Analyst Condemns Tenn. Courts Bill

Legal analyst Andrew Cohen condemns legislation that would gut the Tennessee Supreme Court's administrative powers in a scathing article for The Week news magazine. Cohen calls the legislation, which would transfer the administrative functions of the judiciary to the comptroller of the treasury, as a “big ball of scorn for the state’s judiciary.” The author also interviews  Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg, who tells him that, "There's a reason no other state in the country has such a system. It denies the courts the most basic of administrative functions and seeks to make our courts of law answer to politicians instead of the law."

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.

02 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
01 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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 Supreme Court

CORRECTION: On page 21, last sentence of the last paragraph: The crimes that warrant lifetime community supervision are all quite serious felonies – not the type of conviction to which a defendant would be likely to confess falsely. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-524(a).

Court: TN Supreme Court


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.


Court: TN Supreme Court


Brent Albert Kinney, Edward A. Hadley, and Phillip Lester North, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bhaskar Reddy.

Olen G. Haynes, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Raymond Wilford Fraley Jr., Fayetteville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Doris Cannon.


The plaintiff filed a health care liability action against the defendant. During the pendency of her action, the General Assembly enacted the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121 and -122. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her original action. The plaintiff then filed two successive actions. First, the plaintiff filed a second action that did not comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith statutes. The plaintiff then filed a third action that complied with Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121 and -122. The plaintiff moved to consolidate her second and third actions, and the defendant moved to dismiss. The defendant contended that the plaintiff’s second action should be dismissed for failure to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements and that her third action should be dismissed based on the doctrine of prior suit pending. The trial court consolidated the lawsuits and denied the defendant’s motions to dismiss. The defendant moved for permission to file an interlocutory appeal, which the trial court denied. We granted the defendant’s application for extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. During the pendency of the appeal, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her second action. As a result of the plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal and our recent holding in Rajvongs v. Wright, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2013 WL 6504425 (Tenn. Dec. 12, 2013), we hold that the plaintiff, who properly provided pre-suit notice of her claim prior to filing her third action, was entitled to a 120-day extension in which to refile her complaint pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c). The plaintiff’s third complaint was therefore timely filed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand this case for further proceedings.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Travis Edgar Davison, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Alvin Evans.

Terrence O’Neal Reed, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, FedEx Express.


Plaintiff filed an action against his employer alleging discrimination in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The trial court awarded summary judgment to Defendant employer on the basis that the action was barred by the contractual limitations period contained in the employment agreement executed by the parties. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals

CORRECTION: On page 14, footnote line 5, "more than two months ARE the March 9, 2012 filing" changed to "more than two months AFTER the March 9, 2012 filing".

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Richard L. Gaines, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gary S. Holman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faught, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Nichols, District Attorney General; and Ta Kisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Gary S. Holman, stands convicted of aggravated burglary, employing a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony, false imprisonment, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. He is currently serving an effective sentence of life plus eleven years. On appeal, the defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by not allowing extrinsic evidence to be used to impeach a witness under Tennessee Rules of Evidence Rule 613(b);(2) that the trial court erred by allowing prejudicial photographs of a victim into evidence; and (3) that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Following review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions. However, the petitioner’s remaining two issues are waived for failure to prepare an adequate record on appeal. As such, the judgments of conviction are affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Hershell D. Koger (on appeal), Pulaski, Tennessee; and James M. Marshall (at trial), Spring Hill, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brian Marshall Keys.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Brent Cooper, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant, Brian Marshall Keys, of one count of selling 0.5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and two counts of selling less than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. The trial court ordered the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of fifteen years. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it denied his constitutional challenge to the Drug-Free School Zone Act and that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gayla C. Hendrix, Smithville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Teresa Lynn Turner.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel West Harmon and Leslie Price, Senior Counsels; Randy York, District Attorney General; and Phillip Hatch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Teresa Turner, pled guilty to reckless homicide, a Class D felony. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a standard offender to three years with six months of the sentence to be served in confinement and the remainder of the sentence on supervised probation. The Defendant appeals, claiming that the trial court abused its discretion when it: (1) denied judicial diversion; (2) misapplied enhancement factors; and (3) ordered a sentence involving split confinement. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Mosque Foes Seek Supreme Court Review

Plaintiffs who sued Rutherford County alleging a lack of public notice on plans to construct a new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro reported yesterday they are appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Chancellor Robert Corlew III ruled in June 2012 that the county failed to provide adequate public notice for construction of the mosque, but a federal court overruled him nearly seven weeks later to clear the way for the the congregation to move into its building. The Daily News Journal has more.

Editorial Supports Status Quo for AG

An editorial in the Leaf Chronicle picked up from Knoxnews that argues against a bill proposed by Sen. Frank Nicely (SB1808) making attorney general opinions binding on state and local governments, also argues that the method of selection of the AG does not need to change. Currently, there are two proposed constitutional amendments making their way through the General Assembly that would change the way the AG is selected: one requiring popular election and one requiring appointment by the legislature. Both measures would go to the voters of the state for approval.

Hawkins Bar Pushes for Full-Time Juvenile Court Judge

Hawkins County Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross told County Commissioners Monday that the juvenile court needs to be increased from two to five days per week, and the judge position changed from part-time to full-time. Times News Net reports that Ross told the commission he was speaking on behalf of the Hawkins County Bar Association, as well as Juvenile Judge Daniel Boyd, who was substituting in Ross’s Court Monday morning.

Judge Pays Surprise Visit to Cane Ridge Youth Court

Judge Sophia Crawford paid a surprise visit today to the Cane Ridge Restorative Court, a youth justice program operated by the Cane Ridge High School Law Academy in partnership with the Metro Nashville Juvenile Court. Judge Crawford presided over one of the cases on the docket as a guest judge and said she was pleased by the professional demeanor and respect for the court shown by the students as they performed their roles. 

House Bill Bans Subsidies if Insurance Covers Abortions

The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to bar federal subsidies to Americans signing up for health insurance plans that cover abortion, the Associated Press reports. Republicans led the House in voting 227-188 for the measure that they insist is necessary to permanently bar any taxpayer dollars for abortion. The administration says that the health care law and companion executive order prohibits federal funds for abortion is sufficient. The measure "would go well beyond these safeguards by interfering with consumers' private health care choices," the White House said. News Channel 5 has the story.

Williamson County PD to Run Again

Vanessa Pettigrew Bryan, public defender for Tennessee’s 21st Judicial District has filed for re-election, the Tennessean reports. Bryan has been affiliated with the office, which serves Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson counties, for 24 years and was elected to the top post in 2006. “I am proud of the holistic approach we take to criminal defense work,” she says. “I am a strong advocate for addiction interdiction. The advances in mental health treatment together with addictive treatment offer viable options to imprisonment for non-violent offenders.” Bryan serves on the board of directors of the 21st Judicial District Drug Court and also is involved in the Williamson County DUI Drug Court.

Judge to Seek 4th Term

Judge Seth Norman will seek a fourth term as judge of Division 4 of the Criminal Court for Davidson County. Judge Norman is the founder and judge of the Davidson County Drug Court. He also presides over the Drug Court in the 13th Judicial District, as well as the Morgan County Residential Recovery Court.

2 Republicans Seek Knox Criminal Court Clerk Post

Knoxville lawyer Steve Williams, who has served as a special master in handling protection orders for Circuit Court Judge Bill Swann, and County Commissioner Mike Hammond have picked up petitions to seek the Republican nomination for Knox County Criminal Court clerk, Knox News reports. The post is currently held by Joy McCroskey, who has come under fire for her handling of the office.

Sen. Alexander to Keynote Public Service Awards

Sen. Lamar Alexander will be the keynote speaker in April for the 11th Annual Bobby Dunavant Public Service Awards. Named in honor of the late Shelby County Probate Court clerk, the awards go to one local elected official and one non-elected official who show the attributes of public service that Dunavant personified. The Memphis Daily News reports that any citizen can nominate someone for the awards through entry forms on the Rotary Club of Memphis East website. Nominations are due by March 14.

UPS Puts the Power of Logistics to Work for You

UPS is pleased to help TBA members save time and money through special services and shipping discounts. UPS puts the power of logistics to work for you every day by providing speed, outstanding reliability and technology tools so you can focus on your business -- not on your shipping. Learn more here.

Madison County Lawyer Temporarily Suspended

Clayton Mayo was temporarily suspended from the practice of law upon finding by the Board of Professional Responsibility that Mayo has abandoned his practice and that he poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. 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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