TBA President, Others Reflect on Gideon Decision

Calling the U.S. Supreme Court's March 18, 1963, ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright "a massive unfunded mandate," the National Law Journal looks into what is holding back the promise of state-funded legal representation to criminal defendants who cannot afford it, as well as some "new ideas for ways to mend the system with minimal costs." Closer to home, The Contributor, which is sold by homeless vendors in Nashville, delves into the situation by interviewing people who have been served by public defenders, as well as TBA President Jackie Dixon and Metro Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner. Also quoting Knox County Public Defender Mark Stephens' recent Dicta article, the Contributor piece paints a picture of all sides not quite satisfied with the situation: clients feeling they were not represented well, and lawyers saying they do the best they can given time and financial constraints. The Contributor story is not available online but if you're in Nashville, buy the paper for $1 and read it.

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
03 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Franz F. Springmann, Sr., Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ashlyn Cooper.

Felisha B. White, Seymour, Tennessee, for the appellee, David D. Clark, Jr.


This appeal arises from a dispute involving custody of a child. David D. Clark, Jr. (“Father”) and Ashlyn Cooper (“Mother”) voluntarily gave custody of their minor child (“the Child”) to the Child’s paternal grandparents. Mother later sought to alter custody of the Child through the Juvenile Court for Jefferson County (“the Juvenile Court”). The Juvenile Court denied Mother’s motions. Mother filed a motion for a new hearing, which also was denied. The Juvenile Court, when denying Mother’s motion for a new hearing, described the matter as a dependency case despite earlier classifying it as a custody case. Mother appealed to the Circuit Court for Jefferson County (“the Trial Court”), which denied Mother’s appeal. The Trial Court held that the action was, in fact, a custody matter, and therefore, Mother’s appeal from Juvenile Court, if any, should have been to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Mother appeals. We hold that, while the Trial Court correctly held that this was a custody matter and that it therefore lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear Mother’s appeal, it should have transferred her appeal to this Court rather than simply deny the appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jacquelyn M. Scott, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sandi F.

Melanie R. Bean, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellees, Steve and Sherell S.

Jean Ann Hall, Hartsville, Tennessee, guardian ad litem.


In this action to terminate the parental rights of both parents to their three minor children, the trial court found that the petitioners, the paternal grandmother and her husband, had proven the grounds of persistence of conditions, abandonment for failure to visit, and abandonment for failure to support the children, and that termination of both parents’ rights was in the children’s best interests. Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights; Father did not. Finding no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Rocky McElhaney and Taylor C. Sutherland, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, George Ridenour.

Steven A. Dix, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Betty Lou Taylor, Hartsville, Tennessee , for the appellees, Darrell Carman and Chad Carman.


The plaintiff, an employee of a real estate and auction company, sustained serious injuries while assisting the managing broker of the company to move cattle panels on the managing broker’s personal farm. The plaintiff filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits against the real estate and auction company and its insurer. The plaintiff also filed a common law tort action against the managing broker and the broker’s son, who was called to assist after the injury occurred. The workers’ compensation action was settled. Pursuant to the courtapproved settlement agreement, the employee released and discharged the real estate and auction company and its insurer, as well as their subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives “from any and all further liability and indemnity, under the terms and provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law of the State of Tennessee, at common law or otherwise . . . .” After the workers’ compensation action was settled, the managing broker and his son filed a joint motion for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s tort claims on the grounds they were afforded immunity under the Workers’ Compensation Law, specifically Tennessee Code Annotated § 50-6-108(a), and that the plaintiff gave the defendants a full release in the workers’ compensation settlement agreement. The trial court summarily dismissed all claims against the defendants on both the statutory ground and the release. We affirm the dismissal of the tort claims against the employer’s managing broker. However, we reverse the dismissal of the claims against the managing broker’s son because the son was not an affiliate, officer, director, employee, agent or representative of the employer when the plaintiff sustained his injuries and he does not come within the terms of the release. Therefore, the plaintiff’s claims against the son are reinstated and remanded for further proceedings.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joseph Bartlett Underwood, Jr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Defendant, Christopher Burress.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Cameron Williams, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Christopher Burress, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation for his two convictions for facilitation of aggravated robbery and ordering him to serve his effective six-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a search of his person, (2) finding that he violated his probation by resisting arrest, (3) revoking his probation, and (4) ordering him to serve the sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Lindsey B. Lander, Lenior City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kristin M. Myers.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Russell Johnson, District Attorney General; and Frank A. Harvey, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Kristin M. Myers, was convicted by a Loudon County jury of first degree premeditated murder and received a sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress her statements made to authorities because she did not execute a knowing, voluntary wavier of her Miranda rights. The Defendant also contends that the evidence adduced at trial is insufficient to support her conviction. After reviewing the record, we conclude that the trial court properly denied the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statements and that the evidence produced at trial is sufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Letters Urge Leniency for Former Judge Baumgartner

In the run-up to former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner’s April 10 sentencing on five counts of misprision of a felony for lying to cover up his mistress’ involvement in a federal drug conspiracy, defense attorneys have filed dozens of letters in support of probation for their client. Among the letters, according to Knoxnews, is a handwritten note from retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert P. Murrian, a former colleague of U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer, who will determine Baumgartner’s fate. Others writing in support of the defense are former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Penny White, Knoxville Bar Association Committee Chairman William Vines III and attorneys John K. Harber and Al Harb.

County Settles Court Interpreter Suit

A lawsuit settled in federal court earlier this month means Bradley County must pay $10,000 to a man who says his civil rights were violated when he was forced to pay for an interpreter in Bradley County General Sessions Court. Though the decision to settle means the case cannot be used in the future as legal precedent, plaintiff attorneys maintain the decision still carries weight for similar cases throughout the country, the Times Free Press reports. Attorneys had argued that “the specter of paying interpreter costs creates leverage to discourage a…limited-English-proficiency defendant from having his or her day in court.” Groups supporting the suit applauded the decision saying interpreter costs should be viewed as an integral part of court management and be borne by the judicial system.

State Office Warns of Real Estate Scam

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is warning homebuyers and sellers about a scam involving real estate titles. According to the office’s business services division, letters have been sent to at least eight real estate companies suggesting that there are claims against titles of more than two dozen residential properties. The letters are postmarked from Portland, Ore., and claim to be submitted on behalf of an organization called “the French Trust.” The letters threaten court action against anyone attempting to sell any of the listed properties. Hargett said it was not immediately clear what was the motivation for sending the letters, but said the information they contain is not true. He urged people to contact the business services division for assistance at (615) 741-2286 if they encounter such letters.

Know Your Plea Offers

In the recent Tennessee Bar Journal, Knoxville lawyer Wade V. Davies advises readers about plea offers and preventing ineffective assistance of counsel. For one thing, he says, lawyers need to check the sex offender statute every time they have a case, since the standards often change. "In 2010," for example, "the Tennessee Supreme Court noted that the General Assembly had amended the registration act at least 15 times since 2005."

Kyle Applies for Probate Court Post

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, filed an application Friday to fill a vacancy on the Shelby County Probate Court, The Commercial Appeal reports. The vacancy will be created by the retirement of Judge Robert Benham on March 31. If appointed by the county commission, Kyle said would resign from the state Senate seat he has held since 1983.

Court Considers Arizona’s Voting Law

The Supreme Court today was to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of an Arizona law that requires all residents prove their citizenship before registering to vote in a national election. The Tennessean reports that the court’s ruling will impact four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — that have similar requirements, and 12 other states contemplating such legislation. The federal government argues that states do not have the right to impose requirements on registering to vote beyond those imposed at the federal level. The state argues that voter fraud, including by illegal immigrants, is a challenge it should be allowed to address.

Belmont's Street Law Event This Saturday

Belmont University College of Law's Black Law Student Association will host a Street Law Symposium, March 23 at the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center on campus, from 10 a.m. to noon. The event, featuring four 30-minute sessions with presentations from the Metro Police Department and local attorneys, is free and open to the public. Download this flyer or contact blsa@pop.belmont.edu

College Mock Trial Returns to Memphis

The opening round of the 29th National Intercollegiate Tournament, sponsored by the American Mock Trial Association, will be held in Memphis at the Shelby County Courthouse March 22-24. The Rhodes College Mock Trial Team invites Tennessee lawyers to participate in the tournament as a judge for one or more of the four rounds of competition. An informational session for volunteers will be held one hour prior to each round. To sign up or to get more information contact Barbara Pohlmann at (901) 624-0309 or pohlmannb@rhodes.edu or Marcus Pohlmann at (901) 843-3843 or pohlmann@rhodes.edu.

Volunteers Needed for New Veterans’ Clinic

The Memphis Bar Association Veterans’ Committee, in conjunction with Memphis Area Legal Services, is starting a new monthly legal clinic to assist veterans with civil legal needs, including child support and visitation, landlord/tenant, employment and debtor/creditor issues. The first clinic will be held March 26 from noon until 2 p.m. at 1407 Union Ave., Suite 815. Anyone interested in volunteering for the clinic or helping plan for a future event should contact Anne Fritz at (901) 527-3575 or afritz@memphisbar.org.

Retired Memphis Lawyer Dies

Retired Memphis lawyer Marvin Posner died March 12 after a prolonged illness. He was 81 years old. A native of Nashville, Posner earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University and relocated to Memphis after graduating from the law school in 1956. He handled many adoptions, always donating the legal fees to charity. Posner also volunteered with the Memphis City Public Schools as a reading tutor, and served as a Wings volunteer for 12 years, helping those going through cancer treatment. Funeral services were held March 13 at Baron Hirsch Cemetery. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be sent to the Baron Hirsch Synagogue, 400 S. Yates Rd., Memphis, TN 38120; Margolin Hebrew Academy, 390 S. White Station Rd., Memphis, TN 38117; Anshei Sphard Bethel Emeth Synagogue, 120 E. Yates Rd. N., Memphis, TN 38120; or a charity of the donor’s choice. Read more about his life in The Commercial Appeal.


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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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