Reid Files Cloture on Lipman Nomination

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed cloture on six nominations for federal judgeships, including that of Sheryl H. Lipman to be U.S. District judge for the Western District of Tennessee, the Senate Democrats website reports. The first cloture vote is expected to occur on April 29. If cloture is invoked on any of the district judges there would be up to two hours for debate equally divided prior to a vote on confirmation of the nomination.

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
03 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - 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


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Stephen W. Pate, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Leann Barnes

Daryl M. South, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Ellett Barnes


Following a five-day divorce trial, the trial court valued and divided the parties’ sizeable marital estate, awarded $6,000 per month in alimony in futuro to Wife, and declined to award attorney’s fees to either party. On cross-motions to alter or amend, the trial court altered its division of marital property as to several assets, and it modified the alimony award from $6,000 per month in alimony in futuro to $4,300 per month in rehabilitative alimony for four years. Wife then filed another post-trial motion, pro se, which the trial court denied. Wife appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for such other proceedings as may be necessary.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Bradley D. Sherman, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven H.

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


This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Grayson H., the minor child (“Child”) of Steven H. (“Father”) and Jessica L. (“Mother”). The Child was taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) on March 9, 2012, following Father’s incarceration and Mother’s subsequent arrest. Mother’s parental rights to the Child were terminated in a separate proceeding. On October 17, 2012, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father. Following a bench trial held on July 11, 2013, the trial court granted the petition upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) Father had abandoned the Child by showing wanton disregard for the Child’s welfare and (2) the conditions causing the removal of the Child into protective custody persisted. The court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Brad W. Hornsby and Heather G. Parker, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brenda S. Harper.

John T. Maher, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, William H. Harper.


The parties to this proceeding were divorced in 2003; in the final decree, Wife was awarded one-half of Husband’s military retirement. In 2005, the court modified the final decree to provide that the portion of Husband’s retirement pay designated for his disability benefits was not marital property and, therefore, was not to be included in the amount Wife received from Husband. Wife filed a contempt proceeding in 2011 alleging that Husband was failing to pay her the amount of his retirement pay he was required to pay. In March 2012, following a hearing, the trial court entered an order in which it did not find Husband to be in contempt; Wife thereafter filed various motions seeking to have the court modify the manner in which Husband was computing the amount she would receive. Wife appeals the denial of relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Patrick E. Stegall, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stanley Blue.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Reginald Henderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Stanley Blue, appeals from his resentencing to an effective term of forty-six years as a Range III, persistent offender for his convictions for facilitation of first degree murder, attempted second degree murder, and reckless endangerment. On appeal, the defendant contends that his sentence is excessive, and the State agrees. Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that the trial court erred in sentencing the defendant to forty years for attempted second degree murder and in classifying the defendant as a Range III, persistent offender for his reckless endangerment conviction. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

CORRECTION: Page 2, line 2 from "LaFollette, Tennessee" to "Jacksboro, Tennessee."

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James Higdon (on appeal), Pro Se, and Michael G. Hatmaker and Donald Brent Gray (at trial), Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Higdon.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Lori Phillips-Jones, District Attorney General; and Steve Garrett, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Tommy Higdon, was convicted by a Campbell County Criminal Court jury of three counts of reckless endangerment, Class A misdemeanors, assault, a Class A misdemeanor, and resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 39-13-101, 39-13- 103, 39-16-602 (2010). He was sentenced to concurrent sentences of eleven months, twentynine days for the reckless endangerment and assault convictions and six months for the resisting arrest conviction, all to be served on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because the indictment was improperly amended and a defect existed in the grand jury proceedings, (2) he was denied his right to confront witnesses against him, (3) his right to a speedy trial was violated, (4) his three reckless endangerment convictions violate principles of double jeopardy, and (5) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Warren Patrick Campbell, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Martin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Alycia Carter Peoples, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Michael Martin, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2009 convictions for attempt to commit second degree murder, aggravated assault, and violating an order of protection and his effective eighteen-year, eleven-month, and twenty-nine-day sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel (1) failed to interview and present a witness at the trial, (2) failed to object contemporaneously to the admission of the narrative portion of the order of protection, and (3) failed to include the transcript of the motion for a new trial hearing in the appellate record. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Steven Bush, District Public Defender; Tony N. Brayton, Assistant Public Defender; Nicholas Cloud, Assistant Public Defender; and Kathy Kent, Assistant Public Defender; Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Donald Prescott.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Michael McCusker, Assistant District Attorney General; Melanie Headley, Assistant District Attorney General; and Jessica Banti, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Following a jury trial, Defendant, Donald Prescott, was found guilty of especially aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to serve thirty years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant presents two issues for review. He asserts that (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the victim’s pre-trial and trial identifications of Defendant; and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for especially aggravated robbery because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim suffered serious bodily injury. After a thorough review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Robert C. Brooks, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal); and Valerie Corder, Memphis, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Maurice Williams.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Pam Fleming, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Maurice Williams, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2007 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of carjacking and aggravated robbery, claiming that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Services Wednesday for Knoxville Attorney

Longtime Knoxville attorney Robert Watson Jr. died Friday (April 11) just three weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 69. A University of Tennessee College of Law graduate, Watson began his law practice as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Clinic. He began private practice in 1972 and in 1983 formed what would be his present day law firm -- Watson, Roach, Batson, Rowell and Lauderback PLC. During his legal career, Watson represented governmental entities, individuals, and physicians throughout Tennessee. He was chief trial counsel for the Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool for the past 20 years. A memorial service will be on Wednesday at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Northshore Drive at 3 p.m. A celebration of his life will immediately follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to be made to the Friends of the Smokies, P.O. Box 1660 Kodak, TN 37764, or Wesley House, 1719 Reynolds St., Knoxville, TN 37921.

Services Today for Former Bell General Counsel

Funeral services were held today for Nashville attorney Raymond C. "Jack" Whiteaker, who died Wednesday (April 9). He was 86. A Nashville native and graduate of Vanderbilt University, Whiteaker served in the U.S. Navy before returning to receive degrees at Vanderbilt and New York University law schools. Whiteaker was on the legal staff of Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph for many years before retiring in 1991 as general counsel for Tennessee. He later co-founded a Nashville firm where he continued to practice for 10 years. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Belle Meade United Methodist Church or Richland Place.

Grant to Fund New Legal Aid Resources

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has been awarded a grant from the West End Home Foundation to revise, translate and print two existing community education brochures -- one on nursing home or home and community-based care and a second on advance care planning (living wills) and health care agents (durable power of attorney for health care) -- and to produce and translate a new brochure on health care surrogates and conservatorships. Two Legal Aid Society attorneys will also make presentations and distribute the brochures in Davidson, Montgomery, Rutherford and Sumner counties.

Firm Awards Diversity Scholarships to 2 in Tennessee

Two Tennessee law students have earned diversity scholarships from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and will clerk at the firm’s Nashville office this summer. Vanderbilt Law School student Monique A. Hannam and University of Tennessee College of Law student Racquel B. Martin were selected to be a part of the program, which promotes the education of well-qualified law students who reflect the diversity of the legal marketplace and who are traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession.

No Money in Budget to Tackle Rape Kits

The state budget passed last week does not include money to tackle the huge backlog of untested rape kits, and the sponsors of legislation that would have set money aside to test the estimated 20,000 kits are not hopeful for relief this year. Rape victim Meaghan Ybos continues to tell her story to help push the legislation and eliminate the state's massive backlog, the Tennessean reports. She was raped in 2003, but her kit was not tested until almost a decade later when she called to check on her cold case after hearing about a possible serial rapist in her area. He was later convicted of raping Ybos and six other women.

TJC Benefits From Belmont SBA Event

Belmont University's Student Bar Association made a $5,000 donation to the Tennessee Justice Center at its 2nd Annual Barristers' Ball on Saturday. SBA President Nate Drake presented the check to Michele Johnson, co-founder and Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center, at the Music City Center event. This is the second year the SBA has raised money to support a local non-profit from the fundraising efforts leading up to the Barristers' Ball. Last year the students contributed to the Both Hands Foundation.

Newspaper Profiles Dunavant Award Winner

Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft followed his father into the law, but left criminal defense to become a prosecutor and later a judge because of his commitment to public service. That commitment has been recognized with his selection as a 2014 Dunavant Public Service Award recipient. Read more about his career and the award in the Memphis Daily News. The awards, which will be presented April 21, are sponsored jointly by the Rotary Club of Memphis East, The Daily News and the University of Memphis.

Justice in Motion Run/Walk Benefits Crime Victims

The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Washington County Sheriff's Office will hold the Justice in Motion 5K run/walk April 26 to raise awareness of victims’ rights. The event, held each year during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, benefits Safe Passage, a domestic abuse shelter in Johnson City, and CHIPS, a family violence shelter in Erwin. Local domestic abuse shelters, sexual assault centers, victims groups and law enforcement agencies are invited to attend the race and set up booths with information about their services.

Women's Theater Project Seeks Attorney Volunteers

The Tennessee Women's Theater Project is seeking attorneys to join its first annual Lawyers Show, "The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa" by Alison Carey, based on the comedy by William Shakespeare. The performance will be the first of its kind in Nashville: a production cast entirely with lawyers, professionally directed, designed and staffed by Tennessee Women's Theater Project. Roles are available for 10 women and five men. No acting experience is required. Performances will be held at Belmont's Troutt Theater June 27 and 28. Contact Mary Anna at to schedule an audition.

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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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