ABA Announces 2014 Law Day Theme

The ABA today announced the theme for the 2014 Law Day. In recognition of the approaching 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the theme "American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters" calls on every American to reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the challenges that remain to ensuring all Americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy. Watch for additional information, planning materials and other resources coming soon.

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
01 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - 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 Workers Comp Appeals

GARRY HALL v. NESCO, INC. ET AL.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys:

Heather H. Douglas, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Nesco, Inc. and Accident Fund Insurance Company of America.

Laura B. Baker, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Garry Hall.

Judge: ANDERSON

An employee was hospitalized with severe respiratory problems after spending about four days over the course of two weeks power-washing the roof of a commercial building his employer owned. The employee’s treating physician ordered numerous tests, none of which revealed definitively the cause of his condition. Based on the employee’s response to steroid medication and the fact that medical testing revealed no infection or other condition, the treating physician opined that the employee had developed interstitial lung disease from his exposure to a combination of toxic substances while washing the roof. In contrast, the employer’s consulting physician opined that the employee was not exposed to toxic substances in sufficient concentrations while washing the roof to cause interstitial lung disease and that the employee’s condition had been caused by infectious pneumonia, which was not detected by testing during the employee’s hospitalization because the testing was conducted too soon after the infection developed. The employer denied the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, and the employee filed suit in the Chancery Court for Putnam County. The trial court found for the employee and awarded 92.5% permanent partial disability. The employer has appealed, arguing that the proof preponderates against the trial court’s finding of causation and award of 92.5%. The appeal has been referred to this Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.


TN Court of Appeals

CRAIG C. MARTEN v. MOUNTAIN STATES HEALTH ALLIANCE, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

William J. Taylor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Craig C. Marten.

Frank H. Anderson, Jr., Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mountain States Health Alliance.

Judge: PER CURIAM

The final judgment from which the appellant seeks to appeal was entered on January 7, 2013. The only Notice of Appeal “filed” by the appellant on February 7, 2013, was submitted to the trial court clerk via facsimile transmission in violation of Rule 5A.02(4)(e) of the Rules of Civil Procedure. Because the Notice of Appeal was insufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court, this appeal is dismissed.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JACOB ANDREW BROWN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gary Antrican, District Public Defender and Davis S. Stockton, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Jacob Andrew Brown.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General, and James Walter Freeland, Jr., for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

On January 18, 2011, Ed and Bertha Walker were found beaten to death in their home. In March 2011, Appellant, Jacob Andrew Brown, was indicted by the Tipton County Grand Jury for two counts of premeditated first degree murder, two counts of felony murder, and two counts of especially aggravated burglary. Appellant was sixteen at the time the crimes were committed. The juvenile court held a transfer hearing and determined that Appellant should be tried as an adult in the circuit court. At the conclusion of a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of each count. The trial court merged the two felony murder convictions into the two premeditated first degree murder convictions and merged one especially aggravated burglary charge into the other. Appellant was sentenced to life without parole for the two murder convictions and eight years to be served at 100% for the especially aggravated burglary conviction. The trial court ordered that all the sentences were to be served consecutively. On appeal, Appellant argues that the juvenile court improperly determined that his case should be transferred to the circuit court and that he evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that Appellant cannot succeed on these issues. However, because the death of the victim is the serious bodily injury upon which his especially aggravated burglary convictions are based, we remand to the trial court for entry of a judgment reflecting a modified conviction of aggravated burglary and for re-sentencing.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RANDALL COLEMAN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Emma Tennent, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randall Coleman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

A Davidson County jury found the Defendant, Randall Coleman, guilty of five counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years for each aggravated sexual battery conviction and to the mandatory twenty-five-year sentence for the rape of a child conviction. The trial court ordered partial consecutive sentencing for a total effective sentence of fifty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (2) the trial court erred when sentencing him because his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude there exists no error in the judgments of the trial court. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


ANTHONY D. FORSTER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Anthony D. Forster, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Dann Hamm, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Anthony D. Forster (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for especially aggravated robbery. In his petition, he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed his petition. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing his petition. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter to the Davidson County Criminal Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


28 Topics Offered at General Practice Summit Next Week

Earn your entire 15 hours of CLE required for the year at the 2013 General Practice Summit Aug. 15-17 in Nashville. The program offers education for general practitioners on 28 topics that matter most to them. Register online at TennBarU or contact CLE Director Mindy Fulks for more information. If you are unable to attend the summit, don’t miss the Fast Track 15-hour programs in Knoxville and Memphis on Aug. 23.


LAET Receives $20,000 Grant for Women In Crisis Project

Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s (LAET) Chattanooga office has been awarded a $20,000 grant by the Community Foundation of Chattanooga to fund their “Women in Crisis Project.” According to an announcement today, the project will screen, advise and assist victims of domestic violence in obtaining public benefits for which they may be eligible. The goal of the project is to break the cycle of domestic violence by creating financial independence. “Grants, especially private foundation grants, dealing with public benefits are exceedingly rare,” said Russell Fowler, LAET's associate director. "The Community Foundation should be commended for their foresight in recognizing the link between domestic violence and a victim’s financial dependence on their abuser.”


Judge McMullen Makes Historic First

Judge Camille R. McMullen became the first African American woman to preside over a panel of an appellate court proceeding in the state of Tennessee this week. McMullen, of Shelby County, presided over the August term of the Court of Appeals, Western Section in Jackson on Tuesday. “Judge McMullen has proven herself to be a respected colleague and it was time that this barrier was broken,” Judge Thomas Woodall of Dixon said in a press release. “Today is a good day for the state of Tennessee and the judicial system.” Judge McMullen first made history in 2008 becoming the first African American woman to serve on a state appellate court. The AOC announced the news today.


Federal Judges Reject Request to Consolidate Pilot Lawsuits

In a two-page decision issued today, a panel of federal judges has rejected a request to consolidate multiple lawsuits filed against Pilot Flying J for an alleged fuel rebate scheme. The panel concluded that it would be best to allow an Arkansas court to continue its deliberations on a proposed settlement, which already has won initial approval from a district court judge in Little Rock. “Centralization at this time could delay settlement proceedings,” the panel concluded, noting that truckers who don’t agree to the settlement terms can opt out. The Tennessean has the story.


Institute for Conflict Management Names Scholar-In-Residence

British humanitarian and former Hezbollah hostage Terry Waite has been named scholar-in-residence at Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management. Waite, who garnered international recognition when he successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya while serving as a special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1980s, has a one-year appointment with the institute beginning in September. He was guest lecturer for the institute in 2006. “Dr. Waite will add a new dimension to the work of the institute,” said Steve Joiner, managing director of the institute. “With his experience as a negotiator and a world-renowned agent of peace, he is a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit and has long been devoted to humanitarian causes, intercultural relations and conflict resolution.”


Group Launches Litigation Clearinghouse

A coalition of groups calling itself the Fair Courts Litigation Task Force has launched a new website designed to track litigation that could impact the nation’s court system. The website will compile information on litigation that either challenges or supports ethical rules aimed at keeping the judiciary free from partisan politics and outside influences. "This website will prove a valuable resource for all who care about the integrity of our judicial system," said Justice at Stake Acting Executive Director Liz Seaton. Member organizations include the American Judicature Society, the Brennan Center for Justice, Justice at Stake, the National Center for State Courts and The Campaign Legal Center.


Probation Officer Calls Duncan Good Candidate for Diversion

A state probation officer is labeling former Knox County Trustee John J. Duncan III as a “low risk” candidate for unsupervised judicial diversion, according to a report obtained by Knoxnews. Duncan faces sentencing Aug. 15 after pleading guilty last month to official misconduct. Duncan admitted he approved $3,000 in bonuses for himself and other staff in the Trustee’s Office though they had not completed the required training programs.


Study: 'Strategic Flirtation' Common at Firms with Competitive Culture

According to a survey of 281 female lawyers at 38 law firms in the southeast, “strategic flirtation” is more common at law firms with stereotypical masculine cultures that emphasize competition, ambition and assertiveness. The more masculine the culture, the more strategic flirting takes place, the study found. Yet, masculine cultures were less forgiving of flirts than feminine cultures. “Bottom line from the research: Flirting at work—even if it’s more common in some cultures—isn’t such a good idea,” the Washington Post writes. “But you probably didn’t need a study to tell you that.” The ABA Journal has more.


BP Tries Again to Block Spill Claims

BP has once again asked a federal judge to halt payments from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement fund, citing what it called fresh evidence of fraud in the claims process. According to the National Law Journal, the company said it learned within the past week about a potential conflict involving two members of the claims administrator’s appeals panel who were reviewing payments while their law firms were submitting claims. BP also asserted potential fraud, citing a July 15 tip from its recently established fraud hotline that an employee at the claims center in Mobile, Ala., had been assisting family members in submitting “fraudulent subsistence claims” in exchange for a share of the payments.


Texas Lawyer Disbarred

Jimmy Vallejo Delgado, an attorney licensed to practice law in Tennessee and Texas, was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court and ordered to make restitution in the amount of $96,826 to former clients. On June 1, 2012, the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition for discipline against Delgado based on his representation of clients in a Georgia wrongful death case. A hearing panel found Delgado never informed his clients that he was not licensed to practice law in Georgia. The court also found that he never met with his clients personally, settled the case without his clients’ knowledge or consent, and failed to promptly remit settlement funds to his clients. Download the BPR notice.


Davidson County Attorney Suspended

Nashville attorney William Alan Alder was suspended on Aug. 7 for two years, with the suspension to run consecutivey with a one-year suspension imposed on Dec. 28, 2012. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Alder failed to diligently handle two lawsuits, failed to communicate adequately with clients and made a misrepresentation to one client. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court directed him to make restitution to a client, consult with Tennessee Lawyer Assistance Program and pay the Board of Professional Responsibility’s costs in this matter. Download the BPR notice.


 
 

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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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