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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
01 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
01 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
01 - 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 Workers Comp Appeals

MICHAEL JOHNSON v. ZELEDYNE, LLC ET AL.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael L. Haynie, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Zeledyne, LLC and Commerce & Industry Company.

Jason G. Denton and Lawrence Alan Poindexter, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael Johnson.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal takes issue with an award of permanent partial disability benefits in a workers’ compensation case. After sustaining a compensable knee injury, the employee filed suit seeking workers’ compensation benefits in the Circuit Court for Wilson County. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded the employee the maximum disability award permitted by the circumstances. On this appeal, the employer takes issue with the trial court’s exclusion of the testimony of an evaluating physician on the ground that he had not personally examined the employee and with the amount of the disability award. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We find that the trial court erred by excluding the physician’s testimony but that this error was harmless. We also find that the evidence supports the trial court’s disability award. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.


TN Court of Appeals

ARETHA MOSS v. SHELBY COUNTY DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Darrell James O’Neal, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Aretha Moss.

Damon Keith Griffin and Pablo Adrian Varela, Assistant Shelby County Attorneys, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Shelby County Division of Corrections and Shelby County Civil Service Merit Board.

Judge: FARMER

Petitioner/Appellant was terminated from her position with the Shelby County Division of Corrections for violating the Division’s Standards of Conduct and for untruthfulness. The Civil Service Merit Board affirmed. On appeal, the Chancery Court for Shelby County affirmed the Board’s decision. We affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RAYMOND DENTON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Harry E. Sayle, III, Assistant Public Defender; William Yonkowski, Assistant Public Defender; and Robert Felkner, Assistant Public Defender; Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Raymond Denton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Jennifer Nichols, Assistant District Attorney General; and Eric Christiansen, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Following a jury trial, Defendant, Raymond Denton, was convicted of aggravated rape, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-502; aggravated burglary, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-403; and physical abuse of an impaired person, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 71-6-119. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a career offender for each conviction to sixty (60) years for aggravated rape, fifteen (15) years for aggravated burglary, and fifteen (15) years for physical abuse of an impaired person. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively to each other for an effective sentence of ninety (90) years. In this appeal, Defendant does not challenge any of the sentences imposed, and does not challenge the convictions for aggravated burglary and physical abuse of an impaired person. Defendant’s sole issue is a challenge to the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction of aggravate rape, limited to the argument that there was insufficient proof establishing the element of penetration. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KEEANNA LUELLAN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen Bush (on appeal), Barry W. Kuhn (on appeal), and James Allison (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Keeanna Luellan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Kirby May, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury found the appellant, Keeanna Luellan, guilty of forgery over $500 and fraudulent use of a credit card over $500. The trial court sentenced the appellant as a Range III, persistent offender to six years for each conviction and ordered the sentences to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of other bad acts or crimes and that the evidence is not sufficient to sustain her convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


FREDERICK PARKS v. CHERRY LINDAMOOD, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Frederick Parks, Clifton, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; and D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Frederick Parks, appeals from the trial court’s order summarily dismissing Petitioner’s habeas corpus petition. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


ROBERT LEE POLK v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert Lee Polk, Louisville, Kentucky, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Clark Bryan Thornton, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

The Petitioner, Robert Lee Polk, appeals the Circuit Court for Lake County’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DEARAYSUN WRIGHT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Terita Hewlett Riley (on appeal) and Lisa Kutch (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dearaysun Wright.

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

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Dearaysun Wright, of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and the trial court sentenced him to eight years in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


TN Attorney General Opinions

Meaning of Obvious Clerical Mistakes Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-509(f)

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Opinion Number: 103


Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 2013-F-157

Court: Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

Is it a conflict of interest for a lawyer who was appointed guardian ad litem to subsequently represent another interest in a matter regarding the child for whom the lawyer was appointed guardian ad litem?


BPR Issues Ethics Opinion on Guardian Ad Litem Roles

A formal ethics opinion released today by the Board of Professional Responsibility addresses the question of whether it is a conflict of interest for a lawyer who was appointed guardian ad litem to subsequently represent another interest in a matter regarding the child for whom the lawyer was appointed guardian ad litem. The opinion states in part that an attorney who was appointed guardian ad litem for a child may represent another party’s interest as long as it is consistent with the interests of the child and does not violate professional conduct rules. To insure that the subsequent representation of another interest is not inconsistent with the interest of the child, it would be advisable to secure consent or permission from the judge who had appointed the lawyer as GAL to represent the other party.


Pop Star Sued for Copyright Infringement

Pop star Ariana Grande, her publishing company and record label were named in a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court today, the Tennessean reports. Minder Music claims Grande and producer/writer/co-performer Mac Miller copied from its 1972 disco song “Troglodyte” for her hit song, “The Way.” Minder Music is represented by Nashville entertainment law attorney Richard Busch of King & Ballow.


Study: Law Lags Behind Other Professions in Diversity

The legal profession lags behind other professions in diversity, according to two studies released this week. The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics is greater among financial managers (18.9 percent), physicians and surgeons (12.3 percent), and accountants and auditors (16.5 percent), than lawyers (8.4 percent) the Microsoft survey found. New statistics by the National Association for Law Placement show women and minorities made slight gains overall in representation in 2013, compared to 2012, though the gain for women was due to increases in the partnership ranks. The ABA Journal has the story.


Bill Young Joins AOC as Director

Former Tennessee Solicitor General Bill Young has started work as Administrative Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the AOC reports. Young was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in September to succeed Libby Sykes, who held the position for seven years before retiring. “I appreciate the tremendous opportunity provided to me by the Supreme Court and look forward to serving in this capacity,” Young said. He will direct an office of about 75 people who provide administrative support to the trial and appellate judges and courts across the state.


Court Reverses 225-Year Rape Sentence

Tennessee’s Court of Appeals has reversed a 225-year sentence for a former youth pastor convicted of raping three boys when he was 17 years old. Two members of a three-member panel ruled that the original sentence was excessive and that the 225-year sentence failed to reflect the potential for rehabilitation. The court ordered the defendant be resentenced to 50 years in prison, Knoxnews reports.


Retired Lawyer Offers Aid in 'Rocky Top' Dispute

Retired trademark attorney Raymond E. Scott of Tellico Village has offered his services pro bono to officials of Lake City in the brewing legal war over the town’s effort to change its name to Rocky Top. The City Council voted last month to rename the town in order to tie in with a proposed theme park. A lawyer for House of Bryant LLC, which holds the copyright to the state song “Rocky Top,” threatened legal action in response. Scott called House of Bryant’s claim “ridiculous,” and noted in a letter to House of Bryant’s attorneys that the name can be found all over East Tennessee on everything from bottled water to the name of a chain of convenience stores. He said he and city officials plan to make an announcement Thursday to counter the company’s claim, Knoxnews reports.


Analyst Predicts 2014 SCOTUS Docket

According to prognostications from legal analyst Jeff Toobins, there won’t be a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy in 2014, there won’t be a U.S. prosecution of Edward Snowden and there won't be much court scrutiny of U.S. surveillance. Writing in the New Yorker, Toobins also asserts that legal momentum is on the side of same-sex marriage supporters and that court challenges will force consideration of new abortion restrictions and voting rights. The ABA Journal has more.


Alexander’s Chief of Staff Accused of Child Porn

Ryan Loskam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s chief of staff for his Washington office, has been placed on leave without pay as a result of a child pornography investigation, the Tennessean reports. In a statement, Alexander said he was “stunned, shocked and disappointed by what I have learned. Based on this information, I immediately placed Mr. Loskarn on administrative leave without pay. The office is fully cooperating with the investigation.” David Cleary, former legislative director, has been named new chief of staff.


Two Pick Up Petition for Juvenile Court Clerk

Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks and Cynthia Gentry have picked up qualifying petitions to run in the May 6 Democratic primary for juvenile court clerk. Former city division director Kenneth Moody has said he is interested in running but has not yet picked up a petition. The Memphis Daily News has more. 


Memphis Groups Host Workshop for Seniors

The Shelby County Trustee’s office is partnering with Memphis Area Legal Services and the Shelby County Probate Court Clerk to host a workshop series for seniors titled “Home Sweet Home.” The sessions will focus on the tax benefits available to seniors, veterans and the disabled; paying property taxes and the importance of properly transferring real estate to heirs. Following today's program at Orange Mound Senior Center, there will be a session Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon at Frayser/Raleigh Senior Center, and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at the JK Lewis Senior Center.


Book Launch Party Friday for UT Law Instructor

University of Tennessee College of Law instructor Elizabeth Gentry will debut her first novel, “Housebound,” at a book launch party Friday at 6 p.m. at John Black Photography, 501 Union Ave. in downtown Knoxville, the Informant reports. Gentry works as a writing specialist at the college and also teaches for the university’s undergraduate English Department. She holds a master of fine arts in fiction writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The book is published by Lake Forest College Press with distribution by Northwestern University Press. It is available on Amazon.com and at independent bookstores.


Shelby County Lawyer Temporarily Suspended

On Dec. 9, attorney David Gregory Hays was 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.


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!


 
 

Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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