DNA Decision Draws Questions From Vandy Law Prof

Vanderbilt University law professor Chris Slobogin is questioning this week's U.S. Supreme Court decision that  affirms the practice of taking DNA samples of people charged with serious crimes as a customary part of booking suspects. While some local law enforcement agencies view it as a vote of confidence, Slobogin says the  5-4 decision opens the door to routine DNA sampling of any person arrested for a crime, including people who turn out to be innocent. Although Tennessee’s law only applies to suspects connected to serious crimes, Slobogin questions if the high court’s decision could prompt state lawmakers to broaden the law, possibly infringing on innocent people’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Tennessean has the story.

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
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









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 Court of Appeals

MARY L. SPARKS v. JAMES E. DILLINGHAM, ET AL. and JAMES E. DILLINGHAM, ET AL. v. PRESTIGE TITLE, LLC, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles M. Cain, II, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mary L. Sparks

J. David Wicker, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, James E. Dillingham and Vickie L. Dillingham

Judge: HIGHERS

This case presents a question of first impression regarding the scope of the term “lender” as used within the Tennessee Home Loan Protection Act. The parties filed competing motions for summary judgment: Plaintiff claiming that the Defendants were “lenders” subject to the Act and Defendants claiming that they were not “lenders” subject to the Act. The trial court concluded that Defendants were not “lenders,” and therefore it granted summary judgment in Defendants’ favor. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendants, we grant partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GREGORY BRYAN AUSTIN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stevie Phillips, Chattanooga, Tennessee, (on appeal), and Lee Davis, Chattanooga, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, Gregory Bryan Austin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Neal Pinkston, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Gregory Bryan Austin, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated statutory rape with an agreed sentence of two years for each count to be served concurrently, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the effective sentence. The trial court ordered that Defendant serve six months of his effective two-year sentence in confinement with the balance served on supervised probation. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying him full probation. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


TIMOTHY CHATMAN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Sean H. Muizers (on appeal) and Jeffrey Odom (at hearing), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy Chatman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Paul Goodman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Timothy Chatman, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that his guilty pleas were knowing and voluntary and that he received effective assistance of trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JONATHAN CARL DAVIDSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Brian Clay Johnson (on appeal) and Joel R. Bellis (at hearing), Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan Carl Davidson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Caleb Bayless, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

The Maury County grand jury indicted appellant, Jonathan Carl Davidson, for driving under the influence, second offense, and violation of the open container law. Following an unsuccessful motion to suppress the evidence, appellant entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence, second offense. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State dismissed the violation of the open container law charge, and the trial court sentenced appellant to eleven months, twenty-nine days in the county jail, with forty-five days to serve. As a condition of the plea agreement, appellant reserved the right to certify a question of law challenging the legality of the initial traffic stop. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ANDRE HARRIS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; and Harry E. Sayle, III (on appeal), Michael Johnson (at trial), and R. Trent Hall (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Andre Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Steve Jones and Nicole Germain, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Shelby County jury convicted appellant, Andre Harris, of first degree murder in the perpetration of a theft, first degree premeditated murder, and theft of property valued under $500. The trial court merged the murder convictions. Appellant was sentenced to life for first degree murder and to eleven months, twenty-nine days for theft, to be served concurrently in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, appellant submits the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court erred by admitting a video taped portion of appellant’s interrogation from “The First 48”; (2) whether the trial court erred by admitting autopsy photographs; and (3) whether the evidence was sufficient to support appellant’s convictions for premeditated murder and murder in the perpetration of theft. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TERRY FOSSETT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ted I. Jones, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terry Fossett.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Carrie Shelton and Brooks F. Yelverton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Terry Fossett, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and statutory rape by an authority figure, a Class C felony. He was sentenced to twenty-five years at 100% on the rape of a child conviction and three years as a Range I offender on the statutory rape conviction, to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the State should have obtained a psychological examination of the victim. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CHAD MEDFORD

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Bruce E. Poston, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chad Medford.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; DeShea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and TaKisha M. Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Chad Medford, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court convictions of felony murder, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, and employing a firearm during commission of a dangerous felony, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the statements he made to police and by denying admission of his unedited statement at trial, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the trial court erred by admitting certain witness testimony. The defendant also challenges his sentence alignment. Discerning no reversible error, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL WEBSTER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael D. Rohling, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Webster.

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

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Michael Webster, challenges his bench trial conviction for theft of property, over $500, a Class E felony, contending that there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to prove his knowing commission of the offense and that the value of the property exceeded $500. After a review of the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the property at issue exceeded $500, modify the conviction to theft of property, $500 or less, a Class A misdemeanor, and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.


U.S. Attorney Greeted by Hostile Crowd at Free Speech Event

U.S. Attorney Bill Kilian was greeted with jeers last night from a hostile crowd of over 300 at the "Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society" event at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center, sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee. Killian initially pitched the event as an effort at increasing understanding and tolerance of Muslims and their religious beliefs in order to improve relations between local residents and Muslim neighbors. Tension has been especially high since Coffee County Commissioner Barry West drew fire for posting a picture promoting anti-Muslim sentiments on his Facebook page. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.


Federal Judge Speaks Out About Nomination Delays

U.S District Judge James J. Brady spoke out Monday against the increasingly glacial pace of judicial nominations, calling on U.S. Senate leaders to “come to their senses” and recognize the toll a vacant bench has on the court system, the Advocate reports. According to Carl W. Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who is an expert on judicial nominations, Brady’s remarks were unusual for a federal judge but were prompted by the “unusual times” gripping the federal courts. “An increasing number of judges and other people are very concerned about the (nomination) process and how long it takes to move people through it,” Tobias said.


ABA Section Promotes Effort to Stop Gay 'Panic' Defense

The American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section has taken up a resolution to protect victims of so-called gay and trans “panic” legal defenses, the Wisconsin Gazette reports. The resolution proposes no longer allowing defense attorneys to use tactics asking a jury to find that a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation is to blame for the defendant’s excessively violent reaction. The ABA House of Delegates must pass the resolution at the 2013 ABA Annual Meeting in August for the recommendations to become official ABA policy.


Study: Lawyer Glut is Worst in Mississippi

In Mississippi, there were 10.53 law grads for each projected legal job opening in 2011, the ABA Journal reports. According to Matt Leichter, author of the blog Law School Tuition Bubble, Mississippi fares the worst in lawyer gluts because of a poor annual jobs outlook of just 30 jobs per year. Ole Miss law dean Richard Gershon disputes the validity of these numbers, however.


Top Law Firms Ranked According to Diversity

The American Lawyer surveyed the country’s largest and highest-grossing law firms and ranked them according to their percentage of minority attorneys and partners. Of the 228 firms ranked, Memphis-based Baker Donelson and Nashville’s Bass Berry and Sims came in at numbers 167 and 190, respectively.


Patent Push Causes Debate on Legal Authority

The Obama administration announced a plan on Tuesday to lift the veil on patent ownership. As part of the plan, the president said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is drafting a rule that would require patent applicants to disclose who actually owns them. While proponents defend the action as falling within the scope of the executive rule-making authority, critics of the proposal have suggested the new disclosure rule may be an overreach. The Legal Blog of the Wall Street Journal has the story.


Free Speaker Training, June 28, 29

Interested In speaking at an upcoming CLE prorgam? The TBA is hosting a speaker training program June 28-29. Lawyers will learn the skills they will need to present at CLE programs. For more information, download the registration form or email CLE Director Mindy Fulks.


Drug Court Fundraiser Set for June 13

Join the Shelby County Drug Court on June 13 at River Terrace at Mud Island River Park for Rockin' on the River to benefit the Shelby County Drug Court Foundation. The event begins with cocktails at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and live entertainment at 8 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person. Contact Angela Parkerson at (901) 222-3555 or angela.parkerson@shelbycountytn.gov for more information and tickets.


 
 

Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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