Bill Would Dramatically Alter Judicial Evaluations

An amended bill (SB1058/HB1227) that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee today reconstitutes the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, and also provides that if the commission recommends against a judge then “a vacancy occurs," apparently not permitting the sitting judge to stand for retention election.

The surprise move by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, amended a caption bill with an unrelated body to dramatically change the way that evaluations of appellate judges occur under the Tennessee Plan. When advocates for the present system earlier asked for copies of the amendment they were denied copies. The committee adopted the amendment by a 6-1-1 vote, with Vice Chair Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, objecting to the committee voting when advocates had not had an opportunity to see or consider the change.

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
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 Court of Appeals

REVISED: There has been NO change made in the opinion content. Opinion is being re-distributed due to page spacing errors in the version originally distributed on March 5, 2013.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Michael Ross Campbell, Lauren Michelle Rutherford, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Patrick Arnold Flynn, Seth Michael Lasater, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company.

Richard Thomas Matthews, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wendy Leverette, et al.


A woman who was severely injured in a collision with an automobile driven by an unlicensed minor filed suit against the minor. The minor’s parents’ insurance company denied coverage and refused to defend the suit on the basis of an exclusion in the insurance policy for damages caused by a party driving without permission of the owner or a person “in lawful possession” of the vehicle. No defense was offered, and the injured party obtained a $1 million default judgment against the minor driver. The injured party and the minor’s parents then jointly filed suit against the insurance company, alleging that the insurance company was liable for breach of contract, bad faith, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and violation of the Unfair Claims Practices Act based upon its denial of coverage. The trial court ruled that, as a matter of law, the minor was entitled to insurance coverage under her parents’ policy at the time of the accident. The remainder of the case was tried, and the plaintiffs were awarded compensatory and punitive damages on the bad faith claim. The jury also found the insurance company had violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and the trial court trebled the compensatory damages and awarded attorney fees under the Act. The insurance company has raised a number of issues in this appeal, inter alia, the grant of partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on the question of coverage; the finding of liability for bad faith, the liability and enhanced penalty under the TCPA, and the requirement that plaintiffs should make an election between the punitive damages and the enhanced damages. We affirm the breach of contract holding, including the conclusion that the policy terms provided coverage. We reverse and vacate the holding of liability for bad faith, including the award of punitive damages thereunder, since the statutory cause of action was not plead. We also reverse the award of treble damages under the TCPA, but affirm the finding of a violation of the Act. We affirm as modified the award of attorneys’ fees.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Harry E. Sayle III (on appeal) and Lawrence R. White (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Byron Becton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stacy McEndree, Assistant District Attorney, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Byron Becton (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of six counts of aggravated rape. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court merged each alternative count, entering three judgments of conviction for aggravated rape by use of force or coercion while armed with a weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim reasonably to believe it to be a weapon. The trial court also imposed an effective sentence of sixty-five years. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is not sufficient to support his convictions and that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Marvin Adams, III, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal); and Alexander C. Wharton, Memphis, Tennessee (at post-conviction hearing), for the appellant, Donald Ragland.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Reginald Henderson and Muriel Malone, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Donald Ragland, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends (1) that the postconviction court erred by not forcing the Petitioner to testify at the post-conviction hearing; and (2) that the Petitioner received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel because trial counsel withdrew a motion to suppress a photographic identification of the Petitioner. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William E. Griffith, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Adrain Keith Washington.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Adrain Keith Washington, was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and sentenced to serve twelve years in prison. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied. On appeal, he claims that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to argue the “rule of cancellation” and by failing to object to certain prejudicial testimony. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Judicial Candidates Sent to Governor for Consideration

Three judicial candidates have been submitted to Gov. Bill Haslam for the vacancy in the 17th district that serves Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties. After a public hearing and interview on March 8, the Judicial Nominating Commission recommended Forest A. Durand Jr., Brooke Charles Grubb and Barbara G. Medley. Read more about each candidate at the Administrative Office of the Courts website.

Hearings Set to Interview Candidates for 3rd District Openings

Six attorneys have applied to fill the Chancery Court vacancy in the 3rd Judicial District, which serves Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins and Green counties. The vacancy was created by the appointment of Chancellor Thomas R. Frierson to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The Judicial Nominating Commission will hold a public meeting on April 12 at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville to interview Douglas R. Beier, Beth Boniface, Douglas T. Jenkins, William Erwin Phillips, Christopher L. Seaton and Linda Thomas Woolsey. The retirement of the Hon. Kindall T. Lawson has also led to an opening on the Circuit Court in the 3rd district. Candidates Douglas R. Beier, Michael A. Faulk, Alex E. Pearson, Christopher L. Seaton and Linda Thomas Woolsey will be interviewed to fill the position at a public meeting on April 11.

10 Apply for Shelby Criminal Court Vacancy

The Judicial Nominating Commission will hold a public meeting on March 27 to interview 10 attorneys who have applied to fill the Criminal Court vacancy in the 30th judicial district serving Shelby County. The vacancy was created by the death of Judge W. Otis Higgs. The Administrative Office of the Courts announced the following candidates: David Michael Bell, Latonya Sue Burrow, Dean Thomas DeCandia, Garland Ingram Erguden, Damon Keith Griffin, Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Kevin Russell Rardin, Carolyn Sherri Watkins, Glenn Wright and David Michael Zak.

Criminal Prosecutor Critically Wounded in Attack

Shelby County criminal court prosecutor Kate Edmands was severely injured in an attack inside her home last week, the Commercial Appeal reports. As of Monday night, no arrests had been made and Vince Higgins, a spokesman for district attorney Amy Weirich, wouldn’t speculate on whether the attack could have been an act of retaliation related to the violent criminals Edmands routinely prosecutes. “The extent of her injuries were initially critical,” Higgins said Monday. “She’s stabilized and as of today she’s in intensive care."

New Law School Rankings Account for Job Data

U.S. News and World Reports is now factoring in new job information for law graduates when assigning law school rankings, the ABA Journal reports. Graduate placement rates account for 20 percent of a school’s overall score. Greater weight is now given for permanent, full-time jobs that require bar passage or for which a J.D. is an advantage. Vanderbilt Law School ranks at number 15 in the report, while the University of Tennessee College of Law is ranked number 61 and the University of Memphis' Cecil C.Humphreys School of Law is at 144.

Forbes: Women Thriving in BigLaw

According to a new Forbes article, women are thriving in BigLaw. Contributor Victoria Pynchon interviewed women at AmLaw100 firms Latham & Watkins and Proskauer, Rose about their experiences as large firm lawyers, achieving parity in the legal profession, and juggling motherhood with a demanding career. Despite the low numbers of women currently in ownership and leadership positions, Pynchon says the new crop of women, aided by expanded women’s initiatives, are pressing for change. 

Duncan Law Tries Again for ABA Accreditation

Lincoln University’s Duncan School of Law faces a crucial test this week when a team from the American Bar Association (ABA) arrives on campus to assess the school in a new attempt to win accreditation after being turned down two years ago. The Wall Street Journal looks at the school's efforts and what it means to students at the school. (subscription required).

Longtime Nashville Attorney W. Ovid Collins Dies at 94

Longtime Nashville attorney W. Ovid Collins Jr. died yesterday (March 11). He was 94. Mr. Collins was a distinguished graduate of Vanderbilt University, where he also earned his law degree. Following service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he returned to Nashville and founded the firm of Cornelius & Collins with Charles L. Cornelius Sr. and Charles L. Cornelius Jr. He served as the firm’s managing partner for the majority of his years in active practice. Mr. Collins was a founding member of the Nashville Symphony and played viola with the orchestra for more than 40 years. His passion for music began early, as he was invited to join the studio orchestra of WSM in the 1930s where he accompanied various talents, including Dinah Shore. Mr. Collins retired from the fulltime practice of law in 2000, but continued to practice part-time until 2008. During his career, he was named as a Fellow of the American College Trust and Estate Counsel, a Fellow of the Tennessee Bar Association and a lifetime member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference. He served as a delegate to the 1959 Tennessee Constitutional Convention and practiced before various courts in Tennessee, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of his cases remain leading precedent to this day. Funeral arrangements and memorial plans are incomplete at this time.

DCS Commissioner Says Agency Making Improvements

Department of Children’s Services Interim commissioner Jim Henry told a House Government Operations Committee today that improvements have been made since he stepped in about a month ago. Henry said changes include having regional administrators call his personal cell phone when a child is reported dead and immediately notifying lawmakers in that child's district. A death review process has also been established and cases are reviewed monthly. Knoxnews has the story. 

Grocery Story Wine Bill Fails in Committee

The wine-in-grocery-stores bill failed to win approval by one vote today in a House committee, the Commercial Appeal reports. The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. John Lundberg, R-Bristol, said the measure isn’t dead and that he will try to press ahead, possibly with a separate bill. The vote occurred after Lundberg initially moved to delay the vote for a week, but Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, objected and called for an immediate vote. Earlier in the day, the Senate Finance Committee delayed the wine-grocery-stores bill for one week in order to give all sides time to negotiate a compromise.


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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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