Pro Bono Month Continues with 6 Events This Week

Six events will take place across the state this week as part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month. Among them is an Operation Stand Down Clinic in Nashville for veterans with civil and criminal legal issues, and a Pro Bono Attorneys Hall of Fame Reception in Chattanooga. The veterans clinic will be held on Wednesday at the Operation Stand Down offices. The reception will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade will speak at the event. Get details for these and other events.

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.

02 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - 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

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 Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

CORRECTION: On page 4 in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph, the comma after “Leech” was deleted. On page 7, the line number “1” was removed from the margin to the left of footnote 6. On page 13 in the third sentence of the second paragraph, “testfied” was changed to read “testified.” On page 34 in the last sentence of the third paragraph, the word “as” was removed between “continues to include” and “felony murder . . . .” On page 37 in the last sentence (before the citation) of the second full paragraph, a hyphen was inserted between “death” and “eligible.” On page 42 in the first sentence of the third paragraph, the word “supra” was replaced with “753 S.W.2d 659.” On page 43 in the last sentence (before the citation) of the third paragraph, the word “the” was inserted between “on” and “(i)(2).” On page 47 in the last sentence on the page, the hyphen was removed between “previously” and “rejected.” On page 48, an extra line was removed from the last two paragraphs of the opinion. At the top of the appendix, the phrase “Filed on ______, 2012” was deleted. In the opinion as a whole, the general reformatting of the footnotes changed the pagination of the document.

Court: TN Supreme Court


Harry E. Sayle, III and Tony N. Brayton, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Corinio Pruitt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Amy P. Weirich, Alanda H. Dwyer, and John W. Campbell, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Anne E. Passino and Wade V. Davies, Knoxville, Tennessee; Russell Cass, Daniel Greenfield, and Collin P. Wedel, Los Angeles, California; Eric Grant Osborne, Seema Kakad Jain, and Mary Schmid Mergler, Washington, D.C.; and J. Robin McKinney Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the amicus curiae, Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and The Constitution Project.

Allan F. Ramsaur, Jacqueline Belle Dixon, and Paul C. Ney, Nashville, Tennessee, and David Miller Eldridge, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the amicus curiae, Tennessee Bar Association.

Erica Knievel Songer, Kathryn A. Blair, Khang V. Tran, and Thomas N. Bulleit Jr., Washington, D.C., and Dwight L. Aarons, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the amicus curiae, Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Team.

Mark A. Fulks, Johnson City, Tennessee, and J. Wally Kirby, Nashville, Tennessee, for the amicus curiae, Tennessee District Attorneys Conference.

Anthony J. Dick, Washington, D.C.; Brian J. Murray, Chicago, Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Henry, Nashville, Tennessee, for the amicus curiae, Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference.


A jury convicted the defendant of first degree felony murder. The jury imposed a sentence of death based on three aggravating circumstances: (1) the defendant had previously been convicted of one or more felonies involving the use of violence; (2) the murder was knowingly committed while the defendant had a substantial role in committing a robbery; and (3) the victim was seventy years of age or older. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(2), (7), (14) (2010). The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. On automatic appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(a)(1) (2010), we designated the following issues for oral argument: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding of guilt of first degree felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether the trial court erred in determining that the defendant had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was intellectually disabled and thereby ineligible for the death penalty; and (3) whether the sentence of death is disproportionate or invalid pursuant to the mandatory review of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(c)(1). On December 6, 2012, we ordered re-argument on the following issues: (1) whether the proportionality analysis adopted by the majority of the Court in State v. Bland, should be modified; (2) whether the absence of an intent to kill should render the death penalty disproportionate; and (3) whether the pool of cases considered in proportionality analysis should be broadened. Having carefully considered these issues and the other issues raised by the defendant, we find no merit to the defendant’s arguments. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Geoffrey Coston, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mark David Hill.

Joanie L. Abernathy, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Nancy Bowron.


Mother sued Father for one-half of child’s college expenses based on the language of their Marital Dissolution Agreement’s parenting plan. Father defended based on the same language. The trial court found the language ambiguous and, based on all the circumstances, found that Father was required to pay one-half of the child’s college expenses at the University of Alabama. Father appealed. We do not find the language ambiguous, but agree with the trial court that the language requires Father to pay one-half of the expenses. We reverse the trial court’s denial of prejudgment interest and remand for a calculation of that interest. We also award Mother attorney’s fees for this appeal and remand to the trial court for a calculation of those fees.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jason Clark, Clifton, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel, Criminal Justice Division, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Jason Clark, appeals the Wayne County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus. The Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred when it dismissed his petition without providing a reason for the dismissal in its order, depriving the Petitioner of an opportunity to respond. Upon a review of the record in this case, we are persuaded that the habeas court properly dismissed the petition for habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the habeas corpus court is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David Neal Brady, District Public Defender; and Allison R. West, Assistant District Public Defender, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph W. Jones.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Mark Gore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Joseph W. Jones, pleaded guilty to sale of a Schedule II controlled substance and received a three-year sentence, suspended to probation. A violation of probation warrant was subsequently filed, alleging that he had violated a condition of his probation by testing positive for methamphetamine on a drug screen. The trial court revoked his probation, and this appeal follows. Appellant now alleges that the trial court erred in admitting the laboratory report of his drug test without the proper chain of custody and that the trial court should have extended his probation rather than ordering execution of his sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Kevin D. McMillan, Only, Tennessee, pro se.

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


The Petitioner, Kevin D. McMillan, pled guilty to the sale of a controlled substance, less than 0.5 grams of cocaine. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to three years of incarceration, to be served consecutively to two other convictions, in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which the habeas court summarily dismissed. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas court erred when it summarily dismissed his petition. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ryan C. Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ako Hassan Nejad.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Robert Elliott McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Ako Hassan Nejad, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2008 convictions for conspiracy to commit first degree murder and attempt to commit second degree murder and his effective Range I, thirty-seven-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to call a material witness and failed to present a defense. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

78-Year-Old Freed from Public Conservator’s Control

After a three-month court battle and a two-hour court hearing, 78-year-old Nashville resident Mary Fowler won her battle Tuesday to have a family member serve as her conservator rather than county public guardian, Jeanan Mills Stuart, who had been appointed last year over the objections of Fowler’s brother. This time around, Fowler’s sister was given immediate authority to take over as conservator. A number of Fowler’s family had complained about Stuart’s fees and questioned her control over Fowler’s finances and life decisions, The Tennessean reports. Fowler is one of a handful of wards who successfully have sought release from Stuart’s control.

TDLA Names New President, Officers

The Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association on Friday installed Bradford D. Box as its new president. Box is a member of Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell and serves on the firm’s executive committee. The association, which represents lawyers engaged in civil defense litigation, also announced new officers: President Elect James Tucker and Director Heather Douglas with Manier & Herod in Nashville; Secretary-Treasurer Cate Dugan of Costangy Brooks & Smith in Nashville; and Vice President Phil Mischke of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs in Memphis. Sarah Reisner of Manier & Herod also rotated off the board after six years of service.

Constangy Announces 2013 Law Student Scholarship

Constangy, Brooks & Smith, with offices in Nashville, has announced the application process for its 2013 Diversity Scholars Awards. Each year, the firm selects one student based on academic success, commitment to diversity and personal achievement in overcoming challenges. To be eligible for the award, applicants must be second-year law students with a 3.0 or greater GPA and be enrolled in an accredited law school in Tennessee or any other state where the firm has offices. The successful applicant will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Applications are available on the firm’s website and are due by Dec. 11. The winner will be announced in January. Contact Meg Zabijaka with any questions.

Judge Siskin Seeking to Retain Seat

Judge Keith Siskin recently announced he is running for election to retain his seat on the 16th Judicial District Circuit Court. Siskin was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2012. Prior to taking the bench, he served for eight years as magistrate and referee for the Rutherford County Juvenile Court and previously practiced law in Murfreesboro. In addition to announcing his candidacy, Siskin named Tracey Binkley, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, as his campaign treasurer. A native of Savannah, Ga., Siskin earned his law degree at the University of Georgia School of Law. Read more in this announcement or from WGNS Radio.

2 Vie for Williamson County Judicial Seat

Two Franklin-based attorneys have announced they are running to fill a Williamson County General Sessions judgeship, The Tennessean reports. County Commissioner Ernie Williams and criminal defense lawyer Lonnie Hoover have announced they are seeking the General Sessions Court seat vacated by Judge Al Nations, who retired in September. Williams has been a commissioner since 2003. He previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee from 1991 to 1993. Hoover became the county’s first juvenile referee in 1993, and served as a general sessions and juvenile judge from 1995-2006. He continues to sit as a “designated special judge” in the county.

KBA Holds Memorial Service Nov. 22

The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) will hold it annual memorial service Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. The events honors area lawyers who have died in the preceeding year. This year’s service will be held in the Tennessee Supreme Court Courtroom on the second floor of the federal courthouse. A reception will follow. Colleagues being remembered are Willard N. Albert, Leonard J. Gajewski, Ralph E. Harwell, Geoffrey D. Kressin, Robert H. Leonard, Edward C. Miller Jr., Thomas A. Monceret, Don W. Ownby, Claude O. Ramer II, John B. Rayson and Harold B. Stone.

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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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