Improved Security, More Courtrooms Major Reasons for New U.S. Courthouse for Nashville

Nashville federal district court judges today responded to a request for a comment on a story digested in TBAToday that questioned the need for a new Nashville federal courthouse. The statement by Chief Judge William Haynes makes the case for the new facility. It cites security concerns that the current buildings "lack separate hallways and elevators for prisoner transport," that the number of courtrooms is inadequate to meet the present and future needs and that land acquisition and planning have already cost $26 million. The TBA has repeatedly and publicly voiced its strong support for the project.

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.

02 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - TN Court of Appeals
07 - 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

CLIFTON A. LAKE ET AL. v. THE MEMPHIS LANDSMEN, LLC ET AL.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Gary K. Smith and C. Philip M. Campbell, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Clifton A. Lake and Charleen J. Lake.

Kenneth R. Rudstrom, Memphis, Tennessee, and James E. Singer, Atlanta, Georgia, for the appellee, The Memphis Landsmen, LLC.

Molly A. Glover, Aaron Robert Parker, Steve N. Snyder, and Eric J. Llewellyn, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metrotrans Corporation.

James Branson Summers, Heather Webb Fletcher, and Kirk Caraway, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Budget Rent A Car Systems, Inc.

Judge: WADE

On March 18, 1998, a concrete truck collided with a shuttle bus used to transport passengers between the Memphis International Airport and a nearby rental car facility. A passenger, who suffered a severe brain injury as a result of the collision, and his wife brought suit against the owner of the bus, the manufacturer of the bus, the manufacturer of the bus windows, and the franchisor of the rental car business. They based their claims in negligence and products liability, contending that the bus was unsafe because it was not equipped with passenger seatbelts, because it had side windows made of tempered glass rather than laminated glass, and because it provided perimeter seating instead of forward-facing rows. The trial court granted summary judgment to the window manufacturer and partial summary judgments as to the products liability claims against the bus owner and franchisor, but otherwise denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, which asserted that the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by federal motor vehicle safety standards. Following trial, the jury found that the plaintiffs had sustained damages in the amount of $8,543,630, but assessed 100% of the fault to the corporate owner of the concrete truck, which had reached a settlement with the plaintiffs prior to trial. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended that they were entitled to a new trial, citing twelve grounds for review. As a threshold issue, however, the defendants continued to argue federal preemption of the claims. The Court of Appeals held that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 205 and 208, 49 C.F.R. §§ 571.205, .208 (1995), preempted the claims based on the lack of passenger seatbelts and the material used in the window glass, and further ruled that the trial court had erred by failing to grant a directed verdict on the perimeter-seating claim because the evidence was insufficient to establish causation. We granted the plaintiffs permission to appeal and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of the intervening decision by the United States Supreme Court in Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc., 131 S. Ct. 1131 (2011). On remand, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed its prior judgment, concluding that the ruling in Williamson did not affect its previous analysis. The plaintiffs were again granted permission to appeal. Because the seatbelt and window-glass claims are not preempted by federal law and the evidence sufficiently demonstrates causation in fact as to the perimeterseating claim, the judgment is reversed and the cause is remanded to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the plaintiffs’ claims of error during the course of the trial.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NV SUMATRA TOBACCO TRADING COMPANY
CORRECTION: On page 36, first full paragraph, last parenthetical (misleading parenthetical corrected); On page 38, typographical error - Justice Ginsberg corrected to Justice Ginsberg.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Steven C. Douse, Nashville, Tennessee; and Christopher L. Rissetto, Washington D.C., for the appellant, NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Company.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Sinclair, Jr., Deputy Attorney General; and Rebekah A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal concerns whether Tennessee courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over an Indonesian cigarette manufacturer whose cigarettes were sold in Tennessee through the marketing efforts of a Florida entrepreneur who purchased the cigarettes from an independent foreign distributor. From 2000 to 2002, over eleven million of the Indonesian manufacturer’s cigarettes were sold in Tennessee. After the manufacturer withdrew its cigarettes from the United States market, the State of Tennessee filed suit against the manufacturer in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, alleging that the manufacturer had failed to pay into the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Escrow Fund as required by Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 47-31-101 to -103 (2001 & Supp. 2012). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer. The Court of Appeals reversed, granted the State’s motion for summary judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court to determine the applicable fines. State ex rel. Cooper v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co., No. M2010-01955-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 2571851 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 28, 2011). We find that, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Tennessee courts lack personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer. We therefore reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(2).


TN Court of Appeals

WILL J. MILTON v. SAEED ETEZADI, M.D.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Ronald L. Grimm and William W. McGowan, III, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Will J. Milton.

Wynne du M. Caffey, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Saeed Etezadi, M.D.

Judge: FRIERSON

This case presents the issue of whether proper service of process was accomplished regarding the defendant, Saeed Etezadi, M.D. Plaintiff, Will J. Milton, filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. Etezadi on April 14, 2003. The complaint and summons were served upon Dr. Etezadi’s office manager, with a notation appearing on the summons that service was accepted as “agent.” Dr. Etezadi filed an answer which, inter alia, raised the affirmative defense of insufficiency of service of process. Mr. Milton voluntarily dismissed that action and subsequently re-filed within one year of the non-suit. In connection with the second action, the complaint and summons were allegedly served upon Dr. Etezadi at his office. Dr. Etezadi filed an Answer, again raising the affirmative defense of insufficiency of service of process. Dr. Etezadi also asserted that all applicable statutes of limitation and repose had expired. He later filed a motion to dismiss. Following the hearing, the trial court dismissed the claims against Dr. Etezadi, finding that there was no service of process in either action. Mr. Milton appeals. We affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOHN DAVIS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Samuel L. Perkins, Memphis, Tennessee (at trial); Robert C. Brooks, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal), for the Defendant-Appellant, John Davis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Terre Fratesi, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellant, John Davis, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of a single count of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and received a twelve-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction and that his sentence was excessive. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


CHARLES T. HARTLEY v. ARVIL CHAPMAN, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles T. Hartley, Clifton, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The petitioner, Charles T. Hartley, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Wayne County Circuit Court, alleging that his sentence for attempted aggravated sexual battery was illegal because the judgment of conviction reflected that, as a child predator and a violent offender, he must serve one hundred percent of the sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


CRYSTAL MIRANDA KIRBY v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Howard R. Ellis, Oneida, Tennessee, for the appellant, Crystal Miranda Kirby.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Lori Phillips-Jones, District Attorney General; and Michael O. Ripley and Scarlett W. Ellis, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: KIRBY

A Campbell County jury found petitioner, Crystal Miranda Kirby, guilty of first degree premeditated murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced her to an effective life sentence. On direct appeal, this court ordered the merger of the two murder convictions but denied relief in all other respects. Petitioner then filed the instant petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied after an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner appeals the denial of post-conviction relief, claiming that the State violated her due process rights under Brady v. Maryland by withholding two video-taped statements that were allegedly exculpatory in nature. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL MARKS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Barry W. Kuhn (on appeal) and Jennifer Case and Michael Johnson (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Michael Marks.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Carrie Shelton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Michael Marks, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and was sentenced by the trial court to twenty-five years at 100% as a child rapist. He raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred by not requiring the State to make an election of offenses at the close of its casein- chief; (2) whether the trial court erred by not requiring the State to make an election before the case was submitted to the jury; (3) whether the trial court erred by issuing a supplemental instruction on the election of offenses after the jury had already begun its deliberations; and (4) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE V. DELAVAN BENIAMIN MOHAMMED

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Erik Herbert, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Delavan Beniamin Mohammed.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Pamela Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Delevan Beniamin Mohammed, pled guilty to possession of more than three hundred grams of cocaine with intent to sell in a drug free school zone, with an agreed sentence of 25 years as a Range II offender, with the trial court to determine manner of service of the sentence. The trial court ordered Defendant’s sentence to be served in the Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred by denying him an alternative sentence. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CAYETANO RAMIREZ

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jerry Gonzalez, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cayetano Ramirez.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Cayetano Ramirez, of attempted rape of a child. The trial court imposed a sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges (1) the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress his statement to police, (2) an alleged Brady violation, (3) the admission of a prior act in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), and (4) the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE V. DANE SAYLES, ALIAS BRADLEY HARPER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Donna Robinson Miller (on appeal) and Kelli Black (at trial), Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dane Sayles, alias Bradley Harper.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Boyd Patterson and Charlie Minor, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Dane Sayles, alias Bradley Harper (“the Defendant”), was convicted by a jury of possession with the intent to sell or deliver three hundred grams or more of cocaine. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to forty years to be served consecutively to previous sentences the Defendant received in Pennsylvania. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the stop and search of his vehicle, as well as the seizure of cell phone text messages. The Defendant also asserts that the trial court erred in “permitting the State to continue adding witnesses in the middle of trial whose names were not provided in discovery.” Finally, the Defendant challenges the length of his sentence. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Pilot Flying J Hires Weingarten, Martin for Internal Probe

Pilot J has hired former top U.S. Justice Department official Reid Weingarten and newly appointed University of Memphis interim president Brad Martin to oversee an internal investigation into allegations of fraudulent business practices. The company announced Weingarten will “lead, oversee and validate an internal investigation of recent federal allegations that Pilot Flying J underpaid rebates on diesel fuel purchases.” Martin will head a special committee of Pilot’s board to work with Weingarten and eventually receive his report, the Tennessean reports. The Memphis Daily News notes that Martin hired Gov. Bill Haslam as an executive at Saks Inc. while Haslam was president of Pilot in 1999.


Supreme Court Ruling Affects State DUI Enforcement

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling that police officers need a search warrant to obtain blood tests for a DUI arrest will have an impact on DUI enforcement in Tennessee, WATE reports. During times such as “No Refusal Weekends,” in which suspected drunk drivers cannot refuse sobriety tests, blood alcohol tests are a major tool for Tennessee Highway Patrol. "So that adds an extra step for them. They'll have to articulate fully the circumstances which made it necessary for them to get a blood draw," said Knox County Assistant District Attorney Sarah Keith. “It can be lengthy to get these search warrants."


Killian Stresses Importance of Justice for All

U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee Bill Killian addressed the Bradley County Bar Association’s Law Day celebration Wednesday, speaking on the topic “Federal Laws Under the United States Constitution.” Killian discussed the importance of equality and justice. “We could not secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity because we would have nothing to secure nor pass down to our descendants,” he told a crowd of about 60. “So the next time that you say the pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, don't just repeat the words but know that when we say, ‘One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’ — we mean it.” The Cleveland Banner has more.


Suit Filed to Unseal Baumgartner Files

The parents of murder victims Channon Christian and Christopher Newsome filed two legal petitions seeking to unseal the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file of its probe of disgraced former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, Knoxnews reports. One petition seeks to have a law exempting TBI files from the Tennessee Open Records Act declared unconstitutional. The second is asking that the parents be allowed to intervene in the case of torture-slaying defendants Letalvis Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman in Knox County for the purpose of getting the entire TBI file unsealed.


DCS Disciplines Workers Over Child Death Record Keeping

The state Department of Children’ Services has disciplined three high-ranking employees on the Child Fatality Review Team for deleting child death records and leaving out “significant portions” of the team’s meeting minutes in records provided to media, the Memphis Daily News Reports. The Tennessean and other news organizations sued for the child fatality records to be released but found that the redacted records also had information removed which should have been made public.


Blog Ranks Law Schools By Job Quality

A new law school ranking by Above the Law ranks schools on the quality of jobs graduates attain, alumni satisfaction and education costs. The ABA Journal notes that the ATL ranking does not differ significantly from the traditional U.S. News ranking. On both lists, Vanderbilt ranks highest among Tennessee schools at number 15.


Waller Adds 17 New Attorneys

Nashville’s oldest and largest law firm, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, has added 17 new attorneys to its corporate, finance and restructuring, healthcare, real estate, and trial and appellate practice groups. The Wall Street Journal Market Watch profiles each new member.


Clergy Group Urges Veto of 'Ag Gag' Bill

Clergy for Justice Tennessee, a new statewide organization of religious leaders, delivered to Gov. Bill Haslam’s office a letter signed by 370 people urging him to veto Senate Bill 1248. Dubbed the “Ag Gag” bill, by the Humane Society of the United States, opponents say it is designed to prevent exposure of animal abuse by making it a crime to withhold from law enforcement any “photograph, digital image, video or similar medium” documenting cruelty to livestock within 48 hours. Haslam has 10 days to act on the bill or it becomes law without his signature. The Commercial Appeal has the story.


Drug Court Offers Justice and Mercy

Judge Tim Dwyer started the Shelby County Drug Court in 1997 to offer intensive treatment for nonviolent drug offenders with criminal cases. After his teenage cousin had been killed by a drunk driver, Dwyer said he learned the lesson that people with substance abuse issues need justice tempered with mercy. “I’m a judge. I’m sworn to uphold the law,” Dwyer said. “But all of us in the system have a responsibility to try to help people who want and need it. We’re not just trying to lock people up. We’re trying to save lives” he told the Commercial Appeal.


Free Civil Justice Training May 7

A free training seminar for criminal justice practitioners, victim advocates, mental health therapists and other allied professionals on “Civil Justice for Victims of Crime in Tennessee” will be held in Memphis on Tuesday. The seminar will explore how victims of crimes such as sexual assault, domestic, child, or elder abuse, and identity theft can use civil lawsuits to obtain justice, hold responsible parties accountable, prevent future crimes, and obtain the financial resources victims need to rebuild their lives.


Funeral Services Set for Memphis Attorney

Funeral services have been set for attorney Susan McEwen Clark who died April 30 in Memphis. Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday with the memorial service following at 3:30 p.m., both at St. John's United Methodist Church, on the corner of Peabody and Bellevue. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to St. John's United Methodist Church.


 
 

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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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