Crime Group Targets Attorneys With Wire Fraud Scam

Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) groups are targeting attorneys across the United State with a sophisticated debt fraud scheme, the FBI is reporting. The TOC groups hire unwitting attorneys to represent them for a fraudulent legal scenario, solicit them to deposit large counterfeit checks into their client trust accounts, and then persuade them to immediately wire the deposited amount to a foreign bank account controlled by members of the TOC group. The FBI issued an advisory to inform the legal community how the scheme works, how to help mitigate the threat, and how to report incidents to law enforcement.

Today's Opinions

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00 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
11 - TN Court of Appeals
06 - 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

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TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


William S. Rutchow and Jennifer S. Rusie, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, CMH Homes, Inc. and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.

Andrew S. Basler, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Richard A. Berent.


The issue on this appeal is the enforceability of an arbitration agreement. The trial court, applying the principles promulgated in Taylor v. Butler, 142 S.W.3d 277 (Tenn. 1996), held that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because it requires the plaintiff to submit to arbitration virtually all of his claims, while allowing the defendants access to a judicial forum for some of their potential claims. We agree with the trial court that the Supreme Court’s decision in Taylor is controlling and that Taylor mandates a holding that the agreement is unconscionable and unenforceable. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John E. Herbison and Fletcher W. Long, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Lyndle Curtis and Brenda Curtis.

Clifford K. McGown, Jr., Waverly, Tennessee, for the appellees, Kathy Parchman and Robert Earl Parchman.


Plaintiffs appeal a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to the Tennessee Right to Farm Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated § 43-26-101 et seq. (“the TRFA”). Plaintiffs own an express ingress/egress easement, a gravel road, that passes through Defendants’ farm. In what Plaintiffs titled a “COMPLAINT FOR ABATEMENT OF NUISANCE AND DAMAGES”, they alleged, inter alia, that Defendants substantially destroyed the utility of their ingress/egress easement by driving heavy farming equipment across and allowing cattle to walk upon the easement. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and monetary damages. Defendants filed a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss contending that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted because the nuisance claim was barred by the TRFA. More specifically, Defendants contended that Plaintiffs failed to allege that Defendants violated any “generally accepted agricultural practices” or a “statute or regulation” in the use or operation of the farm upon which the easement lies. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Plaintiffs appeal. We have determined that the TRFA pertains to nuisances alleged to arise from a farm or farm operations but not to claims of unreasonable interference with the use of an ingress and egress easement. We, therefore, affirm the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ nuisance claim, for the complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted for a nuisance arising from a farm or farm operation. However, we have determined the complaint states a separate claim for impairment of and damage to Plaintiffs’ ingress and egress easement, a claim that is not subject to the TRFA. Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of the complaint for it states a separate and viable claim for impairment of and damage to Plaintiffs’ ingress/egress easement. Further, this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Steven E. Anderson and Sean C. Wlordarczyk, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, the Vanderbilt University d/b/a Vanderbilt University Hospital and David Slosky, M.D.

Aubrey T. Givens and John Jay Clark, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Aubrey E. Givens, individually and as administrator of the estate of Jessica E. Givens, deceased, and Jessica R. Givens.


This is a medical malpractice action arising from the death of Decedent. Defendants moved to dismiss the action for failure to comply with the notice requirements set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(1). The trial court agreed and dismissed the action without prejudice. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to this court, and we vacated the dismissal order and remanded for further proceedings, holding that section 29-26-121 did not mandate dismissal for noncompliance with its terms. Givens v. Vanderbilt Univ., No. M2013-00266-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 5773431, at *6 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2013). Defendants filed an application for permission to appeal our decision. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the application for purposes of remanding the case for reconsideration in light of its decision in Stevens v. Hickman Community Health Care, Inc., – S.W.3d –, 2013 WL 6158000 (Tenn. Nov. 25, 2013). Upon our reconsideration, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Denise Heilig, Belleville, IL, pro se

Christine W. Stephens, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Roy Heilig


Years after the parties divorced, they agreed to entry of a consent order requiring the mother to cooperate with the father in obtaining passports for the parties’ two minor children. Months later, the father filed a petition for contempt, alleging that the mother had refused to cooperate in executing the necessary documents. The trial court found the mother in contempt for willfully refusing to execute the documents. The mother appeals, arguing that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to enter the order finding her in contempt, citing the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), because the parties no longer live in Tennessee. She also argues that the trial court erred in holding her in contempt. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Travis Edgar Davison, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Lataynia Jones.

Charles W. Cavagnaro, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Sharp Electronics Corporation.


Plaintiff filed an action alleging retaliation and interference in violation of the Tennessee Disabilities Act. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant Employer on the basis that the Act does not require employers to make “reasonable accommodations,”as were required by Plaintiff at the time she was discharged. We affirm.

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Wilton Marble, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rontez L.

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


This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Kaliyah S. and Jaya P. (“the Children”), the minor children of Kayla S. (“Mother”). In November 2010, the Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and placed in foster care. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Jaya’s father, Josh P., on November 30, 2010. The petition alleged severe child abuse as the sole ground for termination. DCS filed an amended petition in May 2011, which also named Kaliyah’s father, Rontez L. (“Father”), and alleged that his parental rights should be terminated on the statutory ground of abandonment by wanton disregard. Father was incarcerated at the time the amended petition was filed. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to Mother and Josh P. upon finding that DCS had proven the ground of severe child abuse by clear and convincing evidence. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned Kaliyah by engaging in conduct exhibiting wanton disregard for her welfare prior to his incarceration. When making its ruling, the trial court concluded that DCS was not required to make reasonable efforts to assist Father in reunification because DCS sufficiently proved the statutory ground of abandonment alleged against him. The court also found that termination of the parental rights of all three respondents was in the Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. We reverse the trial court’s determination that DCS was relieved of the requirement of making reasonable efforts of reunification with regard to Father and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Joe L. Brown, Savannah, Tennessee, for the Appellants, Father and Step-Mother.

Paul Simpson, Selmer, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Mother.

Carma Dennis McGee, Guardian Ad Litem.


The trial court found that Petitioners had failed to demonstrate willful abandonment in this action to terminate the parental rights of Mother. We affirm.

With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kevin W. Shepherd, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dwight O. Satterfield.

Robert W. White, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Margaret H. Satterfield.


This appeal concerns post-divorce alimony issues. Dwight O. Satterfield (“Mr. Satterfield”) and Margaret H. Satterfield (“Ms. Satterfield”) divorced after 31 years of marriage. Mr. Satterfield some years later filed a motion to terminate alimony in the General Sessions Court for Blount County (“the Trial Court”) alleging that Ms. Satterfield had been cohabiting with a man. The Trial Court ruled orally that under the Marital Dissolution Agreement (“MDA”), Ms. Satterfield’s cohabitation did not precipitate termination of alimony. Before an order was entered on his first motion, Mr. Satterfield filed another motion, this time based on the statutory rebuttable presumption that arises if there is cohabitation. The Trial Court held that res judicata resolved the issue and that alimony would not be modified. Mr. Satterfield appeals. We affirm the Trial Court as to its interpretation of the MDA. However, as Mr. Satterfield’s second motion was pending when the first order was entered, the first order was not final and the Trial Court erred in holding in its second order that res judicata resolved the alimony issue. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Trial Court and remand this matter for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Gerald T. Eidson, Rogersville, Tennessee, for the appellant, A.F.C.

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


A.F.C. (“Father”) appeals the order terminating his rights to his minor children, T.F.H. and P.F.H. (“the Children”). After a bench trial, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that multiple grounds exist to terminate Father’s parental rights. The court further found, also by clear and convincing evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Father appeals. He challenges the finding of grounds for termination, but not the best-interest determination. We affirm the judgment in all respects.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert E. Lee Davies, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Claude Vachon.

Rose Palermo, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kendra Kuebler Vachon.


This is a divorce appeal. Husband appeals the classification, valuation, and division of certain items in the marital estate, the award of alimony in futuro, and the requirement that he pay a portion an expert witness fee. We vacate the classification and valuation of the furniture which is at issue, vacate the valuation of the stock and the 401(k), and remand those matters for further consideration. We affirm the court’s decision to award alimony, but vacate the award of alimony in futuro and remand for further consideration of the type, amount and duration of the award. We affirm the court’s ruling in all other respects.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Thomas O. Helton and Daniel J. White, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Summer H. McMillan, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, GGNSC Springfield, LLC d/b/a Golden Living Center-Springfield; GGNSC Administrative Services, LLC d/b/a Golden Ventures; GGNSC Clinical Services, LLC; GGNSC Holdings, LLC d/b/a Golden Horizons; Golden Gate National Senior Care, LLC d/b/a Golden Living; GGNSC Equity Holdings, LLC; Golden Gate Ancillary, LLC d/b/a Golden Innovations; and Lori Ann Chambers, in her capacity as Administrator of Golden Living Center-Springfield.

Carey L. Acerra and Cameron C. Jehl, Memphis, Tennessee; and Deborah T. Riordan, Little Rock, Arkansas, for the appellee, James H. Wilkins, Administrator ad Litem of Estate of Sarah Margaret Wilkins, deceased; and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Sarah Margaret Wilkins.


This appeal stems from a case of alleged nursing home abuse and neglect and involves a dispute as to whether a health care power of attorney executed by decedent was effective to authorize the agent to execute an optional arbitration agreement on the decedent’s behalf. The trial court denied the nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the attorney-in-fact did not have authority to sign the optional arbitration agreement on the principal’s behalf. The nursing home appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Stephen C. Bush, Public Defender and Barry W. Kuhn, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Henry Bates.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stacy McEndree, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Henry Bates, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery, burglary of a building, and vandalism of $1,000 or more. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an effective sentence of forty-two years. On appeal, Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for aggravated robbery and that the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that both issues are without merit. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gregory D. Smith (on appeal) and Edward E. DeWerff (at trial), Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan Downey.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Carey Thompson and Craig Monsue, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Jonathan Downey (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of first degree felony murder, criminally negligent homicide, and aggravated burglary. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment for the felony murder and then merged the latter two convictions with the felony murder conviction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was not sufficient to support his conviction of first degree felony murder. The State asks this Court to reverse the trial court’s merger of the aggravated burglary conviction. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction of first degree felony murder. We order the trial court to reinstate the Defendant’s conviction of aggravated burglary and remand this matter for sentencing on that conviction.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William M. Carter, Gallatin, Tennessee (on appeal); and J. Stephen Mills, Nashville, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Troy Lynn Fox.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Tom P. Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General; and Brian W. Fuller and Linda D. Walls, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Troy Lynn Fox, was convicted of the first degree premeditated murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) whether the trial court erred by admitting certain photographs into evidence—one, a photograph of the murder victim that was taken while she was alive and, two, multiple photographs of the crime scene and of the victim’s injuries, taken both at the scene and during the autopsy; (3) whether the trial court erred by failing to conduct a jury-out hearing prior to the admission of several photographs of the victim taken at the crime scene and by describing those photographs as “gross” in front of the jury; (4) whether the trial court erred by requiring the Defendant to cross-examine the victim’s mother during the State’s case-inchief rather than allowing the Defendant to recall her as a defense witness; (5) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting the Defendant from further development of the couple’s social, family, and marital history; (6) whether the trial court committed reversible error in its instruction to the jury on the impeachment of a witness; and (7) whether the trial court demonstrated judicial bias against the Defendant. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Lawren B. Lassiter (on appeal) and Jon J. Tucci (at hearing), Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Victor Gonzalez, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; Lawrence R. Whitley, District Attorney General; and Bryna Landers Grant, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Victor Gonzalez, Jr., appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court should have found that due process considerations tolled the statute of limitations for filing his petition. Following our review, we conclude that the post-conviction court properly dismissed the petition on the basis that it was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations and the petitioner failed to show any reason for the statute of limitations to be tolled. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court dismissing the petition.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael J. Collins, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jackie Wayne Miller.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Jackie Wayne Miller, pled guilty to initiation of the process of manufacturing methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of the sentences. The trial court subsequently ordered the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of eight years and three months in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court erred when it denied his request for alternative sentencing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Billie I. Zimmermann, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Shawn Christopher Sales.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; William C. Whitesell, Jr., District Attorney General; and Nathan Nicholas, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Shawn Christopher Sales, pled guilty to robbery, and the trial court sentenced him to 163 days in confinement followed by fifteen years to be served in Community Corrections. In March 2013, the Defendant’s Community Corrections officer filed a second affidavit alleging the Defendant had violated his Community Corrections sentence, and, after a hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends the trial court erred when it revoked his Community Corrections sentence because the State presented insufficient evidence to support the revocation. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court did not err when it revoked the Defendant’s Community Corrections sentence, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Authority of County School Board to Compromise Liquor-by-the-Drink Tax Revenue

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-02-28

Opinion Number: 22

County Commissioner Serving as Clerk and Master

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-02-28

Opinion Number: 23

Former State Senator Pleads Guilty to Theft

Former Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart has pleaded guilty to theft and insurance fraud, the Tennessean reports. He agreed yesterday to the judicial diversion plea in Franklin County Circuit Court and was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service. In addition, he was ordered to pay restitution and court costs, and can apply to have his record expunged.

Primaries to Offer First Test of Voter ID Laws

Starting next week, voters in Tennessee and nine other states will be required to present photo identification before casting ballots in primary elections — the first major test of voter ID laws after years of legal challenges arguing that the measures are designed to suppress voting. This year, new or stricter photo-identification voting laws take effect in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Tennessee. The debut of the new laws in a few smaller-scale elections over the last year has exposed some problems, such as mismatched names, confusion over absentee voting provisions and rules that require voters to travel great distances to obtain proper documentation, Knoxnews reports from the Associated Press.

Clarksville DA Office Debuts Facility Dog

The 19th Judicial District debuted its first facility dog Wednesday in Judge Mike R. Jones’ courtroom. Orson, the two-year-old black lab/golden retriever mix, was specifically bred and trained from birth to serve those with special needs. In his first assignment, Orson accompanied and comforted a nine-year-old victim testifying in a child rape trial. He has become the third facility dog in Tennessee, although Clarksville is the first to receive a dog that works primarily from the District Attorney's Office. The Leaf Chronicle has more.

Court Reporters and Captioners Celebrate Annual Event

Court reporters and captioners last week celebrated 2014 National Court Reporting and Captioning Week during a gathering in Chattanooga, the Hamilton County Herald reports. “Court reporting and captioning are part of the lifeblood of law and culture in our society,” said Nancy Varallo, president of the National Court Reporters Association. “I encourage everyone in this profession to let their enthusiasm inspire a student to explore this profession.”

Plaintiffs Firm to Open Nashville Office

Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan is opening a Nashville office, the Tennessean reports. The firm has numerous offices in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Memphis, Mississippi and New York, and handles cases involving personal injury, medical malpractice and securities fraud. The Nashville office will focus primarily on personal injury and complex litigation.

Nashville to Apply to Host DNC

Nashville officials will apply to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The city was one of 30 cities that have been invited to apply. Due to a conflict of dates, Nashville declined an invitation to bid for the 2016 Republican National Convention

YouTube Video Claims to Show Supreme Court Action

The protest group 99Rise has posted what appears to be the first video of the Supreme Court taken inside the courtroom with the court in session, WRCB reports. The Supreme Court forbids cameras and all other electronic devices, but members of 99Rise appear to have shot video on two separate occasions since October. A court spokeswoman said the court is reviewing the video and courtroom screening procedures.

Justice Scalia to Speak at UT Law April 15

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will visit the University of Tennessee College of Law April 14-15. He will present the Rose Lecture on April 15 in the Alumni Memorial Building’s Cox Auditorium. The event is open to law students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the campus community.

Qualifying Deadline Set for Sumner Judgeship

The Sumner County Election Commission has set a new qualifying deadline for potential candidates to fill the seat of 18th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge C.L. “Buck” Rogers, who died suddenly yesterday. He was the only candidate to qualify for that position. Potential candidates for the office must submit petitions by March 6 in the Sumner County Republican Primary only. Gallatin attorney Thomas Boyers V today filed a lawsuit against the election commission after being denied a qualifying petition to run as an independent, citing state law regarding the death of a candidate. Boyers was later issued a petition after Sumner County Chancellor Tom Gray issued a temporary restraining order against Sumner County Administrator of Elections Lori Atchley. The Tennessean has more.

Shelby Election Commission Approves All but 3 Names

Shelby County Election Commissioners certified all but three names for the May county primary ballot and will meet March 5 to consider challenges to the residency of candidates Edith Ann Moore, M. Latroy Williams and E. Jefferson Jones. At the noon withdrawal deadline yesterday, Shelby County Commission chairman James Harvey dropped out of the Democratic primary race for Shelby County Mayor and Clay Perry withdrew from the Democratic primary for Probate Court Clerk. Candidates in the August non-partisan Shelby County Schools board and judicial races have until April 3 to file their qualifying petitions for the ballot, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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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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