Judge Wiseman to Retire After 35 Years on Bench

After 35 years of service, U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman is leaving the bench, the Tennessean reports. Wiseman, 82, was appointed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, and helped Middle Tennessee navigate the long legal journal to progress on race, health care for the poor and the war on drugs. He tentatively plans to leave office this Friday. He leaves a legacy as a “very careful, humane and wise judge, a model for other judges to follow,” said Gilbert Merritt, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals senior judge.

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
03 - TN Court of Appeals
04 - 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

CITY OF MEMPHIS v. KAREN LESLEY and CITY OF MEMPHIS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Herman Morris, Jr., City Attorney, Zayid A. Saleem, Assistant City Attorney, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, City of Memphis

Clyde W. Keenan, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Karen Lesley

Judge: HIGHERS

A Memphis police officer’s employment was terminated without a pre-termination hearing because the City of Memphis was of the opinion that she was a probationary employee and not entitled to a hearing. The officer sought review of her termination, and the Memphis Civil Service Commission agreed with the City’s position that the officer was a probationary employee and not entitled to a hearing. The officer filed a petition for review before the chancery court, and the chancery court reversed the Commission, finding that the officer had already completed her probationary period, and as a non-probationary employee, she was entitled to due process protections including a pre-termination hearing. This order was not appealed. On remand to the Commission, the City stipulated that the officer was not given a pre-termination hearing and sought to relitigate the issue of whether she was a probationary employee. The Commission declined to reconsider the issue and determined that the officer was denied procedural due process. The Commission reinstated the officer to her previous position of employment. The chancery court affirmed. Finding no error, we affirm.


IN RE MARK A. L.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert A. Croy, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeffrey L.

Thompson G. Kirkpatrick, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellees, Charles B. and Martha B.

Judge: CLEMENT

The Coffee County Chancery Court terminated the parental rights of the father on two grounds: 1) abandonment by willful failure to support pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i) and 2) abandonment by willful failure to visit the child pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i); and upon the determination that termination of the father’s rights was in the best interest of the child. Father appeals. Finding the evidence clear and convincing, we affirm.


IN RE MARY E. P. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jacob J. Hubbell, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christy P.

Cara E. Lynn, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mark P.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter, Derek C. Jumper, Assistant Attorney General, James Stephens, and Mary Byrd Ferrara, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Charles M. Molder, Columbia, Tennessee, for the minor children, Mary E.P. and Melodie E.P.

Judge: CLEMENT

The juvenile court terminated the parental rights of the mother and father on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, persistence of conditions, and willful abandonment by failure to visit, and upon the determination that termination of their parental rights was in the best interests of the children. Both parents appeal. Finding the evidence clear and convincing, we affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KENNETH L. ANDERSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kenneth L. Anderson, Tiptonville, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; and C. Phillip Bivens, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Kenneth L. Anderson, was convicted of one count of selling less than .5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417 (2010). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to twelve years as a Range III, persistent offender. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that his right to confront one of the State’s witnesses was violated; (2) that his right to present witnesses in his defense was violated; (3) that one of the State’s witnesses, Penny Webber, was not competent to testify at trial; (4) that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress a recorded phone conversation between himself and Ms. Webber and video recordings of the drug buy; (5) that he was denied his right of access to the courts; (6) that the jury venire did not represent a fair cross-section of the community; (7) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (8) that he was entitled to a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence; and (9) that his sentence was excessive. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARCO BLANCH

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen Bush, Chief Public Defender and Harry E. Sayle, III, Assistant Public Defender, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marco Blanch.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General, and Terre Fratesi, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

In 2011, the Shelby County Grand Jury indicted Appellant, Marco Blanch, for aggravated rape based upon bodily injury sustained by the victim. A jury convicted Appellant of the lesser included offense of rape. Appellant was sentenced as a Range I, violent offender to an eleven-year sentence at 100 percent. On appeal, Appellant argues that the evidence presented by the State at trial was insufficient to support his conviction because the victim consented to sexual activity. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support Appellant’s conviction.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NORA HERNANDEZ

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Drew Justice, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nora Hernandez.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; Christopher Vernon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Nora Hernandez, was convicted by a jury of two counts of felony failure to appear. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced her to two years, suspended after service of twenty-five days. On appeal, appellant argues that: (1) her action in failing to report to the jail to serve a delayed sentence did not constitute the criminal offense of failure to appear; (2) the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the indictment based on prosecutorial vindictiveness; (3) her conviction should be dismissed because the jury only found her guilty of the elements of misdemeanor failure to appear, an offense for which the statute of limitations had passed; and (4) the trial court erred in sentencing. Following our review, we affirm appellant’s convictions, but we vacate the two failure to appear judgments and remand the case for entry of a single judgment reflecting the merger of these convictions.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RONNIE JOE STOKES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Matthew Edwards, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronnie Joe Stokes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Caroline E. Knight and Gary McKenzie, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Ronnie Joe Stokes, was convicted by a Cumberland County Criminal Court jury of robbery, a Class C felony, and sentenced to twelve years as a persistent offender in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for new trial because a juror was exposed to extraneous prejudicial information. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Judge Grants Restraining Order on Controversial State Rules for Health Law Navigators

U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell issued a temporary restraining order today blocking Tennessee from enforcing part of the controversial emergency rules regulating the actions of people seeking to sign up the uninsured for coverage under the federal health law. The judge found issue with one of the definitions for a health law navigator and issued an injunction against it effective until Oct. 21, saying the rule was not “narrowed or tailored.” That language spelled out a navigator as anyone who “facilitates enrollment of individuals or employers in health plans or public insurance programs offered through the exchange.” The Tennessean has more.


Metro Clerk Resigns to Join AOC

Metro Clerk Ana Escobar is resigning effective Nov. 15 to become deputy director of the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Escobar, who was the first Hispanic woman to lead a Metro department, said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Bill Young and help support the work of more than 180 judges. “I am very sad to leave the mayor and the council,” Escobar said in a phone interview with the Tennessean Friday. “But this is going to be a big challenge.”


Nashville Public Defenders Feel Shutdown Effects

The Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee is grappling with the effects of the government shutdown, the Tennessean reports. The office has a reserve fund set aside to cover operations during the shutdown until Oct. 14, but things could get worse if Congress does not pass a budget soon. Already hit by sequestration earlier this year, the 53-person staff has dealt with upaid time off, which led to some delays in trials and prosecution. Many employees voluntarily worked for free to keep cases from lagging, Federal Public Defender Henry Martin says, and he expects that to continue if the shutdown lasts longer than the office’s money holds out.


DC Judge Lets Holder Lawsuit Go Forward

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected the Justice Department’s request to dismiss a lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. brought by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the National Law Journal reports. Holder has refused to produce certain documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious gun-running controversy despite the committee's subpoena. House lawyers, however, also suffered a setback, when Jackson rejected their request to keep the case moving amidst the shutdown, finding "no exigent circumstances in this case that would justify an order of the Court forcing furloughed attorneys to return to their desks."


Shutdown Slows Civil, Immigration Cases

The Justice Department issued a directive saying U.S. attorneys will continue to handle criminal cases without interruption during the government shutdown, but most civil prosecutions and immigration courts are to be “curtailed or postponed.” According to the Commercial Appeal, U.S attorney’s offices are operating at 63 percent of their normal staffing levels, counting lawyers and non-lawyers.


Henry, Cate Honored with Sage Award by Council on Aging

A packed house of community leaders and supporters last week recognized Sen. Douglas Henry and former Vice-Mayor George Cate Jr. at the 22nd Annual Sage Awards Luncheon. Henry and Cate, along with fellow honorees Larry Keeton and Lois Orr Winston, were honored for their lifelong commitment of service to their local communities by the Council on Aging of Greater Nashville.


Kagan: Confirmation Process 'Sort of Broken'

U.S Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan told law students at the University of Alabama Friday that the confirmation process is “sort of broken,” and she isn’t sure how to fix a system that amounts to little more than theatrics at times. During the speech, Kagan said senators want to know how nominees will rule on cases, yet the would-be justices are limited in what they can say because of both judicial rules and the fear of providing critics with ammunition. WRCBTV has the story. 


U.S. Attorney to Speak at UT Chattanooga

Assistant U.S Attorney Stephen Parker of the Civil Rights Division in the Eastern District of Louisiana will speak to at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Oct. 17 in the Roland Hayes Auditorium. Parker’s presentation “The Tarnished Badge” will focus on the nature and dynamics of public corruption, including professional codes of conduct, temptations surrounding the public trust, investigative strategies, the legal environment and challenges in the 21st century, the Chattanoogan reports. Sponsored by the university’s Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Assistant Studies, the event is free and open to the public.


Law Firm to Host Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program Oct. 18

Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC will host the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program — a training opportunity for pro bono attorneys interested in handling veterans’ claims. The event will take place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m on Oct. 18 at the firm's Nashville office, located at 211 Commerce St. Live webinar locations are also available.


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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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