25 Apply for Court of Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals

Three judges, one magistrate and 21 attorneys have applied to fill the 2014 vacancies on the Court of Appeals Middle Tennessee Division and Court of Criminal Appeals Eastern Tennessee Division, the Administrative Office of the Courts announced today. The openings are the result of announcements by Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Cottrell and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joseph Tipton that they will not seek re-election in August 2014, creating vacancies effective Sept. 1, 2014. Because statutory provisions for the Judicial Nominating Commission expire June 30, 2013, the commission will meet June 27 in Chattanooga and June 28 in Nashville to select a slate of candidates from which Gov. Bill Haslam will choose.

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


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Rosalyn L. Caffey, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

J. Brooks Fox, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellees, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and the Tennessee Board of Zoning Appeals.

Scott Patton Tift, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Elizabeth W. Blair.


Neighbor of property owner who received a variance from a side yard setback requirement in zoning ordinance filed an action seeking certiorari review of the Board of Zoning Appeals’ grant of the variance. The trial court determined that the Board’s action was within its authority pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 12-7-207(3) and affirmed the grant of the variance. We concur with the trial court and affirm the Board’s action.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Terry Abernathy, Selmer, Tennessee, for the appellant, Donna Perdue.

Randy C. Camp, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Estate of Daniel Jackson, Deceased, by and through its Administratrix, C.T.A. Connie Higgs and Connie Higgs, Individually.


The trial court granted summary judgment in this declaratory judgment action, finding that the will at issue was unambiguous. Having determined that the will at issue contains a latent ambiguity that must be resolved through the use of extrinsic evidence, we reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Christopher Lee Pirtle, Only, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William Young, Solicitor General, and James Lee Pope, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Turney Center Disciplinary Board.


Petitioner, an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction, was charged with the prison disciplinary offense of Refusing a Drug Test because he failed to provide an adequate amount of urine for testing. Following a disciplinary hearing he was found guilty of the offense. He filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which was granted, and Respondents filed a certified copy of the record of Petitioner’s disciplinary proceedings. The trial court found the disciplinary board did not act in an illegal or arbitrary manner, and dismissed the case. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender; Daniel Ufford, Assistant District Public Defender, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Donta Henry Ivory.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Dan Brollier, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Donta Henry Ivory, appeals from the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation. Ivory entered a guilty plea to statutory rape, and he received a suspended sentence of two years. In a separate case, he later entered a best interest plea to an amended charge of aggravated assault and received a five-year suspended sentence concurrent with the previous two-year sentence. On appeal, Ivory argues that the trial court erred in revoking his probation. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David N. Brady, District Public Defender; April S. Craven and John B. Nisbet, III, Assistant Public Defenders, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Scotty Dale Staggs.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Mark E. Gore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Scotty Dale Staggs, was indicted by an Overton County Grand Jury for aggravated burglary, theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000, theft of property valued at $500 or less, and evading arrest. Prior to trial, the State entered a nolle prosequi on the charge of theft of property valued at $500 or less. Staggs was subsequently convicted of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000, a Class E felony; and evading arrest, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court sentenced him as a Range III, persistent offender to concurrent sentences of fifteen years for the aggravated burglary conviction and six years for the theft conviction and sentenced him to a concurrent sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor evading arrest conviction, for an effective sentence of fifteen years in confinement. On appeal, Staggs argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for aggravated burglary, theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000, and evading arrest; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to sever the evading arrest charge from the aggravated burglary and theft charges; (3) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the victims’ surveillance videotape into evidence; (4) the trial court erred in instructing the jury on flight; (5) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its opening statement; and (6) his sentence was excessive. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Deana C. Seymour and Gregory D. Jordan, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Company.

Scott G. Kirk, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jeffrey Patterson.

Judge: ASH

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee alleged he suffered a ruptured cervical disk while lifting metal plates at work. His employer denied the claim, contending the neck injury was caused or worsened by a subsequent motor vehicle accident. The employee filed this action in the Chancery Court of Hardeman County, seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court ruled in favor of the employee, awarding temporary and permanent disability benefits plus future medical benefits. The employer has appealed, contending the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding. 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 trial court’s judgment.

TJC Welcomes New Executive Director

The Tennessee Justice Center has announced that managing attorney Michele Johnson will succeed Gordon Bonnyman as executive director at the end of 2013. Bonnyman and Johnson co-founded the organization 17 years ago to advocate for Tennessee’s vulnerable populations, particularly those struggling to find access to healthcare. “I am excited that Michele will assume full leadership of the organization that she has already helped make an effective voice for Tennesseans in need,” said Bonnyman, who will continue to serve clients as a TJC staff attorney. The TJC will host a reception Friday at Waller Law at 5 p.m. to welcome Johnson, and to celebrate the courage of TJC’s clients and generosity of law firms throughout Tennessee.

Nashville Meningitis Lawsuits Dropped

In an abrupt reversal, lawyers for local victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak have dropped suits filed in Nashville against the local clinic where the patients were treated and plan to refile the claims against multiple parties in a pending federal court case in Massachusetts. Attorney Bill Leader said the switch from local courts to federal court was necessary so that the victims could make claims against all possible responsible parties, including the Massachusetts drug compounding firm that produced the spinal steroid blamed for the outbreak. The Tennessean has the story.

Sevier County Proud of New TBA President's Accomplishments

Sevier County leaders are showing their pride in having the new president of the Tennessee Bar Association call the county home. The Mountain Press daily newspaper this week features an editorial chronicling Cynthia Richardson Wyrick’s educational and career trajectory to becoming the TBA’s 134th president. When she is sworn in during ceremonies Friday in Nashville, she will join John B. Waters Jr. (1983-1984) as the only Sevier County residents to have led the state association.

New Bill Defines Sex Trafficking as Child Abuse

Under proposed legislation, child prostitutes would be considered victims of abuse rather than juvenile offenders and be referred to child welfare, WRCB-TV reports. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would require state law enforcement, foster care and child welfare programs to identify children lured into sex trafficking as victims of abuse and neglect eligible for the appropriate protections and services. Tennessee recently developed one of the nation’s most comprehensive anti-trafficking programs with 12 new laws approved by lawmakers.

EEOC Sues Over Criminal Background Checks

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Goodlettsville-based Dollar General and a BMW manufacturing plant in South Carolina over their use of criminal background checks to screen out job applicants or fire employees. The Memphis Daily News reports that the two lawsuits are the agency’s first since it revised its guidance last year to warn employers against overly broad criminal checks to screen workers.

Civil Liberties Group Sues DOJ over Phone Surveillance

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in New York federal court against the U.S. Justice Department and other federal agencies, challenging the constitutionality of the government's review of millions of phone call records on Verizon subscribers. "The practice is akin to snatching every American's address book — with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we talked, for how long, and from where," ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in the complaint, which alleges First Amendment violations. "It gives the government a comprehensive record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about our familial, political, professional, religious, and intimate associations." he says. The National Law Journal has the story.

Law Firm Growth Slow in 2012, Survey Says

Law firms in the U.S. saw only incremental growth in 2012, the JD Journal reports from the National Law Journal's annual survey that analyzes data from the nation’s 350 largest firms. Last year saw an overall growth in headcount of 1.1 percent in law firms tracked by the NLJ 350. While any growth is better than shrinkage, last year’s growth was lower than 2011, which saw law firms increase their hiring by 1.7 percent. Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada was one bright spot, showing 35 percent growth.

Tenn. Lawmakers Looking at Immigration Bill

Tennessee lawmakers are voicing varied opinions on Senate Bill 744 during debate on comprehensive immigration reform, the Tennessean reports. U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander have questioned the border-security provisions, while Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, says the bill looks “promising.” Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, and Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, say they are skeptical of the Senate bill.

Study: You Might be a Redneck If …

The pronunciation of the word “lawyer” is part of a trending story on regional differences in vernacular and pronunciation, the ABA Journal reports. According to a map by PhD student Joshua Katz of North Carolina State University, most people pronounce the word “loy-er”, although those in Southern states say “law-yer.” A survey of the pronunciation of “voir dire” was less scientific; Lawyer Lyn Robbins polled 114 of his attorney friends from 29 states. Texas Lawyers’ Tex Parte Blog reported the various pronunciations.

Tennessee AG Watching ACA Suit

Oklahoma's Attorney General is suing to get his state exempted from a portion of the Affordable Care Act, the Tennessee Watchdog reports, while Tennessee's AG is watching to see how that maneuver plays out, a spokeswoman tells the Watchdog. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt argues that states not opting to create their own health exchanges -- including Tennessee, Oklahoma and 31 others -- don’t have to participate in the employer mandate, a tax on business owners.

TBA Convention Kicks Off in Nashville

The 132nd Annual TBA Convention kicked off today at the Sheraton Downtown Nashville hotel. Along with a full slate of CLE programming and joint events with other statewide legal groups, the conference will include meetings of the TBA Board of Governors and a number of TBA sections and committees. Today's activities included a luncheon for members of the TBASCUS group as well as a session of the TBA House of Delegates. Meeting in conjunction with the TBA this year are the Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women, the Tennessee Alliance for Black Lawyers, the Tennessee Stonewall Bar Association, the Tennessee Association for Justice and the Tennessee Judicial Conference. Activities run through Saturday.


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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