Justice Holder Announces Retirement

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder announced that she is retiring at the end of her current term and will not seek re-election in the August 2014 judicial retention election. Holder became the third woman to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court and the first to serve as chief justice. “It has been my privilege to serve the people of Tennessee as a trial judge and Supreme Court justice – and an honor to have been selected by my fellow justices as the first female chief justice in our state’s history,” Justice Holder said in a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam. Read more about Holder's career at the Administrative Office of the Courts' website. 

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
05 - 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

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TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kelsy Austin Miller, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, A.P.M.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Jordan Scott, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children’s Services.


Mother’s parental rights to her child were terminated due to her diminished mental capacity, which caused her to be incompetent to care for her child. Mother appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment. The trial court’s findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Thomas E. Cowan, Jr., Elizabethton, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Jesse R. Miltier, III, Grand Junction, Colorado, Pro Se.


This appeal involves a dispute over an attorney’s fee in a wrongful foreclosure case filed by Client against Bank of America. Client originally signed a contingency fee contract with Attorney, who later withdrew from the case. Client hired a new law firm to represent him and subsequently prevailed following a jury trial. Attorney filed suit, alleging that he was entitled to recover his original contingency fee because Client’s behavior forced him to withdraw from representation. The trial court limited Attorney’s recovery of fees pursuant to quantum meruit. Attorney appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


H. Wayne Grant, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rusty Wade O’Daniel.

John R. Meldorf, III, Hixson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sabra Elaine Ellis O’Daniel.


The issues in this divorce case focus, for the most part, on the enforceability and interpretation of a prenuptial agreement entered into by Sabra Elaine Ellis O’Daniel (“Wife”) and Rusty Wade O’Daniel (“Husband”). Shortly after their marriage, Wife was diagnosed with a serious illness that resulted in several extensive hospitalizations. We have determined that the enforcement of the provisions limiting and waiving alimony contained in the parties’ prenuptial agreement is likely to render Wife a public charge. Accordingly, we reverse that portion of the trial court’s judgment holding that these “alimony” provisions are valid and enforceable. We affirm the trial court’s award to Wife of 67 months of health insurance, but do so on a ground other than the one articulated by the trial court. We affirm the trial court’s award to Wife of a judgment for $16,000 based upon Husband’s breach of the prenuptial agreement requiring him to fund a retirement account for Wife. This case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings (1) to consider anew Wife’s request for alimony and (2) to set her attorney’s fees on appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Richard D. Piliponis, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Michael Ray.

Darrell G. Townsend, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Asher A. Turney.


In this medical malpractice action, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the defendant doctor. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in allowing a medical expert witness to testify. We find no error in the trial court’s decision.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Nigel Marlin Reid, Sr., Morristown, Tennessee, appellant, pro se.

No appearance by or on behalf of appellees.


Nigel Marlin Reid, Sr. filed a complaint in the trial court. The court, sua sponte, held that the complaint is “frivolous” and that plaintiff’s claims against his brother are barred by res judicata. The court dismissed the action. Because the complaint fails to state a cause of action, we affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mike A. Little, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Alan Robert Benjamin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; DeShea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Bill Hall, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Alan Robert Benjamin, pled guilty in the Hamilton County Criminal Court to two counts of robbery and one count of attempted aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced the appellant as a Range I, standard offender to five years for each offense, with the sentences to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of fifteen years. The court ordered the appellant to serve eleven months and twenty-nine days confinement for each offense, with the remainder of the sentence to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, the appellant challenges the length of the sentences imposed by the trial court, the imposition of consecutive sentencing, and the denial of full probation. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court erred by allowing the appellant to choose between two proposed sentencing options. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is reversed and the case is remanded for resentencing in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Sentencing Act.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Douglas Killins, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Arthur F. Bieber, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Douglas Killins, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2003 conviction for second degree murder and Range II thirty-eight-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by denying him relief because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Sean McKinney and Carrie Searcy, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Quanya Revell Prewitt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Quanya Revell Prewitt, appeals her Davidson County Criminal Court jury conviction of possession with intent to sell or deliver dihydrocodeinone, a Schedule III substance, in a school zone, claiming that the trial court erred by limiting the scope of crossexamination of two of the State’s witnesses and that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Nathan Daniel Pucket, appellant, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Barry Staubus, District Attorney General; and Julie R. Carter, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Nathan Daniel Puckett, appeals from the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to reduce his Range II, 35-year sentence for second degree murder. Because the record shows that the motion was untimely, we affirm the order of the criminal court.

Court Rulings Bolster Same-Sex Marriages

The Supreme Court today struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling on a 5-4 vote that legally married same-sex spouses may receive federal benefits, The New York Times reports. The court also vacated a lower court ruling on Prop 8, saying the 9th Circuit should not have taken the appeal. In Tennessee, Stonewall Bar Association President Sam Felker praised the "significant victory." The Stonewall Bar had filed an amicus brief in the Prop 8 case. He says the immediate effect for Tennesseans from today's rulings "will depend on how the different federal agencies decide to handle the marriage question. Some agencies, for example the IRS and Social Security Administration, look to whether your marriage is recognized in the state where you live. But other agencies, such as Immigration, recognize if the marriage is valid, not where you live." The opinion lays the groundwork, Felker says, for cases that will challenge laws like Tennessee's that prohibit same-sex marriage. "That will be the next round," he says. The Tennessean has further reaction from David Fowler, who crafted Tennessee's state statute and constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinburg, and others.

Vanderbilt Law Prof Weighs in on Affirmative Action Case

Vanderbilt University Law School professor and constitutional law scholar Suzanna Sherry says the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas in no way portends the end of affirmative action and is likely to have very little impact on most universities. “Those who would portray it as the end of affirmative action are overreacting. The court went out of its way to endorse earlier decisions upholding affirmative action,” said Sherry. “There’s no change in the law,” she continued, noting that the court, consistent with its previous cases, held only that courts must carefully scrutinize any use of race in admissions.

Attorneys Look to Consolidate Pilot Flying J Cases

Attorneys for Pilot Flying J and trucking companies that claim to be victims of a rebate-skimming scheme are seeking to have nearly a dozen civil suits consolidated in a single court in Cleveland; Jackson, Mississippi; or Nashville, the Tennessean reports. A federal, criminal probe of Pilot continues, already netting guilty pleas from five Pilot sales employees. The consolidation motion does not immediately affect suits filed in state courts, including one filed in circuit court in Knoxville by a Georgia trucking firm.

Bar Passage Proposal Alarms Diversity Advocates

The National Bar Association, the largest association of black lawyers and judges, is opposing a proposal to increase the ABA’s minimum bar-passage rate for law schools from 75 to 85 percent, the National Law Journal reports. “Any undertaking of a change to law school accreditation standards must include a thorough consideration of any potential impact the change may have on students of color," U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote in a letter to the ABA last week. "Otherwise, such a change may only exacerbate the lack of diversity within the legal profession."

Judge Orders DCS to Restore Redacted Information

Chancellor Carol McCoy said this morning that her “confidence was shaken” after the Department of Children’s’ Services redacted information on children who died or nearly died under the agency’s supervision beyond her order. McCoy ordered that the state agency go back and restore information it removed that she did not specifically order to be redacted in dozens of files that have already been released to The Tennessean and other media organizations. If DCS fails to follow the court's order, McCoy said she will not hesitate to hold DCS officials in contempt of court.

TJC Celebrates Supporting Law Firms, Mother of the Year

The Tennessee Justice Center honored clients and recognized the support of the private bar during a recent reception in Nashville. More than 150 lawyers, judges, clients and others heard the moving story of Jessica Hacker, a TJC client and Mother of the Year who grew up in foster care and has chosen to adopt children out of foster care in hopes that they might have a better childhood than her own. TJC also recognized the 15 firms who have participated in the organization’s Raising the Bar Campaign: Bass Berry & Sims; Bradley Arant Boult Cummings; Waller; Bone McAllester Norton; Burr & Forman; Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella; Frost Brown Todd; H3GM; Law Offices of John Day; Lewis King Krieg & Waldrop; Norris & Norris; Ogle Gass & Richardson; Sherrard & Roe; Stites & Harbison; and Wyatt Tarrant & Combs.

LAET Races for a Cause

Sports car enthusiasts from across the region gathered Sunday for “SOLO TIME AT BRISTOL,” an event put on by East Tennessee Region Sports Car Club of America to benefit Speedway Children’s Charities and Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET). “We are extremely grateful to Bristol Motor Speedway for hosting this event each year,” said David R. Yoder, LAET executive director. “Not only do they allow the Club to race at this unique venue, but all proceeds of the day benefit two great charities. And we couldn’t hold this event without the support of our sponsors: Pilot Flying J, WBIR-TV, and WIVK-FM.”

Hamilton County Celebrates Courthouse Centennial June 29

The Hamilton County Courthouse will be given a centennial tribute this Saturday, the Chattanoogan reports. Chattanooga’s big band, Sweet Georgia Sound, will perform in addition to a laser show. Designed by Reuben H. Hunt, the architect of numerous downtown buildings, the courthouse was constructed of Tennessee gray marble in 1913 after a fire destroyed the previous building. Visit the Hamilton County website for more information about centennial events.

Gov. Haslam Creates COO Position in Cabinet

Gov. Bill Haslam has hired former IBM executive Greg Adams to be the state’s chief operating officer, a new Cabinet-level position within his administration. Adams, who starts the job July 8, will promote efficiency and effectiveness in operations with state departments. WATE has the story.

Hawkins Commission Honors Former Senator

Former State Sen. Mike Faulk was honored Monday for his service to the Hawkins County Commission in the late 1990s and early 2000s. An attorney based in Church Hill, in 2012 Faulk ended a four-year stint on the Tennessee State Senate and is currently a candidate to replace retired Third Judicial District Circuit Judge Kindall Lawson. The Times News has the story.


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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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