Judicial Redistricting Passes State Senate

The state Senate has passed a proposal to redraw Tennessee’s judicial districts for the first time since 1984. The plan from Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey was approved 27-4 today, Chattanoogan.com reports. The measure would affect 22 counties in eight districts by (1) reducing the number of districts from 31 to 29; (2) creating separate districts for Rutherford and Williamson counties; (3) merging two districts (27 and 29) in northwestern Tennessee; and (4) creating a new district comprised of Coffee, Cannon, Warren and Van Buren counties.

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
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

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TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kevin A. Snider, Germantown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ryne W. Brown

Lynn W. Thompson, G. Patrick Arnoult, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Catherine L. Brown, Trustee, Catherine L. Brown, individually, Cathleen Lucille Brown Sibley, Graham W. Sibley, Hilary E. Sibley Murphy, Aiden Patrick Murphy, a minor, Ashley Mills Sibley, and Alexander Mills Sibley


This case involves a trust. In a previous appeal, this Court remanded for the appointment of a corporate co-trustee as specifically required by the terms of the trust. Thereafter, the defendant existing trustee, who is also a beneficiary, unilaterally appointed a corporate cotrustee and then sought to have the trial court “ratify” her appointment. The plaintiff beneficiary challenged the appointment, claiming that the trustee was not authorized to unilaterally appoint a corporate co-trustee and arguing that the corporate co-trustee who was chosen did not meet the qualifications listed in the trust agreement. After hearing some testimony about the proposed co-trustee, the trial court decided that the plaintiff beneficiary lacked standing to participate in the selection or ratification of a corporate co-trustee. The trial court then granted the defendant trustee’s motion to ratify her appointment of the cotrustee. The plaintiff beneficiary appeals. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

With Partially Dissenting Opinion

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jonathan A. Garner, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy K. Vinsant.

Kimberley L. Reed-Bracey, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Holly D. Butler.


Appellant appeals from the trial court’s denial of a motion to vacate a default judgment. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Lisa Z. Bowman, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bobby Higgins.

Lucy C. Wright, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kelley Higgins.


In this divorce case, the trial court’s judgment ended the twenty-year marriage of Kelley Higgins (“Wife”) and Bobby Higgins (“Husband”). Husband appeals. He challenges the trial court’s classification and division of the parties’ property. He also contends that alimony was improperly awarded to Wife. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Craig Beene, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Dan Mitchum Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Craig Beene, appeals the Dickson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis regarding his convictions for attempt to commit first degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated assault, for which he is serving an effective seventeen-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by denying him relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gregory D. Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee; Comer L. Donnell, District Public Defender and William K. Cather, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Barry H. Hogg.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, District Attorney General, and Thomas Swink, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Barry Hogg, was indicted by the Wilson County Grand Jury for eleven counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, nine counts of criminal exposure to HIV, nine counts of aggravated statutory rape, and one count of sexual battery. Prior to trial, the State dismissed one count of sexual battery, two counts of criminal exposure, and three counts of aggravated statutory rape. A jury found Appellant guilty of the remaining counts, including eleven counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation, seven counts of criminal exposure of another to HIV, and six counts of aggravated statutory rape. As a result of the convictions, the trial court sentenced Appellant to twelve years at one hundred percent incarceration for the especially aggravated sexual exploitation convictions, six years at thirty percent for each of the criminal exposure of another to HIV convictions, and four years at thirty percent for each of the aggravated statutory rape convictions. The trial court ordered the convictions for especially aggravated sexual exploitation to be served consecutively to the seven convictions for criminal exposure of another to HIV and consecutively to each other. The trial court ordered Appellant’s aggravated statutory rape sentences to run concurrently with one another and with all other counts, for a total effective sentence of 174 years. Appellant appeals his convictions, contesting the sufficiency of the evidence and his sentences. After a review of the record, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that the evidence supported individual convictions for events that occurred during one sexual encounter. Further, the trial court properly sentenced Appellant. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William M. Harris (on appeal), Lawrenceburg, Tennessee and J. Daniel Freemon (at trial), Lawrenceburg, Tennessee for the appellant, Jeremy Keeton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General, and Douglas Dicus, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


This case was remanded by the Tennessee Supreme Court for reconsideration after ordering that the record be supplemented with a statement of evidence regarding a missing portion of the trial transcript. See Tenn. R. App. P. 24(c). A Wayne County jury convicted the Defendant, Jeremy Keeton, of manufacturing marijuana by growing or cultivating not less than 100 nor more than 499 marijuana plants, and the trial court sentenced him to twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends: (1) that he is being denied an “effective appeal” because the record on appeal does not include an official transcript of his cross-examination of a material prosecution witness; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (4) the trial court erred when it sentenced him by not considering a relevant mitigating factor. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude there exists no reversible error in the judgment of the trial court. We, therefore, affirm the trial court’s judgment.

With Dissenting Opinion

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gregory D. Smith (on appeal); and Comer L. Donnell, District Public Defender, and Michael Taylor, Assistant Public Defender (at trial) , for the appellant, Paul Allen St. Clair.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Tom P. Thompson, District Attorney General; and Jason Lawson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Paul Allen St. Clair, was convicted by a jury of one count of the sale of between 14.175 grams and 4,535 grams of a Schedule VI substance identified as marijuana, a Class E felony, and one count of the sale of a Schedule IV drug, a Class D felony. The trial court sentenced the defendant to four years’ incarceration as a Range II offender on count one and to eight years’ incarceration as a Range II offender on count two, to be served consecutively. The trial court also fined the defendant two thousand dollars for each count and two hundred and fifty dollars to go to the Drug Testing Fund for each count. The defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court improperly weighed the mitigating factors in assigning a sentence within the range. The defendant also contests the fines, which he argues are unconstitutional because they were determined by the trial court rather than the jury. After a careful review of the record, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining the length of the defendant’s sentences. However, because the fines were assessed in violation of the Tennessee Constitution, we vacate the fines and remand for further proceedings.

CORRECTION: The date filed should have been April 15, 2013 instead of April 15, 2014.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James A. H. Bell and Randall E. Reagan (on appeal), and James A.H. Bell and Edward Holt, Jr. (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Kevin Glenn Tipton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kyle Hixson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant-Appellant Kevin Glenn Tipton agreed to enter a guilty plea to one count of felony driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) in exchange for a sentence of one year, which was suspended after service of the mandatory minimum sentence of 150 days in confinement. At the plea submission hearing, the trial court accepted Tipton’s guilty plea and imposed the agreed upon sentence but reserved judgment until October 6, 2010. On October 5, 2010, Tipton’s newly retained counsel filed a notice of appearance. On October 22, 2010, Tipton, through his newly retained counsel, filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Tipton argues that the trial court erred by (1) applying the “manifest injustice” standard under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(f)(2), and (2) denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Street Named 1st District Criminal Court Judge

Elizabethton attorney Stacy Street was appointed to the First Judicial District Criminal Court today by Gov. Bill Haslam. Street takes the seat held by Judge Lynn W. Brown, who retired March 31. Most recently, Street worked as a solo practitioner focusing on criminal law. He previously was a partner with Hampton & Street and an associate with Hampton & Hampton, the AOC reports. He is a 1992 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. The AOC reported the appointment.

DCS Announces Shakeup After Child-Deaths Debacle

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) yesterday unveiled the results of an internal shakeup following months of criticism about its ability to track the death of children in its custody. Under the reorganization, three top deputies have been reassigned or relieved of duties, while a fourth announced his retirement. Two new deputy commissioners — one for child health and one for child safety — will fill new positions that will focus on training Child Protective Services workers and strengthening internal investigations. Finally, the plan calls for collaborating with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to train caseworkers on how to evaluate drug use and other potential criminal behavior. The Tennessean has details on the plan.

Lawsuit Filed in Nashville Conservatorship Case

Nashville attorney John E. Clemmons, whose law license already is under suspension for misappropriation of a ward’s funds, is being accused in a civil suit of misappropriating at least $450,000 from a now-deceased elderly woman whom the courts had entrusted to his care. The suit charges Clemmons with breach of fiduciary duty, conversion and intentional misappropriation of funds in handling the estate of Nannie P. Malone, The Tennessean reports. The suit was filed by Malone’s daughter.

Lewis King President Settles into Role, Looks to Expand Firm

Nashville attorney Lisa Ramsay Cole is settling into her new role as president and managing shareholder of Lewis King Krieg & Waldrop PC but also is setting her sights beyond the city, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Saying she wants to “continue to build the Lewis King name across the state,” Cole is assembling a strategic planning committee to ensure the firm is smart about growth. In an interview with the journal, Cole says she expects growth to occur in commercial and business litigation, medical malpractice, product liability and education practice areas. In a separate piece, the journal looks at the firm’s flexible work model and how it has contributed to Cole’s success as a working mom.

Legal Aid Lawyer to Receive Duncan Award

Deborah Herzel, a staff attorney with Legal Aid of East Tennessee, has earned this year’s Duncan Award for embodying the legacy of the late U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Sr., in the “professional” category. The award will be presented by Senior Citizens Information and Referral Service May 2. In this interview with the Metro Pulse, Herzel talks about her work at legal aid.

Memphis Alumnus Named Interim President

A day after University of Memphis President Shirley Raines announced her plan to retire June 30, the Tennessee Board of Regents named R. Brad Martin as interim president. Martin is a 1976 graduate of the university and a member of its board of visitors. He will begin working with Raines later this month to prepare for his role, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The university said it will begin a search for a permanent president this summer, and plans to have one in place by July 2014. Martin has been an active alumnus of the school, including donating funds for the creation of the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence and funding a scholarship for students going into the teaching profession. He currently chairs RBM Venture Co., a private investment firm and is the retired chairman and CEO of Saks Inc.

State Finance Commissioner Leaving Office

Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes will be leaving office at the end of May to enjoy retirement, Chattanoogan.com reports. Gov. Bill Haslam praised Emkes’ service, saying he helped the administration present “three responsible, thoughtful and strategic budgets.” Before joining the Haslam team, Emkes spent his entire professional career at Bridgestone Americas, working his way up from a trainee to chairman, chief executive officer and president. He retired from the company in February 2010 after 33 years. The governor reports that he has begun a search for his replacement.

Pilot CEO Says Investigation Involves Gas Rebates

Following yesterday’s raid on the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J, CEO Jimmy Haslam says the company is cooperating with all external investigations and believes that the issue involves a “very insignificant number of customers” who claim they did not receive gas rebates. He maintained that the company has paid the rebates, The Tennessean reports. Meanwhile, The Nashville Scene reported that Gov. Bill Haslam, the younger brother of Jimmy Haslam, said yesterday that he did not know anything more about the investigation than what was being reported in the media.

Judge McKenzie Reprimanded for Inappropriate Comments

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has issued a public reprimand to Rhea County General Sessions Judge James McKenzie based on two incidents in late 2012. One incident concerned comments made about an attorney appearing in McKenzie’s courtroom, while another involved comments made in the presence of a courtroom employee’s spouse and others outside the courtroom. The board determined that this conduct violated Rule 1.2 of Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Circuit Court Clerk Administrator Dies

Curtis “Wayne” Conner, administrator for the Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk, died April 11. He was 73 years old. A native of Oklahoma, Conner's funeral services and burial were held this past Saturday in Shawnee. The family requests that any memorials be made to the American Cancer Society. Condolences may be made at www.memphisfuneralhome.net. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported the death and has more on his life.


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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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