Bivins Gets Highest Marks in NBA Supreme Court Poll

Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins of Franklin received the highest marks in a poll released today by the Nashville Bar Association in which its members rated candidates seeking appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Five lawyers are seeking to fill a vacancy that will be created when Justice William C. Koch Jr. retires in July to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. The survey asked lawyers to register a vote of highly recommend, recommend, do not recommend or no opinion. Paul C. Ney Jr. of Nashville received the second highest rank, followed by Nashville lawyer Linda W. Knight. See the full poll results.

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.

01 - 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

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 Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Helen Sfikas Rogers and Lawrence J. Kamm, Nashville, Tennessee for Petitioner/Appellant, John Daniel Rudd.

Abby R. Rubenfeld, Nashville, Tennessee for Respondent/Appellee, Debra Ann Gonzalez.

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves post-divorce parental relocation. The mother notified the father that she intended to relocate outside Tennessee with the parties’ minor daughter. The mother asserted that the relocation was for purposes related to her career as a surgeon. The father filed a petition opposing the relocation on the grounds that the mother’s motive for the relocation was vindictive and that the relocation did not have a reasonable purpose under Tennessee’s parental relocation statute. After a bench trial, the trial court held that the father had not carried his burden of proving the mother’s motive was vindictive or that the relocation was not for a reasonable purpose, and so permitted the mother to relocate with the parties’ child. The father now appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jeffery C. Kelly, District Public Defender; Melanie Sellers (at motion for a new trial and on appeal) and Joy Phillips (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Michael Barnes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Anthony Wade Clark, District Attorney General; and Matthew Roark, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Michael Barnes, challenges his jury conviction for possession of contraband in a penal institution, alleging that the following errors were made at his trial: (1) that the chain of custody regarding the contraband was not sufficiently established; (2) that the stun belt he was forced to wear during his trial violated his due process rights; and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt. Upon consideration of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Benjamin S. Burton, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Melvin J. Branham.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; James B. (Jimmy) Dunn, District Attorney General; and Ashley D. McDermott, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Melvin J. Branham, pled guilty to robbery and received a sentence of fifteen years as a career offender to be served at sixty percent. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, he was ordered to report for incarceration thirty days following entry of his plea. Prior to the expiration of that thirty-day period, the State successfully sought to revoke the Defendant’s bond based upon the Defendant’s drug usage. The Defendant thereafter filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea or have his bond reinstated, arguing that he would not have pled guilty had he known his bond would have been revoked before the thirty days ran out. The trial court denied the motion, and the Defendant appeals. After review, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to withdraw the guilty plea where the Defendant failed to show a manifest injustice and that the proper avenue for review of the bond revocation was via Rule 8 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Albert J. Newman, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Paul Wallace Dinwiddie, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; Randy Nichols, District Attorney General; and Ta Kisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Paul Wallace Dinwiddie, Jr. (“the Petitioner”) sought post-conviction relief from his convictions of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, and this appeal followed. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Derreck Whitson, Newport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Larry James Jenkins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Charles L. Murphy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Larry Jenkins, pled guilty to multiple counts of burglary, theft, and vandalism, and the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, the appellant challenges the trial court’s refusal to grant alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan Sessions Judge Dies, Filing Deadline Extended

Sullivan County General Sessions Court Judge William A. “Bill” Watson died Friday after an extended illness, reports. Watson, 74, had requested medical disability two months ago in a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The status allowed him to keep his judgeship while undergoing rehabilitation in advance of a heart valve replacement. He had planned to return to the bench, having picked up papers to run for another term this year. Watson was elected to the bench in 1998. He earned his law degree from the YMCA School of Law in 1973. Funeral services were held today. Memorials may be made to Piney Flats First Baptist Church AWANA or the Building Fund, 100 Cherry St., Piney Flats, TN 37686. Following his death, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Jason Booher announced that the deadline for filing to run as a Democrat for the seat has been extended until March 27.

Sumner Circuit Court to Reopen

Sumner County Circuit Court is scheduled to reopen tomorrow for the first time following the death of Judge C.L. “Buck” Rogers last week, the Tennessean reports. Cases planned for Wednesday will be heard as originally planned while cases held over have already been rescheduled, according to the court clerk. Former Sumner County Criminal Court Judge Jane Wheatcraft has been appointed to preside over cases through Friday of this week.

President’s Budget Adds $65 Million for LSC

President Barack Obama sent his fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress today, including a $65 million increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Total proposed spending for the agency is $430 million, up from the current level of $365 million, the American Bar Association reports. Many observers say the the proposal has almost no chance of passage in Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives, but it lays out Obama's policy priorities ahead of November congressional elections. Read more on the budget from Reuters.

Court Reporting Firms Merge, Open New Offices

Charlotte-based Huseby Inc. has expanded its presence in Tennessee through its merger with Vowell & Jennings Court Reporters of Tennessee. The new firm -- Vowell, Jennings and Huseby -- will have offices in Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis. Gene Jennings and Jim Vowell will direct the work of the Tennessee offices from a base in Nashville. “Our roots have run deep in Tennessee for over 30 years,” said company CEO Scott Huseby. “This merger represents a major step in our ability to provide comprehensive one-stop litigation-support services to the legal community throughout the South as well as nationwide, and it continues our legacy of associating with the best in the industry.”

Former Magistrate Censured for ‘Messiah’ Ruling

A former Tennessee magistrate who changed a baby's first name from "Messiah" to "Martin" was censured Monday, WRCB-TV reports. Lu Ann Ballew said at the time that Messiah was a title held only by Jesus Christ. Ballew's attorneys have argued that she was acting in the child's best interest because having the name Messiah could make his life difficult. Board of Judicial Conduct Disciplinary Counsel Tim Discenza said in a phone interview with the Associated Press that a panel of the board voted unanimously for a public censure, which was probably the most serious sanction the board could take given that Ballew already lost her position.

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Seeking Mediator

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is seeking applicants for the position of Circuit Mediator, who serves under the direction of the Chief Circuit Mediator and presides at mediations in civil appeals. Duties of circuit mediators include leading discussions of procedural and substantive legal issues, conducting analyses of an appeal’s settlement value and probing each party’s interests in an effort to help the parties create and explore options to continued litigation. Applicants should have a minimum of seven years of post-graduate experience in the practice of law, litigation, negotiation or mediation. Learn more in the attached job description.

'Gideon's Army' Screening Reset for March 20

The screening of the award-winning HBO documentary Gideon's Army, which was cancelled Monday because of icy weather in Nashville, has been rescheduled to March 20 at 7:30 p.m. Hosted by the Nashville Public Defender’s Office, it will be at the Carmike Bellevue 8 Cinema. The film, which premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival, follows the stories of three young public defenders whose struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads causes them to challenge the assumptions of the current criminal justice system. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online.

KBA to Hold Judicial Candidate Forum

The Knoxville Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and TACDL have scheduled a judicial candidate forum March 27 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building. Lawyers are invited to bring their lunch and hear from Scott Green and Leland L. Price, candidates for the Knoxville Criminal Court, Division III, and Patricia Hall Long and George T. Underwood Jr., candidates for General Sessions Court, Division II. Each candidate will be given time to talk about why they have chosen to run and will be available to answer questions. RSVP online.

Health Insurance Exchange Now Available Through TBA

Fast and easy health insurance enrollment is now available through the TBA Health Insurance Exchange operated by JLBG Health. Affordable health insurance coverage is important, but getting it can be complicated, frustrating and expensive. The TBA Health Insurance Exchange can help make the whole process simpler and easier to navigate.


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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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