TBA President Wyrick: AG Selection Should Not Change

Once again efforts to change the way Tennessee selects its attorney general are underway, writes TBA President Cindy Wyrick in her February Tennessee Bar Journal column. The state’s current method of naming the AG has led to the selection of some of Tennessee’s finest lawyers and keeps the office insulated from unnecessary politics, she argues in the piece. Read this month's issue to learn more about why Tennessee should not jump off the attorney selection cliff, but rather should maintain the current system. Then use TBAImpact to let your representatives know you do not want to see any changes in how Tennessee selects its top lawyer.

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
01 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
02 - 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


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Joe R. Judkins, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kathleen A. Peterson

Robert W. Wilkinson, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the appellee, Victor R. Peterson


This is the second time this divorce case has been before this Court. Victor R. Peterson (“Husband”) filed the first appeal. We remanded the case to the trial court because we were “unable to determine what property was awarded to [Kathleen A. Peterson (“Wife”)] as . . . equitable division of property and what property was awarded as alimony in solido.” Peterson, 2012 WL 1413890 at *3. On remand, the trial court classified the parties’ property, valued all of the marital property except for some miscellaneous personal property, decreed a division of the marital property, and awarded Wife $10,000 in alimony in solido. Wife appeals. She argues that the division of marital property is not equitable and that the alimony award is inadequate. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Isaac T. Conner, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kevin Lamont Church.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, District Attorney General, and Roger Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

A Davidson County Jury convicted Appellant, Kevin Lamont Church, of kidnapping and simple assault. The trial court sentenced him to twelve years as a Range III, persistent offender. The judgments were entered January 6, 2010. A motion for new trial was never filed. On July 6, 2011, Appellant filed a post-conviction petition requesting a delayed appeal. The trial court granted the request on October 7, 2011, and Appellant filed a motion for new trial on November 8, 2011. At the hearing on the motion for new trial, the State conceded that the simple assault conviction should be merged into the kidnapping conviction. The trial court agreed and dismissed count two for assault. The trial court denied the remaining arguments included in the motion on October 10, 2012. Appellant subsequently filed a notice of appeal on November 13, 2012. On appeal, Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for kidnapping. The State argues that Appellant did not file a timely notice of appeal, and this Court should dismiss the appeal. Although we agree with the State that the notice of appeal is untimely, we have decided to waive the timely notice of appeal in the interest of justice and address Appellant’s claim that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of kidnapping on the merits. We have thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal and conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support Appellant’s conviction.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael A. Colavecchio, for the Defendant-Appellant, Levester Taylor.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Levester Taylor, was convicted by a Davidson County jury for multiple counts of aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child. The trial court imposed a sentence of 10 years at 100% for each aggravated sexual battery and 20 years at 100% for each rape of a child, and ordered the sentences to run consecutively for an effective sentence of 200 years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred imposing an effective sentence of 200 years. Upon review, the Defendant’s judgments of conviction are affirmed, the sentences imposed by the trial court are vacated, and the case is remanded for a resentencing hearing, following the Defendant’s election to proceed under the pre-2005 sentencing act or the amended sentencing act accompanied by the Defendant’s written waiver of his ex post facto protections.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Heather N. McCoy, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mickey Lee Williams.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Charles L. Murphy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

This case is before this court on a delayed appeal of appellant’s 2004 convictions for second degree murder and arson. Appellant received an effective sentence of twenty-four years. Appellant now argues that the trial court erred by (1) allowing a witness to testify about appellant’s propensity for violence during the State’s case-in-chief; (2) allowing the testimony of a witness when appellant did not have notice of her testimony until two days before the trial; (3) incorrectly instructing the jury on self-defense; and (4) ruling that a defense witness’s testimony was irrelevant. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Authority to Waive Charter School Requirements

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-01-31

Opinion Number: 14

Juveniles on Sex Offender Registry

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-02-03

Opinion Number: 15

Haslam Budget Focuses on Education, Workforce Readiness

In his “State of the State” speech last night, Gov. Bill Haslam laid out his priorities for state spending in the coming year. Programs targeted for increases include TennCare; teacher salaries; services for the disabled; new DCS field workers and child abuse investigators; and a variety of education programs aimed at helping high school students succeed in college, Knoxnews reports. New programs announced include a statewide residential drug court in Middle Tennessee modeled on a program in Morgan County; “Tennessee Promise,” which would allow all high school graduates to attend two years of community college or a technology school for free; and a new Director of Workforce Alignment who would work with state departments and local officials to close the “skills gap” across the state. Revenue would come from proposed cuts in payments to TennCare providers, increases in TennCare co-pays, elimination of 664 state jobs and a $302 million dip into state lottery reserves. Read the text of the speech in the Tennessean.

Hawkins County Court Clerk Arrested

Hawkins County Clerk of Courts Sarah Davis was arrested Monday for contempt of court, the Kingsport Times-News reports. The charge was preceded by a verbal altercation that allegedly occurred between Davis and General Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross over the issue of why the collections clerk was not in the courtroom for proceedings. Davis reportedly told the judge that he was working in the office and not in court because “all those people aren’t going to plea.” The judge countered that the court was being delayed by the absence of the clerk and instructed Davis at least three times to have the clerk report to the courtroom, which she refused. She ultimately complied. Davis will face a hearing on the matter March 27.

Nichols Named New Deputy District Attorney

Jennifer Nichols is the new deputy district attorney general in the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office, the Memphis Daily News reports. District Attorney General Amy Weirich appointed Nichols to the post yesterday following the retirement of Carter Myers, who worked in the office for 30 years. Nichols has been chief prosecutor for the office’s Special Victims Unit. She joined the Shelby County prosecutor’s office in 1991 after earning her law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham and practicing law in Florida.

Louisiana Postpones Execution to Clear New Drug Protocol

Louisiana is postponing an execution originally planned for Wednesday for a man convicted of murdering his 6-year-old stepson two decades ago. The state corrections department said Monday that it agreed to a 90-day delay after abruptly changing its lethal injection method plans last week. Like other death penalty states, Louisiana has had trouble purchasing the drugs historically used for lethal injections. Last week, the state announced it was switching to a two-drug combination used recently in Ohio. A federal judge will weigh the constitutionality of the new execution protocol at a hearing on April 7. KSLA News 12 Shreveport has the AP story on the issue.

MALS Hires New Donor Relations Officer

Memphis Area Legal Services has hired Memphis native Elizabeth Roane as chief donor relations officer to oversee marketing and community development. Roane has broad experience in marketing, development and account management, having served with national and international companies in Memphis and in the northeast. She previously was national marketing manager for a ServiceMaster company and director of marketing and program development for the City of Memphis’s Second Chance program. Roane graduated from Sweet Briar College. She also has studied marketing management at New York University and French at the Institute de Français in VilleFranch. She can be reached at eroane@malsi.org or (901) 523-8822.

Nashville Meningitis Cases May Get First Trials

Nashville-area victims of the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak would be the first to have their cases come to trial under a proposal being considered by a federal judge in Boston, the Tennessean reports. According to Boston attorney Kristen Johnson Parker, one or more cases brought by Tennessee victims could go to trial next year and serve as “bellwether” suits – a procedure used by the federal courts to speed the processing of multiple related lawsuits. It is not clear yet whether the trials would be held in Boston or in Tennessee, Parker said. Those involved in the cases say priority consideration for Tennessee victims is based on the large number of cases from the state.

Lawmakers Cautious About Free Prison Overhaul

It may be free, but state senators remain cautious about an offer to analyze and overhaul Tennessee’s criminal justice system, the Tennessean reports. The offer, made by the Vera Institute of Justice, would study all aspects of the state criminal justice system including sentencing, incarceration and post-release programs. The goal, according to supporters, is to reduce recidivism, reduce the prison population and improve public safety. Funding would come mostly from federal grants. The Senate State & Local Government Correction Subcommittee heard more about the proposal at a recent hearing but members asked for additional information.

Atkins Picks up Papers for Circuit Court Race

Jackson attorney Kyle Atkins is the third person to pick up a qualifying petition to run for Circuit Court, Division III in the 26th Judicial District, the Jackson Sun reports. If he decides to run, he would likely face Jackson attorney Edward Martindale in the Republican primary. Sitting Judge Nathan Pride also has picked up a petition to run for re-election as an independent. All three sought to fill the seat two years ago when Judge Roger Page was appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Pride won that election.

Tennessee Mediation Day Set for Feb. 14

The TBA Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, a member of the Tennessee Coalition for Mediation Awareness, will mark Feb. 14 as Mediation Day in Tennessee. At the group’s request, Gov. Bill Haslam has issued a proclamation designating the day and calling on Tennesseans to join him in recognizing the important role mediation plays in the courts. Mediators will gather on Feb. 14 for training at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Association of Professional Mediators. Also at the event, the Coalition for Mediation Awareness will present the 2014 Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award to Anne Sides, Carol Berz and Jean Munroe, each of whom has developed mediation programs and trained many of the state’s mediators, especially in East Tennessee.

Shelby Lawyer Censured for Trust Fund Violations

Shelby County lawyer Stuart Brian Breakstone received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 6 for depositing funds in his operating account that should have been deposited in his trust account. Download the BPR notice

Harriman Lawyer Suspended for Not Filing Brief

The state Supreme Court on Jan. 31 suspended Harriman lawyer Spence Roberts Bruner from the practice of law for 90 days. The court determined that Bruner violated the Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of a client in a criminal matter by failing to timely file an appellate brief; ignoring four orders from the Court of Criminal Appeals directing him to file the brief; and being found in contempt of court. Download the BPR notice.

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.


Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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