TBA Joins Military Pro Bono Campaign

The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) has joined a nationwide effort to increase the number of lawyers committed to providing needed legal support to servicemembers, veterans and their families. Organized by Army OneSource, the Military Legal Assistance Campaign is focused on identifying and training volunteers who can assist families while a servicemember is deployed and help servicemembers when they return from overseas duty. Through its Access to Justice Committee, the TBA is recruiting lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance to these groups. “The sacrifices made by our servicemembers, as well as their families, are hard to fathom,” said TBA President Cindy Wyrick. “When legal issues add to these challenges, lawyers have a unique opportunity to provide assistance. I urge my colleagues to participate in this important program.” There are many ways for lawyers to get involved. Learn more or sign up to help.

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
01 - 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









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

DOROTHY J. ETHRIDGE v. THE ESTATE OF BOBBY RAY ETHRIDGE, DECEASED, ANTHONY RAY ETHRIDGE, EXECUTOR

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Ben Boston and Charles W. Holt, Jr., Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dorothy J. Ethridge.

Jack L. Garton, Dickson, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Estate of Bobby Ray Ethridge.

Judge: FARMER

The trial court dismissed Claimant’s claim against Decedent’s estate as void notwithstanding the failure of the Estate to file a timely exception to the claim. We reverse.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARTIN BOYCE
With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

David A. Stowers, Bolivar, Tennessee, for the appellant, Martin Boyce.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Greg Gilbert, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Martin Boyce, was indicted in a seven-count indictment alleging one count of second degree murder, two counts of attempted second degree murder; two counts of aggravated assault; one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and one count of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offenses of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in counts 1 and 2, attempted second degree murder in count 3, aggravated assault in count 5, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in count 6, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon in count 7. Defendant was acquitted of one count of aggravated assault in count 4. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve four years for each conviction in counts 1 and 2, 17 years for his conviction in count 3, eight years for his conviction in count 5, and six and four years respectively for his convictions in counts 6 and 7. Defendant’s sentences in counts 1, 2, 3, and 5 were ordered to run concurrently with each other and consecutively to his sentences in counts 6 and 7, which were ordered to run consecutively with each other and his other sentences, for a total effective sentence of 27 years. On appeal, Defendant asserts that: 1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for attempted second degree murder; 2) the trial court erred by failing to sever count 7; 3) the trial court erred by not requiring the State to elect a dangerous felony underlying the offense in count 6 and by failing to instruct the jury as to the dangerous felony underlying the offense in count 6; 4) Defendant’s dual convictions for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm violate double jeopardy, and 5) the trial court should not have ordered Defendant’s sentence in count 7 to run consecutively to his other sentences. The State asserts that Defendant has waived all issues except sufficiency of the evidence and consecutive sentencing because the motion for new trial was untimely filed. We reject the State’s argument concerning the timeliness of the motion for new trial. The judgment of conviction was not stamp-filed by the clerk, and thus there is nothing in the record to show that the motion for new trial was filed late. After reviewing the issues on the merits, we reverse Defendant’s conviction in count 6 and remand for a new trial. We also remand count 3 for entry of a corrected judgment which indicates the disposition of the charge as guilty by jury verdict. The remaining convictions and sentences are affirmed.


TRACY LYNN HARRIS v. HENRY STEWARD, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Tracy Lynn Harris, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General, for the Appellee, Henry Steward, Warden.

Judge: GLENN

The Petitioner, Tracy Lynn Harris, appeals the Circuit Court of Lake County’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


KERMIT PENLEY v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kermit Penley, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Kermit Penley, appeals the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARK A. VESTAL

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gerald L. Gulley, Jr. (on appeal) and Mitchell Harper (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mark A. Vestal.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber and John Bledsoe, Assistant Attorneys General; Randall Nichols, District Attorney General; Jennifer Welch and Philip Morton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

In three separate cases tried together, a Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Mark A. Vestal, of two counts of the sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine, one count of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, and two counts of the delivery of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine. The trial court merged some of the convictions and entered judgments of conviction for: two counts of the sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine and one count of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”). On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it: (1) excluded him from voir dire without advising him that he had a constitutional right to be present for jury selection; and (2) ordered that his sentences run consecutively. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we conclude that the trial court erred when it failed to inform the Defendant that he had a constitutional right to be present during jury selection. The Defendant’s judgments of conviction are reversed, and the case is remanded for a new trial.


Obama Endorses Corker’s Mortgage Plan

President Barack Obama has endorsed a bipartisan Senate effort Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker helped craft that seeks to strengthen America’s housing finance system and shield taxpayers from bearing the brunt of future economic meltdowns. Some five years after the mortgage crisis struck government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and required a $200 billion federal bailout, Obama said it’s time to reduce government’s risk in any future crisis. Corker told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that it gives him "hope that we actually deal with Fannie and Freddie before the political season begins this January and makes it very difficult for anything to occur.”


Rambo Appointed First Judicial District Chancellor

John C. Rambo has been appointed as chancellor in the First Judicial District in east Tennessee by Gov. Bill Haslam, replacing Chancellor G. Richard Johnson who resigned effective June 30. The First Judicial District serves Washington, Unicoi, Carter and Johnson counties. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more about Rambo’s appointment.


Law Prof: LSAT Not to Blame for Lack of Minority Lawyers

University of Virginia School of Law professor Alex Johnson Jr. argues that blame for the underrepresentation of minorities in the legal profession is misplaced, the National Law Journal reports. Instead of identifying the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as a major barrier to black and Hispanic law school applicants, Johnson writes in the latest edition of the Stanford Law & Policy Review that the real reason is because these students tend to “misapply” to law schools that are unlikely to admit them because of their grades and LSAT scores. He also says a disproportionate percentage of minority law grads take the bar exam in states with the toughest pass cutoffs. Other legal educators took Johnson’s conclusions with a grain of salt. “I don’t think that this ‘misapplication’ alone can explain the large number of shutouts that occur,” said John Nussbaumer, an associate dean at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School who has researched the correlation between LSAT scores and the admission of minority applicants.


New Bail Bond Law Triggers Concern

Confusion and concern surrounds a new state law that rewrites a portion of the law on bail bonds by allowing bondsmen to avoid liability once a defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty. Bondsmen will no longer remain liable until a defendant is actually sentenced. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are calling it a nightmare, while bondsmen say the judges of Davidson County are extorting them and usurping the legislature’s power. The new law prompted judges of Davidson County’s criminal court to issue a rare emergency order, which remains in effect indefinitely, requiring that bondsmen at least notify their clients of plans to revoke the bonds. It sets different requirements for bonds in effect before the May 6 effective date of the new law. The Tennessean has the story.


Commerce Secretary to Tour Nashville’s Music Row

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will travel to Nashville this week to meet with business leaders, primarily in music publishing, as part of a listening tour that has included stops in Colorado, Connecticut and upstate New York. Pritzker’s Nashville trip will take her to Loud Recording Studios to meet with heads of the Recording Industry Association of America and Sony Music. The Commerce Secretary also plans to see the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Nashville Public Radio has the story.


Nelson Mullins Moves into New Nashville Office

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has moved into a 17,000-square-foot office space at One Nashville Place at Fourth Avenue and Commerce Street. Although about the same size in square footage as the firm's previous office at the Regions Center, managing shareholder Larry Papel noted that the new space is "lighter and brighter and newer and nicer." The new space can accommodate up to 25 attorneys. Nelson Mullins, which opened in 2012 with six attorneys, added two more in April of this year and expects to add at least three more attorneys within the next few months. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.


Racketeering Charges Not Likely in Pilot Case

Lawyers both inside and outside the Pilot Flying J fuel rebate criminal probe say that although there will be some charges, racketeering charges are not likely to be brought against upper-echelon employees, Knoxnews reports. Attorneys agree that federal authorities are not likely to pursue a criminal RICO prosecution, which gives the government tools to shut down a suspected racketeering firm long before any criminal prosecution is pursued. “RICO is broadly written,” University of Tennessee law professor Dwight Aarons said.


Prosecutors Praise Task Force

At a gathering last week two district attorney generals thanked officers of the Multi-Jurisdictional Violent Crime and Gang Task Force for their hard work over the last year. Garry Brown, district attorney general for the 28th Judicial District, and Jerry Woodall, district attorney general for the 26th Judicial District, spoke at the event at the University of Memphis to honor the force, the Jackson Sun reports.  Woodall and Brown formed the task force with the goal of combining the efforts and manpower of multiple agencies to catch criminals faster than one jurisdiction acting alone.


Holleman Launches 70-Mile Walk for Senate Campaign

Nashville Metro Councilman Jason Holleman launched a 70-mile walking tour of Senate District 21, exactly one year from the democratic primary election. Holleman says he plans to spend the next seven days meeting with voters and visiting local businesses, the Tennessean reports. Holleman faces attorney Jeff Yarbro in the race to replace longtime state Sen. Doug Henry.


KBA Plans Annual Supreme Court Dinner

Each year, the Knoxville Bar Association hosts a dinner to pay tribute to the justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court as well as the local judiciary. This year’s event will be Sept. 4 at the newly renovated Holiday Inn World's Fair Park. Free parking is available in the hotel garage. The event begins with a reception in the Sundries Courtyard at 6 p.m., followed by dinner in the Grand Pavilion at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 each and tables of 10 may be reserved in advance. This year’s dinner will feature Birmingham attorney Freddy Rubio and his wife Isabel, who have been at the forefront of advocacy for the Hispanic community. Read more about the Rubios in the KBA’s monthly magazine DICTA.


 
 

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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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