Bill Would Give Legislature Power to Direct AG

A bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, would give the Tennessee General Assembly the power to direct the actions of the state attorney general. One of several pieces of legislation that aim to change the way the judicial branch operates in Tennessee, SB 2085/HB 2059 would allow the legislature to direct the AG to file or drop an action if directed by both houses or the governor. An article in the Times Free Press looks at the issue and includes a quote from TBA President Cindy Wyrick, who says the TBA opposes the bill over constitutional questions that make it "untenable." Visit TBAImpact to learn more about the bill and to contact your representatives.

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
04 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Gerald T. Eidson, Rogersville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ramon A. V.

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

Dawn Coppock, Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, for the appellees, Richard and Tami A.

and Tami A. Charity Miles Williams, Knoxville, Tennessee, guardian ad litem.


This is a termination of parental rights case. Following a hearing, the trial court found clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of the father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of (1) abandonment due to failure to visit and (2) failure to comply substantially with the permanency plan. The trial court further concluded that clear and convincing evidence revealed that termination was in the best interest of the children. The father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Derrick Rice, Whiteville, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Derrick Rice, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely filed. Upon our review, we reverse the decision of the post-conviction court and remand for proceedings consistent with the Post- Conviction Procedure Act.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Carla Kent Ford, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Dejuan Koshief Roberts.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Bedford County jury found the Defendant, Dejuan Koshief Roberts, guilty of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and being a felon in possession of a handgun. The trial court imposed an effective Range II thirteen-year sentence. The Defendant appeals claiming that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the State violated the rules of discovery. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant authorities, we conclude that no error exists. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Erik R. Herbert, Nashville, Tennessee, (on appeal); and Justin Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, Vernon Lavone Roberts.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Pamela Anderson and Rachel Sobrero, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Vernon Lavone Roberts, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for two counts of the sale of more than .5 grams of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school zone and two counts of the sale of more than 26 grams of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school zone. Subsequently, Defendant entered a guilty plea to four counts of the sale of cocaine outside of a school zone. He received a sentence of twenty-years for each conviction, with three sentences to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the fourth conviction for an effective forty-year sentence as a Range II multiple offender. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas based on his assertion that the pleas were not voluntarily or knowingly entered. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Brock East, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, James M. Smith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; William Whitesell, District Attorney General; Jennings Jones and Matthew Westmoreland, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Rutherford County jury convicted the Defendant, James M. Smith, of driving under the influence (“DUI”), driving on a suspended, cancelled or revoked license, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, and reckless endangerment. The trial court Defendant stipulated that he had been convicted of DUI on at least three previous occasions, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range III, persistent offender, to six years in confinement followed by four years on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his pretrial motion to continue his case; (2) the prosecutor made improper comments during opening and closing arguments; (3) a distraction during the jury deliberation likely caused a hurried and potentially incorrect verdict; and (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude no error exists in the judgment of the trial court. The trial court’s judgments are, therefore, affirmed.

Supreme Court to Hear Memphis Case Next Week

The U.S. Supreme Court next week will hear arguments in a wrongful death suit over a West Memphis, Ark., traffic stop that led to a chase into Memphis, where police gunfire killed an unarmed driver and his girlfriend, the Commercial Appeal reports. On March 4, attorneys representing the city of West Memphis and six officers will try to convince the nation’s highest court that the pursuing officers are shielded from prosecution. Shelby County prosecutors previously charged three of the officers with reckless homicide, but in 2008 they were given two years of diversion, which they completed. All six officers were then sued in the civil action. The U.S. District Court in Memphis and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the officers are not shielded by qualified immunity.

DAs Support New Approach for Chronic DUI Offenders

Tennessee continues to be plagued by repeat drunken drivers, and now, the state's district attorneys have a new idea for dealing with dangerous offenders, WSMV reports. Prosecutors in the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference say they want to attack the problem by getting chronic offenders into a intensive, strict treatment program rather than a cycle of repeat jail sentences. The proposal, which has been drafted into legislation, would include alcohol consumption meters as well as interlocks on offenders’ vehicles so they can get to work and stay employed. The DAs says the bottom line is that graduates from similar programs end up with a recidivism rate of only 10 percent. to Abandon Blog Network has announced it will soon launch a redesigned and reorganized website and a new contributor network of 100 to 500 writers, but will abandon its Blog Network later this year. The network, which serves as a central site for promoting law-related blogs, includes such popular features as The Blog of Legal Times, LawSites, How Appealing and the Careerist. One of the original network members, the Volokh Conspiracy, now has affiliated with the Washington Post. Others may decide to go it alone or find homes elsewhere, the ABA Journal reports.

Wolfenbarger Launches Bid for General Sessions Judge

East Tennessee lawyer Lane Wolfenbarger has announced his candidacy for Grainger County General Sessions and Juvenile Court judge. A native of Grainger County, Wolfenbarger has been in private practice for more than 16 years and is currently the managing member of the Knoxville office of Shuttleworth Williams. In addition, Wolfenbarger maintains an office in Rutledge and has served as the Blaine city attorney for more than a decade. Wolfenbarger serves on the board of directors for several non-profit organizations and serves as a deacon at Rutledge Baptist Church.

Nashville Probate Candidate Withdraws from Race

Just days after filing papers to run for a judicial post, Nashville attorney Rachel Odom has decided to withdraw her challenge to longtime incumbent Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy. Odom’s withdrawal virtually ensures that Kennedy, first named to the court in 2004, will serve another term, the Tennessean reports. Odom announced her decision in an email, saying, “after much consideration, I have decided not to run for judge at this time.” She filed an official letter of withdrawal late Monday.

LAET to Hold Senior Handbook Event Thursday

The first of many events featuring the TBA’s new Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors will take place Thursday in Knoxville when Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) holds a training session at the John T. O’Connor Senior Center. The event will begin at 2 p.m. TBA President Cindy Wyrick and Public Education Committee Co-Chair Angelia Nystrom will be joined by representatives from LAET and the Knoxville/Knox County Office on Aging to present the new resource and answer questions. For more information about the event, contact LAET’s Knoxville office at (865) 637-0484. For information on the Handbook, contact TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro, (615) 383-7421.

ATJ Commission Holds Conference on Legal Clinic

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission is hosting a Pro Bono Legal Clinic Conference March 10 in Nashville. The conference will feature a variety of presentations and round-table discussions on topics such as recruiting attorney volunteers, publicizing clinics, reporting clinic result and assessing lessons learned. The event is open to any attorney who is interested in learning more about legal clinics. The conference will run from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library. A $20 registration fee also includes lunch. For more information contact Christina Magráns, (615) 741-2687. To register send a check made payable to the Administrative Office of the Courts to the attention of Christina Magráns, Nashville City Center, Suite 600, 511 Union St., Nashville, TN 37219.

UT Law Librarian Sally Carter Remembered

Many in the University of Tennessee community are mourning the loss of Sally Carter, a supervisor of the College of Law Library, who died early Monday in an accident in the White Avenue Parking Garage. Carter began working at the school in 1979, first at Hodges Library and then moving to the law library in 1981, according to Tennessee Today. College of Law Dean Doug Blaze mourned the loss saying, “Sally was a treasured and valuable member of the law school community who contributed so much to make the College of Law a better place. She will be sorely missed.” Funeral services will be Thursday at 2 p.m. at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, 3736 Tuckaleechee Pike, Maryville 37804. Visitation begins at noon. Donations in Carter’s memory may be made to the church or to Gideon’s International, Blount County South Camp, P.O. Box 4035, Maryville, TN 37802.

Why Wait: Kick Off Mardi Gras Early at Mid-Winter Blast

Start Mardi Gras early at the TBA’s Mid-Winter CLE Blast! We will be slicing up King Cake and offering last-minute CLE credits if you're facing the March 1 deadline for reporting 2013 hours or if you want to get a head start on 2014. Stop by the Tennessee Bar Center this Thursday any time between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to get the hours you need. Cake will be served between noon and 2 p.m.

Protect Your Practice with the Bar Plan

Protecting your practice and your family from an unexpected loss is a priority for many TBA members. The Bar Plan program provides TBA members with the most comprehensive and fairly priced professional liability coverage available. Learn more online.


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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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