AOC Director Sykes Announces Retirement

After seven years leading the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and 27 years in state government, Elizabeth “Libby” Sykes has announced she will retire by the end of the year. Sykes joined the AOC in 1995 and was appointed deputy director in 1999. The Supreme Court named her administrative director in 2006. Prior to joining the AOC, Sykes worked for the Tennessee Department of Corrections and was executive director of the Sentencing Commission. She is a graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law. “Libby Sykes has enjoyed a remarkable career in her service to the State of Tennessee, especially during her tenure as administrative director of the Courts,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade. “The people of Tennessee, and especially the judges of our state, could not have asked for a more dedicated public servant,” Wade continued. During her remaining months in office, Sykes will focus on identifying her successor. The AOC has more about Sykes' decision.

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
07 - 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 Supreme Court

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

Court: TN Supreme Court


TN Court of Appeals

FRANK RAY BAGGETT v. ANNE MARIE BAGGETT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Grace E. Daniell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Frank Ray Baggett.

Linda B. Hall, Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, and William A. Harris, III, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Anne Marie Baggett.

Judge: SUSANO

This is the divorce case of Frank Ray Baggett (“Husband”) and Anne Marie Baggett (“Wife”). After eight years of marriage, Wife sued Husband for divorce. The following year, Husband sued Wife for wrongfully excluding him from A&F Computers, a computer sales and repair business. Husband sought his alleged share of the profits from the business, damages, and dissolution of the claimed partnership. By agreement, the two cases were consolidated for trial. The parties stipulated that grounds for divorce exist and the trial court decreed a divorce. Following the hearing, the court classified, valued, and divided the parties’ property. The court determined that A&F was a sole proprietorship and awarded it to Wife. On appeal, Husband challenges the determination and disposition of A&F and the overall property division. He argues that the court’s division is not equitable. We affirm.


ANTHONY OVERTON ET AL. v. HILDA GAY LOWE ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Johnny V. Dunaway, LaFollette, Tennessee, for the appellants, Anthony Overton, Executor of the Estate of Novella Overton, Shairon Fay Howard, Derita Kay McCulloch, and Arlie Dennis Overton.

Stephen A. Marcum, Huntsville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Audie Dean Lowe, individually and as next of kin for Hilda Gay Lowe, and Shielda May Mills.

Judge: SUSANO

This litigation arose out of a family dispute regarding the ownership of a farm of approximately 300 acres. In 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Arlie Overton, who will be referred to collectively as “the parents,” conveyed their interest in the property to their five adult children. The complaint in this case alleges that, at the time of the conveyance, the parents and the children agreed that the children would transfer the property back to the parents upon their request. In 1986, three of the children conveyed their interest in the property to the other two children. In 1999, Novella Overton (“ Mother”) asked the two defendant daughters to transfer the property back. The daughters refused. The parents and the three grantors of the 1986 deed brought suit against the two daughters and a son-in-law, alleging breach of the oral agreement to reconvey. At the close of the plaintiffs’ proof during a jury trial, the court granted the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict as to all claims. We hold that there was material evidence before the jury supporting the claim that there was an oral agreement to transfer the property back to the parents. We further hold that the trial court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that the 1986 conveyance in some way terminated the oral agreement and extinguished the parents’ claim. Accordingly, we vacate the directed verdict as to the claim of Anthony Overton, Executor of the Estate of Mother. As to the directed verdict with respect to the claims of the plaintiffs Shairon Fay Howard, Derita Kay McCulloch, and Arlie Dennis Overton, we affirm the trial court’s judgment. This case is remanded for further proceedings as to the complaint of the Executor of Mother’s estate.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CHARLES D. SPRUNGER

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles D. Sprunger, Only, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Benjamin A. Whitehouse, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: STAFFORD

This is a forfeiture case. Appellant was convicted of a Class B felony for sexual exploitation of children pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-17-1003. Appellant tendered his home computer to a repair shop. Upon examination of the hard drive, the technician discovered unlawful images and notified local law enforcement. A search warrant was subsequently executed for Appellant’s home, where parts of the computer in question were discovered. After Appellant’s arrest, a forfeiture warrant was executed and, after his mortgage indebtedness was satisfied, proceeds from the sale of Appellant’s real property were forfeited to the State pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-17- 1008. Appellant appeals the forfeiture of these proceeds. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.


DAVID ANDREW THORNELOE v. CHEREE ANNE OSBORNE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert A. Anderson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cheree Anne Osborne.

Thomas F. Bloom, Nashville, Tennessee, and W. Stephenson Todd, Jr., Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Andrew Thorneloe.

Judge: FRIERSON

This case involves a parent’s petition to relocate pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108 (2010). The mother, Cheree Anne Osborne (“Mother”), notified the father, David Andrew Thorneloe (“Father”), of her intent to relocate to Wisconsin with the parties’ two children for the purpose of residing with her new husband. Father opposed the relocation. The parties stipulated that they were not spending substantially equal intervals of time with the children. Following a bench trial, the trial court denied Mother’s request to relocate based on Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108(d), finding that the relocation did not have a reasonable purpose and that the relocation would pose a threat of specific and serious harm to the children. The trial court also found that the relocation was not in the children’s best interest. Mother appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KURT GADKE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles D. Buckholts, Nashville, Tennessee for the Defendant-Appellant, Kurt Gadke.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Jessica Borne, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellant, Kurt Gadke, entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence (DUI) in exchange for a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days probation after service of forty-eight hours in jail. As a condition of his guilty plea, the Defendant-Appellant reserved a certified question of law challenging the denial of his motion to suppress which was based upon an alleged unconstitutional stop and arrest. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BOBBY STANLEY GEORGE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

C. Edward Fowlkes, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bobby Stanley George.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Jeff Burks, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Bobby Stanley George, was indicted by a Davidson County grand jury for attempted especially aggravated kidnapping; driving while under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), fourth offense; and driving with a revoked license. At trial, he was found guilty of all counts. The trial court sentenced him to eleven years, two years, and six months, respectively, with all sentences to be served concurrently. Following the denial of his motion for a new trial, appellant argues in this appeal that: (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction for attempted especially aggravated kidnapping; (2) the trial court erred in instructing the jury on involuntary intoxication; and (3) the trial court erred in sentencing him to eleven years for attempted especially aggravated kidnapping. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GAI D. KUOT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Dwight E. Scott, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gai D. Kuot.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Deborah M. Housel and Brian K. Holmgren, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Gai D. Kuot, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of premeditated first degree murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. The court merged the murder convictions and sentenced the defendant to life imprisonment. The court imposed a concurrent sixteen-year sentence on the especially aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial; (2) the trial court erred in admitting, over his objection, hearsay statements of Sammy Sabino; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JORDAN MANSFIELD LOOPER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Sunny M. Eaton (on appeal); and Michael Colavecchio (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jordan Mansfield Looper.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Christopher Buford, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Jordan Mansfield Looper, pleaded guilty to attempted second degree murder, with the length and manner of service of his sentence to be determined by the trial court. The trial court sentenced him to serve twelve years in confinement. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred in its sentencing by using an inapplicable enhancement factor and denying an alternative sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DUSTIN SHAWN PRICE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Rob McKinney, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dustin Shawn Price.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Renee R. Erb and Sarah N. Davis, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Dustin Price, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, two counts of reckless endangerment, and three counts of attempted first degree murder. The two first degree murder convictions were merged, and the defendant received an effective sentence of life plus 40 years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motion to sever offenses; (2) admitting jail house recordings of his telephone conversations with a Davidson County Jail inmate; (3) allowing the prior testimony of a witness under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 803(26); and (4) ordering consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


RANDY LYNN SHELBY v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

B. Nathan Hunt, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randy Lynn Shelby.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Arthur Bieber, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Randy Lynn Shelby, timely filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief which attacked his convictions for two counts of aggravated burglary and one court of especially aggravated kidnapping. After appointment of counsel and the filing of an amended petition, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing, at which only Petitioner and his trial counsel testified. The trial court dismissed the petition for post-conviction relief and Petitioner appeals. We affirm.


GLENARD THORNE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Elaine Heard, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Glenard Thorne.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixon, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rachel Sobrero, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

A Davidson County jury convicted, the Petitioner, Glenard Thorne, of two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, two counts of facilitation of aggravated rape, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and the trial court sentenced him to a fifty-two year effective sentence. This Court affirmed the judgments and sentence on appeal. State v. Lance Sandifer, et. al, No. M2008-02849-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 5343202, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Dec. 21, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 26, 2010). The Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court dismissed after a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that the post-conviction court did not err when it dismissed the petition. The post-conviction court’s judgment is, therefore, affirmed.


Judge Ross to Retire Next Year

Circuit Court Judge Carroll Lee Ross will retire in August 2014, the Cleveland Banner reports. Ross, who has served the 10th Judicial District since 1996, said he was announcing his decision early to allow interested candidates to adequately prepare for the 2014 election. Reflecting on his time on the bench, Ross says, “I certainly owe a deep debt of gratitude to Gov. Don Sundquist for the confidence he showed in me when he originally appointed me.” He also expressed appreciation for the judges, court employees, law enforcement, prosecutors and defenders for making the job a “highlight” of his career.


Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Payments Decline

Tennessee is one of 22 states where both workers’ compensation payments and costs to employers decreased in 2011, according to a new report from the National Academy of Social Insurance. According to the report, the state’s employers paid $783.7 million in workers’ compensation benefits, down 0.1 percent from 2010. By contrast, workers’ compensation payments rose 3.5 percent and costs to employers rose 7.1 percent nationwide during 2011. The report also estimated that 125.8 million workers are now covered by workers’ compensation protection – up 1.1 percent from 2010. The Memphis Daily News has more.


UT Law Welcomes 158 1L Students

The Class of 2016, which included 158 students, attended orientation at the University of Tennessee College of Law last week. The group, which hails from 16 states and one foreign country, heard from former TBA President Buck Lewis, shareholder and chair of the Appellate Practice Litigation Group at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz in Memphis. Other sessions included a panel discussion with recent graduates, lunch with student advisors and a visit to federal court. The faculty also hosted a dinner for the entering class Wednesday night. Classes begin this Thursday afternoon. Learn more about the demographics of the class in this issue of the Informant.


DA Offers Bikes for School Attendance

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich is offering a bike to students with perfect attendance in 12 elementary and middle schools in the county school system. The Bike Rewards program is funded by the Hyde Family Foundation and is part of the office’s Truancy Reduction Program. Bicycles will be awarded at the end of the school year to students who have no absences and no tardy occurrences for the entire year. Read more in the Memphis Daily News.


Haslam in D.C. Seeking Medicaid Flexibility

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was in Washington today to talk with federal officials about his “third way” Medicaid expansion. Though he doesn’t expect to come back with a definitive answer or proposal for the state legislature, the Memphis Business Journal reports that Haslam is weighing how his final decision will impact the state’s hospitals. When asked in a news briefing whether recent layoffs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are relevant to the debate, Haslam said, “It’s something we have to take into account.” But he was quick to point out that the hospital’s financial troubles may be due more to sequestration, Medicare cuts and a reduction in federal disproportionate share payments.


DOJ Amends E-Book Injunction Proposal

Apple may face a reduced punishment for conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices under a new proposal from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice suggested in a court filing Friday that it would cut from 10 to five years the length of a proposed injunction prohibiting Apple from entering into deals with publishers that would limit price competition. The proposal also includes a provision staggering renegotiations of contracts with publishers and would allow the government to seek a number of one-year extensions if warranted. The department said it made the modification based on concerns that its original proposal would outlive its usefulness and unnecessarily harm Apple in a fast-changing industry. WATN-TV has more from the Associated Press.


Law Students Meet With Firms at TBA Diversity Job Fair

Lawyers from across the state met with prospective employees during the 3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair in Nashville this past weekend. During the two-day event at the Tennessee Bar Center, more than 60 students from the state's six law schools and schools in surrounding states learned from and interviewed with Tennessee law firms and government agencies. See photos from the event.


Services This Week for Attorney Who Died During Cycling Event

Lebanon attorney Jere McCulloch died Saturday while competing in a bicycle race sponsored by the Murfreesboro Bicycle Club, the Wilson Post reports. McCulloch, 66, was a founding partner of McCulloch & Aulds, which later became Rochelle, McCulloch & Aulds. He had been managing member of the firm since its inception. McCulloch also was a past president and member of the 15th Judicial District Bar Association and a Tennessee Bar Foundation fellow. He earned his law degree in 1972 from the University of Tennessee. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mt. Juliet Church of Christ, 1940 N. Mt. Juliet Rd. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the church. Interment will follow at Mt. Juliet Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Mt. Juliet-Wilson County Library, 2765 N. Mt. Juliet Road, Mt. Juliet, TN 37122 or a local charity of choice. Those wishing to post remembrances may do so on the firm’s Facebook page. The firm will be closed Wednesday for the funeral.


Memphis Lawyer Dies at Home

Memphis lawyer Paul D. Leitch, 63, died unexpectedly this month. A graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law, Leitch followed a number of career paths including practicing law, teaching college sociology and working in human resources. Funeral services were held this past weekend. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Leitch’s name be made to the Memphis Zoo, Buntyn Presbyterian Church or any research or charitable organization addressing physical or mental health issues. The Commercial Appeal has more on Leitch's life.


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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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