Chief Justice: Federal Budget Cuts Threaten Public Safety

In his annual year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. states that the budget remains the single most important issue facing the courts. He warns that the sequestration budget cuts are poised to “pose a genuine threat to public safety” and jeopardize the ability of the federal courts to deliver prompt justice and protect the public. In order to avert the adverse consequences of an underfunded judiciary, Roberts encouraged Congress to be attentive to the needs of the judicial branch as the FY 2014 appropriations process proceeds. Gavel Grab has more.

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
04 - TN Court of Appeals
00 - 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

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARCUS POPE

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Stephen Bush, Public Defender, and Phyllis Aluko (on appeal) and Dianne Thackery (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Marcus Pope.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Muriel Malone, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant, convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, and sentenced to concurrent terms of ten and six years respectively, appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences, holding that the evidence of identification was sufficient as to both convictions and, as to the aggravated burglary, holding that the victim had not given his “effective consent” to the entry of the residence. We granted the application for permission to appeal to determine whether the evidence, circumstantial or direct, was sufficient to establish both convictions. Because the jury had the prerogative to reject the alibi testimony offered by the defendant, the identification evidence was sufficient as to both offenses. The aggravated robbery conviction is, therefore, affirmed. As to the aggravated burglary, however, the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to support the conviction because there was no evidence that the Defendant engaged in an act of “deception,” as defined by statute, in the context of “effective consent.” The aggravated burglary conviction is, therefore, reversed and the charge dismissed. We remand for a new trial on the lesser included offenses of aggravated criminal trespass and criminal trespass.


TN Court of Appeals

JENNIFER L. AL-ATHARI AND HAIDER AL-ATHARI v. LUIS A. GAMBOA AND MORGAN SOUTHERN, INC.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jennifer L. Al-Athari and Haider Al-Athari, Antioch, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Steven Douglas Parman, Nashville, Tennessee for the appellee, Morgan Southern, Inc.

Judge: COTTRELL

A woman driving a passenger vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident with a tractor trailer. The woman and her husband filed a complaint alleging negligence and loss of consortium against the other driver and against the owner of the tractor trailer. The Plaintiffs did not comply with the deadlines set out in the Scheduling Order and, as a result, they were precluded from introducing medical testimony or records in support of their claims. On the day set for trial, the Plaintiffs told the court they were not prepared to try their case and wanted to go home. The trial court dismissed the case without prejudice, with the option of filing a new complaint within a year, and the Plaintiffs appealed. We hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ Complaint, and, accordingly, affirm the trial court’s judgment.


CYNTHIA BEARDEN v. GREGORY LANFORD, M. D. AND NEUROLOGICAL SURGEONS, P. C.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Joe Bednarz, Sr., Joe Bednarz, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, and Steven R. Walker, Oakland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cynthia Bearden.

C.J. Gideon, Jr., Heather Piper, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Gregory Lanford,M.D. and Neurological Surgeons, P.C.

Judge: CLEMENT

In this medical malpractice action, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant, a neurosurgeon, negligently penetrated her spinal cord with a surgical instrument while performing a cervical fusion at two levels of her neck leading to partial paralysis and other neurological problems. She was ultimately diagnosed with a condition called Brown Sequard Syndrome. The issues were tried before a jury; however, several of the claims were dismissed on directed verdict. The remaining claims went to the jury which rendered a verdict on behalf of the defendant-neurosurgeon. The plaintiff raises numerous issues on appeal, the substance of which may be divided into three categories. First, she contends error associated with the directed verdict, the verdict form, and the jury instructions. In this regard she contends, inter alia, that the trial court erred in directing a verdict as to res ipsa loquitur because she presented the testimony of three expert witnesses of the defendant’s specific acts of negligence. The plaintiff also contends the court erred by dismissing all but three of her claims upon a directed verdict. Second, the plaintiff argues she was denied a fair trial due to inappropriate argument and misconduct. Third, she argues a host of errors secondary to evidentiary rulings. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.


THOMAS R. MEEKS v. CARRIE GASAWAY, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph Napiltonia, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas R. Meeks.

Dominic Joseph Leonardo, Nashville, Tennessee; Mitchell Todd Hingson, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Carrie Gasaway, Edward Farmer, and Gasaway, Long, & Farmer, PLLC; Fletcher Long, Clarksville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Judge: COTTRELL

A bail bondsman filed suit against an attorney over title to several pieces of land. The suit went to trial before a jury, but the parties settled before a verdict was announced. The attorney subsequently sued the bail bondsman’s attorneys for malicious prosecution and other torts. The defendant attorneys filed a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss, arguing that the parties’ agreement to settle the underlying case negated one of the elements of a malicious prosecution claim, “a final and favorable termination” of the underlying suit in favor of the defendant. The motion also argued that the complaint did not sufficiently allege the elements of the other causes of action. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the plaintiff attorney had failed to state a claim for relief under any of the causes of action. We affirm the trial court.


MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. v. CARLTON J. DITTO, ET. AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Caroline B. Stefaniak, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and JoAnn T. Sandifer, St. Louis, Missouri, for the appellant, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.

Carlton J. Ditto, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Rheubin Taylor and James C. Davey, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Hamilton County f/u/b State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This appeal involves the purchase of property at a tax sale. MERS filed suit against Purchaser to invalidate his purchase of property because it had not received notice of the sale even though it was listed as a beneficiary or nominee on the deed of trust. Purchaser claimed that MERS was not entitled to notice because MERS did not have an interest in the property. Purchaser also alleged that MERS failed to properly commence its lawsuit because it did not remit the proper funds pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 67-5-2504(c). The trial court refused to set aside the tax sale, holding that the applicable notice requirements were met and that Purchaser was the holder of legal title to the property. MERS appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


Memphis Democrat Will Not Run for Governor

Democrat Sara Kyle, former Tennessee Regulatory Authority commissioner and Memphis city judge, announced today that she will not challenge Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in this year’s gubernatorial race. Her announcement leaves Democrats without an obvious candidate to challenge Haslam's re-election in November, the Commercial Appeal reports. The qualifying deadline for the race is April 3.


Court Temporarily Halts Contraception Mandate

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary exemption to two Catholic Church-affiliated nonprofits that have objected to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage to workers or face fines. The groups, The Little Sisters of the Poor of Colorado and Christian Brothers Services of Illinois, object to the mandate on moral and religious grounds, CNN reports on WCYB TV. Sotomayor provided a reprieve until Friday when the federal government must file a response. The White House said Wednesday that the groups are not subject to the requirement because the law does not apply to self-funded church plans. In addition to the matter handled by Sotomayor, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an emergency stay for other Catholic-affiliated groups challenging the contraceptive provision, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Catholic University, Fox News reports.


Officers Implemented 'No Refusal' During Holidays

During the New Year’s Eve holiday, the Tennessee Highway Patrol stepped up enforcement of the state's “No Refusal" law, which allows law enforcement to seek search warrants for blood samples when drivers suspected of being impaired refuse a breath test. Some arugue that the law violates the Fourth Amendment, but the government says drivers agree to implied consent for a breath or blood test whenever they get behind the wheel, WMCTV reports.


Rep. Black Fights ICE’s Public Advocate Program

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, has been locked in a nearly two-year battle with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the agency’s decision to hire a public advocate who would work with immigration groups and individual immigrants, including those charged with entering the country without documentation. Black describes the office as an “illegal alien lobbyist” and accuses President Barack Obama of ignoring a provision passed by Congress to defund the position. She continues to call on the administration to eliminate the program. An ICE spokeswoman did not respond to requests to discuss the matter, according to the Tennessean.


'Journal' Outlines Pro Bono Options, Honors Heroes

The January Journal shows you the many ways there are for you to do pro bono work -- it's easy to choose one and begin. You'll be inspired by the stories of the TBA's Public Service Award winners and other access-to-justice-related stories. Also in this issue, Brian Faughnan walks you through the new Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9.


McMinn County Lawyer Censured

McMinn County lawyer Paul Donald Rush was publicly censured on Dec. 27, 2013, for intentionally soliciting from a prosecution witness a statement that had been prohibited by court order prior to trial. The Board of Professional Responsibility also found that Rush failed to report the misconduct though being ordered to do so by the trial court. Download the BPR notice.


ABA Offers Retirement Benefits for the Legal Sector

Looking for a retirement plan for yourself or your employees? The ABA Retirement Fund provides unique, full service 401(k) plans specifically for the legal community. By leveraging the assets of its 3,800 client firms, the ABA plan offers packages typically available only to large corporations. For more information contact a regional representative at (800) 826-8901 or visit www.abaretirement.com.


 
 

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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