New Resource Educates Voters About Judicial System

A new campaign to educate voters about the judicial system, the importance of fair and impartial judicial elections and how to evaluate judicial candidates launches Wednesday with a live webcast and video presentation by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The leaders of the Tennessee coordinating committee encourage as many as possible to be “present” for the launch scheduled for 11 a.m. Central time, noon Eastern time. The effort, "Informed Voters -- Fair Judges," is a project of the National Association of Women Judges in partnership with the League of Women Voters. In Tennessee, one of eight pilot sites for the project, the effort is being implemented by a coordinating committee chaired by Brentwood lawyer Rebecca Blair. TBA President Cindy Wyrick and Suzanne Keith with the Tennessee Association for Justice are serving as honorary co-chairs.

For Tennessee voters, the project website includes nonpartisan information about the judicial system, qualities to look for in a good judge, a list of judges who will be on the ballot this year and a link to request a speaker on the issue. For lawyers, the website provides resources for making the case for a fair and impartial legal system and provides links to watch the campaign launch webcast and share the project on social media. Lawyers are encouraged to “like” the project’s Facebook page and follow the campaign on Twitter. TBA President Wyrick notes that now, more than ever, it is critical to increase awareness across the state regarding the importance of electing fair and impartial judges. She encourages lawyers to join Wednesday’s webcast, and invite colleagues to do so as well. Watch the launch video here. To get involved in the project, visit the Informed Voters website.

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
05 - TN Court of Appeals
04 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
01 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR
00 - TN Supreme Court - Disciplinary Orders
01 -

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


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Joe Napiltonia, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellants, Heather Michele Cohen and Adam Lee Cohen.

No attorney information listed for appellees


This is an appeal of the trial court’s dismissal of Appellants’ defamation lawsuit. The trial court granted Appellees’ motions to dismiss under both Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), and under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02, for violation of Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 11 and 45. We conclude that the trial court erred in granting the Rule 12.02 motion when the Appellants’ motion to amend their pleadings was still pending. We further conclude that the trial court’s stated reasons for granting the Rule 41.02 motion are not sufficient to justify the drastic sanction of dismissal. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings. Vacated and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Fletcher W. Long and John E. Herbison, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dan Hampton.

Kenneth S. Williams, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Macon County Board of Education.


A school administrator filed the instant lawsuit, alleging that his employment was terminated in violation of both the Open Meetings Act and his contract of employment. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant school board on the Open Meetings Act claims on the basis of laches, finding that the school administrator failed to bring his claim in a timely manner. The trial court also granted summary judgment as to the contract claim, finding that the school administrator could not prove damages. We reverse the trial court’s ruling with regard to the school administrator’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to the Open Meetings Act, but affirm as to the remainder of the trial court’s decision. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert Stephen Hartline.

Jillyn M. O’Shaughnessy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Janice Hartline.


In this domestic relations action, the trial court granted Wife a divorce on fault-based grounds against Husband and awarded her alimony in futuro in the amount of $3,800.00 monthly, health insurance costs, and attorney’s fees. Husband appeals the trial court’s awards of alimony and attorney’s fees, as well as the court’s valuation of his dental practice and division of marital assets. Wife raises a threshold issue of whether the trial court erred by granting a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion after the time had elapsed to file a notice of appeal. We affirm the grant of the Rule 60.02 motion. We reverse the valuation of the husband’s dental practice. We remand to the trial court for revaluation of the dental practice without consideration of professional goodwill, adjustment of the equitable division of marital assets based on revaluation of the dental practice, and clarification of the amount of attorney’s fees awarded to Wife in the trial court. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert D. Tuke, Paul W. Ambrosius, Nashville, Tennessee, Van D. Turner, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, and Anita S. Earls and Allison J. Riggs, Durham, North Carolina, for the appellants, Kermit L. Moore, Jr., Vanecia Kimbrew, Felecia D. Boyd, Regenna Williams, Roshun Austin, L. Lasimba M. Gray, Jr., and G. A. Hardaway, Sr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General and Janet M. Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General, for the appellees, State of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, Tre Hargett and Mark Goins, in their official capacities.

John L. Ryder, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus.


Plaintiffs, eight Shelby County registered voters, filed an action for declaratory judgment challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 Senate Reapportionment Act on the ground that it divides more counties than necessary in contravention of Article II, Section 6, of the Tennessee Constitution. The trial court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and subsequently granted the Defendants’ motions to dismiss. The facts are not disputed and we hold that, as a matter of law, the Act is not unconstitutional. We affirm judgment in favor of Defendants.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Randy S. Chaffin, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stella May Welch.

Richy L. Jenkins, Sparta, Tennessee, for the appellee, Donald Lee Welch.


This is a divorce action. Wife appeals the trial court’s judgment naming Husband primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child and classifying real property as Husband’s separate property. Wife also asserts the trial court erred in dividing the parties’ property notwithstanding classification of the real property. We affirm the trial court’s classification and division of property. We vacate the trial court’s judgment with respect to naming Husband primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child and awarding the parties equal parenting time, and remand the matter to the trial court to engage in a comparative fitness analysis as required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106, and for findings as required by Rule 52 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

CORRECTION: The correction is as follows: Judge "McGraw" has been corrected to "McCraw" on page 1 and in two places in the first paragraph of page 3.


Donna F. Thompson, Dyer, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Brandon O. Gibson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Lynn Ward.


On July 18, 2012, Plaintiff/Appellant Donna F. Thompson filed a pro se complaint in the Crockett County Chancery Court, alleging that Defendant/Appellee Lynn Ward (“Appellee”) improperly issued a writ of possession regarding real property occupied by Ms. Thompson.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Bruce Poston, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charles Clevenger.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and TaKisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Charles Clevenger, appeals from his Knox County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court erred by ruling that the State would be permitted to utilize his prior convictions to impeach his testimony, that the testimony of a State witness violated the Confrontation Clause, and that the trial court erred by ordering the 30-year sentence imposed in this case to be served consecutively to the 30-year sentence imposed in an unrelated case. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


C. Richard Hughes, Jr., District Public Defender; and Donald Leon Shahan, Jr., Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Charles Edgar Ledford.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and Paul Rush, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Charles Edgar Ledford, appeals from the Monroe County Criminal Court to challenge via certified questions of law his guilty-pleaded convictions of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, see T.C.A. § 39-17-1003, a Class D felony; child neglect, see id. § 39-15-402(a), a Class E felony; two counts of aggravated sexual battery, see id. § 39-13- 504, a Class B felony; and two counts of rape of a child, see id. § 39-13-522, a Class A felony. The defendant received an effective sentence of 56 years to be served in the Department of Correction. The certified questions relate to law enforcement officers’ discovery and seizure of child pornography materials in the defendant’s house, which had been condemned for demolition by the City of Sweetwater. Upon our review, we hold that the certified questions are not dispositive of some of the convictions, and we dismiss the appeal relative to those convictions. As to the remainder of the convictions, including those for aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child, we hold that the defendant had no expectation of privacy in the seized materials and that the motion to suppress was properly denied. Thus, we affirm the trial court’s order with respect to these latter convictions.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Edward Cantrell Miller, District Public Defender; and Amber D. Haas, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Christopher Neal Noon.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; James B. (Jimmy) Dunn, District Attorney General; and Ronald Crockett Newcomb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Christopher Neal Noon, appeals the Sevier County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation for convictions for the sale of a Schedule II controlled substance and theft of property valued at less than $500 and ordering his effective three-year sentence into execution. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Daniel E. Kirsch and Avram Frey, Office of the Post-Conviction Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for the petitioner, Jonathan Wesley Stephenson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and William Brownlow Marsh, Assistant District Attorney General, for the respondent, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Cocke County jury convicted petitioner, Jonathan Wesley Stephenson, of first degree premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. The jury imposed the death penalty for the murder conviction, and the trial court sentenced petitioner to twentyfive years for the conspiracy conviction. After several appeals, remands, and collateral proceedings, petitioner’s resulting sentence was the death penalty for the murder conviction and a sixty-year sentence for the conspiracy conviction. Petitioner then sought postconviction relief. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Petitioner now appeals the denial of relief, alleging multiple claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Following our review of the record, we discern no error and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Moratorium’s Effect Upon City Annexation of Property

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-01-10

Opinion Number: 7

Legislature Opens Short Session with Long Agenda

The Tennessee state legislature convenes Tuesday with an agenda affecting everything from where residents attend school to where they can buy wine and cold medicine. But with elections in the fall, observers predict that lawmakers will try “to keep infighting to a minimum and wrap up the legislative session as quickly as possible,” the Associated Press reports in the Kinsgport Times News. In addition, according to The Commercial Appeal, the chambers likely will focus on agenda items left unfinished last year, including school vouchers, education standards, expansion of Medicaid, sale of wine in grocery stores, workplace protections for those who lock guns in trunks and prescriptions for pseudoephedrine products.

Foundation: Largest Gift Ever Given in Paine’s Memory

The Tennessee Judicial Conference Foundation announced today that an anonymous donor has given $37,500 -- the largest single gift in the history of the organization -- in honor and memory of the late Donald Franklin Paine. The funds will go to The Paine Scholarship Endowment, which will provide one $2,500 scholarship each year to a law student in the state. Retired Judge James E. Beckner of Morristown, who serves as president of the foundation, praised the contributions Paine made to the bench and bar during his professional life. “Because Don Paine has been the face and voice of continuing legal education in Tennessee for over 50 years, this gift is a fitting and remarkably generous tribute to his memory,” he said.

New Firm Offers Project-Specific Work for Set Cost

Former Bass Berry & Sims partner Ross Booher and Ken Clarke, a former health care executive, have launched Latitude to provide legal services for interim projects at a fixed fee. In announcing the move, Booher said he saw an opportunity to help firms and corporations get project-specific legal work done without adding the costs of a permanent hire or overburdening the current staff, the Nashville Business Journal reports. "The idea with this company is to provide access to high-level talent individuals who are senior associate level counsel for project specific needs," Booher says. Latitude raised equity in late 2013 and opened its doors in Franklin this month.

Grainger County Jail Workers Indicted

Five former Grainger County jail employees have been indicted on charges ranging from misconduct to facilitating escape, the Jackson Sun reports. Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said the five were indicted by a local grand jury last week. According to Knoxnews, one was charged with official oppression and official misconduct; one was charged with two counts of sexual contact with an inmate, three counts of official misconduct and official oppression; a third was charged with introduction of contraband and official misconduct; another was charged with official misconduct and theft under $500; and the fifth was charged with three counts of bribery, three counts of permitting or facilitating escape, six counts of official misconduct and one count of accessory after the fact. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it began investigating after three inmates escaped Nov. 10.

'Messiah' Judge Answers Formal Charges

Child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew has responded to charges brought against her by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, the Newport Plain Talk reports. In documents filed with the court, Ballew denies that her actions violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. A three-member investigative panel organized by the board earlier found there was "reasonable cause" to believe Ballew violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when she ruled a family could not name its child “Messiah.” Get all documents in the case on the AOC website.

Senate Confirms Wilkins to D.C. Circuit

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, marking the final step in an aggressive push from the White House and Senate Democrats to leave a mark on a key federal appeals court, the Blog of Legal Times reports. With Monday’s confirmation vote, Wilkins became the fourth Obama pick since May to take a seat on the D.C. Circuit. The appointment of Wilkins creates a vacancy on the federal trial bench in Washington.

Deputy DA Seeks 10th District Criminal Court Judgeship

Deputy District Attorney General Sandra Donaghy will seek the 10th District Criminal Court judge seat as a Republican in the May primary, reports. She joins Madisonville lawyer Van Irion who announced for the seat last week. According to Donaghy’s campaign, her professional work spans 30 years as criminal lawyer, prosecutor, defense attorney and appointed judge who has personally conducted 197 jury trials and resolved more than 10,000 cases.

Hunt to Run for Anderson County Juvenile Judge

Clinton lawyer Brian Hunt has announced that he is running for Anderson County Juvenile Court judge, Oak Ridge Today reports. Hunt now serves as a judge advocate general at the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserves and has served as Lake City municipal judge since 2006. In announcing his bid, Hunt said, “My law practice has centered on helping families across the county, including representing juveniles. Growing up in Anderson County and maintaining a strong connection with the community underlines my desire to serve Anderson County families as their juvenile judge.”

Tayloe Running for General Sessions Judge

Cleveland lawyer Shari Tayloe has announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for Bradley County General Sessions Judge, Division II. Tayloe has 20 years of practicing law as an assistant district attorney general in the 10th Judicial District and in private practice. She currently works as an assistant district attorney in an adjacent judicial district, while residing and remaining active in the Cleveland community. She also has served as a special judge in General Sessions Court, as a campus court referee for Bradley Central High School and as the founding team leader of the 10th Judicial District Drug Court.

Columns Cover Statute of Repose, Reproductive Rights, Don Paine

In this issue, President Cindy Wyrick and columnist John Day each give different views of the Statute of Repose, and Marlene Eskind Moses's column this month covers a little-known area of reproductive rights, assisted reproductive technology. Don Paine, who died in November, is remembered by editor Suzanne Craig Robertson and columnist Bill Haltom, who also gives tribute to John Smartt. You can also read a "Paine on Procedure" column written by Paine before his death.

TBA Offers CLE Your Way

Remember to use the three hours of free CLE programming that comes with your TBA membership. Members can use this credit to cover all or part of the cost of live programs across the state, weekly webcasts or any of the 300-plus online courses offered in both video and text formats. Find a course 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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