Program to Focus on Access to Justice Issues, Initiatives

An access to justice program exploring initiatives and issues challenging the legal community will come to the Baker Donelson Special Events Center in Nashville on March 31. Sponsored by the National Judicial College and the Tennessee Supreme Court and its Access to Justice Commission, the event will begin with a program featuring the Hon. Chad Schmucker, president of the National Judicial College; Justices Janice Holder and Connie Clark of the Tennessee Supreme Court; Penny White of the University of Tennessee College of Law; Senior Judge Don Ash; the Hon. Claudia Bonnyman of the Davidson County Chancery Court; the Hon. Phil Smith of the Davidson County Circuit Court; the Hon. Dan Eisenstein of the Davidson County General Sessions Court; George T. "Buck" Lewis, chair of the Access to Justice Commission; Martha Lafferty of the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee; and Colin Calhoun of Sobel, Poss & Moore. A reception will follow the program. Space is limited, so RSVP by March 21 to reserve a spot.

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
02 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


W. Michael Morgan, Clarksville, Tennessee, for Plaintiff/Appellant Mary Ann Pereira Brown

Patricia A. Rust, Clarksville, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellee Dwain Allen Brown

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves the grant of a Rule 60.02 motion to modify a default divorce decree entered nearly eight years prior. The husband filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion seeking relief from the parties’ divorce decree; he argued primarily that the provision pertaining to his retirement benefits was inequitable. The trial court initially denied the motion, and the husband filed a timely notice of appeal. Almost two years later, the husband voluntarily dismissed his appeal. The trial court then entered an order setting aside its prior denial of the husband’s Rule 60.02 motion, held an evidentiary hearing on the motion, and eventually entered an order granting the husband’s Rule 60.02 motion. The wife now appeals. We hold that the effect of the dismissal of the earlier appeal was to affirm the trial court’s denial of the husband’s Rule 60.02 motion, so the trial court was precluded under the law of the case doctrine from reconsidering its earlier denial of the Rule 60.02 motion. Consequently, we vacate the trial court’s order setting aside its prior denial of the husband’s Rule 60.02 motion, as well as the order granting the husband the relief requested.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jessie Ray Akers, Jr., Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, for the appellant, Torrance Randle.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., State Attorney General and Reporter; Bill Young, Solicitor General; and Eugenie B. Whitesell, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Civil Service Employee filed a grievance with the Civil Service Commission complaining he was not given supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the job description that was posted when he accepted the position. The administrative law judge dismissed Employee’s grievance because it was a “non-grievable matter” as that term is defined in the rules promulgated by the Department of Human Resources, leaving the Civil Service Commission without subject matter jurisdiction. Employee petitioned the Chancery Court for judicial review. The Chancery Court affirmed the administrative law judge’s dismissal of Employee’s grievance. Employee appealed the trial court’s judgment to the Court of Appeals, and we affirm the dismissal of Employee’s petition.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Peter C. Sales, David K. Taylor, Christopher E. Thorsen, and Heather H. Wright, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Akil Jahi a.k.a. Preston Carter.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; and Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and John Campbell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Akil Jahi a.k.a. Preston Carter, appeals the trial court’s denial of postconviction relief regarding his convictions for two counts of felony murder and sentences of death. The Petitioner contends that (1) he is intellectually disabled and, ineligible for the death penalty; (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at both his original trial and resentencing hearing; (3) the death penalty is unconstitutional; and (4) the cumulative effect of all errors warrants relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Lance R. Chism (on appeal), Memphis, Tennessee; and Handel Durham and Robert Hardy (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mario Johnson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stacy M. McEndree, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Mario Johnson, was convicted by a jury of two counts of aggravated assault and one count of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. All verdicts were merged into a single conviction for aggravated assault, and the Defendant was sentenced to fifteen years in the Department of Correction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant argues that an instruction on self-defense, which he requested, should have been included in the final charge to the jury. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


George Morton Googe, District Public Defender; and Gregory D. Gookin, Assistant Public Defender, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Deon’Dre Jones.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun A. Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Christopher Deon’Dre Jones, was charged in a four-count indictment returned by the Madison County Grand Jury with aggravated burglary, assault, evading arrest, and vandalism. Following a trial, the jury acquitted Defendant of aggravated burglary and assault, but found him guilty as charged of misdemeanor evading arrest and misdemeanor vandalism. The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of 11 months and 29 days of incarceration in the county jail for each conviction. In his sole issue on appeal, Defendant asserts that the evidence was legally insufficient to support his conviction of the offense of evading arrest. Defendant assigns no error to his conviction of vandalism. After a thorough review of the briefs and the record we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


H. Randolph Fallin, Mountain City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brian Roberson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; Tony Clark, District Attorney General; Dennis Brooks and Matthew Roark, Assistant District Attorneys General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Brian Roberson, appeals from his jury conviction for facilitation of firstdegree premeditated murder. Specifically, he contends (1) that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) that the trial court erred in allowing, over the objection of defense counsel, a witness’s preliminary hearing testimony to be admitted as substantive evidence at trial under the former testimony exception to the hearsay rule; and (3) that consecutive sentencing was improperly imposed. After reviewing the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Against State’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger has granted a preliminary injunction against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage for three couples, the Tennessean reports. A lawsuit was filed in October on behalf of three couples who were wed in marriage-recognition states where they lived but, when they moved to Tennessee, found their vows were irrelevant. “At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history,” Judge Trauger wrote in the order.

AG: State Can Electrocute Inmates if Lethal Injection Drugs are Unavailable

Tennessee can lawfully use the electric chair in executions if lethal injection is stopped by the courts or because the state can't get the drugs to carry out the sentence, state Attorney General Bob Cooper said in a legal opinion this week. Tennessee and several other states have been grappling about what do about executions because of a European-led boycott on sales of sedatives to American prisons and legal challenges to drugs made by compounding pharmacies. Cooper's interpretation comes as state lawmakers consider a bill that would allow condemned prisoners to be electrocuted if lethal injection can't be used, Knoxnews reports.

Memphis Law Students Opt for ‘Alternative’ Spring Break

Nine students from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law spent an "alternative" spring break working with undocumented immigrants through a student-run event organized by the law school’s Public Action Law Society. The alternative break drew 73 law students this week, some in Memphis just for the week. The group is participating in legal clinics around the state. Next week, law students from Rutgers University will put on a similar event in Clarksville. The Commercial Appeal has the story.

Bench, Bar Pay Respects at CBA Memorial Service

Many Hamilton County judges and attorneys paid their respects to the members of the legal community who passed away in 2013 at the Chattanooga Bar Association’s annual memorial service on March 7. Presiding Judge W. Neil Thomas III and CBA President Timothy Mickel were among those providing remarks.The Hamilton County Herald has more.

High School Mock Trial Tournament Underway in Nashville

Hundreds of high school students from across Tennessee are in Nashville this weekend to take part in the state High School Mock Trial Championships sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.  Preliminary rounds take place today and tomorrow, with the final round slated for late Saturday afternoon at the Historic Metro Courthouse.

Senate OKs End to Statute of Limitations for Rape Cases

The Tennessee Senate yesterday unanimously approved a bill by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, to end the statute of limitation on rape cases, WREG reports. Rape cases currently must be prosecuted within eight years; aggravated rape within 15 years. If the House approves the bill and the governor signs it into law, it will go into effect July 1. An amendment to the bill requires victims to report rapes within three years.

Lawyer Suicide Addressed, 'Paine on Procedure' Continues

In her latest Journal column, Tennessee Bar Association President Cindy Wyrick addresses the subject of lawyer suicide and offers tips about what to say to a colleague who you suspect is suicidal, and what you can do if you find yourself feeling that way. And "Paine on Procedure" continues with another column Don Paine wrote before his death, this one about aggravated rape of a dead victim.

20-Year Incumbent Challenged in Hamilton County Primary

Twenty-year incumbent Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell is facing opposition in the May 6 primary from fellow Democrat Brian White of East Ridge. The winner of that race will face State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, who is leaving his District 30 seat to seek the court clerk post. He does not have Republican opposition. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more as part of its series on contested races in the May 6 Hamilton County primary.

Town Hall Meeting Highlights Chancellor Candidates

The four attorneys vying for Sumner County Chancery Court Judge in the May 6 Republican primary pitched their qualifications to a roomful of voters Monday at a town hall meeting hosted by the League of Women Voters of Hendersonville, the Tennessean reports. Mike Carter, Patti B. Garner, Louis Oliver III and Devon Sutherland are running for the 18th Judicial District post vacated by Chancellor Thomas Gray, who announced in October his plan to retire. Since no one is running in the Democratic primary, the Republican winner will run unopposed in the general election.

Williamson Newspaper Profiles Candidates

The Williamson County Herald this week began featuring profiles to introduce candidates for government and judicial offices to residents. The first edition features candidates of contested races for 21st Judicial District Public Defender and General Sessions Judge Part I and Part II. The Herald will feature the candidates for the Williamson County Trustee race on March 27.

Family Justice Center Hosts First Public Meeting March 18

The first public meeting for the Hamilton County Family Justice Center will be on Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. at Stuart Heights Baptist Church in Chattanooga. This is the first in a series of public meetings to discuss the Family Justice Center's role in addressing family violence in the community. The Chattanoogan has more.

Memphis Bar to Hold Veterans Legal Clinic March 25

The Memphis Bar Association will hold a pro bono legal clinic for veterans March 25 at the Veterans Administration Center from noon to 2 p.m., the Memphis Daily News reports. More attorneys are needed for the effort. Contact volunteer coordinator Jake Dickerson for more information.

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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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