Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Voter I.D. Law

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down Arizona's requirement that would-be voters submit proof of citizenship, the ABA Journal reports. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the law conflicted with the federal "motor voter" law, which allows individuals to register to vote without supplying proof of citizenship. The court also was unconvinced that the federal voter registration form needs to be changed to include additional information, which the state said it needed to determine a voter’s eligibility. But Scalia said the state could petition the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the form and then appeal any decision not to make changes.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. dissented from the decision arguing that it interprets “an ambiguous federal statute in a way that brushes aside the constitutional authority of the states" since "under the Constitution, the states, not Congress, have the authority to establish the qualifications of voters in elections for members of Congress." Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU applauded the ruling saying it invalidated a burdensome requirement that restricted citizens' ability to register to vote." Writing at SCOTUSblog, however, one law professor warned the ruling should not be read too broadly as the case “involved a question of statutory construction, not a constitutional challenge."

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
02 - 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

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

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Heather G. Inman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Juanita Y.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Alyssa Y. and Brian Y. (“the Children”), the minor twin children of Juanita Y. (“Mother”). When the Children were three months old, their maternal grandmother filed a petition with the Knox County Juvenile Court, asserting that the Children were dependent and neglected due to Mother’s drug use. The Children were placed in the custody of the maternal grandmother by order of the court entered January 23, 2009. When the maternal grandmother became unable to care for the Children in November 2010, they were taken into custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and placed in foster care. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother on April 26, 2012. The petition alleged several grounds for termination, including abandonment based on Mother’s willful failure to visit and support the Children, persistent conditions, and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition after finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had abandoned the Children due to her failure to pay child support. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that Mother had failed to substantially comply with the permanency plan and that termination of parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Mother has appealed. We affirm.

With Opinion and Order on Petition for Rehearing

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Ben H. Houston, II, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Russell C.

Joshua Hedrick, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandy C.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Martha A. Campbell, Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.


This is a termination of parental rights case focusing on three minor children ("the Children"). The defendants are Russell C. ("Father") and Brandy C. ("Mother"). The Children were taken into custody by the Department of Children's Services ("DCS"_ in January 2008 because of repeated injuries sustained by the oldest child. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents in April 2010, alleging numerous grounds for termination. Following a bench trial, the court granted the petition after finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Father and Mother were in substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans and that the conditions leading to removal still persisted. However, the trial court found that severe child abuse was not proven.The court did find, by clear and and convincing evidence, that termination is in the Children's best interest. Father and Mother appeal. We reverse in part and affirm in part. termination of the parent's parental rights is affirmed.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Neil Umsted Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Aaricka Biley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Terre Fratesi, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Aaricka Biley, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for aggravated child abuse in Count One and aggravated child neglect or endangerment in Count Two. At trial, after the State’s proof, the trial court granted a motion for judgment of acquittal with respect to Count Two. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Appellant guilty of aggravated child abuse. The trial court sentenced Appellant to thirteen years and six months in incarceration. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant initiated this appeal. On appeal, Appellant argues: (1) the trial court erroneously failed to compel the State to elect a particular act or injury; (2) the trial court erroneously failed to charge the jury with an enhanced unanimity instruction; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude: (1) after the trial court dismissed one count of the indictment, the State was not required to make an election; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for aggravated child abuse. Consequently, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Terita Hewlett Riley (on appeal) and Paul James Springer, Sr. (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph Floyd.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; and Amy P. Weirich, Dist rict A ttorney General; and Susan L. Taylor and Edith J. Sellers, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Joseph Floyd, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of two counts of driving under the influence (DUI), Class A misdemeanors, and reckless driving, a Class B misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 55-10-401, 55-10-205 (2012). The trial court merged the DUI convictions. The Defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of eleven months and twenty-nine days for the DUI conviction and seven days for the reckless driving conviction, all suspended but seven days. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgements of the trial court. 


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Rickey W. Griggs, Somerville, Tennessee, for the appellant, James A. Lambert.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Bob Gray, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, James A. Lambert, was indicted by the McNairy County Grand Jury for rape of a child, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, attempted aggravated sexual battery, and incest. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of rape of a child, incest, and aggravated sexual battery. One count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of attempted aggravated sexual battery were later dismissed. As a result of the convictions, Appellant was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty-five years at 100 percent. Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Ryan B. Feeney, Selmer, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joseph L. Lands.

Appellant, Joseph L. Lands, pled guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication in McNairy County. Lands, 377 S.W.3d 678, 679 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2012). Because of a procedural error, Appellant’s appeal to this Court was dismissed and his appeal bond was revoked. Id. at 684. The trial court subsequently granted Appellant’s request for bond while appealing to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The State filed an application pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure for an extraordinary appeal arguing that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to grant the request. We granted the Rule 10 application. On appeal, we conclude that Rule 8(c) specifically states that this Court has jurisdiction to determine questions regarding appeal bonds when an appellant appeals this Court’s determination to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Therefore, we remand this case for proceedings to revoke his appeal bond in the trial court.

Chattanooga Lawyer McDowell Takes Office as YLD President

Chattanooga lawyer David McDowell took office as president of the TBA’s Young Lawyers Division during last week's convention and announced a new pro bono public service project to educate librarians across the state about OnlineTNJustice and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Service’s new legal information website LIFT. The goal of the project is to empower librarians with the knowledge they need to help local residents seeking legal assistance. Also taking office at the division’s annual meeting were President-Elect Stacie Winkler of Memphis, Vice President Rachel Moses of Cookeville, Secretary Troy Weston of Knoxville and Treasurer Steven King of Memphis. McDowell succeeds David Veile of Franklin.

Attorneys Honored at 2013 Lawyers Luncheon

Attorneys from across Tennessee were recognized for outstanding works Friday (June 14) during the Lawyers Luncheon at the TBA Annual Convention in Nashville. Among those honored were:

• The late Elizabeth T. Collins, a former Memphis lawyer, who posthumously received the TBA YLD Fellows' William M. Leech Public Service Award.
• Knoxville lawyer Daniel Headrick, who received the Justice Joseph W. Henry Award for his Tennessee Bar Journal article, “How to Act During a Deposition.” Headrick also received the Larry Dean Willks Leadership Award later that day from the members of his Leadership Law class.
• Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder, who received the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award for her work with lawyers’ assistance programs and access to justice issues.
• Students Alyssa Neuhof and Jeff Carter for their winning video productions submitted to the TBA's YouTube Video Contest.

Cohen Recommends 3 for Federal Judge

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., has reportedly recommended three Memphis lawyers to succeed U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla, who is taking senior status. The Memphis Flyer reports that Cohen suggested President Obama consider Sheri Lipman, counsel for the University of Memphis; Steve Mulroy, professor of law at the university and member of the Shelby County Commission; and Irma Merrill Stratton, a lawyer in private practice. The paper reports all three have successfully undergone interviews by a screening committee and vetting by the FBI.

Monitor Sees Progress, More to Do at Shelby Juvenile Court

A recent report from a federal monitor overseeing the Memphis juvenile justice system says the system is improving, but still has a long way to go. Sandra Simkins, who was hired to oversee reforms at the Shelby County Juvenile Court, said she still has concerns about the transfer of minors to adult court and defense attorneys’ access to their clients' files. She is expected to return to Memphis in the fall for another site visit and progress report, The Commercial Appeal reports.

DOJ Finds Sexual Assault Issues at Youth Center

A recent study from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reveals major problems related to sexual assault at the John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville, WMC-TV reports. According to the story, Fayette County District Attorney Mike Dunavant said he is familiar with the problems inside the center and has prosecuted juveniles and workers for sexual assaults in recent years. The DOJ study found that the center had a 19.5 percent rate of sexual victimization, compared to a state average of 13 percent and a national average of 9.5 percent. Dunavant says he will push for changes in policy to require additional staff training, supervision and reporting of sex crimes.

Court: Juries Must Find Factors for Mandatory Minimums

The high court on Monday ruled that juries, not judges, have the final say on facts that can trigger mandatory minimum sentences in criminal trials, WRCB-TV reports. The court overturned the sentencing of a Richmond man who was convicted of robbery and firearm possession. During the sentencing phase of the trial, the jury said his accomplice did not brandish a weapon but the judge found that he did. The judge’s finding raised the minimum sentence from five to seven years. Lawyers for the defendant argued that the decision should have been left to the jury. The court agreed and sent the case back for resentencing.

Other actions from the court today included rulings in favor of generic drug availability, allowing police to use suspects' silence against them at trial if they do not claim their Fifth Amendment right, and prohibiting lawyers from using state drivers' license records to recruit new clients. SCOTUSBlog has more on these decisions.

Court Grants 4 Cases for Next Term

The court today also agreed to decide four cases in its next term, SCOTUSBlog reports. These cases involve questions of whether federal housing law requires proof of intentional discrimination; the legality of a $1.24 million defamation judgment against a Wisconsin airline that reported a pilot was potentially dangerous; an attorneys fees issue in a district court case; and whether a bankruptcy trustee may surcharge a debtor’s constitutionally protected homestead property. Bloomberg and the AP have stories on these issues.

Obama, Business Leaders Support Immigration Reform

Immigration legislation making its way through the U.S. Senate gained the support of Tennessee business leaders last week. The Tennessean reports that representatives from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of Tennessee, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others announced support for the plan, which also was endorsed by President Obama last week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes to have a vote on the bill by July 4.

Former Memphis ADA, Public Defender Dies

Memphis lawyer G. Donald Siemer, 81, died June 13 at Methodist University Hospital. Originally from Philadelphia, Siemer served the Shelby County community as an assistant district attorney and public defender. He was also instrumental in establishing Shelby County’s Environmental Court and Drug Court. Services were today at Cherokee Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations be sent to the church at 5340 Quince at Estate, Memphis, TN 38119. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life.


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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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