Haslam Names Bivins to Supreme Court

Criminal Appeals Court Judge Jeff Bivins has been chosen by Gov. Bill Haslam to sit on the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Nashville Post reports. “I had the opportunity to appoint Judge Bivins to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and he has served the state extremely well in that role,” Haslam said in a press release. “Tennesseans will benefit from his vast experience as he moves to our state’s highest court.” A Kingsport native and Vanderbilt Law graduate, Bivins practiced at Boult Cummings Conners & Berry in Nashville before making his way onto the bench. He will replace Justice William C. Koch Jr., who is retiring July 15 to become dean of the Nashville School of Law.

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
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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Ralph D.M., Harriman, Tennessee, pro se Appellant.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Ryan L. McGehee, Assistant Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


The Juvenile Court terminated the parental rights of Ralph D.M. (“Father”) to the minor twin children Alexis W. and Hannah W. (“the Children”) on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to visit pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i), substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(2), and persistent conditions pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3). Father appeals the termination of his parental rights asserting that he is neither the biological father nor the legal father of the Children and, therefore, had no parental rights to the Children to be terminated. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that Father is the Children’s legal father, that grounds existed to terminate Father’s parental rights, and that the termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. We affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights to the Children.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Lyle A. Jones, Covington, Tennessee, for the Appellant, James Buck.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Jason R. Poyner, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, James Buck, pled guilty to failure to appear, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of his sentence. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner as a Career Offender to serve six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Petitioner timely filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief on the basis that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. The Petitioner now appeals, maintaining that he is entitled to relief based upon his attorney’s deficient representation. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mike Whalen, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Marquis Dashawn Hendricks.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kevin Allen, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Marquis Dashawn Hendricks, was indicted by the Knox County Grand Jury for first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine while employing a deadly weapon, possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell, and possession of more than one-half ounce but not more than ten pounds of marijuana with intent to sell. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, and simple possession of marijuana. Appellant received an effective sentence of life in prison for the convictions. On appeal, Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, expert testimony about the trajectory of the bullet that was fired into the victim’s vehicle, and the trial court’s refusal to grant a mistrial on the basis of a Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), violation. After a review of the evidence and applicable authorities, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for first degree murder; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting expert testimony where the challenge to the testimony was related to the credibility of the expert’s opinion; and the State did not commit a Brady violation so the trial court properly denied a mistrial. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Phyllis L. Aluko (on appeal), Amy G. Mayne (at trial), and Jane Sturdivant (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Melvin Powell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Terre Fratesi and E. Cavett Ostner, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Melvin Powell, was found guilty of rape of a child, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-522 (2010) (amended 2011). The trial court sentenced him as a Range I offender to twenty-five years at 100% service. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the State failed to make a proper election of the offense, and (3) the trial court erred in admitting paternity testing results based on the laboratory’s accreditation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John M. Boucher, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Devin Torquin Watkins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Randall Nichols, District Attorney General; and Philip Morton and Sean McDermott, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Devin Torquin Watkins (“the Defendant”) was convicted of two counts each of the sale of .5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public park and the delivery of .5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public park. The trial court merged the Defendant’s convictions for delivery of cocaine into his convictions for sale of cocaine and sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of fourteen years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the statute under which he was convicted is unconstitutionally vague and that the evidence was not sufficient to support his convictions. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Circuit Court Judge Joins Nashville School of Law Faculty

Judge David Bragg has joined the faculty at Nashville School of Law, the school announced. Bragg, who serves as circuit court judge in the 16th Judicial District in Rutherford and Cannon counties, will teach a class on secured transactions in May. An NSL alum, Bragg was elected in 2008 and is currently running for re-election. Previously, he practiced law in Murfreesboro, where he represented clients in all areas of law but specialized in real estate, the Tennessean reports

DCS Releases First Child Fatality Data Since Agency Overhaul

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) this week published child fatality statistics for the first time since the agency overhauled how deaths are reported, counted and investigated. The report showed DCS investigated the deaths of 245 children in 2013, finding evidence of abuse or neglect in 40 cases, although almost a fifth of investigations haven’t concluded. The new method of counting makes comparisons to prior years impossible, but DCS officials have vowed to be faster in reporting deaths, be transparent with records and more rigorous in their internal investigations into cases in which state investigators had contact with families before children died. The Tennessean has more.

UT SGA to Add Judical Branch

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville Student Government Association Tuesday passed a bill to potentially add a Judicial Branch, the Daily Beacon reports. Similar to that of the federal government, the branch will absorb the current jurisdictions of the Student Tribunal, Student Disciplinary Board and the Student Life Council. In addition, the branch will serve as the "constitutional authority" responsible for ensuring SGA members uphold and carry out their "respective duties" per the SGA Constitution and accompanying bylaws.

Harwell Opposes TN For-Profit Charter Schools Bill

A bill that would have let for-profit companies operate charter schools in Tennessee was defeated today after House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, made a rare display of public opposition to the measure, the Tennessean reports. House Bill 1693 was quashed on a 10-7 vote at the urging of Harwell, who said turning charter schools over to private operators could sink the entire project. She also cited concerns about the bill raised by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a supporter of charter schools.

Pet Protection Bills Stall in Legislature

Four newly proposed pet laws failed to move forward in the legislature this week, WSMV reports. Proposals included placing animal cruelty convicts on a registry for two years, continuing inspections at puppy mills, requiring Tennesseans who tie up their dogs to give them at least 10 feet and increasing fines for cockfighting and dog fighting from $50 to $500. State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said the agriculture committee is not representing Tennesseans, and he would like to see pet-protection laws go to a judicial committee and not agriculture since these are not livestock or farm issues.

Legal Clinic Set for April 8 in Williamson County

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will host a free legal clinic on Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Williamson County Public Library. No appointment is required. Visit HobNob Franklin for more information.

Still Time to Get Tickets for CASA Red Shoe Party

CASA Nashville still has tickets available for its 15th Annual Red Shoe Party on April 12 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Rocketown. The event is the agency’s primary fundraiser and community awareness activity for the year, and will feature dancing, silent auction and contest for the best red shoes.

Modern Family CLE April 16

Handling divorce cases isn’t a one-size fits all process now that family structure is more complex than ever. Learn how to handle divorce cases during the TBA’s "Modern Family" CLE on April 16. Sessions are designed to help you represent your clients based on their own unique set of circumstances. Continental Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Visit TennBarU to register or learn more.

SCALES Program Heads to Bethel University

The Tennessee Supreme Court will bring oral arguments to Bethel University next week as part of the Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students (SCALES) program. More than 800 students from eight area high schools and Bethel University are expected to participate in the April 10 event, which will give students the opportunity to study a real case before the state Supreme Court and hear oral arguments between the parties in front of the five-member panel of justices. The program’s purpose is to provide an opportunity for students to experience firsthand the path a Supreme Court case follows and the effort required to bring a case before the state’s highest court. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

Candidates Commit to Races Before Deadline

Eighth District U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher formally kicked off his re-election campaign Monday in Jackson at an event featuring conservative talk show host Michael Reagan. He faces opposition in the August Republican primary from Dana Matheny of Collierville and a Democratic primary field of Rickey R. Hobson of Fayette County, Lawrence Pivnick of Memphis and Tom Reasons of Dyersburg, Memphis Daily News reports. The filing deadline for the August state and federal primaries, as well as nonpartisan Shelby County Schools board and judicial positions, was today at noon.

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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