Court Strikes Key Part of Voting Rights Act

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that established a formula used to determine which jurisdictions must get clearance before making changes to their voting practices. In a 5-4 decision, the court said the formula is unconstitutional given the advances in voting rights in the covered states. The justices said Congress needs to revisit the issue, Scotusblog reports, and if it wants to single out certain states for extra scrutiny, it must do so "on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions."

• The court also ruled in an adoption case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act finding that the biological father, who is part Cherokee, did not have an automatic right his child because he was estranged from the biological mother, provided no support during the pregnancy and disclaimed any interest in raising the girl. The court ruled 5-4 that the law was intended to protect Native American children from abusive adoption or foster care practices that removed them from existing families, not every removal proceeding involving an Indian child.

• Finally, the court today rejected a Florida Supreme Court decision to dismiss a case from a landowner seeking to develop a portion of his wetlands property. When officials refused to approve Coy Koontz's project unless he made certain concessions -- including spending money to improve public lands elsewhere -- Koontz sued under a state law permitting him to seek damages. The state Supreme Court held that he did not have a claim based on two previous U.S. Supreme Court cases. The high court rejected the state’s interpretation of those cases but did not rule on whether Koontz’s claim had merit.

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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


Christine Coronado and James S. Wilder, III, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the Petitioner/Appellant, Casee Wagster Hart.

Robert Kinton, Trenton, Tennessee, and Thomas F. Bloom, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Respondent/Appellee, Randy Lewis.

Judge: KIRBY

In this appeal, the mother of the child at issue appeals the trial court’s order establishing paternity. The appellant mother filed this parentage petition against the father. At the outset of the hearing on the petition, the mother’s attorney announced that he had developed a conflict of interest regarding his representation of the mother, because he had previously consulted with both the mother and the father when the parties agreed on the issues. By the time of the hearing, the parties no longer agreed and the father had hired his own attorney. Despite the attorney’s disclosure that he had developed a conflict of interest in continuing to represent the mother, the trial court proceeded with the paternity hearing. What ensued was a procedural train wreck; it ultimately resulted in orders that resolved all issues on their merits. The mother appeals. We conclude that this particular train never should have left the station. In light of the disclosure by the mother’s prior attorney that he had developed a conflict of interest, we vacate everything that followed the attorney’s disclosure, except the order allowing the mother’s attorney to withdraw.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Antonio Wyatt, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William Young, Solicitor General; and Lee Pope, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Petitioner asserts that disciplinary board acted arbitrarily and illegally in the conduct of the hearing and imposition of penalties. The trial court dismissed the petition; finding no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ashley Preston, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Auqeith Lashawn Byner.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel, Criminal Justice Division; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Pamela Anderson and Rachel Sobrero, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Auqeith Lashawn Byner, pled guilty to driving on a suspended license, and a Davidson County jury convicted him of possession with the intent to sell or deliver over twenty-six grams of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to serve an effective sentence of seventeen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Petitioner appealed his convictions but withdrew his appeal on February 11, 2010. On February 14, 2011, the Petitioner, pro se, timely filed a petition seeking postconviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel and was thereafter appointed an attorney. After a hearing on the petition, the post-conviction court issued an order denying the Petitioner relief. The Petitioner appeals the trial court’s denial of his claim. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant authorities, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Kathleen Morris, Nashville, Tennessee, and Marty Brett McAfee, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jessie Dotson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey Dean Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Damon Griffin, Reginald Henderson, and Raymond Lepone, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Jessie Dotson, of six counts of premeditated first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder. The jury sentenced the defendant to death for each conviction of first degree murder. Following a separate sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to forty years for each conviction for attempted first degree murder, to be served consecutively to each other and to the first degree murder sentences. On appeal, the defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) testimony regarding one of the victims’ statement to police was hearsay and its admission violated the United States and Tennessee Constitutions; (3) the admission of the defendant’s custodial statements violated his rights under the United States and Tennessee Constitutions; (4) the admission of testimony that the defendant invoked his right to counsel violated his due process rights; (5) the admission of testimony regarding the defendant’s history of imprisonment violated his right to a fair trial; (6) the trial court’s treatment of defense counsel in the jury’s presence violated his right to a fair trial; (7) the admission of the pathologist’s testimony regarding autopsies that she did not perform violated the defendant’s confrontation rights; (8) the trial court erred in admitting photographs of the victims; (9) the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to provide DNA analysis of all those who came in contact with the crime scene; (10) the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion for production of the statements of those not to be called as witnesses for the State; (11) the trial court improperly defined “reasonable doubt” in instructing the jury; (12) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on facilitation of first degree murder as a lesser included offense; (13) the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to strike aggravating circumstances; (14) the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion for a probable cause finding regarding the aggravating circumstances; (15) the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion for disclosure of information regarding the proportionality review; (16) the admission of victim impact evidence was improper; (17) the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to argue last during the penalty phase; (18) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its argument to the jury; (19) the trial court erred in allowing the death verdicts to stand; (20) the defendant’s sentences for his three convictions for attempted first degree murder were excessive; and (21) cumulative error requires reversal. Based upon our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael R. Working, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Darquan Swift.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Paul Hagerman and Neal Oldham, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Shelby County grand jury indicted appellant, Darquan Swift, for one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated robbery, one count of attempted especially aggravated robbery, three counts of aggravated robbery, one count of attempted aggravated robbery, and one count of employing a firearm during commission of a dangerous felony in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1324. Following a trial, a jury found him guilty of the lesser included offense of attempted second degree murder and guilty as charged on all remaining counts. The trial court sentenced appellant to an effective sentence of ninety-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. He now appeals his convictions on the following grounds: (1) whether Tennessee Code Annotated section 39- 17-1324 can be applied in a case involving robbery; (2) whether Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1324 can be applied to lesser included offenses of the dangerous felony upon which the State relied; and (3) whether the trial court improperly limited the testimony of appellant’s expert witness. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

NBA Survey: Sweeney Top Choice for Appeals Court

Nashville attorney Matthew J. Sweeney drew the highest marks in a just released survey ranking the 10 candidates seeking to serve on the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Conducted by the Nashville Bar Association (NBA), the survey asked members to rate the candidates as “highly recommend,” “recommend,” “do not recommend” and "no opinion.” Sweeney, who practices with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, significantly outpolled other members of the group with 47 percent of respondents highly recommending him. The NBA conducts the poll, Executive Director Gigi Woodruff said, to provide the Judicial Selection Commission, the governor and the public with "input from attorneys who are likely to know these candidates, both personally and professionally, and are able to express an opinion on their qualifications to be a judge." See the survey results.

Former Knoxville Lawyer Gets 51-Month Sentence

Disbarred Knoxville attorney John Oliver Threadgill was sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay $3 million in back taxes after being convicted of stealing clients’ money and avoiding paying federal taxes and penalties. At the sentencing hearing Monday, Threadgill continued to maintain his innocence arguing he pleaded guilty to theft charges only because it was in his best interest to avoid trial and receive probation, and that he was the victim of a bad investment that left him unable to pay the taxes. He remains free pending a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on where he will serve his sentence, Knoxnews reports.

New Juvenile Judge Calls for Tougher Curfew and Truancy Enforcement, Laws

Newly installed Chattanooga Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw intends to step up enforcement of youth curfews and truancy laws, reports. At a speech yesterday to a local group, Philyaw said curfew enforcement has been "non-existent" and the situation is about the same for truancy. Philyaw also has undertaken an effort to rewrite the curfew ordinance and has presented a draft of proposed revisions to Mayor Andy Berke. Finally, Philyaw said the court is pursuing several initiatives to deal with these issues and is working with prosecutor Boyd Patterson, the former gang task force leader who has been assigned by the district attorney's office to work in Juvenile Court.

Nashville Attracting ‘Upmarket’ Firms as Profile Grows

A Nashville Ledger article suggests that as Nashville’s star rises nationally, local law firms are in expansion mode and outside law firms are looking to move into Music City. The growth in health care, technology and real estate is driving most of the momentum, the piece suggests. And because of the city’s strong supply of recent law school graduates, firms are having no trouble recruiting attorneys. Finally, the article suggests that homegrown law firms have become hot prospects for mergers with outside firms looking to establish roots in the midsouth. Read more about how the Nashville legal market is changing and how that compares to the national picture.

Former Bush Lawyer to Spend 1 Day in Jail

Scott Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Counsel under George W. Bush, was sentenced yesterday to one day in jail, 24 months of probation, a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of destroying government property. Block admitted to hiring an outside computer company to delete files from several government computers, including his own, though he claimed he did so to remove viruses. The Blog of Legal Times looks at the history of the case.

Butler Snow Opens London Office

The Mississippi based law firm of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada – with offices in Memphis and Nashville – has opened its first international office in London. According to a press release from the firm, the office will “provide practical, solution driven U.S. tax advice for high net worth families, their businesses and their advisors.” London-based attorney Brad Westerfield will head the new office.

Court Saves Gay Marriage Cases for Last

The U.S. Supreme Court has saved two of its most controversial opinions for what is expected to be the last day of this term. The court is expected to issue rulings on the California gay marriage ban and the federal Defense of Marriage Act tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. SCOTUSblog will begin live blogging from the court at 9 a.m.

Services Wednesday for Memphis Lawyer

Lundy Webb Daniel, 76, died Sunday (June 23) at Baptist Trinity Hospice House in Collierville. A native of Mississippi, Lundy moved to Memphis in 1964 and earned his law degree from the University of Memphis School of Law in 1968. As principal at the Daniel Law Firm in downtown Memphis, Daniel represented clients in the areas of personal injury, workers compensation, medical malpractice, family law, wrongful death and criminal misdemeanors. Visitation will take place at the Senatobia First Baptist Church at noon on Wednesday with funeral services following at 2 p.m. Burial will follow in Bethesda Cemetery. The family requests that memorials be sent to Senatobia First Baptist Church, 317 South Ward, Senatobia, MS 38668. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life.

Ben F. Jones Event Set for Thursday

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association will host a social networking mixer on Thursday at Bar Louie in midtown Memphis. The event, sponsored by Bank Tennessee and Glassman, Edwards, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox, will run from 5:15 to 7:30 p.m. Free drinks and appetizers will be offered. All members of the chapter or those interested in learning more about the group are invited to attend.


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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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