Friday is Deadline for Employers to Join Diversity Job Fair

Tennessee legal employers planning to participate in the 3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair have until Friday to register to participate. There are also sponsorship opportunities available for firms that wish to participate in that way. More than 30 law schools in Tennessee and surrounding states have signed up to participate in the job fair set for Aug. 23-24 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. The event provides legal employers in Tennessee the opportunity to interview diverse 2L and 3L law students for summer associate positions, clerkships and associate attorney positions. To learn more, sign up online or email TBA Programs Director Lynn Pointer or call her at (615) 383-7421. The TBA Diversity Job Fair is an initiative of the TBA Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

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
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
05 - 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 Supreme Court

SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT DISCRETIONARY APPEALS Grants & Denials List

Court: TN Supreme Court


TN Court of Appeals

LISA ARNOLD, an un-emancipated child, by RENATE ARNOLD, MOTHER/NEXT-BEST FRIEND v. RANDY KENNEDY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Renate Arnold, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General and Mary M. Bers, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, Randy Kennedy.

Judge: FARMER

The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim for damages under Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-21-108. We affirm.


GREGORY E. HEARN ET AL. v. ERIE INSURANCE EXCHANGE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Gordon C. Aulgur, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Erie Insurance Exchange.

Jean Dyer Harrison, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gregory E. Hearn and Kimberlee Hearn.

Judge: BENNETT

Homeowners claim that cracks in the exterior bricks of their home were caused by blasting in the neighborhood. Their insurance company denied coverage under the homeowner policy. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the homeowners. Based upon our construction of the insurance contract and its exclusion for damage caused by earth movement, we conclude that the judgment approving the verdict is erroneous and must be reversed.


JOHN PIERCE LANKFORD v. SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John Pierce Lankford, Gallatin, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Daniel Farris Beasley, Huntsville, Alabama, for the appellee, Southern Health Partners.

Judge: PER CURIAM

This is an appeal from an order entered on March 12, 2013. Because the appellant did not file his notice of appeal with the trial court clerk within the time permitted by Tenn. R. App. P. 4, we dismiss the appeal.


ELIZABETH ANN WOODARD MAXWELL v. RONALD EDWARD WOODARD, JR.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Phillips M. Smalling, Byrdstown, Tennessee for Respondent/Appellee, Elizabeth Ann Woodard Maxwell.

Kelly R. Williams, Livingston, Tennessee for Petitioner/Appellant, Ronald Edward Woodard, Jr.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves post-divorce modification of a parenting plan. The father filed a petition alleging a material change in circumstances and seeking to be designated primary residential parent for the parties’ minor son. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found a material change in circumstances but declined to designate the father as primary residential parent. Instead, the trial court left the mother in place as primary residential parent and increased the father’s parenting time. The father now appeals the trial court’s decision not to designate him as the primary residential parent. We reverse, holding that the evidence in the record preponderates against the trial court’s holding that it is in the child’s best interest for the mother to remain the primary residential parent, so the trial court erred in denying the father’s petition to designate him as the primary residential parent.


DONALD PLUNK v. GIBSON GUITAR CORPORATION

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Tim Harvey, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gibson Guitar Corp.

Richard Stephen Doughty, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Stephen Orme Nunn, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Donald Plunk.

Judge: DINKINS

Former sales associate brought wrongful termination suit against his former employer, alleging that his termination was in breach of contract and violated the Tennessee Disability Act. When the employer failed to answer the complaint, the trial court granted the employee a default judgment on liability; the court subsequently entered an order granting the employee judgment for $184,437.50. The Employer filed various motions seeking to have the judgments set aside; the court declined to set aside the default judgment but set aside the monetary award. Following a hearing, the court awarded the employee back pay in the sum of $55,590.74 and counsel fees totaling $60,107.25. Employer and employee appeal. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TIMOTHY JAMES COLEY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mike Mosier, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy James Coley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; James G. (Jerry) Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Following a jury trial in the Madison County Circuit Court, Defendant Timothy James Coley was convicted of the Class B felony offense of initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine, and also of the Class A misdemeanor offenses of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and evading arrest. For each of the Class A misdemeanors, he was sentenced to serve concurrent sentences of 11 months and 29 days, with a 75% service by incarceration prior to eligibility for work release, furlough, trusty status and/or rehabilitation programs. Defendant was sentenced to serve 12 years as a Range I standard offender for the felony conviction, with service in the Community Corrections Program, consecutive to, and following service of the sentence for the misdemeanor convictions. Typed under “Special Conditions” of each judgment for a misdemeanor conviction is a requirement that the incarceration must be served in the Madison County Jail and not at the Madison County penal farm. Also typed in the Special Conditions section is the provision that Defendant was not eligible for work release or “any other special jail credits.” Handwritten on the judgment for possession of methamphetamine is the addition “(other than [g]ood [b]ehavior credits).” Defendant presents one very narrow issue in this appeal. He argues that the trial court had no authority to place any restrictions on “the earning of credits and the manner in which the credits are earned.” Specifically, he asserts he should be entitled to sentence credits under Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-2-147. The state filed a brief with a detailed argument section, but failed to address the precise issue raised by Defendant. Following a thorough review of the record and Defendant’s brief, we reverse the judgments of the trial court as to the sentencing credit restrictions in the misdemeanor judgments and remand for entry of amended judgments that do not include the restriction on earning sentencing credits.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOHN T. FREELAND, JR.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

A. Russell Larson and Angela Hopson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, John T. Freeland, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

The Defendant, John T. Freeland, Jr., appeals from his Madison County Circuit Court convictions of first degree premeditated murder, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202(a)(1); first degree murder committed in the perpetration of an especially aggravated kidnapping, see id. § 39-13-202(a)(2); especially aggravated kidnapping, see id. § 39-13-305; and tampering with evidence, see id. § 39-16-503(a)(1). Following a bench trial regarding both guilt and punishment, see id. § 39-13-205, the trial court sentenced Defendant to death for each first degree murder conviction based upon its findings that the defendant was previously convicted of one or more felonies whose statutory elements involve the use of violence, see id. § 39-13-204(i)(2); the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of the defendant, see id. § 39-13-204(i)(6); the murder was knowingly committed, solicited, directed, or aided by the defendant, while the defendant had a substantial role in committing or attempting to commit, an aggravated robbery, see id. § 39-13-204(i)(7); and that these aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court also imposed consecutive sentences of 20 years’ incarceration for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and five years’ incarceration for the tampering with evidence conviction. In addition to challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress statements and the imposition of the death penalty. Because we determine that the trial court failed to merge the first degree murder convictions at sentencing, we remand the case for correction of the judgments to effectuate proper merger. In all other respects, however, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RAYNELLA DOSSETT LEATH

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James A. H. Bell, Knoxville, Tennessee (at trial and on appeal); John Wesley Hall, Little Rock, Arkansas (on appeal); Paula R. Ham, Loudon, Tennessee (at trial); Richard L. Holcomb, Honolulu, Hawaii (at trial), for the appellant, Raynella Dossett Leath.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Robert Steven Bebb, District Attorney General, pro tem; and Richard A. Fisher, Cindy LeCroy-Schemel, and Joseph Y. McCoin, Assistant District Attorneys General, pro tem, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Raynella Dossett Leath, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to imprisonment for life, with the possibility of parole. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that she was retried in violation of her state and federal constitutional protections against double jeopardy; (2) that the trial court erred by declining to exclude test results from analysis of the victim’s blood and urine; (3) that the trial court erred by admitting “certain estate planning documents” into evidence at trial; (4) that the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after a witness testified that she had previously stated that she was “scared” of the Defendant; (5) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder; (6) that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the State’s duty to preserve evidence pursuant to State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999); (7) that the trial court’s jury instruction regarding the defense of alibi improperly shifted the burden of proof onto the Defendant; (8) that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the Defendant’s “theory of defense”; (9) that the trial court used an improper method to select the alternate juror; (10) that members of the jury committed misconduct by deliberating prematurely and reviewing extraneous prejudicial information; (11) that the State withheld evidence favorable to the Defendant in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and its progeny; (12) that the Defendant is entitled to a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence; (13) that the trial court, by accepting the jury’s guilty verdict, “abdicated” its role as the thirteenth juror; and (14) that the Defendant is entitled to a new trial based upon cumulative error. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TRAVIS NIPPER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Matthew C. Rogers, Athens, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Nipper.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and James Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: CRAFT

The appellant, Travis Nipper, was indicted for the Class D felony of Theft of $1,000 or more by the McMinn County Grand Jury. After a trial by jury, he was convicted of the Class E felony of Theft over $500 and was sentenced to one year in the Department of Correction. The appellant appeals his conviction and sentence, stating that his due process rights were violated when the trial court excluded defense evidence during trial that allegedly had been ruled admissible in a pretrial hearing, and that he had been improperly denied an alternative sentence to incarceration. We affirm the appellant's conviction and sentence.


Meningitis Suits Against Tennessee Providers to Remain in State

In a major victory for a handful of the local victims of a nationwide meningitis outbreak, a federal judge has ruled that — at least for now — their cases will proceed before a circuit court judge in Nashville and could eventually be tried by a local jury. In a 33-page ruling issued late Friday, U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV in Boston ruled that victims who have sued only local healthcare providers, and not the compounder who provided the drugs, may keep their cases in Tennessee. Meanwhile, the more-than-100 suits that include claims against the New England Compounding Center will be consolidated in Saylor’s court. The Tennessean has the story.


Guardian Challenges Firm’s Fee Waiver Practice

A guardian ad litem appointed to protect the legal interests of an 80-year-old woman is challenging the fee arrangement her relatives signed with the Memphis law firm of Wilkes & McHugh. Although state law caps contingency fees at one-third of the recovery in medical malpractice cases, the firm had the woman’s relatives sign a waiver allowing a fee of up to 40 percent of any recovery, with an extra five percent allowed if the case was decided on appeal. The guardian, Robert Hutton, says he also wants to look into fee arrangements in 21 other medical malpractice cases the firm has filed since January 2009. The firm's lead attorney on the case did not return a telephone call from the Commercial Appeal, but said in court papers that he never intended to use contingency fee agreements to seek excessive fees.


Judge Explains Reasons for Tossing Confession

A Shelby County judge filed an order Friday explaining why he tossed out the confession of a teen that admitted setting a house fire that killed his mother. Juvenile Court Special Judge Dan Michael said he considered 14-year-old murder suspect Jonathan Ray’s age, experience, education and intelligence as well as investigators’ actions before agreeing with the teen’s attorney that the boy was not properly informed of his Miranda rights before answering questions about the arson. A review of the videotaped interrogation reveals that police officers did not read Ray his Miranda rights, but instead handed him a piece of paper and said his dad had already signed it and authorized the questioning. But the teen’s stepfather was in Detroit, unaware of the death or his son’s legal predicament, the Commercial Appeal reports.


First Duncan Graduates Speak Out on Experience

Three students who recently graduated as part of the inaugural class at the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law spoke to the Citizen Tribune about their experience and the mood among students given the school’s initial failed attempt to win ABA accreditation. One expressed concern about the lack of communication between administrators and students during the process, while another lamented that the school’s accomplishments and contributions to the community get overlooked as negative coverage of the accreditation issue seems to have defined the school. They all expressed hope that the school would ultimately succeed as it reapplies for ABA recognition.


Court Allows Collection of Suspects’ DNA

A divided U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the power of government at all levels to take DNA samples from persons legally arrested for a “serious” new crime, SCOTUSblog reports. What a suspect may have done in the past, the court majority ruled, is a part of the profile that police may constitutionally begin to assemble at the time of arrest for a separate offense. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for a five-four majority, said the practice is akin to taking a suspect’s fingerprints or mug shot. But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the dissenters, said the ruling cast aside a long-standing rule that police may not take scientific samples involuntarily from an individual, if the only purpose is to solve a prior crime.


TBA Convention: Register Now to Avoid Late Fee

Sign up now for the 2013 TBA Annual Convention, before registration costs go up on Wednesday. Along with 12 hours of premium CLE programming, this year’s convention features sessions to help you thrive as a lawyer and an evening out at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where you will experience great food and live music to go along with your tour of this internationally renowned center. Hotel rooms are filling up fast, but availability remains at the Hermitage Hotel, one block from convention headquarters. You can make reservations at this five-diamond-rated hotel by calling (888) 888-9414 and asking for the TBA rate.


NAACP Holds Criminal Justice Seminar June 8

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP will host the 6th Annual Criminal Justice Seminar June 8 at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. This year’s event, Let the Dreams Live!, seeks to shed light on how legal issues, social challenges and advents in the law affect social welfare. Featured topics and presentations will include youth- and adult-oriented seminar tracks. Youth presentations include a session by Rosalyn L. Rice, southeast regional coordinator for the Tennessee Commission of Children and Youth, who will discuss children's advocacy, juvenile justice and conflict resolution strategies. Adult tracks will feature presentations on evolving gun laws, inmates’ rights, neighborhood safety and identity theft. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP at chattanooganaacp@comcast.net or by calling (423) 267-5637. For more information contact Eric Atkins at (423) 320-8598 or atkinse@hotmail.com. Chattanoogan.com had information on the event.


Shelby County Lawyer Placed on Disability

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Shelby County lawyer Joe Lee Wyatt to disability inactive status on May 31. Wyatt may not practice law while on inactive status. He may petition the court to be reinstated by showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law. 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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