Croom Appointed West District Bankruptcy Judge

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee James L. Croom was appointed Wednesday as a judge for the Western District's Bankruptcy Court, NWTN Today reports. Croom is a graduate of University of Tennessee at Martin and the Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law at what was formerly Memphis State University. Prior to becoming an assistant U.S. attorney, Croom served as an estate administrator for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District and later as an attorney/advisor in the office of the U.S. Trustee for Region Eight. A resident of Greenfield, Croom’s chambers and courtroom will be located in the district’s Jackson office.

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.

03 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
02 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - 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

IN RE ESTATE OF INA RUTH BROWN
With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Mark E. Brown and Maurice W. Gerard, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rockford Evan Estes.

William L. Waters, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Roy E. Brown III, Joan Brown Moyers, and Donna Brown Ellis.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal involves the validity of a will executed in contravention of an earlier contract to make mutual wills. A husband and wife signed a contract to make mutual wills and then executed those wills. Soon after the husband’s death, the wife executed a new will that was inconsistent with her previous will. Following the wife’s death, her son of an earlier marriage sought to probate his mother’s last will in the Chancery Court for Knox County. In response, the children of the husband’s earlier marriage filed an action in the Chancery Court for Knox County asserting (1) that their stepmother’s last will had been procured by undue influence, (2) that this will was invalid because it breached the contract to prepare mutual wills, and (3) that the will prepared by their stepmother pursuant to the contract to make mutual wills should be admitted to probate. The wife’s son asserted that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate his stepfather’s children’s claims and that the contract to make mutual wills was void for lack of consideration. Following a hearing on the parties’ cross-motions for a summary judgment, the trial court determined (1) that the husband’s children had failed to prove that their stepmother’s will had been procured through undue influence, (2) that it had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claims asserted by the husband’s children, (3) that the contract to make mutual wills was supported by adequate consideration, and, (4) that the wife’s last will, therefore, was null and void. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. In re Estate of Brown, No. E2011-00179-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 4552281 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 4, 2011). We affirm.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JEREME DANNUEL LITTLE

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Jeffrey S. Schaarschmidt, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jereme Dannuel Little.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel (on appeal before the Supreme Court); Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel (on appeal before the Court of Criminal Appeals); William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Boyd M. Patterson, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of especially aggravated kidnapping. At the conclusion of the proof, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the robbery charges. The jury found the defendant guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping, for which he received an eighteen-year sentence. On appeal, the defendant alleged that the trial court erred by failing to inform the jury that he had been acquitted of the robbery charges, by prohibiting defense counsel from mentioning the acquittals in closing argument, and by allowing the State to refer to the robbery during its closing argument. The defendant also alleged that the trial court committed error during jury instructions and that the cumulative errors denied him a fair trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JAMES DAVID MOATS
With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and James H. Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Matthew C. Rogers (at trial and on appeal), and Randy Rogers (at trial), Athens, Tennessee, for the appellee, James David Moats.

Judge: WADE

While on routine patrol in the early hours of the morning, a police officer observed a pick-up truck parked in a shopping center lot. Because the truck’s headlights were turned on, the officer drove into the lot, stopped her patrol car directly behind the truck, and activated her blue lights. Although the officer had seen no indication of criminal activity or distress, she approached the truck, observed a beer can in a cup holder inside, and found the defendant in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition. When she determined that the defendant had been drinking, he was arrested and later convicted for his fourth offense of driving under the influence. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction, holding that the defendant was seized without either probable cause or reasonable suspicion. While we acknowledge that the activation of blue lights will not always qualify as a seizure, the totality of the circumstances in this instance establishes that the officer seized the defendant absent probable cause or reasonable suspicion and was not otherwise acting in a community caretaking role. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed, the conviction is reversed, and the cause dismissed.


TN Court of Appeals

CHRIST CHURCH PENTECOSTAL v. TENNESSEE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Kevin Theriot and Erik Stanley, Leawood, Kansas, and Frank Ingraham and Robert Pautienus, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christ Church Pentecostal.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General, Mary Ellen Knack, Senior Counsel, for the appellees, Tennessee State Board of Equalization, Tennessee Assessment Appeals Commission and Robert E. Cooper, Jr., in his official capacity as Attorney General and Reporter for the State of Tennessee.

Saul Solomon, Lora Barkenbus and Emily Herring Lamb, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Judge: FARMER

This lawsuit concerns the extent to which a bookstore/café area and fitness center/gymnasium contained in a church family life center facility are exempt from property taxation under Tennessee Code Annotated § 67-5-212. The trial court upheld the determination of the State Board of Equalization and the Assessment Appeals Commission that the bookstore/café area was not exempt from taxation, and that the fitness center qualified for a 50 percent exemption under the statute. We affirm.


DAVEY MANN and wife, TERESA MANN v. ALPHA TAU OMEGA FRATERNITY, Inc., a non-profit organization, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Gary K. Smith, J. Mark Benfield, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Davey Mann and wife, Teresa Mann

G. Coble Caperton, Mary L. Wagner, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, Inc.

Judge: HIGHERS

Plaintiffs sued the defendant national fraternity, among others, following an automobile accident with an apparent fraternity pledge. The trial court granted summary judgment to the national fraternity finding that it owed no duty of care to Plaintiffs, and it denied Plaintiffs’ motion to amend to allege the national fraternity’s vicarious liability based upon a principal/agent relationship between the national fraternity and the local fraternity chapter and/or between the national fraternity and local fraternity chapter members/prospective members. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the national fraternity as well as its denial of Plaintiffs’ motion to amend, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

ANTHONY DODSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Claiborne H. Ferguson and Bridgett L. Stigger, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Petitioner- Appellant, Anthony Dodson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Paul F. Goodman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Anthony Dodson, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of postconviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that (1) the post-conviction court abused its discretion in refusing to grant a continuance for the purpose of having a witness testify at the post-conviction hearing, and (2) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to call the aforementioned witness to testify at trial for the purpose of impeaching the victim’s testimony. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JUSTIN ELLIS
With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joshua D. Hedrick, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Justin Ellis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and TaKisha M. Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Justin Ellis, was convicted by a Knox County jury of aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, aggravated assault, and aggravated robbery. The aggravated assault conviction was merged with the aggravated robbery conviction. The trial court imposed an effective nineteen-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the successor judge erroneously determined that he was qualified to act as thirteenth juror in this case. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the successor trial judge could not act as the thirteenth juror and reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JODIE WILLIAMS HENSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

John R. Holton, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Jodie Williams Henson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; C. Phillip Bivens, District Attorney General; and Lance E. Webb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellant, Jodie Williams Henson, was indicted by a Lake County Grand Jury for vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident involving death. Pursuant to her plea agreement, Henson entered an open guilty plea to vehicular homicide, a Class B felony, in exchange for a sentence of ten years as a Range I, standard offender, with the manner of service of the sentence to be determined by the trial court. See T.C.A. § 39-13- 213(a)(2). The charge for leaving the scene of an accident was dismissed upon entry of Henson’s guilty plea. The trial court subsequently ordered Henson to serve her sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Henson argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her a probationary sentence. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. HERBERT MICHAEL MERRITT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

A. Philip Lomonaco, and John S. Young, III, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Herbert Michael Merritt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; Leslie Nassios and Kyle Hixson, Assistant District Attorneys General; for the Appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

A Knox County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Herbert Michael Merritt, charging him with premeditated first degree murder and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, and the State dismissed the firearm charge. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in excluding reports by Dr. Murray concerning Defendant’s “ability to form specific intent.” After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


CRAIG U. QUEVEDO v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

John E. Herbison, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Craig U. Quevedo.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon and Lindsy Paduch Stempel, Assistant Attorneys General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Arthur F. Bieber, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Craig U. Quevedo, appeals as of right from the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. In 2002, the Petitioner pled guilty to numerous counts of rape and incest, and pled nolo contendere to multiple counts of rape, rape of a child, and aggravated sexual battery, as well as one count of aggravated rape. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-502(a)(2), -13-503(a)(1), -13-504(a)(4), -13-522(a), -15- 302(a)(1). Following a sentencing hearing, the Petitioner received an effective sentence of ninety-two years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends (1) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to file a motion to suppress a journal written by the Petitioner prior to the entry of his pleas; (2) that trial counsel was also ineffective in failing to file a motion to sever certain offenses prior to the entry of his pleas; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his sentencing hearing because trial counsel failed to object to the admission of his journal into evidence and failed to present sufficient mitigating evidence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court with respect to the Petitioner’s first two issues. However, the postconviction court failed to make any findings of fact or conclusions of law with respect to the Petitioner’s issues regarding his sentencing hearing. As such, the case is remanded for the post-conviction court to enter an order stating its findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the sentencing hearing issues.


AG to Defend State Damage Limits in Meningitis Lawsuit

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper has filed a motion to intervene and defend state law that caps damages in civil cases, The Nashville Ledger reports. A lawsuit filed by the husband of a Brentwood woman who died after getting fungal meningitis from tainted steroid injections seeks $12.5 million in compensatory damages, well above the maximum $750,000 that plaintiffs can receive under a 2011 Tennessee law. A hearing on the state’s request was heard this morning in Davidson County Circuit Court.


Judge Replaces Public Guardian as Woman’s Conservator

Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy this week replaced a Davidson County public guardian who had been charging her full hourly fee for legal work regardless of the service she was performing, the Tennessean reports. Court records show that while Jeanan Mills Stuart was serving as conservator of Marlee Spalding she billed $986 to accompany her to a Christmas concert at the Schermerhorn and $1,282 for a shopping trip, the newspaper reported.  Spalding’s sister Myra S. Whitaker will take over as conservator, and Judge Kennedy has said he will not assign any additional cases to Stuart pending a review of the fees she has charged.


DCS Rehires Director Fired in January

Interim Commissioner of the Department of Children’ Services Jim Henry has rehired Debbie Miller, the agency’s former executive director of family and child well-being, the Nashville City Paper reports. Miller was removed from the department in early January by former commissioner Kathyrn O’Day. “The department had a recent vacancy and Commissioner Henry asked Ms. Miller to return. He has known her work for many years and respects her skills and experience in the area of child welfare,” a spokeswoman for DCS said.


Ohio Prisoner Suspected of Tenn. Courthouse Bomb Threats

A man currently in jail in Ohio is suspected in a series of bomb threats at courthouses in five states including Tennessee last November and December. The Mansfield News Journal reports that Lonny Bristow was arrested Wednesday in connection with the threats in Nebraska, Washington, Oregon, Mississippi and Tennessee.


Vandy Law Hosts Fracking Lecture

Leading energy law and land use expert Hannah Wiseman will speak Thursday about fracking at Vanderbilt Law School. The talk is titled “Natural Gas Fracturing, Federalism Debates and the Regulatory Divide” and will explore the recent, rapid expansion of oil and gas development in the United Sates, driven large hydraulic fracturing and drilling in shale formations, and the legal issues that arise in its wake. The event is free and open to the public.


Deadline Approaching For Law Day Entries

Law Day art and essay entries for the 2013 competition are due April 12 to local contest coordinators. This year’s theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All” provides an opportunity for students to explore civil and human rights movements in America and the impact they have had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. Students also are asked to consider what remains to be done to rectify injustice in society, including eliminating all forms of discrimination, putting an end to human trafficking and ending other violations of human rights. The art contest is open to all Tennessee students in K-8 grades. The essay contest is open to students in grades 9-12. Learn more about this year’s competition and rules for submitting entries.


Services Sunday for Memphis Attorney

Memphis attorney L. Wade Harrison Jr. died Monday. He was 74. Harrison earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Memphis State University. Upon graduation, Harrison practiced with his father, Lawrence “Larry” Wade Harrison Sr., before opening his own practice a short time later. In 1991, his daughter Zoe joined him in the practice. Visitation will be held at 1:45 p.m. Sunday at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Collierville, with funeral services following immediately at 2:30 p.m. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Friends of Music Ministry at the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Senatobia Presbyterian Church, or Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.


Follow the Action in the Tennessee Legislature

The Tennessee General Assembly is in full swing. Keep track of the action by following the TBA Action List to follow 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.


 
 

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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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