TBA Family Law Bill, Legislative Package Advance in General Assembly

The family law bill (SB1488/HB1851) from the TBA’s legislative package this session unanimously passed the House today. Proposed at the suggestion of the Family Law Section, the bill strengthens parental rights regarding custody orders, requires parenting plans to be notarized, and standardizes the child custody determination factors across the code. The bill is part of a diverse package of initiatives from the TBA, all of which appears to be headed to early passage. The package includes a statute of repose for legal malpractice, an overhaul of the Nonprofit Corporations Act, liability protection for partners in an LLP, and various changes in probate and trust law. Learn more about the package and the TBA's new advocacy tool, TBAImpact.

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
05 - TN Court of Appeals
11 - 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









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

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. COURTNEY BISHOP

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; Kevin Rardin and Stacy McEndree, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

R. Todd Mosley (on appeal); and Robert Parris (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Courtney Bishop.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal involves questions regarding when the police may legally arrest a suspect based on information provided by an accomplice and the amount of corroboration required to convict a person who has confessed to a crime. A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant of attempted aggravated robbery and first-degree felony murder. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed both convictions after deciding (1) that the defendant’s confession should have been suppressed because it was the result of an illegal arrest and detention and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support either conviction because the State did not introduce sufficient evidence, independent of the defendant’s confession, to corroborate the commission of the attempted robbery. State v. Bishop, No. W2010-01207-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 938969 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 14, 2012). We have determined that the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant. We have also determined that the defendant’s incourt confession did not require corroboration but that, had his extrajudicial confession required corroboration, the State presented ample evidence that this confession was trustworthy. Therefore, we reverse the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstate the defendant’s convictions and sentences.


TN Court of Appeals

DANIEL SCOTT BOWMAN v. BANK OF AMERICA, s/b/m TO COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS, INC., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Daniel Scott Bowman, Greenbrier, Tennessee, pro se

Brian C. Neal, Paul Allen England, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Bank of America, s/b/m To Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., et al

Judge: HIGHERS

After foreclosure proceedings were instituted against Plaintiff, Plaintiff asserted numerous claims against Defendants. All claims were dismissed in the trial court. We affirm.


FRANCIS L. JOHNSTON, AS TRUSTEE OF THE MAE CHARLAYNE JOHNSTON REVOCABLE FAMILY TRUST v. CHARLES GLEN JOHNSTON

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Charles Glen Johnston, Cleveland, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Sally C. Love, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Francis L. Johnston, as Trustee of the Mae Charlayne Johnston Revocable Family Trust.

Judge: FRIERSON

This action involves a dispute regarding the validity of an $80,000 check written against the revocable living trust account of the decedent by the defendant, who is the decedent’s nephew. Two days before the decedent’s death, the defendant deposited the check into a personal savings account he held jointly with the decedent. The plaintiff, serving as trustee and as personal representative of the decedent’s estate, filed a complaint seeking recovery of the $80,000. The trial court issued an ex parte restraining order, directing, inter alia, the bank where the joint account was held to transfer $80,000 to the clerk and master for safekeeping in the registry of the court. Following a bench trial, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that the $80,000 check at issue was a forgery and that the defendant did not have permission from the decedent to sign the check. The court directed the $80,000 to be transferred from the clerk and master to the decedent’s estate account and dismissed the defendant’s counterclaim for damages. The defendant appeals. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.


IN RE: KARMA S. C.
CORRECTION: The spelling of attorney's name James R. LaFevor was corrected.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Daniel Kidd, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Krishena Montalvo

James R. LaFevor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Emily Marie Graham and Henry “Shane” Graham

Judge: HIGHERS

The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment for willful failure to visit and willful failure to support. We vacate the decision of the chancery court and we remand for further findings.


CHRISTOPHER WAYNE MCELHINEY v. ELIZABETH ALLISON BILLIPS

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Venus M. Stanek, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Elizabeth Allison Billips.

Christopher Wayne McElhiney, Franklin, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Judge: BENNETT

This appeal involves a post-divorce modification of a parenting plan. Mother appeals the trial court’s decision modifying the parenting plan to designate Father the primary residential parent of the parties’ children. Finding no error in the court’s ruling, we affirm.


COLETTE SUZANNE TURMAN v. FRED TURMAN

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

W. Brown Hawley and George Robert Whitfield, III, Paris, Tennessee, for the appellant, Colette Suzanne Turman

Donald N. Capparella and Elizabeth Noel Sitgreaves, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Fred Turman

Judge: PER CURIAM

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

MICHAEL W. BELCHER v. DAVID SEXTON, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Cameron L. Hyder, Elizabethton, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael W. Belcher.

Judge: WITT

In this appeal as of right, the State challenges the Johnson County Criminal Court’s grant of habeas corpus relief to the petitioner, Michael W. Belcher, in the form of pretrial jail credits. Because the habeas corpus court’s order awarding jail credits is somewhat vague, we vacate that order and remand the case to the habeas corpus court for the entry of an order directing the trial court to amend the petitioner’s judgment in count two to reflect the grant of appropriate pretrial jail credits.


RONALD EUGENE BREWER, JR. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Aaron J. Chapman, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronald Eugene Brewer, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General; and Alex Pearson and Kevin Keeton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Ronald Eugene Brewer, Jr., (“the Petitioner”) was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and attempted first degree murder. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for each first degree murder conviction and a concurrent twenty-five-year sentence for the attempted first degree murder conviction. The trial court then merged the felony murder conviction with the premeditated murder conviction. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions. See State v. Ronald Eugene Brewer, Jr., No. E2010-01147-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2732566, at *22 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 14, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 21, 2011). The Petitioner subsequently filed for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied following an evidentiary hearing. The Petitioner now appeals, arguing that he was denied due process and the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Upon our thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s decision denying relief.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JONATHAN MICHAEL BROWN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jeanne L. Wiggins, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Jonathan Michael Brown.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; R. Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and James H. Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

A Monroe County Criminal Court jury convicted the defendant, Jonathan Michael Brown, of facilitation of second degree murder and being an accessory after the fact to second degree murder, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of eight years to be served in confinement. In this appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his pretrial motion to dismiss based upon the loss or destruction of evidence, the sufficiency of the convicting evidence, and the denial of alternative sentencing. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LANE LEE COGGINS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Keith E. Haas, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Lane Lee Coggins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and William Brownlow Marsh, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

In this appeal, the defendant, Lane Lee Coggins, challenges his Cocke County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of driving under the influence, see T.C.A. § 55-10-401(a), and violating the financial responsibility law, see id. § 55-12-139(c), via a certified question of law, see Tenn. R. Crim. P. 37(b). Because the defendant failed to properly reserve the certified question, the appeal is dismissed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. XAVIER CRAWFORD

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; and Tony N. Brayton (on appeal), Michael Johnson (at trial), and Jennifer Case (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Xavier Crawford.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Reginald Henderson and Karen Cook, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Xavier Crawford, stands convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of thirty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, appellant submits that the State failed to establish a sufficient chain of custody, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the trial court erred by admitting hearsay evidence. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


WILLIE LEWIS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Veronica R. Cooper, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Willie Lewis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jessica Banti, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Willie Lewis, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery and sentenced by the trial court as a career offender to thirty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. See State v. Willie Lewis, No. W2008-02636-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 1267070 (Tenn. Crim. App., March 31, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Sept. 3, 2010). Petitioner appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post conviction relief, asserting that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him of the applicable sentencing range and failing to investigate his criminal record. Petitioner contends that but for counsel’s errors, he would not have proceeded to trial but would have accepted the State’s plea offer. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


JEFFREY D. MIREE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jeffrey D. Miree, Clifton, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Jeffrey D. Miree, appeals the summary dismissal of his 2012 petition for postconviction relief from his 1990 conviction of first degree murder as time barred. Because the petition was filed decades beyond the applicable statute of limitations and because the petitioner failed to either allege or prove a statutory exception to the timely filing or a due process tolling of the statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


CHRISTOPHER LEE PIRTLE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ashley Preston, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Lee Pirtle.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Roger Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Christopher Lee Pirtle, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he failed to show that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TARIA FUNYETTE SCOTT

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joel H. Moseley, Sr., Murfreesboro, Tennessee (at hearing and on appeal), Joel H. Moseley Jr., Nashville, Tennessee (on appeal), Lee Richard Sparks, Jackson, Tennessee (on appeal), and Carthel L. Smith (at hearing) for the appellant, Danny Blankenship Bonding Company.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; James G. (Jerry) Woodall, District Attorney General; and James W. Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Appellant, Danny Blankenship Bonding Company, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of its motion to alter or amend a final judgment of forfeiture of the Defendant’s bond. On appeal, the Appellant contends that (1) it was relieved from the bond when the Defendant was surrendered into custody and rearrested, (2) it is entitled to return payment of the bond it made under protest, and (3) the trial court erred in entering a final forfeiture judgment against its agent. We affirm the trial court’s judgment of final forfeiture.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CLINTON TRAVIS SIMPSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Hannah C. Stokes, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Clinton Travis Simpson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Cameron Williams, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Clinton Travis Simpson, appeals the revocation of the three-year probationary sentence imposed for his Hamilton County Criminal Court conviction of aggravated burglary. Discerning no error, we affirm.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOSEPH EGAN UNDERWOOD

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joshua Hedrick, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph Egan Underwood.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Joseph Egan Underwood, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.


TN Attorney General Opinions

Regulation of Electric Bicycles

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-03-05

Opinion Number: 26


Hamilton County May Extend Magistrates’ Terms

The Hamilton County Commission will vote on allowing judicial commissioners to be reappointed to their positions without having to reapply or open the positions to other applicants. Judicial commissioners, also known as magistrates, sign warrants for searches and felony arrests, appoint attorneys for defendants who can't afford legal aid, set bonds and assist Hamilton County courts. Historically, the commission has interviewed and appointed two of four judicial commissioners every six months, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.


Brentwood Firm Rebrands, Broadens Focus

The Brentwood-based law firm of Ingraham, Pautienus and Tidwell PLLC is changing its name to Fidelis Law PLLC, a press release from the firm says. Effective March 10, the firm is also broadening its focus to serve clients in the areas of business, non-profit and church law, as well as estate planning, probate, trust administration, personal injury, adoption, family law, elder law, and copyright and trademark registration and enforcement. The Nashville Business Journal has more.


Obama Budget Calls for $35 million to Tackle Rape Kit Backlog

President Barack Obama is calling for $35 million in his proposed budget to help address the backlog of untested rape kits, WMCTV reports. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says Rep. Steve Cohen is already on board campaigning for Memphis to get a portion of the funding. The city has at least 12,000 victims with untested rape kits.


TBJ Columns Cover Crime, Books, Court

In the new issue of the Journal, columnist Wade Davies tells you the options for warrantless entry of a residence when an immediate decision must be made. Nick McCall reviews Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff by Cathryn J. Prince, and editor Suzanne Craig Robertson finds General Sessions Court to be an eye-opening experience.


CNN Series Explores 'Death Row Stories'

A new CNN Original series, Death Row Stories, will follow a different capital murder case each week and says it will "call into question the myriad of beliefs about the death penalty and the American justice system itself." The eight-week series is a collaboration with Academy Award-winning directors Alex Gibney and Robert Redford. Susan Sarandon, who portrayed Sister Helen Prejean in the movie Dead Man Walking, will narrate. The series debuts March 9. Watch this "Google Hangout" discussion about the show and the issue, hosted by CNN's Ashleigh Banfield and featuring lawyers and law professors on both sides of the issue.


Bill Would Allow Judges to Issue Search Warrant by Telephone

Tennessee prosecutors are supporting a bill to allow a magistrate or judge to issue a search warrant by telephone or “other reliable electronic means," the Times News reports. Current law calls for a law enforcement officer to appear before a magistrate or judge who will examine documents and issue a search warrant based on probable cause and supported by an affidavit. Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said the bill originated from his office and is backed by state district attorneys general. He said it is in response to a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that blocked law enforcement from drawing blood without a search warrant in drunken-driving investigations. Staubus said this system moves too slowly when quick decisions need to be made, especially in DUI cases.


Lawmaker Actions Draw Complaints from Gun Law Opponents

Members of Moms Demand Action say Rockvale Republican Rep. Rick Womick pulled out a gun and placed it on his desk during a discussion of legislation that would keep cities from banning guns in state parks. Womick denies that, telling the Tennessean it was a gun holster and that he leaves the gun itself in his car. The women also reported other tense encounters during meetings with state representatives and have requested an investigation from House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office.


Legislators Want Review of Any Medicaid Expansion

The state Senate today approved and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam a bill requiring him to win legislative approval before obligating the state to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. House Bill 937, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is a watered-down compromise version of legislation that, as originally written, would have blocked Tennessee from participating in any Medicaid expansion that’s optional for states under the ACA. The Commercial Appeals has more.


Wine in Grocery Stores Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Tennessee Senate this week voted to send wine-in-grocery stores legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam for signature, capping an often difficult seven-year debate, the Tennessean reports. Haslam has said he plans to approve the bill, but before wine will start appearing in stores, voters in cities and counties that already have liquor stores or bars must approve the change in separate referendums. To appear on the ballot, supporters will have to gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial race.


Roll Call: Corker for Governor in 2018?

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker may leave Capitol Hill for a possible run for Tennessee governor in 2018 if the Republican Party doesn't gain control of the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections and beyond, according to Roll Call. GOP insiders say that if he does run, he would "likely clear the gubernatorial field." The Memphis Business Journal has more.


Credit Card Processing Makes Doing Business Easy

Tired of dealing with bounced checks? With LawPay your firm can accept credit cards with confidence knowing transactions are handled correctly. This TBA Member Benefit offers reduced processing rates, multiple features for the client-attorney transaction and a level of personalized service not easily found elsewhere. Check it out by calling (866) 376-0950 or visiting www.LawPay.com/tba.


 
 

Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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.


© Copyright 2014 Tennessee Bar Association