Ramsaur to Join ABA House of Delegates

The National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) has announced that TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur has been chosen as the delegate to the ABA House of Delegates to represent NABE. Ramsaur, who succeeds Bill Weisenberg of Ohio, will assume the office following the conclusion of the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco in August.

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.

01 - TN Supreme Court
01 - 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 Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Robert M. Asbury, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Central Transport North America, Inc.

T. Scott Jones and Chris W. Beavers, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, James Reed.


In this workers’ compensation action, the employee suffered a compensable back injury. Surgery did not relieve his symptoms of severe pain. The trial court awarded 84% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer filed a motion to set aside the judgment based on the employee’s alleged failure to supplement his discovery responses. The trial court denied the motion. The employer has appealed, contending that the award is excessive and that the trial court erred by denying its post-trial motion. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Andrew C. Clarke, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jane Doe.

Susan E. Crabtree and Amy S. Hickerson, Knox County Law Director’s Office, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Knox County Board of Education.

This action against David Higgins (“the Instructor”) and his employer, the Knox County Board of Education (“KCBE”), is based upon events that occurred while the plaintiff Jane Doe1 (“the Student”) was a freshman ROTC2 student at West High School in Knoxville. In simple terms, the Instructor allowed the Student and other female ROTC students to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication and, while they were intoxicated, he persuaded them to expose their breasts. The Student reported the episodes to the school and her parents when the Instructor’s demands escalated to the point that he repeatedly encouraged the Student to allow him to film her and others in a sexual “threesome.” The case went to trial. The claims against the Instructor were tried to a jury. The claims against KCBE pursuant to the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“the GTLA”) were heard simultaneously by the trial court. The jury awarded the Student damages against the Instructor in the amount of $65,000 for negligent infliction of emotional distress. It rejected the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The portion of the court’s judgment pertaining to the claims against the Instructor is not at issue in this appeal. The trial court determined that KCBE was not liable for the Instructor’s actions because the court concluded he was acting outside the scope of his employment. The court further determined that there was no negligence upon which liability as to KCBE could be imposed. After the judgment was entered, the Student learned that the trial judge’s wife was a retired employee of KCBE. On that basis, the Student moved the court to recuse itself and award her a new trial. The court denied the Student’s post-trial motion. The Student appeals only as to the claims against KCBE. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James F. Logan, Jr. and Matthew G. Coleman, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellants, Polk County Tax Assessor and Polk County Trustee.

David M. Elliott, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Philip Dooly, John Higgins, Maryl Elliott, Anne Longley, Robert Robbins, Philip Newman, Amy Card-Lillios, Tommie Davis, Doug Swayne, David Hairrell, Alice Hairrell, Kelly Feehrer, Michael Callaway, David Turpin, Burton Hall, George Lessig, Larry McDaris, William Torbett, Neal Officer, Karen Fisher, and Richard Fisher.


The petitioners are holders of special use permits issued by the federal government allowing them to own and use for non-commercial recreational purposes certain improvements on federally-owned national forest land. The Polk County tax assessor valued and assessed the petitioners’ interests in the properties as leasehold interests. The Petitioners brought this action challenging their real estate tax assessments. The issues presented include whether the appraisal methodology used in valuing the petitioners’ leasehold interests violated the governing leasehold valuation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 67-5-605, and whether the petitioners should receive an offsetting tax credit for monies allegedly paid by the federal government to Polk County pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 500. We affirm the judgment of the trial court holding that the appraisal methodology violated the statute by arbitrarily applying a static 99-year term when the express term of the special use permits was less than seven years during the tax years in question, 2003 through 2008. We reverse the trial court’s judgment ordering the tax assessor to allow an offsetting credit because the petitioners have cited no legal authority requiring or permitting such a result. The case is remanded with instructions to the Polk County Tax Assessor to reassess the petitioners’ leasehold interests for the years 2003 through 2008 in a manner consistent with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


David L. Leonard, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Angelia Lynette Maupin.

Roger A. Woolsey, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Paul Wayne Maupin.


This is an appeal from a judgment in a contested divorce. After a trial of approximately one week, the court entered a judgment that, with regard to the issues on appeal: (1) split the family by making Angelia Lynette Maupin (“Mother”) the primary residential parent of the parties’ daughter and designating Paul Wayne Maupin (“Father”) the primary residential parent of the parties’ two sons; (2) ordered Mother to pay prospective child support ; and (3) awarded the marital residence to Father and made him solely responsible for the debt secured by the residence, and ordered Mother to pay half of any deficiency balance in the event of a foreclosure. On Father’s motion to alter or amend, the court made the child support obligation retroactive to the date of the parties’ separation. The record shows that Mother has been unable to spend any individual parenting time with her sons since the parties separated in April 2009. Mother appeals. We reverse that portion of the trial court’s judgment ordering that Mother shall be responsible for paying half of any deficiency in the event of a foreclosure. We modify the trial court’s judgment to provide for family counseling. In all other respects, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James L. Elkins III, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Kevin James Callahan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Sean Bernard Duddy and Terry E. Wood, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

The defendant, Kevin James Callahan, pleaded guilty to one count of delivery of Percocet and one count of delivery of Oxycodone, both Schedule II controlled substances, and the Williamson County Circuit Court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of four years’ imprisonment, suspended to probation following the service of six months’ incarceration in the county jail. On appeal, the defendant argues that the sentence imposed was excessive in manner of service. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Manuel B. Russ, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sidney Cason.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Sidney Cason, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of second degree murder and especially aggravated robbery and resulting effective sentence of forty years in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel, which resulted in his guilty pleas being unknowing and involuntary. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Guy T. Wilkinson, District Public Defender; and Billy R. Roe, Jr., Assistant Public Defender, (on appeal), and Joe L. Brown, Savannah, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, James Strong Powell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Defendant, James Strong Powell, an attorney, was indicted for aggravated perjury. Defendant was convicted as charged by a jury and sentenced by the trial court to serve two years, seven months, and nine days in confinement as a Range I standard offender. Defendant now appeals his conviction and sentence. Defendant asserts that the trial court erred by: 1) allowing the trial judge, who presided over the hearing at which Defendant was alleged to have perjured himself, to testify at trial beyond the scope of the trial judge’s expertise; and 2) denying Defendant’s request for a sentence of full probation. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Edward Shawndale Robinson, Pro Se, Pikeville, Tennessee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Ronald L. Davis, District Attorney General, and Sean B. Duddy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Following a traffic stop on Interstate 40, Appellant, Edward Shawndale Robinson, was indicted by the Hickman County Grand Jury in August of 2009 for possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana with the intent to deliver and following traffic too closely. Appellant sought unsuccessfully to have evidence seized from him suppressed prior to trial. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana and sentenced to six years as a Range II, multiple offender. Appellant presents the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether Appellant received a fair and impartial jury; (2) whether the stop and subsequent search of Appellant’s vehicle was valid; and (3) whether Appellant received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After a review of the law and applicable authorities, we conclude Appellant’s failure to include transcripts of the hearing on the motion for new trial and hearing on the motion to suppress results in a waiver of the issues raised on appeal. Further, Appellant has failed to show plain error that would result in our review of the issues despite the waiver. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William J. Harold, Assistant Public Defender, Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Lance Walker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Crawford, District Attorney General, and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, William Lance Walker, was indicted by the Marshall County Grand Jury with one count of the sale of .5 grams or more of cocaine and one count of the delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted as charged. As a result, the trial court merged the two offenses and sentenced Appellant to a term of twelve years, to be served consecutively to Appellant’s sentence in a previous case, for a total effective sentence of forty-seven years. After a motion for new trial and a hearing on the motion, the trial court amended Appellant’s sentence from twelve years to twenty years but ordered it to run consecutively to a prior sixteen-year parole violation but concurrently with a prior nineteen- year sentence, for a total effective sentence of thirty-six years. On appeal, Appellant claims that the evidence was insufficient, the trial court erred in denying a mistrial after a witness made reference to his incarceration, and that his sentence is excessive. After a review of applicable authorities and the record, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a mistrial where the Appellant elicited the claimed offending testimony, the proof against Appellant was strong and Appellant rejected a curative instruction. We also determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Appellant where Appellant’s sentence is within the appropriate range and the record demonstrates that the sentence is otherwise in compliance with the purposes and principles listed by statute. Finally, we note that the record does not appear to contain amended judgment forms to reflect the trial court’s amendment to Appellant’s sentence at the hearing on the motion for new trial. Consequently, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed, but the matter is remanded to the trial court for entry of corrected judgments.

Funeral Services Set for Longtime Circuit Court Judge

Judge Hames Mayes Swiggart died Thursday (April 25). He was 91. Swiggart received his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and his law degree from the University of Virginia. During World War II, he flew the F4U dive bomber for the United States Navy and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with one gold star and one silver star. After a career in private law practice, Judge Swiggart was appointed to the newly created Sixth Circuit Court where he served as judge for 23 years. During his career, he also served as president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and led numerous civic organizations. Visitation will be held Friday at the Cheek House at Presbyterian Church on Franklin Road from noon to 1:45 p.m., followed by a service at Stanford Chapel at 2 p.m. Interment will follow at Woodlawn Memorial Park. At the family's request, please make donations to Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, P.O. Box 307, Monteagle, TN 37356, Winfield Fund or Capital Fund.

Irwin Added to Judicial Ethics Committee

Sixth Judicial District Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Irwin has been added to the Judicial Ethics Committee, filling the remainder of Judge Suzanne Bailey’s term. View the full list of committee members here. 

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Consider Merit Selection

Lawmakers and advocates in Pennsylvania met recently in a public forum to discuss how to replace the state's current system of electing judges. While there is agreement that the current system is broken, there is still debate on what is the best way to fix it. Judges On Merit contributing writer Colin Emerle makes the case for merit selection 

Welfare Drug Test Plan Faces Hurdles

Despite the repeal of similar laws in other states, Tennessee is moving ahead with a plan to drug test some welfare applicants, the Tennessean reports. Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, sponsored the bill last year, giving the Department of Human Resources until July 1, 2014, to implement it. Campfield and other proponents say the law would be considered successful if it drives down the number of welfare applicants simply because they knew they would be tested. Pam McMichael, executive director of the New Market-based Highlander Research and Education Center, opposes the law, saying "It doesn't take stigmas away, it doesn't make our neighborhoods safer … It's an extension of an already unsuccessful war on drugs." WBIR has this story on issues other states have faced trying to implement similar laws.

Opinion: Constitutional Rights Not Dependent on Race

In an opinion piece for the Tennessean, Washington Post columnist George Will examines the social and political history of the 1944 Korematsu v. United States decision, which affirmed President Franklin Roosevelt’s wartime power to sweep Americans of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps. Peter Iron, founder of the Earl Warren Bill of Rights Project at the University of California, is campaigning for a Supreme Court repudiation of the decision -- an unprecedented act. Will writes that it is “less important that the decision be repudiated than that it be remembered” and warns that the case is a reminder that waiving constitutional rights is rarely necessary and rarely ends well.

Haslam Signs Voter ID Law

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a measure outlawing library cards and other types of county or city issued photo ID cards for voting, the Murfreesboro Post reports. The House passed the bill and the Senate subsequently concurred with the House version, dropping an amendment that would have allowed use of state college issued IDs for voting.

Lawmakers Designate 'Traditional Marriage Day'

Tennessee lawmakers passed a resolution designating August 31 as an annual celebration, “Traditional Marriage Day” the Nashville Business Journal reports. Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project said the resolutions sends the wrong message and his organization has declared August 31 “Tennessee Marriage Equality Day.”


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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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