Haslam Surprised So Few Applied for Top Court Post

Gov. Bill Haslam says he was surprised there were only five people to apply for the Tennessee Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice Janice Holden. Speaking to reporters, Haslam said he had no explanation for the small number of candidates. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur offered one theory. He told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that people may have been discouraged from applying by uncertainty surrounding the future of the judicial selection system. Voters next year will approve or reject a constitutional amendment to change the current merit-based selection process to one where the governor nominates appellate court judges and the legislature votes on confirmation.

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - 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 Court of Appeals

KAREN RENAE ALEO v. JOE WEYANT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Peter M. Napolitano, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Karen Renae Aleo.

Thomas F. Mink, II and Charles M. Duke, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joe Weyant.

Judge: DINKINS

Client sued her former attorney for legal malpractice, breach of contract, and negligent infliction of emotional distress arising from the attorney’s failure to include in the marital dissolution agreement, prepared for the client and incorporated into Final Divorce Decree, provisions that would permit the client to receive one-half of her husband’s military pension and to be listed as the beneficiary of his Survivor Benefit Plan following their divorce. The trial court granted summary judgment to the attorney on the grounds that the statute of limitations had passed on the malpractice and the breach of contract claims and that the evidence did not support a finding of serious mental injury sufficient to support the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim; client appeals. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE, ON RELATION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF TRANSPORTATION v. E. G. MEEK, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

E. G. Meek and Shirley T. Meek, pro se appellants.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and, Cynthia L. Paduch, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SWINEY

This appeal arises from a condemnation action. The State of Tennessee (“the State”) acquired real property owned by E. G. Meek (“Meek”) and Shirley 1 T. Meek. The acquisition of the property is not at issue. Rather, the dispute is over the amount of money Meek is entitled to receive from the State. This case was tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Meek and the State’s expert witness testified. The jury reached, and the Trial Court approved, a verdict for $15,250. Meek had sought considerably more money at trial for his property than the $15,250 awarded by the jury. On appeal, Meek alleges numerous errors, such as that the Trial Court erroneously allowed certain evidence to be admitted and that the Trial Judge failed to properly exercise his responsibility as thirteenth juror. Finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgment.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TOMMIE PHILLIPS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Tony N. Brayton, Assistant Public Defender (on appeal); and Gerald D. Skahan and Robert H. Gowen, Assistant Public Defenders (at trial), for the appellant, Tommie Phillips.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Patience R. Branham, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Tommie Phillips, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of four counts of first degree felony murder, one count of reckless homicide, two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated sexual battery, six counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of especially aggravated burglary. The trial court merged the four counts of felony murder and one count of reckless homicide into one felony murder conviction and merged the aggravated sexual battery conviction with the aggravated rape conviction. The trial court also merged the six counts of especially aggravated kidnapping into three convictions – one per victim – and merged the two especially aggravated burglary convictions into one conviction. He was sentenced to an effective term of life imprisonment plus sixty years. On appeal, he argues that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motions to suppress his statement to police and the photographic and subsequent identifications of him as the perpetrator; (2) the trial court’s erroneous jury charge on especially aggravated kidnapping deprived him of a fundamentally fair trial; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we remand for entry of a corrected judgment in Count 14 to reflect the sentence length of twenty years, which was omitted, and we vacate the judgment for especially aggravated burglary in Count 16 and remand for resentencing for the modified conviction of aggravated burglary in that count. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


Clarksville Lawyers Helping Feed, Clothe the Needy

Clarksville lawyers and court reporters are joining forces with local government leaders, two area churches, and the charity Radical Missions to provide dinner, clothing, gifts, complimentary family photos and free haircuts on Christmas Eve. The annual event, “WarmSouls Christmas Celebration,” serves more than 700 guests who are in need of assistance throughout the year, but especially at the holidays. The legal community has taken responsibility for raising the money needed to purchase hundreds of sweatshirts that will be given away at the event. News of the contribution drew praise from Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary R. Wade and Kevin Fowler, managing attorney for the Clarksville office of Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee. Anyone interested in helping with the event should contact Brett Smith, executive director of Radical Mission, at (931) 648-0110. The Leaf Chronicle has more. 


County Starts Design Work on New Murfreesboro Courts

The Rutherford County Commission has appropriated $5 million to design a new judicial building and seek property for the project’s $7 million parking garage. According to the Daily News Journal, Mayor Ernest Burgess hopes to have a new building in place for the fast-growing county by late 2017 on the east side of Maple Street, a block north of the existing Judicial Building on the Public Square in Murfreesboro.


Report: Female Associate Numbers Decline Again

Women in the associate ranks declined for the fourth year in a row, while women and minorities in the partnership ranks show some improvement, according to a survey from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP). The percentage of female associates in law firms fell to 44.79 percent in 2013. Minority associate numbers recovered from a decline in 2009 to 2010, and the numbers of female and minority partners also increased slightly. Visit The Careerist for more information.


UT Medical Group Considering Bankruptcy in Wake of Verdict

UT Medical Group Inc. is considering bankruptcy after a Memphis jury found that delays in performing an urgently needed cesarean section resulted in a baby developing severe brain damage and cerebral palsy, and awarded a $33.5 million verdict against obstetrician Gary Lipscomb and UTMG. Through a statement delivered exclusively to the Memphis Business Journal, UTMG said the case remains subject to review by the appellate courts and settlement negotiations are ongoing. However, the verdict’s unusually high value has compelled the UTMG board to consider seeking protection through bankruptcy court.


Senate Moves on Judicial Confirmations

In a nearly around the clock push, the Senate has confirmed a slate of non-controversial judicial and executive nominees, the Blog of the Legal Times reports. Because Republicans have forced Democrats to use all the time required under Senate rules to get to confirmation votes, the Senate has gone into marathon sessions this week. That has included unusual vote times such as 1 a.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. today. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says more confirmation votes will come next week.


Nominations Open for Dunavant Public Service Awards

Nominations are open for the 11th annual Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Awards. Each year, one elected official and one non-elected official are given the award in honor of Dunavant, who served 21 years as probate court clerk and as a county government employee before being elected to office. A committee of Rotary East members and Dunavant’s family are accepting nominations until noon Jan. 17 via the Rotary website. The Memphis Daily News has more.


Legal Aid Clinic Helps Parents at Juvenile Court

Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Hamilton County Juvenile Court and the Court Clerk’s Office held the first free legal advice clinic aimed at child support problems in Hamilton County Juvenile Court. Five lawyers, some volunteers and others with Legal Aid, sat with non-custodial parents and reviewed forms and fielded questions. LAET attorney Charlie McDaniel, who led the event, said if there’s demand the group will hold the clinic monthly. For information on the next Legal Aid clinic at Hamilton County Juvenile Court, contact Legal Aid of East Tennessee at (423) 756-4013. The Chattanooga Times Free has more. 


Chattanooga Mayor to Meet with President Obama

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is among new mayors from across the county who are meeting with President Barack Obama today to talk about ways the Obama administration can actively support cities' efforts to create jobs and help middle class families. “This is a great opportunity to highlight the important assets that create local jobs and strengthen Chattanooga's economy," Berke said a news release. Today's meeting with mayors complements the Obama administration's effort of the Administration "to partner with mayors working to implement policies that lead to high-paying, high-skill jobs in their communities," the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.


Opinion: Drones and the Law

Attorney David Peel ponders the legality of drones in an opinion piece for the Millington Star. While drones can be used for positive, protective measures such as searching for a missing child or tracking down suspects running from law enforcement, Peel also mentions the dangers of armed drones that are used to drop missiles and surveillance drones that can listen in on civilian conversations. Nine states have already passed some laws restricting drone use, he notes, questioning whether the law can keep up with the  technology.


Brentwood to Pay Fees for Polling Lawsuit

The city of Brentwood must pay $54,744 in legal fees for the Williamson County Election Commission following a 2012 lawsuit over the use of the Brentwood Library as an early-voting polling place, the Tennessean reports.  In 2013, the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to hear the matter, officially ending the legal wrangling. Brentwood’s insurance service, TML Risk Management Pool, will cover the legal fees related to the case.


Protect Your Practice with the Bar Plan

Protecting your practice and your family from an unexpected loss is a priority for many TBA members. The Bar Plan program provides TBA members with the most comprehensive and fairly priced professional liability coverage available. Learn more online.


 
 

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.


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