Report: Memphis Juvenile Court Improving

Independent monitor Sandra Simpkins, who is overseeing reforms at the Shelby County Juvenile Court, has cited improvements, particularly involving the issue of when to transfer a minor to adult court, the Commercial Appeal reports. In a recent 33-page report, Simpkins wrote that defense attorneys are fighting harder to keep youths in the juvenile system and judges are scrutinizing more closely which felony cases merit transfer to adult court. She concludes that the court “is becoming a healthy court environment where due process rights of children are protected and public safety concerns are addressed.”

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
00 - 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 Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Daniel Bryant, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy Aaron Baxter.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; James G. (Jerry) Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Timothy Aaron Baxter, appeals from his Madison County Circuit Court jury conviction of Class E felony failure to appear, see T.C.A. § 39-16-609, the result of which was a six-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the admission of hearsay evidence, the use of prior convictions to impeach the defendant as a witness, and the failure to suppress his pretrial statements recorded in a transcript of an earlier court appearance. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Colin Morris, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cortino A Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; James D. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun A. Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Cortino A. Harris, stands convicted for driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license, violation of the financial responsibility law, and violation of the registration law. He was sentenced to a term of six months in the county jail for the convictions, and the sentence was ordered to be served consecutively to a term imposed in a separate case. On appeal, the defendant challenges only the sufficiency of the convicting evidence with regard to the conviction for driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license. Following review of the record and arguments, we affirm the convictions as imposed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gregory D. Gookin, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dwayne B. Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Dwayne B. Harris, appeals from the trial court’s order revoking Defendant’s sentences of probation following a hearing in which violation of conditions of probation were admitted to by Defendant through his attorney. While acknowledging on appeal that violations of probation conditions had been admitted, Defendant asserts the trial court still erred by revoking probation and ordering him to serve his sentences in incarceration. The State argues the appeal should be dismissed because the notice of appeal was filed seven days late. Defendant admits the notice of appeal was late but requests this court to waive the timely filing of the notice of appeal. Under the circumstances, we decline to do so. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Stephen M. Milam, Lexington, Tennessee, for the appellant, Samuel Blake Maness.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Angela Scott, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Samuel Blake Maness, was convicted of robbery, aggravated burglary, and assault and is currently serving an effective twelve-year sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; and (2) consecutive sentences were improperly imposed. Following review of the argument and record, we affirm the convictions and sentences.

Services Saturday for Knoxville Attorney

Retired Knoxville lawyer Louis Eysenbach Hofferbert Jr. died yesterday (Jan. 2) at the age of 86. After serving in the Navy, Hofferbert began studying at the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1953. Following graduation, he entered private practice and worked as a lawyer until he retired in 2013. Hofferbert also served in the U.S. Naval Reserve for 38 years, retiring in 1984 as a captain. The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Jan. 4) at West Hills Presbyterian Church. A funeral service will follow. Interment will be at Lynnhurst Cemetery with military honors by the U.S. Navy. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to West Hills Presbyterian Church, 7600 Bennington Dr., Knoxville, TN  37909; or the American Heart Association. Knox News has more on this life.

Rep. Curtiss Resigns from House

Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, officially resigned from the state House of Representatives on Jan. 1, ending a 19-year career. The 66-year-old pro-business Democrat and religious conservative announced in October that he would not seek re-election to House District 43, which includes Grundy, Warren and White counties, after a rough 2012 campaign. Curtiss has been hired as executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, which lobbies on behalf of counties’ interests at the Capitol, and had to give up his seat to take the job, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Prevailing Wage Law Rescinded

As of Jan. 1, most government building projects no longer have to pay workers the prevailing wage rate. Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, sponsored the repeal of Tennessee's prevailing wage law last year, saying the law stifled competition and made building projects too expensive. The prevailing wage still has to be paid on highway projects in order for the state to receive federal highway funds. The Memphis Daily News has more.

Judge Will Not Face Ethics Action

Gallatin City Recorder and Judge Connie Kittrell likely will not face additional disciplinary action when the Gallatin City Council meets next week, the Tennessean reports. Kittrell was publicly reprimanded Dec. 19 by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct for her role in having an employee dismiss her daughter’s traffic citation in 2012. “From my standpoint as ethics officer, I see no need to pursue the matter any further,” said city attorney and ethics officer Joe Thompson in an email Tuesday, though he clarified that he “can’t speak for the city council.”

DOJ Responds to Health Care Injunction

In response to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s injunction relieving the Little Sisters of the Poor of the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, the Department of Justice (DOJ) responded today that the religious organization does not need an injunction because it is already eligible for an exemption. According to the Nashville Business Journal, the DOJ stated the organization can self-certify that it is a religious organization and objects to providing contraceptive coverage on religious grounds. If it does so, the agency says, the third party administrator of the group's self-insured health plan is under no obligation to provide the coverage. The agency also took the opportunity to draw a distinction between religious groups and businesses like Hobby Lobby that also are seeking to avoid the mandate, noting that for-profit corporations should not qualify for religious exemptions. Sotomayor will now review the government's argument and decide whether to lift the injunction.

CA Court Grants Law License to Illegal Resident

The California Supreme Court granted a law license yesterday to a man who has lived in the United States illegally for two decades, WRCB reports. The unanimous decision will allow Sergio Garcia, who attended law school and passed the state bar exam while working in a grocery store and on area farms, to begin practicing law immediately. According to the Associated Press, advocates hope the ruling will open the door to millions of immigrants seeking to enter other professions such as medicine, accounting and teaching.

UK Lawyer Fined for 'Outing' Harry Potter Author

A lawyer with the London firm Russell Solicitors has been fined more than $1,600 for breaching client confidentiality rules and disclosing confidential information about a client to a third party when he revealed to his wife’s friend that “Harry Potter” author J.K Rowling was the secret author of “The Cuckoo’s Calling.” Rowling sued Russell Solicitors, which issued the attorney a written rebuke and paid damages to the author for the leak. WRCB reports from the Associated Press.

Registration Opens Jan. 7 for People’s Law School

Offered January through April in partnership with the Nashville Community Education Commission, the People’s Law School is a free program taught by Legal Aid Society attorneys and volunteer attorneys. It provides an overview of common civil legal issues at weekly, one-hour classes. The sessions will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursdays at Wright Middle School, 180 McCall St. and at Cohn Learning Center, 4805 Park Ave. beginning Jan. 23. To register, call the Nashville Community Education Commission at (615) 298-8085 or visit the commission's website.

LAET Seeks CFO Applicants

Legal Aid of East Tennessee is hiring an experienced Chief Financial Officer to be based in its Knoxville office. Interested candidates may submit a letter of interest and resume to Executive Director David R. Yoder or call (865) 637-0484 for more information. Download a job description.

Washington D.C. Lawyer Suspended

Mark Kelley Braswell of Washington, D.C., was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Dec. 27 for six months, retroactive to May 22, 2012, when he was suspended for failure to respond to a complaint of misconduct. In addition, at the end of the six months, Braswell will remain indefinitely suspended until he pays $40,000 in restitution to a former client. The court found that in representing the client in a federal appeal in Florida, Braswell failed to appear at trial, failed to timely file a brief, misled the client that the brief had been filed, and misled opposing counsel by implying a copy of the brief would be delivered by FedEx. These actions led to dismissal of the client’s appeal. In chosing to suspend Braswell, the court cited the fact that he was experiencing serious health problems during the representation and had no prior disciplinary record. Download the BPR notice.

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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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