TLAW Installs New Officers

The Tennessee Lawyers' Association for Women installed new officers during its annual meeting June 14 in Nashville. Taking office as president was Wendy Longmire, an attorney with Ortale, Kelley, Herbert & Crawford in Nashville. She succeeds Kristi Rezabek of Jackson. Other leaders installed were Vice-President Cheryl Rice, Treasurer Linda Knight, Recording Secretary Ahsaki Baptist, Corresponding Secretary Beth Bates, West Tennessee Director Lanis Karnes, Middle Tennessee Director Amy Everhart and East Tennessee Director Judy Cornett. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary L. Wade administered the oath of office to the group.

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.

03 - 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
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

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

Court: TN Supreme Court


WALTER RAY CULP, III v. BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Walter Ray Culp, III, Brentwood, Tennessee, pro se with assistance of counsel by James D.R. Roberts, Jr. and Janet L. Layman, Nashville, Tennessee; Tyree B. Harris, IV at trial, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant.

Kevin D. Balkwill, Disciplinary Counsel, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board of Professional Responsibility.

Judge: LEE

In this appeal, we review the denial of an attorney’s petition for reinstatement of his law license. The attorney was suspended from the practice of law for five years after he pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in federal court. The extortion arose out of the attorney’s attempt to broker the testimony of a witness in a civil trial for a substantial fee. After serving a nineteen-month prison sentence and a five-year suspension from the practice of law, the attorney petitioned for reinstatement. A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility denied the attorney’s request, finding that the attorney failed to carry his burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence that he had the moral qualifications, competency and learning in law, and that reinstatement would not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar, the administration of justice and subversive to the public interest. The panel considered, among other things, the nature of the crime, that the extortion involved several million dollars, the attorney’s unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions, and his lack of credibility. The attorney appealed to the Chancery Court for Williamson County. The trial court affirmed the hearing panel’s decision. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL SHANE SPRINGER

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Clifford K. McGown, Jr., Waverly, Tennessee (on appeal); Tom W. Crider, District Public Defender, and Stephanie Hale, Assistant Public Defender, Trenton, Tennessee (at trial and of counsel on appeal), for the appellant, Michael Shane Springer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Garry Brown, District Attorney General; and Jason C. Scott, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: LEE

In this appeal, we interpret the meaning of the phrase “term of imprisonment” in Articles III and IV of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (“IAD”), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-31-101 to -108 (2006), and determine whether the defendant is entitled to relief under the IAD. The IAD, a compact between state and federal jurisdictions, provides cooperative procedures for the exchange of prisoners between state and federal jurisdictions so that prisoners can be brought to trial on untried indictments or complaints. Under Article III of the IAD, a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment may request a trial within 180 days after being delivered to another state. Under Article IV of the IAD, an official of one jurisdiction may seek custody of a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment in another jurisdiction, but the prisoner must be tried within 120 days of arrival in that jurisdiction and cannot be “shuttled” back to the original place of imprisonment before the trial. The IAD mandates a dismissal of the indictment for a violation of either Article III or IV. The defendant in this case was arrested on related federal and state charges and taken into federal custody. After the defendant was tried and convicted in federal court, he was indicted by the grand jury in Gibson County on the related state charges. Before being sentenced in federal court, the defendant filed a demand for speedy disposition of the state charges under Article III of the IAD. While the defendant was confined at a federal temporary detention facility after his sentencing in federal court, the Gibson County Sheriff filed a detainer and transported the defendant to Gibson County for an arraignment. After counsel was appointed and the defendant was arraigned, he was transferred back into federal custody. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the state indictment for violations of Articles III and IV of the IAD. The trial court denied the motion. The defendant entered a conditional guilty plea pursuant to Tenn. R. Crim. P. 11 and reserved a certified question of law seeking appellate review of the denial of the motion to dismiss because of the alleged violation of the IAD. The Court of Criminal Appeals, in a divided opinion, affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to dismiss. See State v. Springer, No. W2010-02153-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 603820, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 16, 2012). We hold that for purposes of the IAD, a prisoner who is incarcerated after sentencing is serving a “term of imprisonment.” We further hold that the defendant properly reserved his issues for appeal in the certified question; that the defendant was a federal pretrial detainee at the time he filed a procedurally deficient demand for speedy disposition and is not entitled to relief under Article III; and that the defendant was serving a term of imprisonment when he was transferred, pursuant to a detainer, from the federal temporary detention facility to Gibson County for his arraignment and back to federal custody on the same day. Article IV of the IAD was violated when the defendant was transferred back to the federal detention center before being tried for the state charges. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed, the conviction is vacated, and the indictment against the defendant is dismissed with prejudice.


TN Court of Appeals

CONOLY BROWN, ET AL. v. METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Peter H. Curry, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellants, Conoly Brown, David Hood, and Tennessee Quick Cash, Inc.

Kathryn S. Evans, Cynthia E. Gross, and Jason P. Bobo, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

Judge: COTTRELL

The Metropolitan Council adopted a series of three ordinances that (1) created a new zoning classification called Specific Planning (SP); (2) rezoned over 700 parcels of property to SP zoning; and (3) amended permitted uses in SP zones to exclude certain types of financial services, specifically check cashing services not part of a bank. The plaintiffs owned property on which that type of service was conducted and another parcel on which they intended to conduct the excluded services. Their parcels were among those rezoned as SP. We reverse the trial court’s holding that the plaintiffs’ challenge should have been brought as a common law writ of certiorari action because the act of rezoning by amending the zoning ordinance is a legislative act which is reviewable in a declaratory judgment action. We also hold that the ordinance rezoning the 700 parcels was invalid because it was not consistent with the enabling ordinance creating the SP classification.


SUZANNE W. BUTLER v. THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Phillip L. Davidson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Suzanne W. Butler.

James E. Robinson, Andrew D. McClanahan, Patrick J. Bradley, and Cynthia E. Gross, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Judge: CLEMENT

This appeal arises from a claim under the Governmental Tort Liability Act for injuries sustained by an employee of the Metropolitan Police Department that allegedly resulted from a fall in the break room at her workplace. The employee alleged that the chair she attempted to sit in, which had caster wheels, constituted a dangerous condition because it was on an uncarpeted, tile floor. She also alleged that the Metropolitan Government had notice of the dangerous condition and was negligent in failing to provide a safe work environment and in permitting the dangerous condition to remain. Following a bench trial, the court dismissed the action finding that Plaintiff failed to prove her negligence claim by a preponderance of the evidence because the evidence did not establish that the Metro Police Department had actual or constructive notice of any dangerous condition with sufficient time to take corrective action. We affirm.


BASSAM ISSA v. JACK BENSON, SR.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John R. Anderson and Joseph W. Dickson, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bassam Issa.

Travis R. McDonough, Zachary H. Greene, and, Jack Benson, Jr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jack Benson, Sr.

Phillip A. Noblett and Patrick P.H. Bobo, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae, City of Chattanooga, in support of appellee, Jack Benson, Sr.

Judge: SWINEY

This appeal concerns alleged defamation and the applicability of both the legislative privilege and the litigation privilege. Bassam Issa (“Issa”), a developer seeking rezoning of certain real property, sued Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson, Sr. (“Benson”) in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”). Issa alleged that, in two separate incidents, Benson had defamed him by accusing him of offering a bribe to influence Benson’s vote on the rezoning matter. Benson filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that his statements were protected by the legislative privilege and the litigation privilege. The Trial Court granted Benson’s motion. Issa appeals. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.


KIMBERLY LOU USELTON ET VIR, TERRY TWAYNE USELTON v. JESSICA WALTON AND CLINTON BRANDON WOODARD
With Dissenting Opinion

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Irene R. Haude, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellant, Jessica Warren (Walton).

Shannon L. Crutcher, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner/Appellees, Kimberly Lou Uselton et vir, Terry Twayne Uselton.

David D. Wolfe, Dickson, Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellee, Clinton Brandon Woodard.

Judge: KIRBY

This is a grandparent visitation case. The biological parents of the child at issue were never married. When the child was born, the father was in the military and away most of the time. The mother permitted the father’s parents, the petitioners in this case, to have liberal visitation with the child. As time went on, the mother got married and had children with her new husband. When the subject child was five years old, the mother limited the grandparents’ visitation with the child, but she did not end it. Dissatisfied with the limitations, the grandparents filed this petition for court-ordered visitation pursuant to the Grandparent Visitation Statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-306. The trial court granted the petition and ordered a visitation schedule that essentially allowed the grandparents to have the father’s visitation rights when he was away. The court-ordered schedule even provided for visitation for the grandparents in the event the father chose to exercise all of the visitation to which he was entitled. The mother now appeals. We hold that the trial court erred in essentially placing the paternal grandparents in the stead of the father, and that the Grandparent Visitation Statute is not applicable because there was no proof that the mother opposed the grandparents’ visitation before the grandparents filed their petition for court-ordered grandparent visitation. Therefore, we reverse and dismiss the petition with prejudice.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LAMOUR ASHLEIGH SLIGH

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Mack Garner, District Public Defender (at trial), for the appellant, Lamour Ashleigh Sligh.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn, District Attorney General; and Matthew Dunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Lamour Ashleigh Sligh, was charged by information in the Blount County Circuit Court with possession with intent to deliver not less than one-half ounce of marijuana, a charge to which he pleaded guilty in 2007, agreeing to a suspended, two-year, Range I sentence. Following a series of probation revocations, the trial court revoked the probation in 2012 and ordered the defendant to serve the balance of his original sentence. We affirm the trial court’s order.


Hargett Warns of Corporate Record Scam

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is warning businesses to be vigilant about scammers that request fees that are not required by state government. Hargett reports his office has received inquiries about notices from Corporate Records Service (CRS) that are causing confusion because they resemble late notices the Secretary of State’s office sends to Tennessee corporations that do not file their annual report by April 1 each year. Hargett said that CRS is not registered with the state, and business should be wary of any company charging a fee in excess of what the state charges to file documents. CRS reportedly was requesting a $125 fee to file the report, while the state’s standard fee is $20.


Anderson County Chancellor to Retire

William E. “Bill” Lantrip, Anderson County’s longtime chancellor, announced last week that he would step down when his current eight-year term ends next year. Lantrip, 69, said he wanted to give sufficient notice to those who may be interested in making a bid for the post, Knoxnews reports. Prior to becoming chancellor in 1989, Lantrip was an assistant city attorney and then city attorney in Oak Ridge for 20 years.


State Officials: Arizona Ruling Does Not Impact State

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning Arizona's law requiring proof of citizenship for people registering to vote does not impact Tennessee’s election laws, WSMV reports. In a news release last week, Hargett said that Tennessee doesn't require that kind of proof when registering to vote, instead requiring the voter to swear that he or she is a citizen.


Affirmative Action Case Sent Back to Lower Court

One of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most anticipated cases of its current term — a challenge to the University of Texas' affirmative action admissions process — ended with a ruling that skirted the issue of whether the program is discriminatory. Instead, the justices found that the lower court had not held the university to the “demanding burden of strict scrutiny” it set out in an earlier ruling. If the lower court were to decide race was a "determining factor" in the admissions policy, it could mean that the program would not pass the high court’s test. NPR has more.


Supreme Court Rules on Suits Against Businesses

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court today decided two cases that some say will make it harder to sue and get judgments against employers for discrimination and retaliation claims, the Memphis Daily News reports. In the first case, the court defined a supervisor as a person who has the ability to hire and fire, undercutting claims that a company is responsible for the racism or sexism of an employee’s coworker. In the second case, the court said juries must find that an employer would not have taken the alleged discriminatory action but for an intention to retaliate. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a rare move, read her dissent aloud in the courtroom and called on Congress to overturn the decisions.


Court Finds for Generic Drug Maker

The Supreme Court also ruled today that generic drug manufacturers cannot be sued in state court for a drug design defect if federal officials approved the brand-name version that the generic drug copied. The justices voted 5-4 to agree with generic manufacturer Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. Inc., which had asked that a $21 million judgment against it be dismissed. The Memphis Daily News has the story.


Court Will Hear Recess Appointment Dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether President Barack Obama’s January 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board violated the Constitution. The administration is challenging a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the appointments were made while Congress was technically in session and therefore were not allowed. The government argues that because the Senate had ceased business for an extended period of time, the president’s use of the recess appointments clause was appropriate. Read more in the Blog of Legal Times.


Report: Business Donations Fuel Perception of Justice for Sale

A recent report by the American Constitution Society (ACS) found that business donations in judicial elections fuel a perception that justice is for sale. Though the report stopped short of finding a direct link between contributions and elections or contributions and rulings, it raises “troubling” issues, said Liz Seaton, acting executive director of ACS. The study, titled “Justice at Risk,” examined business-related state supreme court cases between 2010 and 2012. Among its key points was a finding that people believe the more businesses give in campaign contributions, the more likely justices are to rule for business litigants who appear before them in court. Gavel Grab has more on the report.


Judge Denies Hooker’s Request for Injunction

Nashville Circuit Court Judge Hamilton Gayden today denied an injunction request filed by John Jay Hooker against the Judicial Nominating Commission, The Tennessean reports. Hooker had sought to stop the commission from sending the governor candidates to fill two appellate court seats that will become vacant after the commission ceases to exist. The suit is the eighth time Hooker has gone to the courts to try to change the way Tennessee selects appellate judges. “I admire your tenacity and perseverance,” Gayden said. But “you’re asking me to do things I’m not authorized to do.” Gayden said that because the state Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on a related Hooker case in July, he must defer to the high court’s judgment.


Court Denies Petition for Reinstatement

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that Williamson County attorney Walter Ray Culp III is not entitled to reinstatement of his law license, which was suspended in 2006 after he pleaded guilty to the federal crime of attempted extortion. The court suspended Culp after he was convicted of trying to broker the testimony of a civil trial witness for a multimillion-dollar fee. Culp petitioned the court to lift the suspension but a hearing panel of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility ruled against it. Culp then appealed to the Williamson County Chancery Court, which affirmed the hearing panel’s decision. On further review, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court. Download the court’s opinion.


Memphis Lawyer Suspended

The Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an order temporarily suspending Memphis lawyer Christopher Lee Brown on June 21 after finding he had misappropriated funds for his own use and determined that his continued practice of law poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the Supreme Court. Download the BPR notice.


11 Lawyers Suspended for Fee, IOLTA Violations

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday suspended 11 attorneys who did not pay their annual registration fee to the Board of Professional Responsibility and did not file a mandatory compliance statement that eligible client funds are held in accounts participating in the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. Those who have complied with the rules since the orders were issued, and for whom notification of a status change has been received from the Board of Professional Responsibility, are noted as reinstated. Download the order and get the latest information.


 
 

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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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