DOJ: Bar Exam Mental Health Questions Violate ADA

The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice says that asking would-be lawyers standard questions about their mental health, including their history of diagnosis and treatment, could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a letter to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the division says some, but not all, of the questions asked in a standard National Conference of Bar Examiners questionnaire are unduly broad and violate the ADA. The letter suggests  civil rights questions in character and fitness applications should focus on conduct rather than status of the applicant. The ABA Journal has more.

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
03 - 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

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TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Mimi Phillips, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rebecca Coleman, DVM

Jeff Weintraub, Sally F. Barron, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, The Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, A Tennessee not for profit organization and GINGER MORGAN


This appeal involves a veterinarian’s common law and statutory claims for retaliatory discharge and her claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant employer filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. The trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim because the veterinarian had not introduced expert proof to support her claim. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment on the retaliatory discharge claims. Both parties filed applications for interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which were granted by the trial court and by this Court. We reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, and we affirm the trial court’s denial of summary judgment on the retaliatory discharge claims. This matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John R. Anderson and Mark W. Litchford, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rebecca Little.

Phillip A. Noblett and Keith J. Reisman, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Chattanooga.


This appeal questions the propriety of the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 10-7-505(g) (Supp. 2013). The statute provides that an award of fees and costs can be made when a municipality wrongfully fails to disclose public documents requested pursuant to the Public Records Act. In the prior appeal of this action, this Court determined that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to award the plaintiff fees and costs she incurred in seeking the disclosure of public documents from the City of Chattanooga pursuant to the referenced statute. Upon remand, the plaintiff filed a petition seeking attorney’s fees and costs exceeding $70,000.00. The trial court found that the total fees and costs sought by the plaintiff were unreasonable and excessive, and the court reduced the amount of fees awarded to $50,284.50. The court also reduced the costs awarded for mileage and court reporter charges. Plaintiff appeals. We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for entry of an award of the full amount of fees and costs sought.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Michael M. Raulston, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joel David Constance.

Elizabeth Greer Adams, Dayton, Tennessee, for the appellee, Valerie Ann Tipton.


This is an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the Trial Court’s denial of a Motion to Recuse in a post-divorce proceeding. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by the Petitioner/Former Husband, Joel David Constance (“Petitioner”), pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, we affirm the Trial Court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Manuel B. Russ, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Andrew Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Brian Ewald and Rachel Thomas, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Travis Andrew Harris, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of attempt to commit especially aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and evading arrest, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 39-12-101, 39-13-403, 39-16-603 (2010). He was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent sentences of eleven years for the attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for the evading arrest conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction and (2) the trial court improperly admitted hearsay testimony as substantive evidence. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William Arthur Shelton, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; and Russell Johnson, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, William Arthur Shelton, appeals the Morgan County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief from his 2004 convictions for first degree murder, three counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of vandalism and his effective life sentence. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by summarily denying relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


C. Brad Sproles, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tina G. Strickland.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Tony Clark, District Attorney General; and Melanie Sellers, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Tina G. Strickland, appeals the Carter County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her 2010 conviction upon a guilty plea for vehicular homicide and her twelve-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by finding that her guilty plea was knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently entered because she received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Tom W. Crider, Trenton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Victor Thompson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Desha Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Garry Brown, District Attorney General; and Jason Scott and Hillary Lawler Parham, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Victor Thompson, was convicted by a Gibson County Circuit Court jury of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and theft of property valued at $500 or less, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-210(a)(1), 39-14-103 (2010). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to consecutive terms of twenty-five years for second degree murder and eleven months, twenty-nine days for theft. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred during sentencing. We conclude that the lengths of the sentences are proper but that the trial court erred by failing to state on the record the facts and conclusions which support consecutive sentences pursuant to State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933, 938 (Tenn. 1995). We remand the case in order of the court to make its findings and conclusions on the record.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Registration of Human-Remains Removal Services

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-02-13

Opinion Number: 18

Victim In Vandy Rape Case Becomes Party in Tennessean Records Lawsuit

Chancellor Russell Perkins yesterday granted a motion by former U.S. attorney Ed Yarbrough to let the victim in a high-profile Vanderbilt University rape case intervene in The Tennessean’s lawsuit to obtain access to certain records. Yarbrough, who has been quietly representing the victim for months, said his client has “constitutional and statutory rights to not be mistreated by the criminal justice system” and that the lawsuit “has the potential to violate all of those rights.” The Tennessean stated it does not identify the victims of sexual assaults and is not interested in photos or videos. “The issues we are pursuing are third-party records and how this case can set a precedent for other agencies and municipalities to refuse to comply with public records requests,” said Tennessean Executive Editor Maria De Varenne.

Gray Elected to Baker Donelson's Board of Directors

Russell Gray, managing shareholder of Baker Donelson’s Chattanooga office, has been elected to a three-year term on the firm’s board of directors, the Hamilton County Herald reports. Gray is a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Department and concentrates his practice in litigation and labor and employment issues. A graduate of the American University Washington College of Law, Gray is also an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Bridgestone to Plead Guilty, Pay $425M in Price-Fixing Case

Bridgestone Corp. has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $425 million criminal fine in the Justice Department’s ongoing probe into price fixing and bid rigging. Twenty-six companies including Tokyo-based Bridgestone have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and pay more than $2 billion in criminal fines. Bridgestone has its North American headquarters in Nashville and several area manufacturing facilities. The Tennessean has more.

Memphis Law Firm Moving to iBank Tower

The law firm of Rogers, Berry, Chesney & Cannon PLLC recently sold its office building on Kirby Parkway in Memphis and is relocating to the iBank building on Poplar Avenue In East Memphis. RBCC is a litigation firm that practices primarily in the area of family law, and the new location allows the firm to move closer to the Shelby County Courthouse, the Memphis Daily News reports.

Butler Snow Expands, Hires 9

Butler Snow announced it was expanding into Georgia with four new attorneys in Atlanta and Macon and five new attorneys in Denver. The Mississippi-based firm has offices in Memphis and Nashville, and recently announced its expansion into New York with two attorneys. The Memphis Business Journal notes that the additions will boost the firm’s Public Finance, Tax Incentives and Credit Markets practice groups.

ABA Committee to Preserve Current Bar Pass Standards

After several years and as many false starts, an ABA committee has given up for now trying to improve upon the existing bar exam requirements in the law school accreditation standards, the ABA Journal reports. The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s standards review committee, which met in conjunction with the ABA Midyear Meeting in Chicago last week, voted instead to recommend turning the current interpretation on bar passage rates into a standard. Under the current interpretation – and proposed new standard – a law school can meet the bar pass requirement either by showing that 75 percent of its graduates who took the bar exam in at least three of the previous five years passed or by showing that its graduates’ first-time bar pass rate was no more than 15 points below the average bar pass rate for ABA-approved schools in states where its graduates took the bar.

U.S. Attorney Killian to Speak at Community Think Tank

William “Bill” Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, will be the guest speaker at the next Community Think Tank hosted by the Hamilton County Coalition and the U.S. Department of JusticeThursday at 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Coalition office in Chattanooga. Topics will include arrest, prosecution and sentencing at the federal level; prescription drug abuse and designer drugs; victims’ rights; and being proactive citizens in the community. Killian will identify community problems that lead to criminal and drug activity, and provide strategies to reduce drug activity and availability. Seating is limited, RSVP by calling (423) 305-1449 or emailing Hugh Reece. The Hamilton County Herald has more.

Jenkins Files for 3rd District Judicial Post

Douglas T. Jenkins of Rogersville has filed a petition to run for the office of Chancellor in the Third Judicial District, which includes Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties. The Greeneville Sun has more on election filings (subscription required).

Rhea County Races Heats Up

Three people have picked up papers to run for circuit court clerk in Rhea County, the Chattanoogan reports. They are incumbent Jamie Holloway, a Democrat; Democrat Cheryl Cashman; and Republican Pam Peavyhouse. In addition, District Attorney General Mike Taylor has picked up papers to seek re-election.

Anderson County Judge Seeks Re-election

Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Ron Murch has announced he is running for re-election in Division II, Oak Ridge Today reports . Murch has served in the office since 1993. He earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1976 and was in private practice and city attorney to Oak Ridge for 17 years before becoming judge. While serving on the bench, he has worked on the Education Committee of the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference, completed the National Judicial College Advanced Special Court Jurisdiction course and taught a session at the Tennessee General Sessions Court Judicial Academy for new judges.

Candidates Coming out of Woodwork for Franklin County Races

Several Republican, Democratic and Independent candidates have pulled qualifying papers to run in the Franklin County primary and general elections. All candidates have until Thursday at noon to turn their qualifying papers in to the Franklin County Election Office. Positions available include mayor, circuit court judge, chancellor, district attorney, general sessions judge and more. Several state representative seats are also open. Visit the Herald Chronicle to read the full list.

Kelsey Pulls Sponsorship of 'Turn the Gays Away' Bill

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, has pulled his sponsorship of a bill designed to protect persons or religious organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) that choose to deny services or goods in conjunction with a civil union, domestic partnership, or gay marriage less than a week after filing it. SB 2566, dubbed "Turn the Gays Away" Bill by equality advocates, is moving forward with a new Senate sponsor, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville. On the House side, the bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville. The bill has been placed on the Judiciary Committee calendar, which Kelsey chairs. The Memphis Flyer has more.

Missouri Lawyer Censured

Christopher J. Wnuk received a public censure on Feb. 13. Wnuk is principally licensed to practice law in the State of Missouri but also holds an active law license in the State of Kansas. He practiced law in Tennessee after his pro hac vice registration status had expired by filing pleadings, attending mediation, and appearing in court in Tennessee. Additionally, Wnuk’s firm letterhead listed his admission to the State of Louisiana although his license to practice law in Louisiana had been on inactive status since 2002. Download the BPR notice.

Sevier County Lawyer Censured

On Feb. 13, Elizabeth Catherine Cox received a public censure for failing to communicate with her client about the status of a post-trial motion for consideration in a divorce matter and later alleged to her client and the Board that she had timely filed the motion but that the judge had denied the motion without a hearing. After an investigation, it was determined that Cox had never filed the motion. Download the BPR notice.

Washington County Lawyer Reinstated

The law license of Michael D. Kellum was reinstated after suspension for 33 months with credit for 22 months served. Download the BPR notice.

Rutherford County Lawyer Placed on Disability Inactive Status

The law license of William Walter Burton Jr. was transferred to disability inactive status on Feb. 13. Burton cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law. Download the BPR notice.

ABA Offers Retirement Benefits for the Legal Sector

Looking for a retirement plan for yourself or your employees? The ABA Retirement Fund provides unique, full service 401(k) plans specifically for the legal community. By leveraging the assets of its 3,800 client firms, the ABA plan offers packages typically available only to large corporations. For more information contact a regional representative at (800) 826-8901 or visit


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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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