Proposal Would Move Civil Indigent Counsel Funding to PDs

Senate Finance Committee Chair Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has proposed to roll civil legal representation funding in with the indigent counsel programs, strip Tennessee courts of funding for indigent representation and place the administration of both the civil and criminal indigent representation in the state district public defender’s office. The programs would then be funded with $3.3 million less for next year. The proposal comes by the way of a budget amendment that just surfaced. The proposal has already drawn wide interest. Advocates have already identified a number of "weaknesses" in the proposal:

Administration of the civil indigents representation fund, which provides $3.3 million to the state's four legal aid offices, would be transferred as part of the plan. Funding for the civil fund would be optional after the constitutionally mandated counsel for indigents, guardians ad litem and experts had been paid.

• Statutes and court rules, which are not amended by the proposal, place responsibility for administering these programs and allocations in the courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

• The state public defenders office has no expertise in several of the appointed matters which are civil - mental health commitments, appointments of guardians ad litem and counsel in parental termination cases and child support contempt matter or counsel in dependency and neglect and unruly matters.

• Counsel for criminally accused indigents are often appointed because of conflicts with public defenders, creating a dilemma when paired with public defender administration.

• The proposal transfers the responsibility for paying appointed counsel, but makes no provision for transferring the administrative costs associated with administering the funds, perhaps meaning program funds would be further eaten up by administrative costs.

The proposal could first be heard by the Senate Finance Committee Budget Subcommittee as early as Monday afternoon. The subcommittee members are senators "Bo” Watson, Chair; Mark Norris, R-Germantown; and Jim Kyle, D- Memphis.

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
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









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TN Court of Appeals

DESIREE M. BEYER v. ERIK A. BEYER

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael A. Carter, Milan, Tennessee, for the appellant, Erik A. Beyer.

Daniel Loyd Taylor and John N. Bean, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Desiree M. Beyer.

Judge: FARMER

This appeal arises from a prolonged divorce action. On appeal, Father challenges the trial court’s determinations regarding parenting time, child support, alimony, and the division of the marital estate. Father further challenges the trial court’s decision finding him in both civil and criminal contempt. After thoroughly reviewing the record, we affirm in part, reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.


DHYANNA MURO RAMIREZ ET AL. v. BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE, INC., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Steve North, Madison, Tennessee, for the appellants, Dhyanna Muro Ramirez and Sacramento Baez Flores.

Douglas S. Johnston, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Bricio Yanez Islas, Francisco Zuno Perez, Gabriella Arellano Medina, Ivan Hillman Chapoy and Estanislao Amezcua Sanchez.

James F. Sanders and A. Scott Ross, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bridgestone/ Firestone, Inc.

Gregory G. Garre and Roman Martinez, Washington, DC; Wade C. Crosnoe, Austin, Texas; and Stephen A. Marcum, Huntsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ford Motor Company.

Judge: SUSANO

These personal injury cases against Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., and Ford Motor Company (collectively “the Defendants”) were consolidated below for all pre-trial proceedings. They have been before this court twice before, first pursuant to a Tenn. R. App. P. 10 extraordinary appeal and later by way of a Tenn. R. App. P. 9 interlocutory appeal. They have generated two published opinions. In re Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Company Tire Litigation, 138 S.W.3d 202 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003), perm. app. den. Jun. 1, 2004 (“Firestone I”); In re Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Company Litigation, 286 S.W.3d 898 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008), perm. app. den. Mar. 23, 2009 (“Firestone II”). In Firestone I, we held that these cases should have been filed in Mexico. We dismissed them on the ground of forum non conveniens. In Firestone II, we held that unsuccessful attempts to file in Mexico could possibly establish that Mexico was not an available alternative forum, contrary to the assumption made by us in Firestone I. We remanded the cases for a hearing on the issue of whether the dismissals in Mexico took place in spite of the plaintiffs’ good faith efforts or, rather, occurred because of the plaintiffs’ manipulation of the cases in order to secure the dismissals in Mexico and thereby have an excuse to refile in Tennessee. The trial court dismissed eight of 26 pending cases. The cases that were dismissed fall into two distinct groups. One group involves tires (“the FR 480 tire cases”), specifically Firestone 480 tires, that were actually manufactured in Mexico. The trial court concluded that the failure to join the entity in Mexico that actually made the tires there showed that the plaintiffs in those cases should not be permitted to litigate whether Mexico was an available forum. The other group consists of two cases which were filed in Mexico on more than one occasion, only one of which was disclosed in discovery (“the Ramirez and Flores cases”). The plaintiffs in both groups (collectively “the Plaintiffs”) appeal. We affirm.


LESLIE WOOTEN, JR. v. CLAY BARNETT, CFE CORPORATE SECURITY, FIRST HORIZON NATIONAL CORPORATION

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Leslie Wooten, Jr., Millington, Tennessee, Plaintiff/Appellant, self-represented

Kristine L. Roberts and Imad Abdullah, Memphis, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellees, Clay Barnett and First Horizon National Corporation

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves a lawsuit against a bank. Representing himself, the plaintiff customer filed this lawsuit against the defendant bank. The defendant bank filed a motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff customer filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court denied the customer’s motion for summary judgment and granted the bank’s motion to dismiss. The plaintiff customer now appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

MATTHEW JACKSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Matthew Jackson, Tiptonville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General; and Jason White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Matthew Jackson (“the Petitioner”), acting pro se, filed for post-conviction DNA analysis after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated robbery, and one count of theft of property over $500. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. The Petitioner now appeals. Upon our thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.


JOSEPH SHAW v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph Shaw.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jennifer L. Smith, Associate Deputy Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and James W. Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Joseph Shaw, appeals as of right from the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends (1) that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel because trial counsel failed to challenge a juror who was previously acquainted with the Petitioner; (2) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call several witnesses to testify as to the Petitioner’s character; and (3) that the Petitioner was denied his right to trial by a fair and impartial jury. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CHARLES D. SPRUNGER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jeffrey A. Vires, Crossville, Tennessee (on appeal); and James S. Smith, Jr., Rockwood, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Charles D. Sprunger.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Gary McKenzie and Amanda M. Hunter, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Charles D. Sprunger, was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class B felony, and sentenced as a Range I offender to eight years at 100%. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in sentencing him. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


CHARHELA WILSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kara Everett, Mt. Juilet, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charhela Wilson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Brian Keith Holmgren, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Charhela Wilson, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that her pleas of nolo contendere to two counts of aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony, were not knowingly and voluntarily entered into due to the ineffective assistance of her trial counsel. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-402. However, the Petitioner’s notice of appeal was untimely filed. Following our review, we conclude that the interest of justice does not require waiver of the timely filing requirement in this case. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.


Not All Counties Compliant With Gun Law

Several counties in Tennessee are not following state law to submit to the FBI court records of people involuntarily committed to mental health facilities by a judge, WSMV reports. The law was designed to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill since the information should show up when a gun seller runs a background check. The Administrative Office of the Courts estimates that 25 to 30 counties across the state are not supplying the records to the FBI for several reasons, including lack of equipment to transmit the information in the electronic format the FBI requires. Under a proposed change the General Assembly is now debating, the Administrative Office of Courts would take responsibility for seeing that all involuntary committals are reported to the FBI.


Applicants Down; Arizona to Cut Law School Tuition

The University of Arizona’s law school plans to drop tuition by 11 percent for in-state students and eight percent for out-of-state students, the ABA Journal reports. According to the National Law Journal, the move appears to be the first significant drop in law school tuition since the application totals began to decline in 2011. Since 2005, Arizona has had a 36 percent decrease in applicants. The school plans to reduce the amount of scholarship money available and offset lost revenue by expanding its master of laws and doctor of juridical science programs and offering a new LL.M for nonlawyers.


Tennessee Latest State to Have Tort Limits Challenged

The attorney of a teen hurt in a four-wheeler accident is challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee law that caps damages on tort suits, claiming it violates the right to trial by jury enshrined in the Tennessee Constitution. According to the ABA Journal, under the Civil Justice Act of 2011, noneconomic damages are capped at $750,000 and punitive damages at either twice the amount of compensatory damages or at $500,000, whichever is greater. Tennessee is only one of several states where damage cap legislation is being challenged in court. While the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the noneconomic damage limits were unconstitutional, the Kansas court upheld a cap as a way to further the public interest in ensuring affordable and available health care and reduce the cost of malpractice insurance.


AG Speaks in Support of Voting Rights

On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, Attorney General Eric Holder challenged the Supreme Court to uphold a key section of the Voting Rights Act that requires all or part of 15 states with a history of discrimination to get federal clearance before carrying out changes in elections. At a speech Thursday to civil rights group the National Action Network, Holder stated, “Let me be clear: While this country has indeed changed, and real progress has been made, we are not yet at the point where the most vital part of the Voting Rights Act can be described as unnecessary or a product of a flawed political process.” WATE reports that Holder also spoke on voter ID laws, gun regulation, and improving the criminal justice system.


Memphis Lawyer Accused in Alleged Insurance Scam

William L. Hendricks, a former partner in the Memphis law firm Evans-Petree PC has been arrested on charges of theft, conspiracy to commit theft and money laundering in connection with a bogus health-insurance operation in Springfield. According to the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, Hendricks, Springfield businessman Bart S. Posey Sr. and his former business partner, Richard “Rick” Bachman Jr. of Texas, are charged with the theft of $225,000 in insurance premiums that came from some of the victims of a nationwide health-insurance scam that netted more than $20 million from about 12,000 victims. The Tennessean has the story.


Lewis King Names New President, Managing Shareholder

Lewis King Krieg and Waldrop, a defense litigation firm with 60 attorneys at offices in Knoxville, Nashville and Sevierville, has named Nashville attorney Lisa Ramsay Cole president and managing shareholder. Cole has been managing partner of the firm’s Nashville office since mid-2011 and will continue in that role.  “This appointment is a great honor for me,”  Cole told the Nashville Post. “Lewis King has provided me with a wealth of experience and direction during my professional career, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to give back to the firm through this leadership role.”


Former AG Cody Remembers MLK’s Last Days

Mike Cody was a young civil rights lawyer when he received a call on April 3, 1968, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. needed help fighting a federal injunction against marching for the rights of sanitation workers. Cody and other attorneys met with King in the Lorraine Motel the night before his assassination. On the 45th anniversary of King’s death, the Huffington Post yesterday featured the veteran Burch Porter & Johnson attorney’s story of upholding the legacy and dream King left behind.


Legal Sector Still Adding Jobs

The legal services sector added 2,000 jobs in March the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. According to the Department of Labor, data shows the sector has grown by about 9,000 jobs since March of last year. The economy overall generated just 88,000 jobs in March, the smallest gain in 10 months.


2 Conservatives Join Call for Immigration Reform

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Rich Land, policy head for the Southern Baptist Convention, called on Congress to pass sweeping immigration reform, WPLN News reports. At an event hosted by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the pair called for secure borders, more visas and access to college, and a path to citizenship.


Lawsuit Possible Against New Rapid Bus Project

Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, said a lawsuit against Nashville could be in store if Metro officials do not alter a proposed bus rapid transit project so that it steers toward North Nashville, the Tennessean reports. According to Gilmore, the low-income, predominantly African-American area has been neglected historically and any lawsuit would have an “economic disparity” focus. The proposal for the East-West Connector from 5Points in East Nashville to White Bridge Road by way of Broadway and the affluent West End Avenue neighborhoods does not include any stops near North Nashville, where Gilmore claims 40 percent of people depend on the bus.


The Vanishing American Lawyer

What does it mean to be a lawyer in America today? Join author and law professor Thomas Morgan and a panel of Tennessee lawyers and judges for a compelling session during the TBA Annual Convention this summer. Morgan, author of The Vanishing American Lawyer, presents an unorthodox view of professionalism, practice and legal education that is sure to challenge program participants. Learn more about this session and other programming at the 2013 TBA Annual Convention, June 12-15 in Nashville.


 
 

Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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