State Report: Trafficking Victims Need More Help

Tennessee ramped up criminal penalties for human traffickers this year, but rehabilitative services for survivors remain disjointed and reliable data remain elusive according to a new state study. The 97-page report, which has been in development for a year, found that communities do not have sufficient services, such as housing, relocation assistance, transportation and legal aid, to help trafficking victims. The report also calls for counseling victims within four hours of their discovery, relying on nonprofits to provide follow-up contact with survivors, creating a central data collection point for reporting trafficking incidents, creating four new staff positions in the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), and designating DHS and DCS as the point agencies for coordinating victim services. The Tennessean has more on the story.

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
06 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
00 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
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TN Supreme Court

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

Court: TN Supreme Court


TN Court of Appeals

FONDA BLAIR v. RUTHERFORD COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Fonda Blair, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Josh A. McCreary, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the Appellees, Rutherford County Board of Education, Rutherford County Tennessee, Ken Nolan and Martha Millsaps.

Judge: DINKINS

Teacher who brought action against Rutherford County, the Rutherford County Board of Education, and two employees of the Board appeals the grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissal of her claim that defendants violated the Education Truth in Reporting and Employee Protection Act of 1989, as well as her claims for invasion of privacy, abuse of process, misrepresentation, and harassment. We affirm the trial court’s holding that there is no general cause of action under the Education Truth in Reporting and Employee Act of 1989. Finding that there are genuine issues of material fact with respect to Plaintiff’s claim for retaliation which preclude summary judgment, we reverse and remand for further proceedings. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the remaining claims.


CHARLES WADE MCCOY v. ALISHA POINDEXTER MCCOY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Lisa M. Miller, Selmer, Tennessee, for the appellant, Alisha Poindexter McCoy.

T. L. Wood, Adamsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Charles Wade McCoy.

Judge: FARMER

This appeal arises from a divorce action in which the trial court denied Mother’s motion to correct a clerical mistake in the permanent parenting plan pursuant to Rule 60.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Mother appeals. Vacated and Remanded.


HERBERT S. MONCIER v. HEARING PANEL OF THE BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Herbert S. Moncier, Knoxville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and Janet M. Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General, for the appellee, Hearing Panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility.

Judge: BENNETT

An attorney disciplined by the Board of Professional Responsibility brought suit against the Board hearing panel that decided his case. The attorney asserts that the hearing panel violated the Open Meetings Act. We have concluded that the trial court properly determined that the Open Meetings Act does not apply to the Board’s hearing panels.


TRACY LYNN MUHLSTADT v. LARRY DAVID MUHLSTADT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John B. Holt, Springfield, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Larry David Muhlstadt.

Amanda G. Crowell, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Tracy Lynn Muhlstadt (Chilelli).

Judge: DINKINS

Petition to modify child support obligation was filed by Father; Mother filed a counterpetition requesting that the court make a determination as to where their child would attend school. The trial court dismissed Father’s petition when he did not provide information to support his assertion that he no longer received a portion of the income upon which his child support obligation was based and therefore he failed to show a change of circumstance relative to his income. The court found that it would be in the child’s best interest to attend school in the school for which Mother’s residence was zoned and granted Mother’s counterpetition; the court also awarded attorney fees to Mother. We affirm the court’s decision relative to the child’s school enrollment. We reverse the order dismissing Father’s petition for modification and remand the case for reconsideration; we reverse the award of attorney fees.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RALPH BYRD COOPER, JR.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mart S. Cizek, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ralph Byrd Cooper, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; David S. Clark, District Attorney General; and Sandra Donaghy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Upon remand by our supreme court, see State v. Cooper, 321 S.W.3d 501 (Tenn. 2010), Defendant Ralph Byrd Cooper, Jr., was resentenced by the trial court to serve sixty (60) years as a career offender for his conviction of aggravated rape, a Class A felony. Defendant appeals his sentence, asserting as his sole issue that the trial court erred by determining he was a “career offender.” After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LATONYA DEON DALTON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

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.


MICHAEL JERMAINE HARRIS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kevin L. Loper (on appeal) and Andrew D. Watts (at post-conviction hearing), Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Jermaine Harris.

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

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Michael Jermaine Harris, was convicted of aggravated arson in 2009 and was sentenced to nineteen years. He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and sentence. See State v. Michael Jermaine Harris, No. E2009-01383-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 3155196, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 10, 2010). Petitioner filed the instant petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to prepare adequately for trial, failed to obtain an expert witness, failed to procure an alibi witness, and failed to adequately cross-examine one of the police officers involved. Following our review of the parties’ arguments, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


REGINALD D. HUGHES v. DWIGHT BARBEE, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Reginald D. Hughes, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; and Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Reginald D. Hughes, appeals from the trial court’s summary dismissal of the pro se third petition for habeas corpus relief filed by Petitioner. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DALLAS JAY STEWART

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael Jonothan Collins, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dallas Jay Stewart.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley E. (Eddie) Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Defendant, Dallas Jay Stewart, was convicted by a Marshall County Circuit Court jury of nine counts of rape of a child, Class A felonies; fourteen counts of aggravated sexual battery, Class B felonies; and one count of exhibition of harmful material to a minor, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-522; 39-13-504; 39-17-911 (2010). The trial court sentenced him as a Range I offender to twenty-five-years’ confinement for each count of rape of a child, twelve-years’ confinement for each count of aggravated sexual battery, and eleven-months, twenty-nine-days’ confinement for exhibition of harmful material to a minor. The counts against each victim were ordered to be served consecutively for an effective fiftyyear sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions, (2) the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress, (3) the trial court erred in failing to merge some of his aggravated sexual battery convictions, and (4) his sentence was excessive. We affirm the judgments of the trial court for exhibition of harmful material (Count 1), five counts of aggravated sexual battery (Counts 10, 13, 23, 24, and 25), and one count of rape of a child (Count 2). We vacate the aggravated sexual battery judgment for Count 26 and dismiss the charge. Because the trial court failed to merge the convictions for eight counts of aggravated sexual battery (Counts 4, 6, 8, 12, 15, 17, 19 and 21) and eight counts of rape of a child (Counts 3, 5, 7, 11, 14, 16, 18, and 20), we vacate the convictions and order the trial court to enter judgments reflecting merger of these aggravated sexual battery convictions into the rape of a child convictions.


ANTONIO T. WYATT v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Antonio Wyatt, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Dan Hamm, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Antonio Wyatt, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the court wherein he was convicted. Upon motion of the State, the trial court dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing based upon Petitioner’s failure to show in the petition “that his judgments are either void or that his sentence has expired.” Petitioner timely filed a notice of appeal. Petitioner asserts the judgments are void because the trial court ordered Petitioner to serve the one-year portion of incarceration of a split confinement sentence “day for day 100%” and because the trial court refused to allow Petitioner statutorily mandated pre-trial jail credits. While some of the documents in the record presented by Petitioner indicate irregularities in the judgments which could lead to a determination that the sentencing portions are void, we conclude that Petitioner is not entitled to relief because he is no longer “restrained of his liberty” by the challenged convictions. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Judge Denies Access to Baumgartner File

The still-secret portion of former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner’s Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) file is not relevant to public understanding of his, or any other, case and should stay sealed, Senior Judge Walter Kurtz ruled Friday. By law, TBI files are exempt from the Tennessee Open Records Act, but a judge can order they be released. In December 2011, the Knoxville News Sentinel petitioned to have the entire investigative file on Baumgartner unsealed. The file also was made part of the court record in Baumgartner’s federal trial, Knoxnews reports. The judge in that case, Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley has not ruled if or when the file would be made public as a result of that proceeding.


Appeals Court: No Source Protection in Criminal Case

A journalist who disclosed details of a secret CIA operation cannot shield his source when he testifies at the trial of a former federal agent charged with leaking classified information, a divided U.S. appeals court ruled Friday. The 2-1 ruling by a panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed a lower court decision that the reporter could be questioned about the accuracy of his journalism but could not be forced to divulge confidential sources. The appeals court said source protection might be OK for a civil trial but not a criminal case, the Associated Press reports. Attorneys for the journalist Jeffrey Sterling say the case is about fundamental First Amendment rights and likely will be appealed. Read the AP story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.


County Employee Wins Termination Suit

Gabriel Segovia, a former school resource officer with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, won a wrongful termination case against the county in federal court Friday, the Leaf Chronicle reports. A jury awarded Segovia $79,382 in back pay after they found that his termination was in retribution for submitting a letter to the editor of the Chronicle. The letter questioned the city council’s allocation of funds for a park project. Segovia reports he was “berated” by the sheriff for expressing his opinion as a private citizen and a month later was dismissed for “dishonesty, insubordination and conduct unbecoming a member” of the sheriff’s department. The county argued that the letter played no part in the dismissal.


Baker Donelson Expands Florida Presence

Memphis-based law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz is expanding its presence in Florida, with plans to open a Fort Lauderdale office in the coming weeks. Three attorneys and two paralegals will open the office, which initially will focus on mortgage litigation. The firm moved into the Florida market two years ago, after opening an Orlando office, the Nashville News Journal reports. Birmingham attorney Tim Lupinacci, chair of the firm's Financial Institutions Practice Group, will lead the Fort Lauderdale effort.


Appeals Court Denies Chattanooga Prayer Injunction

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by Chattanooga federal Judge Sandy Mattice to deny an injunction that would have blocked the Hamilton County Commission from continuing with prayers at its meetings. The judges said they agreed with Mattice that the evidence offered did not provide enough proof to justify an injunction. However, they said the case should continue for a full hearing of the facts, Chattanoogan.com reports.


Fitzhugh Will Not Challenge Haslam

The lone Democrat to voice interest in running against Gov. Bill Haslam for governor said he will not mount a gubernatorial challenge but stick to running for re-election to his West Tennessee House district instead. “I’m committed to continuing as leader and trying to run for my representative position again,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh told The City Paper. Fitzhugh also said he wanted to focus more of his energy on getting Democrats elected to the state House of Representatives.


Former Gov. Dunn Speaks on Merit Selection

Former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, who in 1971 signed a bill into law that created the current system for selecting appeals court judges, now says enacting the bill was a mistake. “At the time I signed it I felt constrained by many other issues,” Dunn said. “I regret signing the retention election bill.” Dunn’s comments came after a special state Supreme Court hearing on the latest challenge to the state’s judicial nomination and retention system by John Jay Hooker. Representing the state at the hearing, attorney Janet Kleinfelter said it was not the first time, but it should be the last time, the state defends the way appeals judges are elected. Pointing out that the system has been upheld twice on appeal, she argued "this judicial system is entitled to finality.” The Tennessean has more.


Groups Host 5 Legal Clinics Aug. 24

Five free legal clinics are being planned in Nashville for Aug. 24 by The Legal Aid Society, Nashville Pro Bono Program, Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Napier-Looby Bar Association, Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and James Flexer Law Firm. The clinics will provide free legal advice in any area of civil law. No pre-registration is required. Locations are: St. Luke's Community House, 5601 New York Ave.; Bethel AME Church, 1300 S. St.; Northwest YMCA, 3700 Ashland City Hwy.; East Park Community Center, 700 Woodland St.; and Legal Aid Society, 300 Deaderick St. Contact any of the sponsors for more 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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