TBA Wins Top Awards for Programming

The Tennessee Bar Association today was recognized with two of the top awards from the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. The TBA’s Diversity Job Fair was named an Award of Excellence recipient and the association’s statewide series on Balancing Civility & Free Expression was named winner of the Associations Advance Tennessee Award. The TBA’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity worked with TBA Programs Director Lynn Pointer to produce the job fair, while TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro worked with the Public Education Committee to produce the civility series. “These programs have both well supported and well received by the Tennessee legal community,” TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said, “but it is also gratifying to receive this recognition from our peers in the association world.”

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
00 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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 Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael A. Colavecchio, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Latonya Deon Dalton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Brian Holmgren, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

Upon her indictment for six counts of aggravated child abuse and six counts of aggravated child neglect, the defendant, Latonya Deon Dalton, pled guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated child abuse, a Class B felony. In exchange for her pleas, the defendant received concurrent, ten-year sentences as a Range III offender, with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. After a sentencing hearing, the court ordered that the defendant serve one year in confinement, followed by probation for the remaining balance of the agreed-upon sentence. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court failed to “give due consideration” to the principles of sentencing and also failed to give her nearly four months of jail credit. Following our review, we affirm the sentence imposed by the trial court. However, we remand for the trial court to determine the amount of jail credit to which the defendant is entitled and apply that toward the one-year portion of her sentence to be served in confinement.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Duvale Vashawn Pruitt, Beaver, WV, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Barry Staubus, District Attorney General; and J. Lewis Combs, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


In this procedurally complex case, the Defendant, Duvale Vashawn Pruitt, pled nolo contendere to multiple drug-related charges, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of ten years of probation. The Defendant’s probation officer filed two probation violation warrants, one in September and another in October of 2007. After a hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve ninety days in jail and then start his probationary sentence again. In February 2011, the Defendant’s probation officer filed a third probation violation warrant based upon the Defendant’s possession of a switchblade knife at a courthouse, and the trial court issued a warrant for the Defendant’s arrest. After a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his ten-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. This Court affirmed the trial court’s revocation of the Defendant’s sentence on appeal. State v. Duvale 1 Vashawn Pruitt, No. E2011-01995-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 4762115, at *1, 6 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Oct. 8, 2012), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. On December 11, 2012, after our opinion was filed, the Defendant filed a “Motion seeking recall of the previously adjudicated probation violation warrants in which [the trial court] sentenced and ordered Petitioner on May 27, 2011, to serve the balance of his sentence, or ten years at thirty percent, in confinement.” The trial court dismissed the motion, and the Defendant filed a notice of appeal. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it dismissed his motion because the capias and detainer lodged against him for a probation violation should have been recalled because he had satisfied his sentence by serving time in federal custody. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude the Defendant has no right to appeal the trial court’s denial of his motion. As such, the Defendant’s appeal is dismissed.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Clerk to Retire

Hamilton County Circuit Court Clerk Paula Thompson says she will not seek re-election and plans to retire when her term ends August 2014. Thompson has been criticized publicly by county commissioners recently for her handling of the office’s budget. But she said Thursday her decision “has nothing to do with all the political stuff.” She declined to comment further, citing “personal reasons,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Appeals Court Upholds Class-Action Status in Whirlpool Case

A class-action decision against Whirlpool Corp. was upheld in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati Thursday, affirming liability in a lawsuit that accused the company of selling faulty washing machines that produced mold. Nashville attorney Mark Chalos of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein was lead counsel in the multi-district case, originally filed in 2008 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. “The case has now been reviewed by two federal appeals courts on three different occasions and the courts have unanimously found that the plaintiffs’ claims should go forward, and the families should get their day in court,” Chalos told the Nashville Post.

Pilot Flying J Lawyer Urges Claimants to Choose 'Best Interest' in Settlement

The Nashville attorney representing Pilot Flying J in its trucking rebate case today added his opinion to the discussion of a class action agreement reached in Arkansas federal court. In a statement released today, Aubrey Harwell of Neal & Harwell PLC said, "The choices for any potential clients in this case are clear:  1) join the class, receive 100 percent of any monies owed with 6 percent interest, within a few months without a long drawn out court battle and with no other costs or legal fees deducted; or 2) opt out of the class, which they have every right to do; go to court, get whatever they can; and pay all costs, including legal fees, for the experience. I know what I would advise my clients." Earlier this week an attorney for one trucking company said he was advising his clients against accepting the settlement.

Spring Hill Appoints City Attorney

Williamson County Commissioner Travis Hawkins has been hired as the Spring Hill city attorney. That's caused some -- including Hawkins -- to be concerned about a possible conflict of interest. Hawkins, the Tennessean reports, is contemplating resigning his elected post. The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 5-3 to hire the Franklin-based Hawkins Law Firm, headed by Hawkins, who will serve as the primary city attorney under a contract to be negotiated with the city. The firm replaces Pulaski-based Henry Henry & Underwood, which served as the city’s legal representation for eight years with Tim Underwood primarily serving as city attorney during that time.

UT Law Profs Lead Trial Advocacy Workshop

University of Tennessee College of Law faculty led a group of 64 lawyers from around the county in a three-day workshop designed to help lawyers who represent children and families in juvenile court and serve as Guardians ad Litem. The program was hosted by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy in conjunction with the Tennessee Court Improvement Program in Murfreesboro, the UT Informant reports.

Court Struggles Under Federal Cuts

Across-the-board budget cuts brought on by the sequester have meant hiring freezes, unfilled positions, training and travel expenses cut for what many call an already overworked portion of federal government, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. “I’ve worked in all three branches of government and the private sector,” said U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice. “I have never been involved in any organization either public or private in which the workload has so far exceeded the resources that are allotted to do that job.” Without relief from budget cuts and further reductions anticipated next fiscal year, Mattice said there is a “real question” as to whether the courts will be able to continue to protect 6th Amendment rights to legal representation.

Knox County Trustee Denied Bonding

Felonies and criminal charges from past Knox County trustees are preventing interim trustee Kristin Phillips from obtaining the bonding she needs to fully operate, Knoxnews reports. The Hartford, the bonding company for the Knox County Trustee’s Office, notified the county that it wouldn’t bond Kristin Phillips, the county’s acting trustee, until the county provided more information on the position. The lack of the $18.5 million bond for the seat keeps the trustee from investing the county’s tax money and similar jobs. The bond, required for the officeholder, is intended to protect the public from failure to perform duty or malfeasance.

Senate Committee OKs $430 Million for LSC

The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved $430 million for the Legal Services Corporation in fiscal year 2014. According to an LSC press release, this amount represents a $90 million increase over LSC’s current funding level, and is consistent with the White House budget request for 2014. "We want to thank Senators (Barbara) Mikulski and (Richard) Shelby for showing such strong leadership and support for LSC, and for recognizing the importance of federally funded civil legal aid,” LSC Board Chair John G. Levi said.

Senators Compromise on Student Loan Rates

A bipartisan compromise on student loans promises better deals for students and parents over the next few years but could spell higher rates as the economy improves, the Memphis Daily News reports. Under the deal, undergraduates this fall could borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate. Graduate students would have access to loans at 5.4 percent, and parents would be able to borrow at 6.4 percent. Those rates would climb as the economy improves and it becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said students will benefit: "For every one of them, the interest rates on their loans will be lower."

Arrangements Not Yet Set for Bristol Judge

Shelton B. Hillman Jr., the longtime Bristol municipal court judge, died yesterday (July 18). He was 69 years old. He started practicing law in 1973 and maintained a law office for many years. He served as the municipal court judge for more than 30 years, processing traffic tickets on the Tennessee side of town, hearing animal control and other small cases. “He was a people’s judge,” City Attorney Jack Hyder said. “He wanted people who came into his court to feel like they were treated fairly and with respect.” Funeral arrangements had not been set Thursday evening, but are being handled by Oakley-Cook Funeral Home.

Journal Seeks Law Student Input for Story

If you are a law student set to graduate in Spring 2014 (or know someone who is), the Tennessee Bar Journal would like to talk to you. The Journal plans to follow several students through their last year of law school to learn what new lawyers are facing, how they approach the job market and how this may or may not differ from expectations. Students would also be asked to blog about their law school experience. Contact Suzanne Craig Robertson by Aug. 1 if you are interested. Include your law school name, areas of legal interest and a short description of your experience in law school so far.


Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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