Politics and the Bench: Commissioner Cites Pressures

Partisan politics is influencing the evaluation of Tennessee judges, a member of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission wrote in an email to Republican leaders in the state Senate. In the email, obtained by the Associated Press through an open records request, Commission member Chris Clem said that Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Bill Koch is not as conservative as many of his fellow Republicans think, stating "Koch may be the most liberal member of the Court." In a follow up interview with the AP, Clem said he sent the email because he was getting "pushback" for "going after" Koch, who he believed should not remain in office. Koch, onetime legal adviser to then-Gov. Lamar Alexander, announced in December he is leaving the court in July to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. He says his decision had nothing to do with the maneuvering indicated in Clem's email. Tennessee Bar Association Executive Director Allan Ramsaur, who helped push for judicial evaluations when the process was being set up, said in an interview that the whole process of nomination, evaluation and retention was intended to insulate judges from undue political pressure.

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
03 - 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 Supreme Court

MICHAEL S. BECKER ET AL. v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY
CORRECTION: The correction is contained in the paragraph following the quoted text on page 6.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

H. Franklin Chancey, Bert H. Bates, and B. Lynn Perry, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the petitioners, Michael S. Becker and Lorraine Becker.

J. Randolph Bibb, Jr., Robert F. Chapski, and Whitney Henry Kimerling, Nashville, Tennessee, for the respondent, Ford Motor Company.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal involves a question of law concerning the interpretation and application of Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 (2009) certified by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Based on the undisputed facts, the District Court has asked this Court to determine whether, after a defendant asserts a comparative fault claim against a non-party tortfeasor who was known to the plaintiff when the original suit was filed, Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 permits the plaintiff to amend its complaint to assert a claim directly against the tortfeasor named by the defendant, even though the statute of limitations on that claim has expired. We hold that the application of Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 is not restricted to tortfeasors who were unknown to the plaintiff when its original complaint was filed. Therefore, Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 permits a plaintiff to file an amended complaint against the tortfeasor named by the defendant within ninety days after the filing of the answer or amended answer in which the defendant first asserts a comparative fault claim against the tortfeasor.


TN Court of Appeals

DONNA FAYE THOMPSON v. KIM KAIL

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Donna F. Thompson, Dyer, Tennessee, self represented

Brandon O. Gibson, Jackson, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellee Kim Kail

Judge: KIRBY

This is an appeal from the trial court’s grant of a motion to dismiss. The complaint alleged that the defendant circuit court clerk failed to timely send to the appellate court a case file in a matter other than the case that was on appeal. The defendant court clerk filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim; the trial court granted the motion. The plaintiff appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. SARAH REBEKAH HODGES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Steven R. Finney (on appeal); and Donna Bolton (at trial), Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sarah Rebekah Hodges.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Janet Hardin, District Attorney General pro tem; and Erin McArdle, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Sarah Rebekah Hodges, appeals from her Washington County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of eight counts of forgery, one count of theft of property valued at more than $10,000 but less than $60,000, and one count of theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, claiming that the trial court erred by denying her bid for judicial diversion and by denying full probation. We discern no error in the trial court’s denial of judicial diversion and full probation, but we observe plain error in seven of the defendant’s judgments for forgery. In case number 37513, the trial court attempted to memorialize the defendant’s guilty pleas and the accompanying sentences for all seven counts of forgery contained in the indictment within a single judgment form. Because a separate judgment form is required for each conviction, case number 37513 is remanded to the trial court for entry of a separate judgment form for each conviction of forgery.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MECHELLE L. MONTGOMERY
With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Carlin C. Hess, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellant, State of Tennessee.

Lee Ofman, Franklin, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellee, Mechelle L. Montgomery.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellee, Mechelle L. Montgomery, was indicted for driving under the influence of an intoxicant and for violation of the open container law. See T.C.A. §§ 55-10- 401, -416. She filed a motion to suppress, alleging, inter alia, that she was unreasonably seized and that her arrest lacked probable cause. After a bifurcated hearing on the motion, the trial court took the matter under advisement and requested further briefing from the parties. The trial court subsequently entered a written order granting Montgomery’s motion to suppress. The State appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in concluding that the investigatory detention of Montgomery was unlawful. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BERNABE RODRIGUEZ

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ivan Lopez, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Bernabe Rodriguez.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Pamela Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

The Defendant, Bernabe Rodriguez, has appealed the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to sever the counts in his indictment. The Defendant filed a motion to sever, and the trial court denied the motion. The appellate record, however, does not contain a transcript of the hearing on the Defendant’s motion to sever. Our review of the record reveals that this case meets the criteria for affirmance pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


Kyle, Green May Switch to Support AG Elections

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Sen. Mark Green told the Associated Press today they may put their support behind a constitutional amendment for the popular election of the Attorney General. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, failed to gain support in the Senate last month when it fell two votes short of a majority, but it is scheduled for a re-vote tomorrow. Sen. Green's competing proposal for gubernatorial and legislative appointment of the AG has stalled in the House this session. Currently, the AG is appointed to an eight-year term by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In her February President's Perspective column, TBA president Cynthia Wyrick argued the current selection process works and should not be changed. Use TBA Impact now to let your Senators know where you stand in advance of tomorrow morning's vote.


Mayors Join Forces to Oppose Bill Blocking Transit Line

The “Big Four” mayors of Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville signed a joint letter expressing their “united opposition” to a bill that would block Nashville from proceeding with its plans for a bus rapid transit line known as "the Amp," without approval from the state legislature, the Commercial Appeal reports. The letter — signed by Mayors Andy Berke of Chattanooga, Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, A C Wharton of Memphis and Karl Dean of Nashville — notes that while the current bill is limited to a bus system in Nashville, “it sets a dangerous precedent for future intervention by the General Assembly in the selection of regional transportation projects across the state.” The Senate Transportation Committee later dropped language from the bill that would have required the General Assembly to sign off on the Amp, the Tennessean reports.


Senators Back Haslam Plan to Combat Meth

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-1 yesterday evening to pass Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to combat meth labs by capping pseudoephedrine purchases at two 20-tablet boxes a month and six boxes a year, the Tennessean reports. That measure is competing with several others in both the House and Senate, where some members favor making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription. Many see that as the harshest proposal to regulate the drug, which is found in many cold and allergy medicines but also is essential to making methamphetamine.


TJC to Host Open House March 27

The Tennessee Justice Center will host an Open House on March 27 to celebrate the remodeling of its offices. In January, a sprinkler pipe burst and flooded the center's basement offices. To thank local businesses and organizations for their generosity in donating gently used furniture, the TJC invites the public to stop by from 4 to 6 p.m. to enjoy food, bubbly and fun in the newly redone office.


Former Federal Prosecutor Announces Bid for U.S. Senate

Gordon Ball, a class action lawyer and former federal prosecutor announced today that he is running for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, the Chattanoogan reports. Ball is known nationally for standing up to polluters, price-fixers, insurance companies and other big corporations to fight for landowners and ordinary people. “My reason for running is straightforward,” Ball said in his announcement. “Poor and middle class Tennessee families have been victimized far too long by professional politicians and Washington insiders.”


Prosecutor May Run for Public Defender

Kingston attorney Terry L. Stevens II picked up a petition on Monday to run for public defender for the 9th Judicial District. Roane County News suggests that the move may create a potential conflict of interest because Stevens currently works as a prosecutor for the 9th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office. District Attorney General Russell Johnson said Stevens has contacted the U.S. General Counsel for the federal Hatch Act to request a formal opinion on the issue.


Vandy Rape Hearing Postponed After Extortion Charge Against Attorney

Defense attorney Fletcher Long and his former law partner, Carrie Gasaway, were charged with extortion in Clarksville stemming from a 2010 dispute between the law partners and a client. Because Long is one of two attorneys currently representing Brandon Vandenburg, the former Vanderbilt football player accused in the rape of an unconscious student in his dorm room, a hearing on the case has been postponed until March 28. The Tennessean has more as the story develops.


Beat March 31 Deadline: TBA Health Insurance Exchange Can Help

Don't let the March 31 deadline pass without obtaining health insurance coverage. Find out how you can save money, cover your employees and avoid tax penalties. The TBA Health Insurance Exchange makes 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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