AG: Bill Banning Labor Picketing is Unconstitutional

A bill banning "mass picketing" by unions is unconstitutional, according to Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee next week. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner asked for the opinion, citing potential "invalid" restrictions on speech. The AG's opinion confirms Rep. Turner's concerns, saying the bill raises First Amendment issues in the form of "content-based restriction on speech."

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
05 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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


Barry L. Gold, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Melissa L. Blackshear (Thompson).

John P. Konvalinka and Jillyn M. O’Shaughnessy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Stephen D. Blackshear.


This appeal arises from the parties’ post-divorce issues. The father moved to modify his child support obligation because of a significant variance in his income. Following a hearing, the trial court modified the father’s child support obligation from $2,000 a month to $73 per month, awarded a $21,124 judgment against the mother for overpayment, and awarded the father attorneys’s fees in the amount of $10,000. The mother appeals. We vacate and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Rachael E. Putnam and Austin T. Rainey, Memphis, Tennessee for Respondent/Appellant C.R.M.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., William E. Young, and Ryan L. McGehee, Nashville, Tennessee for Petitioner/Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services

Judge: KIRBY

This is an interlocutory appeal involving the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The juvenile court entered an order declaring three children dependent and neglected; the order included a no-contact provision as to the father of one of the children. The mother appealed the juvenile court’s decision to the circuit court. After she filed the appeal to the circuit court, the father of the other two children filed a contempt petition in the circuit court asserting that the mother and the other father violated the no-contact provision in the juvenile court’s order. The mother filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the circuit court was without subject matter jurisdiction to hear a contempt petition arising out of the juvenile court’s order. The circuit court denied the mother’s motion to dismiss but did not reach the merits of the contempt petition. The appellate court granted the mother permission for an extraordinary appeal under Tenn. R. App. P. 10, to address only the circuit court’s subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the petitioner father’s contempt petition. After permission for the extraordinary appeal was granted, the circuit court held an evidentiary hearing and determined that the petitioner father’s two children were not dependent and neglected. The circuit court then vacated the juvenile court’s order as to those two children, including the no-contact provision. Under the circumstances, we find that the issue presented on appeal is no longer justiciable and that this Court improvidently granted permission for the Rule 10 appeal. Accordingly, we decline to address the issue presented and dismiss the appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Melanie Lane, Jamestown, Tennessee, for the appellants, Jeff and Melissa Fitzpatrick

Robert E. Cooper, Jr, Attorney General and Reporter, Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services


The petitioners are foster parents who were indicated by the Department of Children’s Services as perpetrators of child neglect for “lack of supervision” and also for “environmental neglect.” The lack of supervision allegation arose out of an incident in which a foster child who was placed in the petitioners’ home was found fondling the private parts of a younger foster sibling on two occasions during the same evening. The environmental neglect allegation was due to the condition of the petitioners’ home when the DCS investigator arrived to look into the report of child-on-child sexual abuse. The petitioners requested an administrative hearing. After a four-day contested case hearing before an administrative law judge, the indication for environmental neglect was deemed unfounded, but the indication for lack of supervision was upheld. The petitioners filed a petition for judicial review in chancery court, and upon reviewing the record, the court upheld the indication for lack of supervision. The petitioners appeal to this Court, arguing that there is no substantial and material evidence to support their indication for lack of supervision, that they have been denied procedural and substantive due process, and that they are entitled to an award of attorney’s fees incurred in defending against the allegation of environmental neglect that was deemed unfounded, as well as the allegation of lack of supervision. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the chancery court in part, and we reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Sherif Guindi, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Angela G. Baker

R. Stephen Merritt, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kenley G. Wald.


This is an appeal from the trial court’s final order modifying a custody arrangement that designated Mother as the primary residential parent and awarded Father limited visitation. Father filed a petition to modify, claiming that a material change in circumstances necessitated a change in the parenting plan. Following a hearing, the trial court designated Father as the primary residential parent, awarded the Parents equal time with the Children, and modified Father’s child support obligation. Mother appeals. We affirm the trial court’s custody determination but reverse its child support determination. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Brett J. Bell, Dandridge, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher W. R.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Mary B. Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children’s Services.

Jeremy Churchwell, Dandridge, Tennessee, guardian ad litem for the minor, Kaylyn M. R.

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father to the Child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of Father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of persistence of conditions, abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home, and abandonment for wanton disregard of the Child’s welfare. The court likewise found that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Charles Blackstock, Tiptonville, Tennessee, pro se.

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

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Charles Blackstock, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 2000 Hamilton County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of rape of a child,1 claiming that the habeas corpus court erred by correcting the judgments in his case and by dismissing the petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Wesley L. Hatmaker, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellants, Free “U” Bail Bonds, Inc. and Phillip Cole Hatmaker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Lori Phillips-Jones, District Attorney General; and Michael O. Ripley, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The appellants, Free “U” Bail Bonds, Inc. and Phillip Cole Hatmaker, appeal the Campbell County Circuit Court’s revocation of a convicted felon’s ability to act as a bail bondsman. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

State Board Dismisses Ethics Complaint Against Bebb

The Board of Professional Responsibility has dismissed an ethics complaint against 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. State lawmakers filed the complaint last year after a House special oversight committee reviewed evidence compiled from a TBI report and witness interviews. Allegations against Bebb’s office include financial misconduct and civil rights violations in the handling of arrests and prosecutions.

Former U.S. Rep. Slams 'Citizen United' Ruling at Vandy Event

Judicial activists on the Supreme Court are eroding political equality by allowing corporations and other wealthy donors to spend unlimited sums of money on politics, former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said Monday. In a speech at Vanderbilt University as part of the university’s 50th annual Impact Symposium, the Massachusetts Democrat pointed to the court’s 2010 Citizens United case as the prime culprit in what he called a “fundamental dilution of political equality.” “The decision to allow money freely to flow influencing elections subverts democracy,” Frank said. The Tennessean has more.

Grants Available for Parent Education, Victim Offender Reconciliation

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is accepting applications for two grants funding the Parent Education and Mediation Fund and the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program. The deadline for both grants is April 11.

Appalachian School of Law Scaling Back

Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., announced this week that it will downsize its incoming class of students and tighten its budget because of the national decline in law school applicants, reports. Law school dean Lucy McGough said yesterday that they will whittle down class sizes until they're more in line with the number accepted when the school opened about 16 years ago, which was about 150 to 200 students. The school also stated a desire to return to its local roots. "[We're] returning to a smaller school because that's probably closer to our mission in any event," McGough said.

Man Accused of Pretending to be an Attorney

A Nashville couple had no doubt that they were working with a real attorney when they hired Greg Pillow to handle a medical malpractice suit, but suspicion arose when he called saying the case was settled. A look into Pillow’s past found a lengthy criminal history including a 2008 conviction of pretending to be an EMT and accusations of posing as a fire fighter. The State Board of Professional Responsibility has no record of Pillow having a law license and the office address he gave clients is invalid. Although he did not take any money for services, the couple says his scam caused “plenty of frustration.” Pillow did not respond to Fox 17’s phone calls for comment.

NC Supreme Court Candidates Face Difficulties in Campaigns

Judges vying for North Carolina’s State Supreme Court face difficult and expensive challenges on the campaign trail ever since the state did away with public financing for judicial candidates last year, Gavel Grab reports. Judicial candidates can’t make promises or use traditional campaign tactics when trying to define their candidacies, which leads to an "awkward world of judges stumping for votes and money." North Carolina Supreme Court justice Cheri Beasley says the $1.2 to $2 million her consultants say she needs to raise for her reelection bid is outrageous. “We want judges that are focusing on doing their jobs and not focusing on being politicians,” she said.

Senate Hopeful Launches ‘Backbone of Tennessee’ Tour

Knoxville attorney Terry Adams stopped in Nashville today during his two-day, six-city “Backbone of Tennessee” tour, part of his campaign to challenge Lamar Alexander for the U.S. Senate. The Democrat launched his tour yesterday with stops in Tri-Cities, Knoxville and Chattanooga, and planned to visit Jackson and Memphis today, as well. The Tennessean has the story.

Gov. Christie to Keynote GOP Dinner

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will headline the Tennessee Republican Party Statesmen’s Dinner in May, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Christie, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, will give the keynote address at the annual event, the largest yearly gathering of Tennessee Republicans and a major fundraising event for the party.

CASA Red Shoe Party April 12

CASA Nashville will host its annual Red Shoe Party on April 12 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Rocketown. Held during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Red Shoe Party is CASA’s largest fundraiser of the year and will feature a silent auction and contest for the best red shoes. Click here for more information, tickets or to become a sponsor.

TBAImpact Connects Lawyers to Legislative Issues and Lawmakers

TBA now provides resources for those who want to follow legislative action. On TBAImpact, members can learn about issues important to lawyers, track legislation pending before the General Assembly and contact their legislators to express their opinions. The TBA has a long tradition of advocating on behalf of its members in the state legislature. TBAImpact will enhance these efforts, giving you an opportunity to weigh in on issues important to the profession. Log in to your TBA account, then click on the TBAImpact tab to make sure your voice is heard. Get started here.


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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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