Law School Hopefuls Bargain Like Never Before

With law school applications dropping more than 18 percent from last year's, according to figures from the Law School Admissions Council, law school hopefuls are bargaining as never before for financial aid to defray the significant costs of three years of legal education. CNN Money delves into the financial aid arms race at law schools as they are they sift through a smaller pool of applicants, making it harder to enroll students with sufficiently impressive grade point averages and law board scores — key elements that undergird their place in the national law school rankings.

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
03 - TN Court of Appeals
09 - 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

MARIANNE GREER v. PHILIP ERNEST COBBLE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Phillip Ernest Cobble, Knoxville, Tennessee, pro se appellant.

Shelley S. Breeding and Allison J. Starnes-Anglea, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Marianne Greer.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This appeal concerns a settlement agreement in a divorce. The parties purportedly had reached an agreement regarding the division of their property. An order, proposed by the wife, was signed by counsel for both parties and entered by the trial court. The husband later filed a pro se notice of appeal containing allegations that he did not agree to the terms of the settlement and that it is incomplete. We remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.


SHARON LYNN PUCKETT v. BOBBY WAYNE PUCKETT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Sharon Lynn Puckett, Kingsport, Tennessee, pro se appellant.

Mark S. Hanor, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bobby Wayne Puckett.

Judge: SWINEY

Sharon Lynn Puckett (“Wife”) sued Bobby Wayne Puckett (“Husband”) for divorce. After a trial, the Trial Court entered its order on October 4, 2012 finding and holding, inter alia, that Husband was entitled to a divorce on the grounds of Wife’s inappropriate marital conduct, that Wife was guilty of perjury, and that Wife was in contempt of court both for selling property during the pendency of the divorce in violation of the restraining order and for possessing a cell phone in court. Wife appeals raising the sole issue of whether the Trial Court erred in refusing to grant her motion for recusal. We hold that Wife failed to show any grounds justifying recusal, and we affirm.


IN RE: TYLER M. G., JOSHUA E. G. and ALEXIS E. G.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Yarboro Ann Sallee, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Willie G.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Ryan Leslie McGehee, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Linda Rosillo Mulligan, Harriman, Tennessee, Attorney Ad Litem for the minor children.

Daniel Logue Ellis, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.

Judge: PER CURIAM

This appeal is from an order of the trial court denying a petition to terminate the parental rights of the appellant, Willie G., to his three minor children. Because the judgment of the trial court is not adverse to the appellant, we lack jurisdiction to entertain this appeal.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

ERNEST N. BOWEN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Emeterio R. Hernando, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ernest N. Bowen.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel, Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles and Richard Cawley, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner, Ernest N. Bowen, appeals the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his three convictions for selling a Schedule II controlled substance and one conviction for one possessing a Schedule II controlled substance for resale and resulting effective fifteen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel, which resulted in his pleading guilty unknowingly and involuntarily. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ALINA DONEGAN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Lee W. McDougal, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Alina Donegan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Sarah Whitney Wojnarowski, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Alina Donegan, appeals as of right from the Dickson County Circuit Court’s order revoking her probation and requiring her to serve the remainder of her sentence in confinement. In September 2011, the Defendant pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony; one count of possession of less than .5 grams of methamphetamine, a Class C felony; and one count of promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class D felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-103, -17- 417, -17-433. The trial court imposed an effective six-year sentence and suspended the sentence to probation upon the Defendant’s “successful entrance into and completion of the drug court” program. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the trial court violated her right to due process by not allowing her to present witnesses at the revocation hearing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL DEWEY ELLINGTON
CORRECTION: The entire opinion, including the dissenting opinion, originally published on Aug. 13, 2013, have been withdrawn and replaced the attached.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

C. Richard Hughes, Jr., and Jeanne L. Wiggins, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Dewey Ellington.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; R. Steven Bebb, District Attorney General, and James H. Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Michael Dewey Ellington, was convicted of the first degree premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Julia Kinsey, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is not sufficient to support a conviction of first degree premeditated murder, that the trial court erred in excluding photographs depicting the contents of the victim’s purse, and that the trial court erred by admitting a photograph depicting the victim’s wounds. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JEFFREY SCOTT GOLD

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen M. Wallace, District Public Defender; Andrew J. Gibbons, Assistant Public Defender, Blountville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Jeffrey Scott Gold.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and William B. Harper, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

A Sullivan County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Jeffrey Scott Gold, of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect, Class A felonies, for which he received concurrent terms of twenty-two-years’ imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in (1) granting the State’s motion to depose a prospective witness to preserve that witness’s testimony for trial; (2) denying his motion for judgment of acquittal as to the aggravated child neglect conviction; and (3) imposing an excessive sentence. Following a thorough review, we reverse and vacate the aggravated child neglect conviction. In regard to the other issues, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MYRON TYRONE HARRISON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jeffrey T. Daigle (on appeal); and Ed Swinger (at revocation hearing), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Myron Tyrone Harrison.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Ben Ford, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Myron Tyrone Harrison, entered a guilty plea to sale of a Schedule II controlled substance and received a seven-year suspended sentence. Subsequently, his probation officer filed probation violation warrants alleging that: (1) appellant had tested positive for cocaine on a drug test; (2) he had failed to obtain employment; and (3) he was arrested for public intoxication and failed to report the arrest. Following a hearing, the trial court revoked appellant’s probation and ordered execution of his sentence. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. HOYTE MITCHELL HOBBS
CORRECTION: The county has been changed from Wayne to Warren.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

L. Scott Grissom, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Hoyte Mitchell Hobbs.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Assistant Attorney General; Lisa S. Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Randal Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Hoyte Mitchell Hobbs, appeals from his Warren County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of attempted second degree murder, claiming that the trial court erred by imposing a fully incarcerative sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.


STATE OF TENNESSEE V. ANTHONY D. MATHIS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal) and David Crockett, Elizabethton, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, Anthony D. Mathis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Tony Clark, District Attorney General; and Janet Hardin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Anthony D. Mathis, appeals the sentencing decision of the Washington County Criminal Court revoking his probationary sentence. The defendant pled guilty to facilitation of the possession of a Schedule II controlled substance for resale, a Class C felony, and was sentenced, as a Range II offender, to six years. However, the trial court suspended the sentence and ordered the defendant to serve eight years probation. Thereafter, a violation report was filed charging the defendant with multiple violations of the terms and conditions of his probation. Following a hearing, the trial court found that the defendant had left the county without permission in violation of the probationary agreement. The court revoked the defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve the six-year sentence. On appeal, the defendant contends that the court erred in that revocation. Following review of the record, we find no error and affirm the revocation of probation.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOHN D. PRUITT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

B. Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender; and Robert G. Morgan, Assistant District Public Defender, Jasper, Tennessee, for the appellant, John D. Pruitt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; J. Michael Taylor, District Attorney General; and David Shinn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, John D. Pruitt, entered guilty pleas to vandalism of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000, burglary, felony escape, and theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000. Pursuant to the terms of the guilty plea, appellant received an effective six-year sentence, and the State dismissed the remaining charges against him. The parties submitted the issue of alternative sentencing to the trial court for determination. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the effective six-year sentence to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”). Appellant contends that the trial court did not properly consider his request for split confinement. Following our review, we discern no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DAVIS BRADLEY WALDROUP, JR.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Shari Tayloe Young, Cleveland, Tennesse, for the appellant, Davis Bradley Waldroup, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General, and Drew Robinson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

The Polk County Grand Jury indicted Appellant, Davis Bradley Waldroup, Jr., for two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of first degree murder, and one count of attempted first degree murder. These charges stemmed from an altercation Appellant had with his wife and her best friend at his trailer on Kimsey Mountain. A jury convicted Appellant of one count each of aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated kidnapping, voluntary manslaughter, and attempted second degree murder. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an effective sentence of thirty-two years. On appeal, Appellant argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of aggravated kidnapping, that the trial court erred in denying his motion for change of venue, erred in allowing the introduction into evidence of a photograph of one of the victim’s injuries, and erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal. After a thorough review of the record on appeal, we affirmed the judgments of the trial court. Appellant filed a Rule 11 application, pursuant to the Tennessee Rules of Appellant Procedure requesting an appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. On April 2, 2012, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted the application and remanded the case to this Court for reconsideration in light of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012). After reconsidering the facts and circumstances of the case at hand with regard to our supreme court’s decision in White, we conclude the we must reverse the convictions for aggravated kidnapping and especially aggravated kidnapping and remand for a retrial on these two counts. We affirm all other judgments of the trial court.


U.S. Judges Urge Congress to Give More to Courts

Chief federal judges in every state but Nevada are urging lawmakers to avoid another round of automatic spending cuts that would have a “devastating and long-lasting impact” on federal courts. In a letter sent this week to congressional leaders in both parties in the House and Senate, the judges said that the $350 million reduction in the judiciary's budget for the current year has dramatically slowed court proceedings and put public safety at risk. The judges say there are fewer probation and other law enforcement officers to deal with record numbers of convicts who have been released from prison or given alternative sentences. Congress will return in September to try to negotiate a long-term spending deal. The Nashville Ledger has the story.


Court Upholds Brentwood Ban on Roadside Newspaper Sales

The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a Brentwood ban prohibiting the sale of The Contributor homeless newspaper to motorist from sidewalks. According to the Nashville Business Journal, the court found that the ban is not an unconstitutional prohibition on free speech, and found that vendors can sell the newspaper using other methods, including going door-to-door or selling to pedestrians.


Anderson County Considers Charging Inmates for Personal Items

Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager wants to start charging jail inmates for their prison clothing, toothpastes, razor blades and toilet paper, Knoxnews reports. The proposal was one of several prepared for Anderson County Commission’s consideration this month. Other proposals include charging inmates a co-pay for medical and dental care and assessing fees for jailers to escort prisoners to hospitals to visit ailing family members or to funeral homes when there is a death in an inmate’s immediate family. Yeager said the resolutions are among several he’s in the process of preparing that would “put some of the (financial) burden on the inmate instead of the taxpayer.”


Airline Attorneys Come Out Swinging against DOJ

In the wake of the Justice Department's lawsuit to prevent the $11 billion US Airways and American Airline merger, lawyers for the airlines have come out swinging, the National Law Journal reports. "We're litigating this case, period," Dechert partner Paul Denis, who represents US Airways, said in a conference call. Denis was joined by Richard Parker, a well-known antitrust litigator at O'Melveny & Myers who was recently hired by US Airways to serve as lead trial counsel. "The government got this one very wrong," Parker said. "Both companies are looking forward with confidence to their day in court."


Petition to Transfer Teen to Juvenile Court Denied

The attorney for 14-year-old Jonathan Ray, who is charged with murder after his mother was killed in a fire he is accused of setting, was denied the opportunity to have his case sent back to juvenile court, WREG reports. Juvenile court special judge Dan Michael decided in June to transfer Ray’s case to criminal court where he would be tried as an adult, stating it appeared Ray could not be rehabilitated through the juvenile system. The nature of Ray’s transfer worried Justice Department due process monitor Sandra Simkins who was appointed by the DOJ to oversee changes to the court following a two-year investigation into the Shelby County juvenile justice system.


Obama Position Disappoints Hamilton County Prayer Opponents

Attorneys for the Obama administration and House and Senate Republicans last week filed "friend of the court" briefs in the case of Greece v. Galloway, in which a New York woman sued the town of Greece to halt prayer before public meetings. The Supreme Court case closely parallels a federal case in Hamilton County, where residents Thomas Coleman and Brandon Jones are suing to halt prayers before the Hamilton County Commission meetings and have them replaced with moments of silence. Coleman said Tuesday he was disappointed by the White House's move. "We were extremely shocked and certainly saw this as causing more problems for freedom of religion down the road," he said. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.


Haslam Facing Ethics Complaint Over Consultant Fees

Former state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester is filing ethics and campaign finance complaints against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for failing to disclose how much he has paid his former chief campaign strategist for political advice. Forrester told reporters in Nashville today that Haslam should be required to disclose how much he paid prominent GOP operative and lobbyist Tom Ingram following the 2010 governor's race. Haslam has defended his ties to Ingram and denied any inappropriate action. The Memphis Daily News has more.


Campfield Pushing 'Merry Christmas' Bill

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, has introduced a “Merry Christmas” bill that he says will assure schoolchildren and their teachers have a legal right to use what the bill calls “traditional greetings” during “winter celebrations.” Inspired by Texas legislation, the polarizing lawmaker has pre-filed SB 1425 for consideration by the General Assembly in 2014. “This stops all these silly lawsuits that say you can’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah’ or have a Christmas tree,” Campfield said. “The ACLU is always freaking out about that stuff.” Hedy Weinburg, executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, said the senator’s concerns are greatly exaggerated and she cannot recall any legal action involving a Tennessee school’s holiday activities or even a case of the “blatant religious proselytizing” in schools that would trigger ACLU concern. Knoxnews 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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