Senate Judiciary Approves Statute of Repose Bill

The TBA bill enacting a five-year statute of repose for lawyer and accountant malpractice actions, SB 1506, was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 7–0–1 vote today. The bill, sponsored by Committee Chair Brian Kelsey, makes explicit the common law exception for fraudulent concealment and applies prospectively only to acts or omissions giving rise to the professional responsibility. For more information visit TBAImpact.

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
06 - TN Court of Appeals
15 - 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

DERRICK BRANDON BUSH v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Branden Bellar, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellant, Derrick Brandon Bush.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; L. Ray Whitley, District Attorney General; Sallie Wade Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal concerns the retroactive application of Ward v. State, 315 S.W.3d 461 (Tenn. 2010), in which this Court held that trial courts have an affirmative duty, before accepting a guilty plea to a crime carrying a mandatory sentence of community supervision for life, to inform the defendant desiring to plead guilty of the consequence of lifetime supervision. In April 2011, a prisoner, who pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted rape in December 2000, filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Criminal Court for Sumner County alleging that his guilty pleas were not knowingly or intelligently entered because he had not been informed that he would be subject to lifetime community supervision following his release from prison. The trial court decided that the Post-Conviction Procedure Act’s statute of limitations should be tolled on due process grounds and that the prisoner was entitled to post-conviction relief because Ward v. State should be applied retroactively. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding no grounds for due process tolling and that Ward v. State did not announce a new rule of constitutional law requiring retroactive application. Bush v. State, No. M2011-02133-CCA-R3-PC, 2012 WL 2308280 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 15, 2012). We granted the prisoner’s appeal to clarify the standards governing retroactive application of this Court’s authoritative interpretations of the Tennessee Constitution and to resolve related issues in the interpretation of the Post-Conviction Procedure Act. In accordance with the retroactivity framework for post-conviction proceedings the Tennessee General Assembly codified in Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-30-122 (2012), we have determined that our holding in Ward v. State does not require retroactive application and, therefore, that the prisoner is not entitled to tolling under Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-30-102(b)(1) (2012). We also hold that the prisoner’s case does not warrant due process tolling. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.


TN Court of Appeals

BEVERLY BEAL, ET AL. v. BENTON COUNTY, ET AL.
CORRECTION: On page 22, in the second paragraph, "Mayor Benton's affidavit" and been changed to "Mayor Barnett's affidavit".

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert T. Keeton, III and Laura A. Keeton, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellants, Beverly Beal, et al.

Brandon O. Gibson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Benton County, et al.

Judge: STAFFORD

This case results from a county employee’s assertion that the county’s decision to require some employees to contribute to their insurance premiums, while not requiring a contribution from others, violates equal protection. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county, concluding that the legislation was rationally related to a legitimate government interest. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm and remand.


LAURENCE R. DRY v. CHRISTI LENAY FIELDS STEELE ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Wanda McClure Dry, Danville, Kentucky, for the appellant, Laurence R. Dry.

Wynne du M. Caffey, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Christi Lenay Fields Steele, Randall E. Pearson, M.D., and Laurence Thomas O’Connor, Jr., M.D.

Edward G. White, II, and Joshua J. Bond, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jeffrey A. Woods and State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company.

Darryl G. Lowe, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Joshua R. Walker and Jeffery Scott Griswold.

Judge: SUSANO

The plaintiff, a licensed attorney, filed this pro se third party action two weeks before his death on May 17, 2012. The defendants filed a suggestion of death under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 25.01. When no motion for substitution was filed during the prescribed time period, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. At the hearing on the motion, the decedent’s surviving spouse, who had practiced law with him, appeared by telephone and informed the trial court that she was not a party and was not representing the decedent or his estate with respect to the plaintiff’s third party complaint. Despite these representations, she asserted that the court should hear her argument as to why her late husband’s action should not be dismissed. The trial court dismissed the action for failure to timely seek substitution of party, and also granted defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. The surviving spouse filed a notice of appeal. We hold that the defendants provided proper notice under Rule 25.01 by mailing a copy of the suggestion of death to the law firm address of decedent and his surviving spouse. We further hold that decedent’s surviving spouse did not have standing to file this appeal because (1) she was not a party, (2) did not represent her decedent husband, and (3) did not represent his estate, which had not been opened when the trial court entered its final judgment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and dismiss this appeal.


IN RE E.K. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John McMurray Johnson, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, D.K., Sr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Leslie Curry, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge: SUSANO

D.K., Sr., (“Father”) appeals the termination of his rights to his three minor daughters E.K., H.K., and H.K. (collectively, “the Children”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) had a history of involvement with Father, the Children, and another older minor child, D.K., Jr. In 2007, all four children were taken into protective custody following an incident of domestic violence between Father and his then-wife, C.K. (“Stepmother”). In the earlier matter, custody of the four children was awarded to Stepmother; Father was allowed supervised visitation. In 2012, the Children were placed in the protective custody of DCS following allegations of physical and psychological abuse by Stepmother. Father was not a placement option because of “ongoing Juvenile Court matters” concerning D.K. Jr. as well as a lack of space in his home. Stepmother waived her right to a hearing and the Children were adjudicated dependent and neglected by an agreed order. They entered DCS custody and were placed in foster care. A year later, DCS initiated termination proceedings. After a bench trial, the court terminated Father’s rights based on his failure to comply substantially with the requirements of the Children’s permanency plans. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the Children. Both findings were said by the court to be made by clear and convincing evidence. Father appeals and challenges each of these determinations. We affirm.


ANNA LOIS LONG v. SAMMY LEE BROWN

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

David C. Veazey, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anna Lois Long.

Jay Underwood, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sammy Lee Brown.

Judge: SUSANO

Anna Lois Long (“petitioner”) obtained an ex parte order of protection against Sammy Lee Brown (“respondent”), the man with whom she had lived for approximately 27 years. Following a hearing, the trial court entered a mutual order of protection for a period of one year. Petitioner argues on appeal that the trial court erred in making the order of protection mutual and that the order was unlawful because it did not comport with the requirements of the governing statutory scheme, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-601 et seq. (2010). We hold that the trial court erred when it made the order of protection mutual in view of the fact the respondent did not seek an order of protection. The order should be modified so as to be directed only against respondent. We further hold that the trial court’s order should also be modified to include “the statement of the maximum penalty that may be imposed pursuant to § 36-3-610 for violating [the] order” as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-606(c). We conclude that the court’s order in all other respects satisfies the statutory requirements governing an order of protection. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment as modified.


WILLIAM PAUL LUTTRELL v. BEVERLY PARKER LUTTRELL

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Laura Diane Rogers, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Paul Luttrell.

Stevan L. Black and John C. Ryland, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Beverly Parker Luttrell.

Judge: FARMER

In this divorce action, the trial court awarded Wife an absolute divorce, classified and distributed the marital property, and ordered Husband to make child support payments of $1,112 per month. Husband appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


IN RE S.J.W. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Randall D. Fleming, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, T.R.D.

Nicholas A. Schaefer, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, S.M.W.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter and Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge: SUSANO

T.R.D. (“Mother”) and S.M.W. (“Father”) appeal the termination of their rights to four minor children, S.J.W., B.H.D., J.E.W., and J.C.D. (“the Children”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) had been involved with the family since 2006. DCS received multiple referrals regarding environmental neglect and lack of proper care of the Children. DCS made efforts to assist the parents in providing the Children with suitable housing and basic physical and medical care. In August 2010, DCS received another referral alleging environmental, medical, and nutritional neglect. New services were provided without substantial improvement. In October 2010, the Children were removed from the parents’ home and taken into temporary, protective custody. The following month, they were adjudicated dependent and neglected and placed in foster care. A year later, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parents’ rights. Following a bench trial, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that multiple grounds for termination exist as to both parents and that termination is in the Children’s best interest. Both Mother and Father appeal. We affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. PHILLIP MATTHEW BURGESS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert A. Dalton, Lewisburg, Tennessee (on appeal); and Michael J. Collins, Assistant District Public Defender (at trial), for the appellant, Phillip Matthew Burgess.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General;Charles Crawford, District AttorneyGeneral; and WeakleyE.Barnard and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Phillip Matthew Burgess, appeals his Marshall County Circuit Court jury convictions of first degree premeditated murder, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated assault, raising a variety of issues for review, each of which is addressed to the trial court’s denial of his post-trial motions to compel and his motion for new trial. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WILLIAM CASEY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Matthew A. Spivey and Richard A. Spivey, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Casey.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Julie Canter, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

In 2011, the defendant, a priest, was found guilty after a trial by jury of one count of first degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape. The charges stemmed from conduct that occurred in 1979 and 1980, while the victim attended a school associated with the church. The defendant was sentenced to an overall effective sentence of thirty-five years. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred by refusing to dismiss his indictment because forcing him to stand trial more than thirty years after the crimes were committed violated his due process rights under the federal and state constitutions. However, reviewing these facts in light of the relevant test governing unconstitutional “preaccusatorial” delay set forth in State v. Gray, 917 S.W.2d 668 (Tenn. 1996), we hold that the thirty-two year delay in the defendant’s prosecution did not violate the constitutional rights of the defendant. The defendant also claims that the trial court committed errors with respect to myriad evidentiary and procedural matters relating to his motion to dismiss. Upon review, we conclude that the defendant has failed to establish entitlement to relief on any of these claims. Finally, the defendant claims that the trial court erred by failing to give special jury instructions concerning the need to corroborate the testimony of the victim of a sex crime, as if the victim were the defendant’s criminal accomplice. However, in State v. Collier, 2013 Tenn. LEXIS 636 (Tenn. Aug. 12, 2013), our supreme court recently overruled all of the cases on which the defendant relies, and no ex post facto concerns prohibit this court from relying on Collier to deny the defendant’s claim. Consequently, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


BILLY COFFELT v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

David A. Collins, for the Defendant-Appellant, Billy Coffelt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Ben Ford, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Billy Coffelt, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of postconviction relief from his convictions for aggravated assault, three counts of misdemeanor theft, four counts of false imprisonment, and felony escape. In his appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based upon allegations that Counsel failed to move for an election of offenses; failed to pursue a claim based on the dismissal of one of the Petitioner’s co-defendant’s charges on appeal; and failed to request a jury instruction on the “natural and probable consequences” rule for criminal responsibility or raise it as a ground for relief on direct appeal. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JERRY CRAWFORD, JR.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

George Morton Googe, District Public Defender, and Jeremy B. Epperson, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Jerry Crawford, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Jerry Crawford, Jr., appeals his Madison County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and the length of his sentence. In addition, the defendant claims that the prosecutor committed misconduct by impermissibly shifting the burden of proof to the defense during closing argument. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the conviction. Because the trial court improperly classified the defendant as a career offender, the sentence imposed is vacated, and the case is remanded for resentencing.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GEORGE P. FUSCO

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Andrew B. Love (on appeal) and William Conway (at hearing), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, George P. Fusco.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick and Hugh Ammerman, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, George P. Fusco, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and received a five-year sentence for each count, to be served concurrently. He served six months in confinement, and the remainder of his sentence was suspended to probation. A violation of probation warrant was subsequently filed, alleging that appellant drove an unregistered vehicle, owed $420 in “GPS fees,” used or possessed an alcoholic beverage, and violated regulations regarding Halloween trick-or-treaters. The trial court revoked his probation, and this appeal follows. Appellant now alleges that the trial court denied him procedural due process by failing to make adequate factual findings regarding the evidence supporting his probation revocation, that the trial court abused its discretion when it revoked his probation, and that the relevant Halloween probation conditions are unduly restrictive. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


DEAN HEATH v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Dean Heath, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

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

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Dean Heath, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis concerning his convictions in the Shelby County Criminal Court for first degree murder with a sentence of life imprisonment and for especially aggravated robbery with a sentence of 25 years to be served concurrently with the life sentence. The petition was dismissed without an evidentiary hearing, and Petitioner appeals. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MATEEM HUDSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Claiborne H. Ferguson (on appeal) and Jeff Woods (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mateem Hudson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Chris West and Abby Wallace, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Mateem Hudson, of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-three years in confinement to be served at 100%. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce evidence about his other bad acts and that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


QUINCY MOUTRY v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jonathan S. Wood, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Quincy Moutry.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; and Ta Kisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner pleaded guilty to manufacturing less than .5 grams of a controlled substance and received a sentence of seven years. Petitioner filed an unsuccessful petition for postconviction relief. On appeal, petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel prior to his guilty plea hearing and that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RICKY LEE NELSON
With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Bryce Benjet, Innocence Project, New York, New York and Joseph McClusky, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal); John Campbell, Innocence Project, New York, New York (at trial), for the appellant, Ricky Lee Nelson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and John Campbell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

In 1990, the petitioner was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, second degree burglary, and aggravated rape. He received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal and in post-conviction litigation. In 2010, the petitioner filed a Motion for Post-Conviction DNA Testing of a knife believed to have been brandished during the crimes, and the post-conviction court denied the motion after a non-evidentiary hearing. This court remanded the case to the post-conviction court for reconsideration in light of Powers v. State, 343 S.W.3d 36, 56 (Tenn. 2011). On remand, the post-conviction court conducted another hearing and again denied the motion. On appeal, the defendant claims that the post-conviction court erred by: (1) finding that the knife at issue was not in adequate condition to permit DNA testing; and (2) holding that exculpatory results would have been insufficient to establish a reasonable probability that the defendant would not have been prosecuted or convicted of the crimes. After review, we agree that the postconviction court applied incorrect legal standards and reached erroneous results when it made these determinations. Using the correct legal standards as set forth by our supreme court in Powers, the defendant has established his entitlement to DNA testing of the knife handle. The judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the postconviction court for entry of an order granting the request for DNA analysis.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL LYNN POSTON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

John P. Partin (post-trial and on appeal), McMinnville, Tennessee; and Samuel J. Harris (at trial), Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Lynn Poston.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and, Philip Hatch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Michael Lynn Poston, appeals his White County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated sexual battery claiming that (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion for recusal; (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion for change of venue; (3) the trial court erred by failing to swear the victim prior to her testimony; (4) the trial court erred by admitting certain hearsay testimony; (5) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and (6) the sentence was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ASHLEY AARON SELKE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William B. Lockert, III, District Public Defender, Ashland City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ashley Aaron Selke.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Dan Mitchum Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Carey Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Ashley Aaron Selke, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and received a twoyear sentence for each count, to be served concurrently. The record reflects that appellant received pretrial jail credit for time served in confinement, and the remainder of his sentence was suspended to probation. A violation of probation warrant was subsequently filed, alleging that appellant had committed new offenses while on probation. The trial court revoked his probation, and this appeal follows. Appellant now alleges that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering appellant to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement rather than extending appellant’s probation or placing appellant in the community corrections program. After our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


ROY SHOTWELL, JR. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

David A. Stowers, Bolivar, Tennessee, for the appellant, Roy Shotwell, Jr.

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

Judge: PAGE

In 2007, a Fayette County jury found petitioner guilty of two counts of rape and one count of sexual battery. The trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. This court denied petitioner’s direct appeal, and he subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. He now appeals from the post-conviction court’s order denying relief. Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to object to evidence that petitioner had been admitted to a mental health facility and when counsel did not appeal the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress certain statements. Following our careful review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. EDWARD FAYTE WEBSTER, IV

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William J. Harold (on appeal and at trial) and Michael J. Collins (at trial), Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Edward Fayte Webster, IV.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Edward Fayte Webster, IV, pled guilty in the Marshall County Circuit Court to nine counts of burglary, seven counts of felony vandalism, ten counts of misdemeanor vandalism, and eight counts of misdemeanor theft. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court was to determine the length and manner of service of the sentences. After a sentencing hearing, the appellant received an effective four-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CURTIS ALLEN WHITE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William J. Harold (on appeal and at trial) and Michael J. Collins (at trial), Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Curtis Allen White.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Curtis Allen White, pled guilty in the Marshall County Circuit Court to three counts of aggravated assault, one count of domestic assault, one count of misdemeanor vandalism, and one count of resisting arrest. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court was to determine the length and manner of service of the sentences. After a sentencing hearing, the appellant received an effective five-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


RONALD YATES v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Sean H. Muizers (on appeal) and Eran E. Julian (at post-conviction hearing), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronald Yates.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Charles Summers, III, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Petitioner, Ronald Yates, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree murder and attempt to commit first degree murder and his sentence of life plus twenty-three years. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Senate Vote on AG Election Delayed a Week

A scheduled Senate vote on the proposal to elect Tennessee's Attorney General has been delayed to Feb. 3, WATE News reports. The constitutional amendment, proposed by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, would require popular election of the AG every four years. The attorney general is now appointed to an eight-year term by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The TBA supports the current system because it insulates the office from political pressures and personal aspirations, ensuring that opinions are grounded in law, not party politics. Use TBAImpact, TBA's new legislative tool, to learn more about the issue.


LSC Gets Funding Increase, New Pro Bono Program

The $1.1 trillion dollar federal spending bill recently signed into law increases funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) by $25 million in fiscal year 2014 -- a seven percent increase from last year and the first increase in four years. The final bill also includes $2.5 million for a new Pro Bono Innovation Fund, which will support new and innovative pro bono projects across the country. The final spending bill provides $365 million for the agency. Of that, $335 million is for basic field grants, a six percent increase from last year. Learn more on the LSC website.


Federal Court Websites Hacked or Not?

Federal court websites and the document service Pacer shut down for about four hours on Friday but the cause remains unclear, the ABA Journal reports. While a group called European Cyber Army claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet, government agencies gave differing reasons for the shutdown: the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said the problem was due to a denial of service attack; a court clerk’s email said the problem appeared to be a “national cyber attack on the judiciary”; and the FBI said the problem appeared to be caused by technical issues. On Saturday, however, the FBI said it was reassessing that analysis.


Fatal Heart Attack Leads to Life-Saving Gift

Maury County Public Defender Claudia Jack says she felt helpless as she watched a deputy’s frantic efforts to revive a man who had collapsed inside the county courthouse. And she was shocked to learn that the county does not own any automated external defibrillators (AED) used to restart the heart. With the memory of her own father’s tragic death, Jack decided to take action. A few days later she walked into Maury County Mayor Jim Bailey’s office and handed him a signed, blank check. A new AED station is now mounted on the first floor of the courthouse. “We’ll never know if an AED would have saved that man’s life or not,” Jack said. “But if an AED had been available we certainly would have been satisfied knowing we did everything we could do.” Read more in the Columbia Daily Herald.


Pilot Exec Admits Fraud; 2 Others Offer Guilty Pleas

A former top sales executive with Pilot Flying J confessed Monday to defrauding more than 50 trucking firms out of more than $7 million in promised diesel fuel rebates, Knox News reports. Brian Mosher, the company’s former director of sales for national accounts, struck a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to a maximum total loss of $20 million and maximum victim count of 250 firms -- the highest losses in any plea agreement in the ongoing probe. He faces five to 10 years in prison. Two other Pilot staffers, a regional sales manager based in Dallas and a sales representative in Knoxville, also pleaded guilty Monday in the rebate scheme. They join seven other employees who have confessed guilt in the case.


DCS Responds to ‘Stinging’ Audit

A new state audit of Tennessee's Department of Children's Services (DCS) found the department failed to conduct thorough investigations into child abuse, report deaths to lawmakers as required by law, perform sufficient background checks on those working with vulnerable children and adequately supervise juvenile delinquents. The audit, which looks at the agency from 2007 to 2013, was published today in advance of a legislative hearing where lawmakers are sure to question officials, The Tennessean reports. DCS officials respond to each finding in the audit and note that changes to many of the issues already have been made: investigators have new technology, the computer system has been updated and a new procedure for reviewing child deaths is in place. WBIR.com has the story.


Commission Approves Audit of Criminal Justice Process

The Knox County Commission this week approved an audit of its criminal justice process, which will include a review of the criminal court clerk’s office. The move was recommended by the Audit Committee, following several recent allegations of wrongful arrests caused by errors in the clerk's office. The committee says it plans to look at the process from beginning to end in an attempt to identify gaps and risks. WATE has more on the story.


Opinion: More Transparency Needed on Lethal Injection Drugs

The sharpest battles over capital punishment today are being fought over the identity of the drugs used, how they are manufactured and obtained, and the obligations state officials have to share that information, Andrew Cohen writes in The Atlantic. Cohen cites cases in Georgia, Missouri and Texas where limited information was available about lethal injection drugs, and Ohio, where the accused "struggled, made guttural noises, gasped for air and choked for about 10 minutes before succumbing to a new, two-drug execution method" earlier this month. He also reviews recent court decisions related to the issue, and is critical of some judge's  "complete abdication of the judiciary's role to ensure that capital punishment is neither arbitrary nor capricious.”

The Nashville Scene looks at the same issue, while the Associated Press reviews a growing interest among some to return to "old fashioned" executions.


Haslam Named Policy Chair for GOP Governors

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been named policy chairman of the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, WDEF News 12 reports. The group is the policy arm of the Republican Governors Association. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who chairs the 29-member national association, said in a release that Haslam is "a true pioneer in the public policy sphere." The governor stressed his own accomplishments in overhauling civil service rules in Tennessee and reducing what he called the government footprint in the state as ideas for others to pursue.


Nashville Sessions Judge Announces Re-election Bid

Davidson County General Sessions Judge William E. “Bill” Higgins has announced his candidacy for re-election. He will run in the Democratic primary in May for Division VII. Judge Higgins has served on the bench since 1980 and currently serves as presiding judge for the 11 divisions of the court. Prior to being elected judge, Higgins practiced law for 13 years and was elected to three terms as a councilman in the 24th District in West Nashville. Read more in a press release from his campaign.


Obama to Visit Nashville Thursday

President Barack Obama will visit Nashville Thursday as he travels the country reinforcing his message from tonight’s State of the Union address. Other stops include Prince George's County in Maryland, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, where the president is expected to talk about new assistance for the long-term unemployed. In Nashville, the president will visit McGavock High School and tout the academic improvements recently seen in Nashville schools. The Nashville Business Journal has more.


TBA Members Now Save with UPS

As a TBA member you now can save up to 36 percent on UPS Next Day Air and up to 18 percent on UPS Ground Shipping! Visit UPS online to learn how this new member benefit can deliver greater efficiencies for your firm. Already a UPS customer? You also are eligible for this discount once you register your account on the UPS' TBA discount site.


 
 

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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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