Supreme Court Building Nominated for Historic Status

The Tennessee Supreme Court building was one of eight sites nominated from across the state this year to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 77-page application celebrates the court’s important civic standing and its significance as a New Deal project partially funded by the Public Works Administration. The Tennessean notes that four-story building, completed in 1937, is an architectural example of “stripped classicism” and features limestone mined in quarries near Knoxville that is known as “Tennessee Marble” because of how it can be polished.

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
05 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - 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 Appeals

CLINT DEWAYNE GRAHAM v. NYCOLE ALEXANDRIA VAUGHN

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jeffrey O. Powell, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nycole Alexandria Vaughn.

Edgar Taylor, III, Hartsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Clint Dewayne Graham.

Judge: DINKINS

The father of a nine year old girl filed a petition seeking to legitimate the child, requesting that he be named primary residential parent, and asking that the mother be prevented from moving to Florida with the child. In her answer, the mother asked to be named as the child’s primary residential parent and, having already moved, to be allowed to remain in Florida with the child. After trial, the court ruled that there was no reasonable purpose in the mother’s proposed relocation and that the mother was to return to Tennessee with the child; the court entered a permanent parenting plan which designated the mother as primary residential parent and also ordered the father to pay a portion of the mother’s attorney fees. The mother appeals the court’s disposition of the petition to legitimate; the father appeals the award of fees to the mother. We affirm the decision to award fees to the mother, but vacate the award and remand for a redetermination of the amount; we affirm the court’s judgment in all other respects.


IN RE JEENA P., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Amy C. Bates, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jessica Christina M.

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

Judge: BENNETT

Mother challenges the termination of her parental rights for failure to support. We find no need to address this issue because mother did not appeal the trial court’s findings of several other grounds for termination. Mother also disputes the trial court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the best interest of the children. We affirm the trial court.


DEIDRA KAY MINOR v. MELVIN RICHARD NICHOLS

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

William E. Friedman, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Plaintiff/Appellant, Deidra Kay Minor

No brief filed on behalf of Defendant/Appellee, Melvin Richard Nichols

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves the interpretation of a marital dissolution agreement. In the parties’ divorce, the wife was awarded the marital home and the associated debt on the home. In the parties’ marital dissolution agreement, the husband was required to pay alimony in an amount that covered half of the wife’s monthly mortgage payments. The alimony payments were to be made for fifteen years or until the mortgage on the marital home was “paid off in full.” The husband stopped making his alimony payments and the wife filed a contempt petition against him. While the contempt petition was pending, the wife fell behind on her mortgage payments and the house was sold in foreclosure. The husband then filed a petition to terminate his alimony obligation. After a hearing on both petitions, the trial court held the husband’s failure to pay alimony constituted willful contempt of court. Interpreting the marital dissolution agreement, however, the trial court also held that the husband’s alimony obligation ended when the marital home was sold in foreclosure, because at that point the mortgage was “paid off in full.” The wife now appeals. We decline to interpret the parties’ marital dissolution agreement in a manner that would terminate the husband’s alimony obligation if the foreclosure resulted from his contemptuous failure to pay alimony to the wife. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s decision and remand for further proceedings.


MARTY NIX v. TENNESSEE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

P. Brocklin Parks, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marty Nix.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and Michael Markham, Senior Counsel; for the appellee, Tennessee Civil Service Commission.

Judge: BENNETT

This administrative appeal arises from the termination of a state trooper from his employment with the Tennessee Department of Safety for filing a meritless sexual harassment claim against a fellow employee. Finding substantial and material evidence in support of the decision to terminate the trooper, we affirm.


ROCK IVY HOLDING, LLC v. RC PROPERTIES, LLC ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

John S. Hicks and Elizabeth B. McCostlin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rock Ivy Holding, LLC.

Eugene N. Bulso, Jr., Roger G. Jones, and Paul Joseph Krog, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, H. Preston Ingram and FUM, LLC.

Charles E. Morton, IV, Franklin, Tennessee, for the third party defendant/appellant, Huntly S. Gordon.

John O. Belcher and Curtis R. Harrington, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Linked, LLC and Stephen T. Church.

Phillip B. Jones, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Scott Sohr and RC Properties, LLC.

Judge: CLEMENT

This multi-faceted business dispute, which arises in principal part from the real estate collapse of 2008, involves five limited liability companies, eight individuals who are either members or officers of the respective companies, 530 acres of undeveloped real estate, and $7 million of secured notes that were personally guaranteed by six of the individuals. Over the course of two years, SunTrust Bank, the holder of the notes, agreed to extensions of the original maturity date; a final extension was granted until August 7, 2008. A call for capital contributions was approved but it produced insufficient funds to pay off the debt. Thereafter, two of the individuals, one of whom was the president of Rock Creek, and both of whom personally guaranteed a portion of the debt, formed another entity which then acquired the notes from the bank. Rock Creek Development, LLC (“Rock Creek”), which owned the real estate, then agreed to sell a substantial portion of its property to pay off the balance owing on the notes. In an attempt to stop the sale, Rock Ivy Holding, LLC (“Rock Ivy”), one of three members of Rock Creek, filed this derivative action for itself and on behalf of Rock Creek against Rock Creek’s members: RC Properties, LLC; Linked, LLC; two officers of Rock Creek; and several individuals who were members of the defendant companies. The complaint alleged, inter alia, various conflicts of interests by the individual defendants and various breaches of statutory and contractual duties by members and/or officers. Pursuant to an agreed order, the sale proceeded, the net proceeds were held in the registry of the court, and the remaining claims went to trial. After eights days of a bench trial, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02 at the close of the plaintiff’s case-in-chief. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed all of the plaintiff’s claims. Thereafter, several defendants filed various motions to recover their respective attorneys’ fees and expenses. Some of the motions were based on Tenn. Code Ann. § 48-249- 804, which pertains to derivative actions, and others were based on indemnification provisions in Rock Creek’s Operating Agreement. The trial court granted some of the fee requests and denied others. In this appeal, Rock Ivy challenges the dismissal of its claims and the assessment of attorneys’ fees. Two individual defendants appeal the denial of their claims for attorneys’ fees. The holder of the notes appeals the denial of its claim for “default interest” and penalties. We affirm the trial court in all respects except for the trial court denying the claim for default interest on the notes. We have concluded that the holder of the notes is entitled to recover default interest from the time the notes were declared to be in default. Accordingly, this issue is remanded for further proceedings.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TAWANA JONES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mitchell W. Wood (on appeal and at trial) and Gerald Waggoner (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tawana Jones.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy Weirich, District Attorney General; and Terre Fratesi and Greg Gilbert, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Tawana Jones, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of rape and abuse of an adult. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-502(a)(3), 71-6-117. The trial court sentenced appellant to twelve years and two years, respectively, to be served consecutively. On appeal, appellant challenges: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting her rape conviction regarding whether the victim was mentally defective and, if so, whether appellant knew the victim was mentally defective; (2) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting appellant’s abuse of an adult conviction; (3) the trial court’s use of specific enhancement factors during sentencing; and (4) the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences. Following our review of the parties’ arguments, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm appellant’s rape conviction and, as the State concedes must be done, reverse and remand appellant’s abuse of an adult conviction for proceedings consistent with this opinion.


TBA Executive Director to be Honored at ABA Meeting

The TBA and several of Tennessee's law schools will host a reception during the annual ABA Midyear Meeting next week to honor TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur. The "Tennessee Reception" has become a mainstay of ABA meetings and provides an opportunity to recognize Tennessee lawyers serving in the ABA. The winter reception will be held Feb. 8 at the Hyatt Regency Plaza Ballroom in Chicago from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Download the invitation for more information. 


Appellate Court Clerk to Retire, Become Ordained Deacon

Clerk of the Appellate Courts Mike Catalano announced today he will retire in June to become an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, pursuing his ministry on a full-time basis. Catalano has served the state of Tennessee for more than 35 years in a variety of roles. He was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to be the appellate court clerk for a six-year term starting in January 2004 and was reappointed for a second term starting in January 2010. “Mike Catalano is the consummate professional -- a public servant of the first order. As a valued leader within the office of the attorney general and as clerk of all of our appellate courts, he has performed his duties in an exemplary fashion -- with class, dignity, and courtesy," Chief Justice Gary R. Wade said in a press release. “That he has chosen to spend the balance of his career in service to the highest authority is the best reflection of his true character. Our courts will sincerely miss this good man.”


Luring National Law Firms to Nashville

The Nashville Business Journal recently asked area law firms to predict when a national Top 25 law firm might set up office in Nashville, and what might be the catalyst for such an entrance into the market. Most agreed that it would happen within five to 10 years due to the millions of dollars of investment money that has flooded the city and created new opportunities for businesses. “Law firms expand into areas where there is opportunity,” said Scott Carey, managing shareholder for Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz. “Nashville is certainly a city on the rise…” he said. Larry Papel, managing partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough had less than optimistic views, however. “The ‘Top 25’ U.S. law firms...are not likely to open offices in Nashville in the near future,” he said. “Those firms play on the global stage...work on a 24-hour basis and are involved in transactions that most local, statewide or regional firms do not have the resources to lead or manage.” Read more here (subscription required).


DOJ Seeks $2.1 Billion from Bank of America

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking $2.1 billion in fines from Bank of America. The charges stem from mortgage fraud perpetrated by Countrywide Financials in 2007 and 2008 before that company was purchased by the bank. A jury in federal court found Bank of America guilty last October in a civil case involving Countrywide’s actions. In the motion filed late Wednesday, the government argues that Countrywide's gross proceeds from the sale of mortgage loans topped $5 billion and 43 percent of those loans were "defective and sold with misrepresentations." A hearing on the fines is set for March, WCYB reports.


Court to Hold Arguments in Historic State Capitol Chambers

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in the Supreme Court Chambers of the Tennessee State Capitol, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The court regularly hears cases in the Supreme Court buildings in Jackson, Knoxville and Nashville, but an invitation from Gov. Bill Haslam will bring it back to the place where it heard oral arguments in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Haslam is scheduled to welcome the court to the chambers after the session opens at 8:55 a.m. on Thursday. The court has six cases on the docket for oral arguments that day. All five state Supreme Court justices -- Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, Cornelia A. Clark, Janice M. Holder, William C. Koch Jr. and Sharon G. Lee -- will sit on the panel.


Nashville 2nd Highest in Nation for GOP Campaign Donations

Other than Washington, D.C., the Nashville metro area has the nation's highest per capita rate of Republican campaign contributions for the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, with GOP candidates receiving 83 percent of party-specific funding, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The Republican contribution rate in the Nashville metro region is $1.65 per capita, second only to Washington's $2.06 per capita contribution to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.


Paper Covers TBA's Role in 'Informed Voter' Project

The TBA's involvement in the "Informed Voter -- Fair Judges" project was covered in today's Tennessean. The initiative is designed to educate voters about the importance of fair and impartial judicial elections and provide resources for evaluating judicial candidates. The article featured a quote by TBA President Cindy Wyrick, who also is state co-chairwoman of the project. “We want every citizen to know just how critical it is to our justice system that we, as voters, elect fair and impartial judges.” The project is sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges and the League of Women Voters. Tennessee is one of eight states to participate.


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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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