Access to Justice Lawyers Learn, Network at EJU

More than 200 lawyers, law students and other advocates gathered for the 2013 Equal Justice University (EJU) in Nashville. EJU is the annual conference for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community and provides an  opportunity for continuing education as well as networking through task force meetings and social functions. The Equal Justice University conference is hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association. Speakers at the 2013 EJU included Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and TBA President Cindy Wyrick.

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
01 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - 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

CORRECTION to dissenting opinion: The second paragraph of FN1 on page 3, "McCurry v. Chevy Chase Bank, FFS" was changed to "McCurry v. Chevy Chase Bank, FSB".

Court: TN Supreme Court


Steven C. Douse, Nashville, Tennessee; and Christopher L. Rissetto, Washington D.C., for the appellant, NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Company.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Sinclair, Jr., Deputy Attorney General; and Rebekah A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal concerns whether Tennessee courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over an Indonesian cigarette manufacturer whose cigarettes were sold in Tennessee through the marketing efforts of a Florida entrepreneur who purchased the cigarettes from an independent foreign distributor. From 2000 to 2002, over eleven million of the Indonesian manufacturer’s cigarettes were sold in Tennessee. After the manufacturer withdrew its cigarettes from the United States market, the State of Tennessee filed suit against the manufacturer in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, alleging that the manufacturer had failed to pay into the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Escrow Fund as required by Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 47-31-101 to -103 (2001 & Supp. 2012). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer. The Court of Appeals reversed, granted the State’s motion for summary judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court to determine the applicable fines. State ex rel. Cooper v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co., No. M2010-01955-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 2571851 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 28, 2011). We find that, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Tennessee courts lack personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer. We therefore reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(2).

TN Court of Appeals

Gary Rickman v. Virginia Rickman, et al

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Trenena G. Wilcher and Eric J. Burch, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Virginia Rickman.

Darren V. Berg, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Gary Rickman, William Rickman, Jr., Gary Rickman, Jr., Tony Childers, and Chris Childers.


This case concerns whether the widow of a deceased man may share in the wrongful death settlement obtained by his personal representative. We conclude that the postnuptial agreement entered into by the widow prevents her from benefitting from the wrongful death settlement. Affirmed and remanded.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General, and Carlin Hess, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Lee Ofman, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jay Hart Frier.

Judge: SMITH

Appellee, Jay Hart Frier, was indicted by the Williamson County Grand Jury for driving under the influence (“DUI”), DUI per se, DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of .20% or more, and DUI second offense. Prior to trial, Appellee filed a motion in limine to dismiss the last count of the indictment based on the fact that his prior DUI was facially invalid. The trial court held a hearing and denied the motion. Appellee filed a motion to reconsider. The trial court ultimately granted the motion in limine and dismissed the last count of the indictment. The State sought reconsideration of the ruling. The trial court declined to reconsider. The State sought an interlocutory appeal. The trial court denied the application. The State then sought an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. This Court granted the application. On appeal, after a review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine that the trial court improperly dismissed the indictment where Appellant sought to collaterally attack his previous conviction rather than seeking review of the underlying conviction via a writ of habeas corpus. As a result, the decision of the trial court is reversed. On remand, the indictment should be reinstated and the matter set for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Antoinette Hill, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; and Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner, Antoinette Hill, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of her petition for a writ of error coram nobis. She asserts that newly discovered evidence, namely an addiction to alcohol and pills by the trial court judge who presided over her trial for first degree premeditated murder, warrants a new trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Heather Haufler, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Albert Kelly.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; L. Ray Whitley, District Attorney General; and C. Ronald Blanton and Bryna Landers Grant, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, William Albert Kelly, appeals the Sumner County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation for perjury and attempted failure to report as a sex offender and ordering his effective two-year, eleven-month, and twenty-nine-day sentence into execution. The Defendant contends that the trial court (1) abused its discretion by revoking his probation and (2) illegally recommended that he not be eligible for release after serving thirty percent of his sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Emma Rae Tennent (on appeal) and Sarah King (at hearing), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dante Devon Omar Truitt.

Robert E.Cooper,Jr.,Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner,Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Megan King, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Dante Devon Omar Truitt, pled guilty to explosive weapon possession with an agreed eight-year sentence as a Range I, standard offender. At a subsequent sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve the eight-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court erred when it denied alternative sentencing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we find no error in the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Chelsea Nicholson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Venus L. Viera.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General, and Brian Ewald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Venus L. Viera, plead guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to one count of aggravated robbery. Pursuant to her plea agreement, Petitioner agreed to a sentence of eight years to be served at eighty-five percent incarceration. Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which she argued that she was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel and that she entered her guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The postconviction court held an evidentiary hearing and subsequently entered a written order denying the petition. Petitioner appeals to this Court. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the denial of the petition should be affirmed. However, in our review of the record, we have discovered that the judgment form provides that the sentence is eight years to be served at 100 percent. Therefore, in addition to affirming the denial of the petition for post-conviction relief, we remand for the entry of a corrected judgment.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Resegregation Case

The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear an appeal asking courts whether the rezoning of metro Nashville schools in 2009 was a pretext for segregation. Frances and Jeffrey Spurlock sued after their daughter was taken out of a predominantly white school with a good academic record and offered the choice of two failing schools. Attorneys for the school system argued the rezoning was not racially motivated but sought to increase parental involvement by putting kids in neighborhood schools. The Memphis Daily News has the story. 

Some Pilot Customers Opting Out of Settlement

A speedy settlement with some companies won't put an end to legal issues for truck-stop chain Pilot Flying J, since about 50 of the company’s 6,000-plus customers have opted out of a proposed settlement, the Memphis Daily News reports. A number of trucking companies and drivers sued Pilot after an April 15 raid revealed the company had cheated customers out of discounts and rebates. The nation's largest diesel retailer reached a class-action settlement with some customers just three months later.  Tuesday is the deadline to opt out of that settlement. Customers who don't opt out are automatically included.

Federal Courts Reducing Space to Save Money

The federal judiciary will hand over more than 66,300 square feet of underused office space in 31 court buildings across the county, saving $1.7 million in annual rent, the Blog of the Legal Times reports. Space in the offices will be returned to the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages court facilities, as part of a series of cost-saving measures the federal judiciary adopted to cope with budget cuts.

Judge to Allow Cash Bonds

General Sessions Court Judge David Bales is now allowing defendants to post cash bonds rather than going through the traditional system involving bail bond agents, the Chattanoogan reports. According to Judge Bales, the system gives defendants the impetus to come up for their case, and it brings in much-needed income for the county. When the defendant has fulfilled his commitment on the bond, the amount he or she owes the county for fines or court costs is deducted from the amount that is rebated.

Howell Speculated to Consider State House Run

Dan Howell, longtime executive assistant to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, may run for the state House of Representatives against Adam Lowe, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Howell, who represents Bradley, McMinn, Polk and Meigs counties on the Republican State Executive Committee, will make an announcement about his plans in the coming weeks, a news release issued by RedRight Strategies says.

Former Chief Magistrate Plans Run for General Sessions Post

Former chief magistrate Larry Ables informed Hamilton County Commission members yesterday that he is withdrawing as a candidate to seek another term as a judicial magistrate in order to plan a campaign to run for General Sessions Court judge next year. The Chattanoogan has the story.

Bradley County Commissioner to Seek House Seat

Bradley County Commission Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe is running to replace Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, as the District 22 state representative, the Chattanoogan reports. “My wife and I have known for some time that I was feeling led to serve in a different role in our area,” Lowe told a group of supporters at a private gathering. “When it was clear the state seat was open, I knew that it was time to take my work ethic and experience to Nashville.” Rep. Watson announced earlier this month that he would not seek re-election in order to run for Bradley County sheriff.

LAET Hosts 2 Open-Door Rural Clinics Friday

Legal Aid of East Tennessee will host two Open-Door Rural Intake And Advice Clinics this Friday. One clinic will be held in Madisonville at the Monroe County Courthouse at 9:30 a.m. The clinic in Athens will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the McMinn County Courthouse. For more information, contact Charlie McDaniel or visit

ETLAW Marks 30th Anniversary

The East Tennessee Lawyer’s Association for Women (ETLAW) invites members of the bar to its 30th Anniversary Celebration and Dinner Oct. 25 in Knoxville. The event will feature remarks by some of ETLAW's first presidents as well as Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Martha Craig Daughtrey. Cost is $65 or $35 for students, public interest attorneys and members of the judiciary. RSVP to Jamie Ballinger-Holden  or (865) 637-0203.

Gaile Owens and Son to Speak on Forgiveness

Authors Stephen and Gaile Owens will discuss their new book “Set Free: Discover Forgiveness Amidst Murder and Betrayal” on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Lipscomb University's Swang Business Center, hosted by the Lipscomb Serving and Learning Together Program, the Institute for Law, Justice and Society and the LIFE program. “Set Free” describes Stephen’s journey to forgive his mother after her incarceration for attempting to have his father killed.

Shelby County Lawyer Placed on Disability Inactive Status

James Prentice DeRossitt, IV was transferred to disability inactive status during which he cannot practice law. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that he disability has been removed and he is fit to resume. Download the BPR notice.

Show Your Professional Pride with the TBA Visa

TBA members can now show their professional pride and get rewarded for doing so. The Tennessee Bar Association Visa® Platinum Rewards Card is now available to all members. Apply now and earn points at hundreds of online retailers. Redeem your points for name-brand merchandise, event tickets, gift cards, travel rewards options and more. Apply 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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