Faith-Based Pro Bono Conference a First for Tennessee

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission will hold the first-ever statewide gathering of faith-based organizations and pro bono lawyers on April 7 in Nashville. The Faith-Based Initiatives Summit is designed to bring together individuals and groups with a common interest in assisting Tennesseans with civil legal problems. The event will take place at Lipscomb University’s Ezell Center, and will highlight the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance (TFJA), which was launched by the court and the commission last year. For more information or to register, email Christina Magráns or call her at (615) 741-2687.

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
06 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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


H. Franklin Chancey, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kristine Blankenship.

Richard A. Smith and Laura Beth Rufolo, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Anesthesiology Consultants Exchange, P.C.


Kristine Blankenship (“Plaintiff”) sued Anesthesiology Consultants Exchange, P.C. (“Defendant”) alleging, in part, that as a result of Defendant’s failure to properly treat a surgical patient Plaintiff suffered injuries including “a severe and disabling injury to her back.” Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Trial Court granted Defendant summary judgment after finding that Plaintiff had failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 by filing her complaint less than 60 days after sending the notice letter. Plaintiff appeals to this Court raising issues regarding whether Defendant waived the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted based upon Plaintiff’s failure to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 and whether Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 conflicts with Rule 18.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure as applied to this case. We hold, as did the Trial Court, that Defendant did not waive the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted based upon Plaintiff’s failure to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121, and that Plaintiff waived her second issue by not raising it in the Trial Court. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


M. Wallace Coleman, Jr., Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Crystal C.

William J. Eledge, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher D.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Ryan L. McGehee, Assistant Attorney General, S. Craig Moore, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


The mother of six children and the father of one of the children appeal the termination of their parental rights. The juvenile court terminated the mother’s parental rights on three grounds, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, persistence of conditions, and willful abandonment by incarceration, and upon the determination that termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The court terminated the father’s parental rights on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, willful abandonment by failure to support and failure to visit, and the determination that termination was in the best interest of the child. Mother and father appeal. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Selma Cash Paty, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rita Grace Tidwell Hickman.

Bobby Spencer Hickman, East Ridge, Tennessee, appellee, pro se.


In this post-divorce case, Rita Grace Tidwell Hickman (“wife”) appeals the trial court’s reduction of her transitional alimony and its refusal to grant her attorney’s fees, expenses and discretionary costs. The trial court granted the petition of Bobby Spencer Hickman (“husband”) to reduce alimony based on Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-121(g)(2)(C) (2010), which allows a suspension of transitional alimony when the recipient lives with a third person and the recipient fails to rebut the statutory presumption that the third person is either contributing to, or receiving contribution from, the alimony recipient, and, therefore, the alimony recipient does not need the amount of alimony previously awarded. The third person was the parties’ son, Ethan, who had turned eighteen shortly before husband filed his petition. Wife continued to allow Ethan to live with her, and provided food and other necessities to him, after he turned eighteen. We hold that wife rebutted the statutory presumption by showing that her financial situation had not significantly changed, and actually had deteriorated, since the award of transitional alimony. Wife demonstrated a continuing need for alimony notwithstanding her willingness to allow her son to continue living with her and to support him after his eighteenth birthday. The judgment of the trial court is reversed. This case is remanded to the trial court for the court to determine wife’s fees and expenses at the trial court level and her discretionary costs.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Mark N. Foster, Rockwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jack E. Miller.

Lane Moore, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Boyd Wyatt.


Jack E. Miller, a former City Manager of Crossville, filed this defamation action against Councilman Boyd Wyatt, based on Wyatt’s statement during a City Council meeting that Miller had been “discharged from City Manager up here because of misappropriating funds and not following procedures.” Wyatt moved for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that he was protected by legislative privilege under the common law and Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-201(b)(2) (2012), which statute provides that “[a]ll members of boards, commissions, agencies, authorities, and other governing bodies of any governmental entity . . . shall be immune from suit arising from the conduct of the affairs of such board, commission, agency, authority, or other governing body.” The trial court granted summary judgment on the ground that Wyatt had immunity under § 29-20-201(b) because the alleged defamatory statement arose “from the conduct of the affairs of” the Crossville City Council. We agree with the trial court that Wyatt’s statement was made in the course of conducting the affairs of the City Council and, therefore, was protected by legislative privilege. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Bruce A. Kennedy and John T. Maher, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Richard Moreno.

Lance A. Baker and Jeffrey T. Goodson, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Clarksville.


Plaintiff filed a timely claim with the Division of Claims Administration, which did not resolve the claim within the statutory period. The claim was transferred to the Claims Commission, and Plaintiff filed a complaint pursuant to the Claims Commission Rules. Much later, the State amended its answer to allege fault by the City of Clarksville. Plaintiff filed suit against the City. The suit was dismissed because the trial court found that the “original complaint” under Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 was not filed within a year of the alleged injury. Plaintiff appealed. We reverse.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Roger W. Dickson and Robert F. Parsley, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and David L. Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee for the appellant, Americare Systems, Inc.

C. J. Gideon, Jr. and Alan S. Bean, Nashville, Tennessee; and Raymond W. Fraley, Jr., Fayetteville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Rheaetta F. Wilson and Lauralyn F. Watson.


A defendant appeals the award of punitive damages arising from the death of a patient at an assisted living facility, which the defendant managed. We affirm the trial court’s review of the Hodges factors and the due process analysis relating to the punitive damage award. We also affirm the trial court’s directed verdict making the defendant liable for the actions of the assisted living facility’s employees. We must modify the amount of the punitive damage award by reducing it to comply with the amount the plaintiff requested in the ad damnum clause of their complaint.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals

With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James O. Martin, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Yogonda Abdula Corley.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General; and Kristen Menke, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Yogonda Corley, was charged with five counts of aggravated sexual battery, with three counts being against the victim T.S. and two counts against the victim M.M., and seven counts of rape of a child, with three counts being against T.S. and four counts being against M.M. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of six counts of rape of a child, four counts of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of attempted aggravated sexual battery. Following a sentencing hearing, Defendant was ordered to serve a total effective sentence of 75 years incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts that it was plain error for the trial court: 1) to admit into evidence a recording and transcript of statements by Defendant obtained by the use of a body wire worn by the mother of one of the victims; 2) to admit into evidence Defendant’s statements to the police following his arrest; 3) to admit into evidence the opinion testimony by a nurse practitioner that the victims’ statements were consistent with their medical examinations; and 4) not to sever the offenses against the two victims. Defendant asserts that the cumulative effect of these errors entitles him to a reversal of his convictions. Lastly, Defendant categorizes another section of his brief as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, but then acknowledges that he chooses not to argue the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. With regard to the evidentiary issues, we conclude that the Defendant has waived consideration of the issues by his failure to contemporaneously object at trial. Also, Defendant failed to request severance of the charges as to each victim pre-trial. Because the alleged evidentiary issues and severance issue do not rise to the level of plain error, we decline review. We further conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions. Accordingly, the judgments of conviction are affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Stephen Bush, District Public Defender; and Phyllis Aluko (on appeal), and Rusty White (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Larry McNutt.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Pamela Fleming, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee


A Shelby County jury found the Defendant, Larry McNutt, guilty of reckless endangerment and aggravated assault. The trial court merged the two convictions and ordered the Defendant to serve an effective fifteen-year sentence as a Career Offender. On appeal, the Defendant claims that: (1) the State solicited unfairly prejudicial testimony in violation of a pretrial ruling; (2) the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence; (3) the trial court improperly precluded the defense from cross-examining the victim about his desire not to prosecute the Defendant; (4) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of the defense witness’s prior convictions; (5) there is insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict; (6) his sentence is excessive; and (7) the cumulative effect of these errors violates his due process rights. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments and remand for correction of the reckless endangerment judgment form.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Searches and Arrests on School Property

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-02-24

Opinion Number: 21

High Court Allows Disputed Home Search

The U.S Supreme Court ruled yesterday that police may search a home without a warrant when two occupants disagree about allowing officers to enter if the objecting resident is not present. The court had ruled in 2006 that when the occupants in disagreement are both present, the objecting occupant prevails. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court's 6-3 decision, WRCBTV reports.

Bomb Threat Disrupts Shelby County Juvenile Court

The Shelby County Juvenile Court was evacuated due to a bomb threat this morning, but returned to business as usual just before 11 a.m. All court cases for the morning were canceled, but officials planned to hold the afternoon docket as scheduled, beginning at 1 p.m. A disgruntled parent allegedly called police saying he’d planted five bombs at the building. The man is in custody, but charges haven’t been filed yet, the Commercial Appeal reports.

Holder: Discriminatory Laws Don’t Need Defending

Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday told state attorney generals that they are not obligated to defend laws in their states banning same-sex marriage if the laws discriminate in a way forbidden by the Constitution. "Any decisions — at any level — not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare," Holder said at a meeting of the top law enforcers' national association. "And they must never stem merely from policy or political disagreements — hinging instead on firm constitutional grounds." WKRN News 2 has the story.

Real Estate Firm Expands, Adds Attorneys

Bartlett-based CloseTrak LLC, a law firm that provides real estate title and closing services, is expanding to a new office in the Ridgeway Center in East Memphis and adding a satellite office  in the Law Offices of Mitzi Johnson, a domestic relations law firm in Collierville. The firm has also added three new attorneys. The Memphis Business Journal has more.

Reports Show Growing Divide in Law Firm Revenues

Reports on law firm revenues show a growing divide among firms. Law firm revenue grew by 2.5 percent last year, according to a survey of 180 law firms by Citi Private Bank, the ABA Journal reports. However, the survey found that the top-grossing 50 firms did substantially better than other segments of the market, and global firms with a strong international presence saw the biggest increases in revenue. A different survey of 115 firms by Wells Fargo Private Bank found a divide in law firm revenues last year that ranged from a 20 percent increase to a 21 percent decline, the article says.

Minimum Wage Bill Voted Down

Legislation to raise the minimum wage in Tennessee was defeated 3-2 today in the Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee, the Tennessean reports. House Bill 1694, sponsored by Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, would have required employers to raise the hourly wage $1 to at least $8.25 starting July 1 for thousands of workers who have not been offered health insurance.

Justice Thomas to Speak at Vandy Law March 18

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will give the 2014 Cecil Sims Lecture at Vanderbilt Law School on March 18, the Tennessean reports. In an email to alumni, law school dean Chris Guthrie said Thomas also would spend a day meeting with students and faculty. The lecture is an invitation-only event exclusively for the Vanderbilt community, with no reporters or photographers – or even cell phones – allowed in.

Tillman Announces Candidacy for Chancellor

Huntsville lawyer Andy Tillman filed a qualifying petition to seek election to a full term as 8th Judicial District Chancellor, the Claiborne Progress reports. He was appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2013 after the death of the late Billy Joe White. Tillman previously served as a law clerk to Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge H. Ted Milburn, as managing partner at Paine, Tarwater, Bickers and Tillman and as senior law clerk to Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Charles D. Susano.

Primary Races Set in Additional Counties

Candidates in Blount, Cumberland, Monroe, Putnam and Rutherford counties have submitted qualifying petitions for the May 6 primary. See how the races are shaping up.

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.

Davidson County Lawyer Temporarily Suspended

On Feb. 25, Edward L. Swinger was temporarily suspended from the practice of law for failing to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. 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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