Court Increases Attorney Compensation

The Tennessee Supreme Court today announced increases to the maximum attorney compensation for some non-capital felony cases. Where the defendant is charged with first degree murder or a Class A or B felony, the Court raised the maximum from $1,500 to $2,500. They also raised the maximum in complex or extended cases for the same offenses to $5,000. The increased limits apply to cases where counsel is appointed after Jan. 1, 2014. These changes were among those advocated by petitions filed two years ago by the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers with TBA support.

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
05 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Martin A. Kooperman, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Earl Adams, III.

S. Jason Whatley, Sr., Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michelle Jayne Adams.


This is an appeal from a “Final Decree of Divorce.” Because the decree does not resolve all the claims between the parties, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


C. Michael Cardwell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Shamar S.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Leslie Curry, Assistant Attorney General, for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


Mother of six children appeals termination of her parental rights, contending that the evidence does not support the court’s holding that she abandoned the children within the meaning of the applicable statute, that she failed to comply with the requirements of permanency plans, that the conditions which led to the removal of the children from her custody persisted, and that termination of her parental rights was in the children’s best interest. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

DOROTHY LAVON W. COLEMAN v. KEITH M. COLEMAN (ShawnCoulson, LLP, Wheeler & Franks Law Firm, P.C., Movants in Fee Dispute)
With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


John J. Cook and Darrell N. Phillips, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Dorothy Lavon W. Coleman

Jay S. Bowen and Will Parsons, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, ShawnCoulson, LLP

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal arises from a proceeding to recover fees under an attorney’s lien. The wife in the underlying Tennessee divorce action retained the appellant Washington, D.C. attorney to advise her on business issues related to the parties’ largest marital asset, an international business. The attorney’s engagement agreement gave the attorney a lien against any proceeds collected by the wife in the divorce and also provided for a monthly service charge on fee bills that were not paid when due. After considerable litigation, the divorce settled. After the settlement, the wife refused to pay the appellant attorney’s outstanding fees. The attorney filed a motion in the divorce action to recover those fees under his attorney’s lien. The wife objected to the attorney fees as excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable. The trial judge in the divorce proceeding conducted an eight-day trial and ultimately held that the fees were reasonable and necessary to the attorney’s representation of the wife. The trial court awarded the attorney damages, a service charge per the engagement agreement, and prejudgment interest, but it denied the attorney’s request for the costs of collection. Both the wife and the attorney now appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s decision in all respects.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Pierre Wright, Memphis, Tennessee, appellant, pro se.

Kirk Caraway, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Staff Line, LLC.

Derek C. Jumper, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.


Appellant’s failure to timely file a notice of appeal deprives this court of jurisdiction to hear the matter and this appeal must be dismissed.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


William W. Jones, IV, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Zaccariah Williams.

William Ray Glasgow, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Melanie Pinson.


Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John M. Miles, Union City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dawn Alish Black.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Thomas A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and Jim Cannon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Dawn Alish Black, entered a nolo contendere plea to driving under the influence (DUI), a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 55-10-401 (2012). She was sentenced to eleven months and twenty-nine days, all suspended but 48 hours. On appeal, she presents a certified question of law regarding the legality of the traffic stop that led to her arrest. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ashley Preston, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Taft Arkey Murphy.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Roger Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Petitioner, Taft Arkey Murphy, appeals from the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner was convicted of possession with intent to sell three hundred or more grams of cocaine in a school zone, possession with intent to sell twenty-six or more grams of cocaine in a school zone, the sale of twenty-six or more grams of cocaine in a school zone, two counts of the sale of twenty-six or more grams of cocaine, and possession of a handgun by a felon. He received an effective eighteen-year sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying the petition because trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, Petitioner contends that trial counsel was ineffective (1) by failing to adequately communicate and meet with him to prepare for the case and failing to properly investigate the facts of the case; (2) by failing to discuss with Petitioner whether he should testify on his own behalf at trial; and (3) by failing to object to testimony regarding Petitioner’s prior voluntary manslaughter conviction. Following our review of the record, we affirm the denial of relief.

Judicial Conference Approves Cost-Saving Measures

The Judicial Conference this week announced new measures to trim costs, including cutting how much courthouse space is used and advocating for changes to let judges issue sentences less than mandatory minimums. “While the Judiciary has been engaged in an aggressive cost containment effort for the last decade, sequestration reduced overall Judiciary funding by nearly $350 million. This has triggered broad cuts in court staff and programs and emphasized the need for continued cost containment within the Judiciary,” the conference said in a press release. GavelGrab has the story. 

Median Pay Rebounds for New Big Law Associates

Median pay for first-year associates at firms with more than 700 lawyers has rebounded to $160,000 after dipping to $145,000 last year, the ABA Journal reports. According to a press release by the National Association for Law Placement, the median starting pay was $78,000 in firms of 2 to 25 lawyers, $110,000 in firms of 26 to 50 lawyers and 101 to 250 lawyers, $100,000 in firms of 51 to 100 lawyers, $160,000 in firms of 251 to 500 lawyers, and $125,000 in firms of 501 to 700 lawyers.

Pilot to Provide Documentation in Fuel Rebate Lawsuit

Attorneys for Pilot Flying J say they will provide plaintiffs with records including email documentation of rebate or discount deals that were made with trucking companies, Knoxnews reports. Appearing in Knox County Circuit Court this morning regarding the civil lawsuit over alleged fuel rebate fraud, Pilot attorney Albert Harb told Judge Harold Wimberly that it may take a week to collect the documents, but that the only way to tell for sure if the trucking companies received the promised deal is by looking at invoices on fuel purchased from Pilot since 2005. Harb also asked trucking companies to provide their own documents.

Memphis Law Office Expands Downtown

The law firm Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC is expanding its presence in Raymond James Tower at 50 N. Front St. in Memphis, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The expansion grows its office space by 30 percent, bringing a larger conference room, more attorney offices and room for future growth. Founded in Jackson in 1975, Rainey Kizer is one of larger firms in the state with 38 attorneys.

Kingston Attorney Joins D.A.’s Office

Kingston attorney Terry L. Stevens II has joined the staff of District Attorney General Russell Johnson as an assistant district attorney in the 9th Judicial District, covering Roane, Loudon, Morgan and a portion of Meigs counties. Johnson called Stevens a “good fit” for the position. “The judges, lawyers and clerks are all familiar with him," Johnson said. "And when I started looking for a person for this position, his name was first on almost everyone’s list of recommendations.” The Roane County News has the story.

White House Counsel Leaving for Private Practice

White House counsel Kathyrn Ruemmier plans to leave government service for private practice by the end of the year, WRCB reports. The 42-year-old former prosecutor is a member of President Barack Obama’s national security team and advises him on a wide range of legal issues, including health care law, counter terrorism and judicial appointments.

Surveillance Court Upholds Phone Data Collection

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has released an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the phone data collection program by the National Security Agency. Dated Aug. 29, the opinion said metadata that includes phone numbers, time and duration of calls is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, since the content of the calls is not accessed. The opinion cited the 1979 U.S. Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland, in which the court ruled against a crime suspect challenging the use of a pen register to capture information about calls made. “Where one individual does not have a Fourth Amendment interest,” said U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan, who wrote the opinion. “Grouping together a large number of similarly situated individuals cannot result in a Fourth Amendment interest springing into existence ex nihilo.” The ABA Journal has the story.

Labor Department Rules on Unpaid Interns Doing Pro Bono

According to a letter from the Labor Department, law students may work as unpaid interns on pro bono matters at law firms, provided certain conditions are met. The letter is a response to immediate past ABA President Laurel Bellows who sought assurances that the agency would interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow such internships. “This clarification will assist law students seeking to gain legal experience and increase their volunteerism,” current ABA President James Silkenat said in a statement released on Monday. “It also will ensure law firms can continue to help the many people in need of legal assistance through pro bono efforts.”

2-Year Law Degree Launched in New York

Amidst the ongoing national debate about law school affordability and the value of the 3L year, New York Law School announced it will offer a two-year J.D. honors program starting in January 2015. It is the first law school to launch a program that cuts the cost of a law degree to no more than two-thirds of a traditional degree. “We’re offering an innovative, accelerated honors J.D. program, requiring an exceptional commitment to year-round, intensive academic work,” said Dean Anthony Crowell. “The program focuses on key growth sectors of the city’s economy: business and financial services; government and public interest; and intellectual property, media, and technology,” the National Jurist reports.

Knoxville Lawyer Temporarily Suspended

Steven Edward Sams has been temporarily suspended from the practice of law for failing to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. Download the BPR notice.

Personalized Insurance Service

TBA Member Insurance Solutions provides association members with exclusive benefits, personalized service and pricing discounts through Graham Swafford, our insurance agent dedicated to serving TBA members. Whether you need professional liability insurance or guidance on other insurance needs, Graham is here for you.


Questions, comments: Email us at

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.

© Copyright 2013 Tennessee Bar Association