Bryant to Lead Tenn. Judicial Conference

Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant of the 10th Judicial District was sworn in Friday by Chief Justice Gary Wade as president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. Bryant succeeds Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr. of Columbia, who has served as TJC president since last June. “I am excited to serve the judges of this state. The Tennessee Judicial Conference was created in 1953 to provide judges with opportunities through education and other activities that allow us to utilize the combined and vast experience of judges across the state to improve the level of service to the citizens of the State of Tennessee,” Bryant 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
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
04 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
00 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
01 - 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


Joseph A. McClusky, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ledarren Hawkins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: KOCH

The defendant was convicted in the Circuit Court for Madison County of first degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. On this appeal, the defendant seeks reversal of his first degree murder conviction on the ground that the trial court declined his request for a jury instruction on defense of a third person. He also seeks reversal of his evidence-tampering conviction on the ground that his abandonment of the murder weapon did not amount to tampering with physical evidence. The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his convictions and sentences. State v. Hawkins, No. W2010-01687-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 543048 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 16, 2012). Based on this record, we have determined that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s request for an instruction on defense of a third person. However, we have also determined that the defendant did not tamper with physical evidence in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-16-503(a)(1) (2010) by tossing the murder weapon over a short fence where it could be easily observed and recovered. Accordingly, we affirm the defendant’s conviction and sentence for first degree murder and reverse his conviction and sentence for tampering with physical evidence.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Peter L. Lublin and J. Kelsey Grodzicki, Peachtree Corners, Georgia, for the appellant, BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, f/k/a Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP.

Tabitha Finch, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Kaiser C. Taylor and All Known and Unknown Heirs of Kaiser C. Taylor and Kathy K. Taylor.


This case involves a foreclosure sale that occurred while an automatic stay was in effect pursuant to the mortgagor’s bankruptcy proceeding. The mortgagee petitioned the trial court to find the foreclosure void ab initio and to reform the real estate records by voiding the successor trustee’s deed and placing the parties in their original positions as to the deed of trust. The trial court denied the relief requested by the mortgagee. The mortgagee appeals. We hold that the foreclosure sale is invalid and of no effect because it is voidable, pursuant to United States Code § 362(a)(6) and (c) (Supp. 2012) and Tennessee law, and because there existed no equitable circumstances sufficient to constitute an exception to the operation of the stay. We reverse the denial of summary judgment and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

LEWIS D. CHAPMAN, Individually and as an Employee and Deputy Sheriff of Shelby County, Tennessee v. SHELBY COUNTY GOVERNMENT, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Thomas E. Hansom, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lewis D. Chapman.

Jameson Dylan King and Louis P. Britt, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Shelby County Government, Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Kathy L. Crowder, Markus T. Mack, and Essie T. Branch.


The trial court determined that Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate an injury and accordingly lacked standing in this declaratory judgment action. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Michael S. Long, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ramey Michelle Long.

T. Franklin Gilley, III, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellees, Judith R. Adair and Carol L. Casteel.


Motorist brought suit against multiple defendants for injuries arising out of two car accidents. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of two defendants. Because genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment, we reverse.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Chester H. Lauck, III, Little Rock, Arkansas, for the appellant, Clayton Ward.

S. Camille Reifers and Brooks E. Kostakis, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Illinois Central Railroad Company.


Appellant, former employee of Appellee railroad, appeals the trial court’s grant of Appellee’s motion for summary judgment on the ground of preclusion. Appellant filed this lawsuit under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, seeking damages for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of walking on ballast in Appellant’s railyard. Appellee moved for summary judgment on the ground that Appellant’s claim concerning ballast was precluded by the Federal Railroad Safety Act regulation 49 C.F.R. § 213.103. The trial court granted summary judgment, concluding that Appellant failed to meet his burden to negate Appellee’s proof that it complied with 49 C.F.R. § 213.103. We have determined that Appellant satisfied his burden of production to negate Appellee’s proof regarding whether the ballast rock at issue provided adequate drainage in compliance with 49 C.F.R. § 213.103, making summary judgment inappropriate. Reversed and remanded.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals

With Concurring Opinion

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


M. Keith Davis, Dunlap, Tennessee, for the appellant, Larry D. Rothwell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; J. Michael Taylor, District Attorney General; and James Pope, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Larry D. Rothwell, was convicted by a Rhea County jury of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty-one years in incarceration. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant has presented the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion by excusing a juror; (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to allow introduction of portions of a witness’s pretrial interview; (3) whether the trial court improperly excluded evidence about how the fight between Appellant and the victim started, determining that evidence from Betty Lewis was collateral; (4) whether the trial court improperly refused to enforce a subpoena for Betty Lewis on behalf of Appellant; (5) whether the trial court improperly denied Appellant the opportunity to impeach Brandy Smith; (6) whether the trial court improperly allowed hearsay testimony; (7) whether the trial court improperly excluded Randy Rothwell’s testimony about the description of a knife removed from the victim’s body; (8) whether the trial court improperly declared Randy Rothwell a hostile witness; (9) whether the trial court improperly excluded evidence of Brandy Smith’s prior felony conviction; (10) whether the trial court improperly denied the motion to suppress; (10) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction; (11) whether cumulative errors of the trial court require reversal of the conviction; and (12) whether the sentence was excessive. After a review of the record, we determine that the evidence did not preponderate against the denial of the motion to suppress where the evidence supported a finding of exigent circumstances; the trial court did not err in excusing a juror; the trial court properly excluded impeachment of Brandy Smith by prior inconsistent statement where she admitted to an inconsistency in one prior statement and the other statement was not inconsistent; the trial court properly determined that the testimony of Betty Lewis was excluded by the collateral fact rule; the trial court properly admitted the statements of Randy Rothwell; the trial court properly excluded the testimony of Leo Andy about the knife on the victim’s person as hearsay; the trial court properly determined that Randy Rothwell was a hostile witness; the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the admission of Brandy Smith’s prior conviction was more prejudicial than probative; the evidence was sufficient to support the lesser included offense of second degree murder; and the trial court properly sentenced Appellant. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR


Court: Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

May a criminal defense lawyer alleged by a former criminal client to have rendered ineffective assistance of counsel voluntarily provide information to the prosecutor defending the claim outside the court-supervised setting?

A Round-Up of the Supreme Court Opinions

Although the Supreme Court did not issue opinions on hot button topics such as same sex marriage, affirmative action or Voting Rights Act cases, SCOTUSblog reports that the court did issue rulings in three other argued cases. The decision in Descamps v. United States will make it more difficult for the federal government to use the details of a prior conviction to strengthen criminal sentences. In American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, the court ruled that retailers would need to work through arbitration individually, rather than through class action, to resolve claims with American Express. In the final opinion of the day, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society, the court held that the government could not require aid organizations to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking to receive federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs overseas.

Ginsburg 'Optimistic' About Women in the Courts

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discussed the growing number of women judges in courts across the country during a panel discussion Tuesday on women and the District of Columbia’s federal courts, the Blog of the Legal Times reports. Ginsburg stated that her fellow Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor made her "tremendously optimistic" about the future. "We are no longer one-at-a-time curiosities," she said, adding that having multiple women on the Supreme Court was "exhilarating" and offered "the right picture for the children who troop in and out."

New Rules Clarify Protests at Supreme Court

Following Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling last week tossing out as unconstitutional the previous anti-demonstration rules at the U.S. Supreme Court, court officials clarified and revised regulations to the 60-year old law. "The term demonstration includes demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers," says the revised Regulation 7, which was effective last Thursday. "The term does not include casual use by visitors or tourists that is not reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers." WCYB has the story.

Husch Blackwell and Brown McCarroll Announce Merger

The partners of Husch Blackwell LLP and Brown McCarroll LLP have voted to merge the two firms, effective July 1. The Chattanoogan reports the combined firms will move forward together in all markets as Husch Blackwell LLP. With the addition of Austin, Dallas and Houston, the new firm has offices in 16 U.S. cities -- including Chattanooga and Memphis -- more than 600 attorneys and 750 staff. Based on 2012 revenues reported earlier this year, the combined firm would have achieved annual revenues of $319 million, which would have vaulted the new firm into a tie at No. 94 on the 2013 AmLaw 100 list of highest revenue-generating law firms. View the official press release

Redactions of DCS Records Questioned

Newly released records from the Department of Children’s Services contain substantial redactions of information that the Tennessean says appear “random” and “contradictory.” According to the newspaper’s review, in some cases DCS redacted autopsy results, which are routinely made public by the state’s medical examiners. In other cases, DCS redactions were contradictory, concealing cause of death on some pages, while leaving it unedited elsewhere in the same child’s file. Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy, who ordered the records released and reviewed each one, said last week that at least 129 pages contained redactions that may have gone beyond what she ordered DCS to eliminate to protect the confidentiality of families.

Health Exchanges May Not Be Ready to Launch

A new Government Accountability Office report suggests that implementation of health care exchanges called for in the new heath care reform act may be rough going when enrollment in federally operated exchanges, including Tennessee's, begins on Oct. 1. The federal "data hub" designed to deliver real-time eligibility rulings has only undergone initial testing, of concern to the federal investigators who authored the report. The report also confirms what many policy experts have been warning about – namely, that the federal government wasn't prepared or expecting to operate 34 state exchanges, causing some deadlines to be missed or delayed. The Memphis Business Journal has the story.

Program Aims to Reduce Recidivism Among Women

An $800,000 grant is helping initiate 20 programs designed to reduce crime in the Mountain Home and downtown areas of Johnson City, including the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project aimed specifically at reducing recidivism in women. “It just keeps going on and on and on, generation after generation," Johnson City Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Green said. "If we don't break that cycle now, then we're going to have tremendous problems ongoing," Green told WJHL.

New Firm Opens Clarksville Office

Executive Legal Professionals, founded by attorney Noel R. Bagwell, recently held its ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce. The firm provides businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs with customized packages of ongoing business legal services for flat rates. Services are also provided on an as-needed basis for single occurrence legal services, The Leaf Chronicle reports.


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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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