college and law school transcripts to Cohen at The Clifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building, 167 N. Main, Suite 369, Memphis, TN 38103. For more information, email or call Beanie Self at (615) 544-4131. Deadline for submission is March 6 at 5 p.m. The Memphis Bar Association announced the news this week.

BPR Proposes Adding Discriminatory Conduct to Ethics Rules

The Board of Professional Responsibility has filed a petition with the Tennessee Supreme Court asking the court to amend Rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility to make it professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage, in a professional capacity, in conduct “manifesting bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.” Written comments on the proposed change should be submitted by April 1. Instructions for filing comments are in the court order attached to the petition.

Robilio Celebrates 30 Years on Bench

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Kay Robilio is celebrating 30 years of service as a judge this year. After graduating from law school in 1980, Robilio began private practice and then joined the city prosecutor’s office. Just a few years later, she was serving as a city court judge. By 1990, she was sitting on the circuit court bench – the first woman to be elected and serve a full term on the court. “I never anticipated I’d go on the bench originally. I had no plans to leave labor law. I liked it,” she says. But, “I just happened to be at a particular place at a particular time” and the rest is history. In this interview with the Memphis Daily News, Robilio talks about the challenges and rewards of her work.

Apply By Monday for ABA Posts

Tennessee lawyers interested in any of the more than 600 positions for which the ABA president makes appointments, should file their application by Monday. The TBA’s ABA Resource Committee is offering assistance to lawyers interested in applying for the various committees, commissions and other entities. Contact ABA Resource Committee Chair Jonathan Cole or ABA State Delegate Randy Noel for more information.

What's Hot in Law Tech

If you missed this week's Law Tech Conference in Nashville, you can still get a free sample of what you missed. The popular Bill & Phil Show, featuring Nashville attorney Bill Ramsey of Neal & Harwell PLC and tech guru Phillip Hampton of LogicForce Consulting, takes you on a tour through the hot tech gadgets and toys that no lawyer should be without. You can watch the one-hour program FREE for a limited time. Enjoy!

Court Limits Challenges to Workers’ Comp Settlements

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that when the state Department of Labor approves a workers’ compensation settlement and accepts the statistical data form submitted with the settlement, a court may not find that the form is incomplete and set aside the settlement on those grounds. The high court also clarified procedures for appealing or attempting to set aside a department-approved settlement. The ruling came in the case of Christopher Furlough v. Spherion Atlantic Workforce LLC.

Court to Hear 3 Criminal, 3 Civil Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review to three criminal and three civil cases. The criminal cases address consecutive sentencing and two variations of the admissibility of confessions recorded by civilians who are acting as agents of the government to “get the truth” from the accused regarding alleged sexual abuse of the civilians’ relatives. The civil cases concern life insurance disbursements, the “two dismissals” rule and whether summary judgment is appropriate on statutory interpretation in a declaratory action. The Raybin-Perky Hot List examines the new cases and predicts how each will be decided.

Services Monday for Memphis Lawyer

Memphis lawyer Clinton Ray Pearson, 96, died Monday (Feb. 18). A native of Mississippi, Pearson came to Memphis to attend the University of Memphis School of Law. He was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1941 and became a certified public accountant in 1947. His career included serving as managing partner of Touche Ross & Co., financial consultant at the National Bank of Commerce Trust & Asset Management and in private law practice from 2005 to 2012. A memorial service will be held Monday at 2 p.m. at the Second Presbyterian Church Chapel in Memphis. Visitation will follow. The family requests that any memorials be made to the Salvation Army or a charity of the donor’s choice. Learn more about Pearson’s life in this obituary in the Commercial Appeal.

Simmons Working at Stites at Time of Death

A news item in Tuesday’s issue of TBA Today reported the Feb. 13 death of Nashville lawyer Martin Ernest Simmons. However, it did not include details about his work immediately prior to his death. Since 2011, Simmons was of counsel to the Real Estate & Banking Group at Stites & Harbison. Read the full obituary in The Tennessean.


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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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