Cooper: 'Ag-Gag' Bill is Constitutionally Suspect

The so-called “ag-gag” bill awaiting approval from Gov. Bill Haslam was called “constitutionally suspect” in an opinion released today by Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter Robert Cooper. The governor has said that he will decide by Monday whether or not to sign the bill, which has drawn a firestorm of protest. The legislation would require people who document animal abuse to hand over the recordings to police within 48 hours. Cooper’s opinion said the bill (HB 1191) is constitutionally suspect under the First Amendment on three grounds: underinclusiveness, prior restraint and news gathering privilege. It could also be held to violate a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, the opinion said.

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
00 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
01 - 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


Court: TN Supreme Court


Bryan Essary and James Charles Sperring, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Williamson Co. Hospital District d/b/a Williamson Medical Center, Karen Christopher, Charla Atkins, Camela McCullough, and Cary Ralph.

Elizabeth Sara Tipping, Johnathan H. Wardle, and Philip Norman Elbert, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Walton Cunningham and Phyllis Cunningham.

Arthur P. Brock and William J. Rieder, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority.


A husband and wife filed a claim against a county hospital alleging that the negligence of the hospital and its employees caused the death of their son. The claim was filed approximately fifteen months after their son’s death in accordance with the provisions of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 (2012). The county hospital, a governmental entity, filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations of the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”). Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-305(b) (2012). The couple responded that their complaint was timely filed because Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c) extended the GTLA statute of limitations by 120 days. The trial court denied the hospital’s motion to dismiss but granted an interlocutory appeal under Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Court of Appeals granted the Rule 9 application and affirmed the trial court’s denial of the hospital’s motion to dismiss. We granted the hospital permission to appeal. We hold that the 120-day extension provided by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c) does not apply to the plaintiffs’ claim brought under the GTLA. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss and remand the case to the trial court for entry of an order dismissing Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham’s complaint.

TN Workers Comp Appeals

With concurring and dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Randy N. Chism, Union City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Jeffrey P. Boyd, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Hardy.

Judge: CLARK

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation 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 this hearing-loss case, the employer raises a single issue on appeal: whether the trial court erred in finding that employee’s workers’ compensation claim is not barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court’s judgment finding that the claim was timely.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mark A. Kovach, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Deangelo M. Moody.

Anne M. Davenport, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Martez D. Matthews.

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

Judge: PAGE

A jury convicted appellants, Deangelo M. Moody and Martez D. Matthews, of first degree murder. The trial court imposed life sentences. On appeal, both appellants challenge the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. In addition, appellant Matthews argues that the trial court erred in the following rulings: (1) admitting a hearsay statement pertaining to motive that was attributed to a severed co-defendant; (2) allowing certain statements, including “gang lingo”; (3) permitting testimony regarding witnesses’ gang involvement for impeachment purposes; (4) admitting evidence of the personal history between two witnesses; (5) allowing the State to introduce a crime scene photograph that depicted a pool of blood; and (6) permitting the State to introduce proof of his conviction for possession of a handgun. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand this cause for entry of judgment forms reflecting dismissal of appellant Matthews’s indictment for employing a firearm during commission of a dangerous felony and appellant Moody’s acquittal of the same charge.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Conflict of Interest of Board Member of the Tennessee Board of Regents

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2013-05-07

Opinion Number: 38

TBA Board of Governors to Fill Open Positions

Three open positions will be filled by the Tennessee Bar Association Board of Governors at its June 15 meeting.  The positions — West Grand Division Governors (Positions 1 and 2) and the 4th District Governor — are open seats created when no one sought to be considered for the seats by the deadline. If you would like to be considered for one of the positions, contact TBA Executive Director Allan F. Ramsaur by June 10. The West Grand Division includes Henry, Decatur, Hardeman, McNairy, Carroll, Chester, Hardin, Madison, Henderson, Fayette, Benton, Gibson, Weakley, Obion, Haywood, Crockett, Lake, Dyer, Tipton, Lauderdale and Shelby counties. The 4th District includes White, Warren, Franklin, Lincoln, Van Buren, Fentress, Moore, Marshall, Pickett, Bedford, Cannon, Putnam, Smith, Rutherford, DeKalb, Overton, Jackson, Wilson, Macon, Clay, Coffee, Trousdale, Grundy and Sequatchie counties. In accordance with Article 47 of the TBA Bylaws, the board may fill the vacancies at its June meeting, with terms running through spring 2014.

DCS Can’t Produce 8 Child Death Records

The Department of Children’s Services announced last week it could only produce 42 of the court-ordered release of 50 records of children who died leading up to July 1, 2012. “There were eight case files in which no referral concerning the death of the child was made to the Department of Children’s Services and, therefore, the Department did not conduct any sort of investigation as to these deaths,” the DCS court filing said. DCS spokeswoman Molly Sudderth declined to answer any questions about why the records were unavailable, citing the ongoing litigation. The Tennessean has the story.

Maury County Considers New Justice Center

A new $24 million criminal justice center was approved by the Maury County Building Committee yesterday, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. The project was greatly reduced in size since it was last considered in order to make it more cost effective. The 95,556-square-foot center was cut down more than 21,000 square feet and will no longer include a parking garage or office for county staff. The number of courtrooms also was reduced.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Sues Literary Agent for Royalties

Acclaimed author Harper Lee is suing her literary agent Samuel Pinkus, alleging that he tricked her into signing a document transferring the royalties from her 1960 novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 87-year-old was recovering from a stroke and says she did not understand what she was doing. “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” her lawyer, Gloria Phares, wrote in the suit. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright.” The ABA Journal has the story.

Election Commission Fires Tieche

The Davidson County Election Commission voted 4-1 to fire embattled elections administrator Albert Tieche, the Tennessean reports. The decision followed a heated one-hour meeting during which commissioner Jim Grotto tendered his resignation. He criticized the others for seemingly fast-tracking the firing of Tieche. Commissioner chair Ron Buchanan made the motion to terminate Tieche’s contract and appoint deputy elections administrator Joan Nixon as interim.

Animal Control Reverses Anti-Pit Bull Policy

In a stark policy reversal for Metro Nashville Animal Care and Control, pit bull puppies will be eligible for adoption at the city-run animal shelter beginning June 1, the Tennessean reports. Previously, any dog with pit bull bloodlines would be killed if it was not claimed by its owner within the state-mandated three-day holding period. Advocates say such breed-specific policies are wrong and have contributed to Metro’s 78 percent kill rate. Additionally, adult pit bulls that pass a health and behavioral screening, and have no history of aggression toward people or other animals, will be eligible for adoption beginning in September.

Haslam Signs Workers’ Comp Bill Into Law

Gov. Bill Haslam officially signed legislation drastically changing the state’s workers’ compensation system, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Haslam formally signed the bill yesterday at the Clarksville Foundry, a manufacturer that has been making iron castings for more than 165 years.

Jury Finds Y-12 Protesters Guilty

The Y-12 protesters accused of interfering with national security when they broke into the nuclear weapons facility in Oak Ridge in July have been found guilty, the Johnson City Press reports. An 83-year-old nun and two fellow protesters were charged with sabotaging the plant and damaging federal property.

Two Attorneys Lead Race for Democratic Senate Seat

After Sen. Doug Henry’s announcement yesterday that he will not seek re-election, Nashville politicos are looking ahead to a Democratic primary fight shaping up between Metro Councilman Jason Holleman and Jeff Yarbro. Holleman, a partner at Jones, Hawkins & Farmer law firm, confirmed he was running for the seat. Yarbo, who is with Bass, Berry & Sims, told the Tennessean he would make an announcement “when the time is right,” although many believe he will run again. In 2010, Yarbro lost to Henry by just 17 votes.

Hardin County Attorney Suspended

Attorney James S. Powell of Savannah was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for two years and ordered to pay $750 restitution to a former client. Powell caused several overdrafts to occur to his client trust account and neglected the representation of a former client, causing the former client’s case to be dismissed for failure to prosecute. He also failed to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility concerning complaints that had been filed against him. Download the BPR notice.


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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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