Magazine Predicts 12 ‘Hottest’ Practice Areas

The September issue of The National Jurist predicts the 12 "hottest" practice areas for the next decade. Those deemed to be “super hot” were health care, administrative, intellectual property and family law. Food and drug law, tax litigation, privacy law and compliance law were ranked as “hot.” And employment, energy, manufacturing and immigration law were judged “somewhat hot.”

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

3L COMMUNICATIONS L.L.C. v. JODI MEROLA, INDIVIDUALLY, and d/b/a NY TELECOM SUPPLY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jodi Merola, LaFayette, New York, Pro Se.

Raymond F. Runyon, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, 3L Communications L.L.C.

Judge: STAFFORD

Appellee/Buyer purchased certain telecommunications equipment from Appellant/Seller. Upon inspection, Appellee discovered the equipment was defective and rejected the goods. Appellant contends that the returned goods were never delivered and that Appellee bears the risk of loss under the Tennessee Uniform Commercial Code. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Appellee/Buyer, finding that, under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 47-2-510, the risk of loss remained with Appellant/Seller. Appellant appeals this finding, as well as the award of prejudgment interest and attorney fees in favor of Appellee. We reverse the award of attorney fees. The judgment is otherwise affirmed. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.


MICHAEL DANIEL FRY v. YURIKO SHINODA FRY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Bethany Peery Glandorf, James L. Widrig, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Yuriko Shinoda Fry.

D. Scott Parsley, Michael K. Parsley, Joshua G. Strickland, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael Daniel Fry.

Judge: COTTRELL

Husband and Wife were divorced in 2000 and Wife was awarded one-half of the retirement benefits Husband earned from the military during the parties’ ten-year marriage. Wife has been unable to collect her portion of these benefits because the language of the court’s decree does not satisfy the requirements of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. §1408, et seq. Shortly after the divorce was granted, Wife filed a Rule 60 motion to amend the court’s Final Decree of Divorce to comply with the Act, which the trial court granted. Husband appealed because the trial court made substantive changes to Wife’s award beyond what was necessary to comply with the Act. The Court of Appeals agreed with Husband on appeal and issued a mandate directing the trial court to amend its Final Decree using language meant to comply with the Act’s requirements to enable Wife to receive her portion of Husband’s retirement benefits directly from the military. Wife still has not been able to collect her portion of Husband’s retirement benefits and filed another Rule 60 motion seeking to amend the Final Decree again to comply with the Act’s requirements. The trial court denied Wife’s motion and we reverse the trial court’s judgment. Wife presents extraordinary circumstances entitling her to relief pursuant to Rule 60.02(5).


DOMINIQUE JOHNSON v. SOUTH CENTRAL CORRECTIONAL FACILITY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Dominique Johnson, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.

James I. Pentecost and Brittani C. Kendrick, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Arvil Chapman and Gloria Lang.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Solicitor General; Lee Pope, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee, Tennessee Department of Correction.

Judge: STAFFORD

This case involves a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari filed by a pro se inmate. The Defendants/Appellees filed motions to dismiss the Petition, arguing that the Petition was untimely and that it lacked the required verification pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 27-8-104. The trial court dismissed the Petition without ruling on the inmate’s motion for an enlargement of time to respond to the motion to dismiss. The inmate appealed. On appeal, the Appellees argue that the inmate’s Notice of Appeal was untimely. We conclude that the inmate’s Notice of Appeal was timely filed. In addition, we conclude that the trial court’s failure to rule on the inmate’s pending motion was harmless, as the trial court was deprived of jurisdiction to consider the petition by the inmate’s failure to verify the truth of the petition. Affirmed and remanded.


GEORGE R. VRANEY, M.D. v. MEDICAL SPECIALTY CLINIC, P.C.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Tim Edwards and Whitney Boshers, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, George R. Vraney, M.D.

Todd P. Photopulos and Elizabeth E. Chance, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Medical Specialty Clinic, P.C.

Judge: STAFFORD

This is a breach of contract case. Appellant, a medical doctor, was hired by Appellee Clinic under terms outlined in an employment agreement. After four years employment, the relationship between the parties reached an impasse and Appellant made plans to leave the Clinic to open his own practice. When the parties could not agree concerning payments due under the contract, the instant lawsuit was filed by Appellant, claiming that the Appellee had breached the contract. Appellee counter-sued for breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty, and conversion, claiming that the Appellee had retained certain of his accounts receivable and had limited his work schedule in contravention of the contract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Appellee on the breach of contract and duty of loyalty claims, and set damages pursuant to the report of the Special Master. Appellant appeals. We conclude that remaining questions of law and fact preclude the grant of summary judgment, but that the trial court properly denied Appellant’s claim for unpaid vacation time and properly referred the issue of damages to the Special Master. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. STEPHEN MARK ADDLEBURG

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Andrew J. Gibbons, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephen Mark Addleburg.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Barry Staubus, District Attorney General; and Josh Parsons, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Stephen Mark Addleburg (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of failure to provide proof of financial responsibility; possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana; possession of a weapon by a convicted felon; and possession of a handgun while under the influence. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to four years’ incarceration. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for alternative sentencing. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. We remand the case solely for correction of clerical errors contained in the two misdemeanor judgments.


JERRY A. BELL v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jerry A. Bell, Pro Se, Henning, Tennessee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General, and Lora Fowler, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Jerry A. Bell, was convicted in three separate trials of multiple felonies which resulted in three separate appeals. See State v. Jerry Bell, No. W2003-02870-CCA-R3-CD, 2005 WL 1105158 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, May 10, 2005); State v. Jerry Bell, No.W2004-01355-CCA-R3-CD, 2005 WL 2205849 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Sept. 12, 2005); State v. Jerry Bell, No. W2005-02812-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 2872472 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Oct. 9, 2006). Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief jointly attacking these convictions and arguing that the statute of limitations should be tolled because the cases of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000); Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004); Cunningham v. California, 549 U.S. 270 (2007); and State v. Gomez, 239 S.W.3d 733 (Tenn. 2007) (“Gomez II”); established a new constitutional right requiring the tolling of the statute of limitations or in the alternative that his due process rights were violated such that the tolling of the statute of limitations is required. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition. Petitioner appeals this dismissal. We have reviewed the record on appeal and conclude that there is no basis upon which to toll the statute of limitations. Therefore, we affirm the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BRICE COOK

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William D. Massey and Lorna McClusky, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brice Cook.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and David Zak and Nicole Germain, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

A jury convicted the defendant, Brice Cook, of premeditated first degree murder after the defendant shot the victim, Shantell Lane. The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment. The defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in: (1) allowing a witness to offer lay opinion testimony; (2) denying the defendant’s request for a copy of a witness’s prior statement to police; (3) allowing certain hearsay testimony; (4) refusing to grant a mistrial when a witness referred twice to the defendant’s previous trial; (5) giving limiting instructions to the jury over the defendant’s objection; (6) allowing prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument; and (7) refusing to excuse for cause potential jurors who exhibited a bias against a defendant’s exercise of his or her right to remain silent. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that there is no reversible error. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ERIC DATES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael E. Scholl, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eric Dates.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Michael R. McCusker, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Defendant, Eric Dates, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of driving under the influence (DUI), a Class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to eleven months, twenty-nine days, all suspended but 48 hours. See T.C.A. 55-10-401 (2012). On appeal, he contends that (1) the traffic stop was an unconstitutional search and seizure, (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his DUI conviction, and (3) the verdicts were inconsistent. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


WILLIAM HENRY PRESTON V. JEWEL STEEL, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William Henry Preston, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

William Henry Preston (“the Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Pursuant to a plea agreement and his pleas of guilty to six counts of aggravated rape, the Petitioner received a total effective sentence of forty years as a Range I standard offender. In his petition, he alleges that his sentences are illegal because the trial court and his counsel failed to advise him that he would be subject to community supervision for life as a result of his convictions. In addition, the Petitioner asserts that his total effective sentence of forty years has expired due to the accumulation of sentence reduction credits. The habeas corpus court dismissed his petition. The Petitioner now appeals. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


STEVEN A. PUGH, JR. V. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Douglas L. Payne, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven A. Pugh, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General; and Victor Vaughn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, Stephen A. Pugh, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to recognize a defective indictment and by allowing the petitioner to plead guilty under that indictment, which did not charge a crime recognized under the law of Tennessee. The petitioner is currently serving an effective seventeen-year sentence in the Department of Correction following his guilty plea to two counts of attempted first degree murder. Following review, we affirm the denial of relief.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TONY THOMAS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Paul K. Guibao (on appeal); James DeRossit and Katherine DeRossit (at motion for new trial); and Claiborne Ferguson and Samuel Rodriquez (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tony Thomas.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Marianne Bell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Tony Thomas, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated sexual battery, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Incubator Will Assist Young Lawyers in Memphis

The University of Memphis School of Law, in partnership with the Memphis Bar Association and the Service Corps of Retired Executives, has launched a new solo practioner incubator program for young lawyers. ESQ.BUILD, as it is known, is designed for attorneys in their first three years of practice. The idea of the program is not only to teach lawyers how to practice law, but also how to manage a law office. Program organizers say participants will have access to reduced price office space, mentoring and a range of logistical services. Participation will be limited to no more than 10 lawyers, who will be required to handle pro bono cases and donate a certain number of hours of service to the bar association in exchange for the opportunity. The Memphis Daily News reported the story.


Shelby Judicial Officials Reflect on Sentencing Changes

In a video interview with the Memphis Daily News, Shelby County’s Public Defender Stephen Bush and County Corrections Division Director James Coleman say county courts and prisons are improving, but more intervention should take place before citizens come into contact with the justice system. “The prison system is probably the worst place to engage people … struggling with other life issues,” Bush said. The program is the second in a series of interviews reflecting on changes in federal prosecution guidelines announced last month by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The first installment featured District Attorney General Amy Weirich and U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton. Watch that interview here.


Judge Defends Court's Collection of Fines

Circuit Court Judge Clayburn Peeples countered claims that his court is not assessing and collecting fines designated to fund the 28th Judicial District Drug Task Force, telling the Jackson Sun that “Everybody who can be fined is fined. The law requires in some cases that fines be waived. I don’t write the law, I simply apply it. I am totally flabbergasted by [these] accusations.” The retired head of the task force has said that the interagency group may not exist next year because it is not receiving enough fee revenue from the court.


BPR Considers Action Against Assistant DA

The Board of Professional Responsibility will hear ethics charges this week against a prosecutor who triggered a mistrial against a triple-murder defendant. The case against Michael Younger crumbled when the presiding judge found that 10th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Paul Rush withheld evidence from the defense and asked witnesses questions he had been told not to bring up. In July 2012, the board filed a petition charging Rush with ethical misconduct. Today and tomorrow, a panel of three attorneys will hear testimony and view evidence. The review takes place as other investigations are looking at activities in the 10th Judicial District and its DA, Steve Bebb. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.


'Mockingbird' Author, Agent Settle Lawsuit

Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and literary agent Samuel Pinkus reportedly have reached an “agreement in principle” to settle a copyright suit brought by Lee. Counsel for Pinkus said a settlement had been reached and papers dismissing the case would be filed in federal court next week. No details were disclosed, The Tennessean reports. Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1961, has alleged that Pinkus “duped” her into signing over the copyright to his company in 2007. Pinkus assigned the copyright back to Lee in April 2012. The suit sought forfeiture of any commissions Pinkus or his company may have received since 2007.


Parents, Grandparents Subject to Same Visitation Standard

A ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday puts parents and grandparents on equal footing in disputes over modifications to court-ordered grandparent visitation. While Tennessee case law gives parents a “presumption of superior parental rights” in initial visitation decisions, the court ruled that such presumption does not exist for subsequent decisions to modify or terminate visitation. The ruling now requires both parties to satisfy the same legal standard – that a material change in circumstances has occurred and that modification or termination of visitation is in the child’s best interests. Download the opinion.


Burks to Retire from State Senate

State Sen. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, will retire at the end of her current term, the Herald-Citizen reports. Burks has represented the Upper Cumberland area since 1998 when she made history as the first ever “write-in” candidate to win a Senate seat following the death of her husband Sen. Tommy Burks. Much of her focus in office has been in the areas of education, domestic violence and children’s issues. Burke has been an eight-time recipient of the “Legislator of the Year” award from the Tennessee Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence and achieved national recognition from the U.S. Attorney General’s Foundation for the Improvement of Justice. To show appreciation for the constituents of her district, Burke will host a reception Oct. 10 at the Leslie Town Centre in Cookeville from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.


McWherter Won’t Repeat Run for Governor

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter says he will not make a repeat run for governor next year, though he claims that incumbent Bill Haslam has brought a “culture of corruption” to state government. McWherter lost to Haslam in the 2010 election. Though he may not run, there may be another McWherter campaign afoot. The paper reports McWherter is trying to recruit his wife, Mary Jane McWherter, to seek the state Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. The Memphis Daily News and Knoxnews have more on the story.


TBA Offers CLE Your Way

Remember to use the three hours of free CLE programming that comes with your TBA membership. Members can use this credit to cover all or part of the cost of live programs across the state, weekly webcasts or any of the 300-plus online courses offered in both video and text formats. Find a course now.


 
 

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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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