ABA President Talks Pro Bono During Memphis Visit

ABA President James R. Silkenat was in Memphis today to speak with the Memphis Rotary and tour the city, including a visit with the editorial board of the Memphis Business Journal and a stop at Memphis Area Legal Services. According to the Business Journal, at each of his stops, Silkenat addressed one of the most pressing questions facing the legal profession: how to find jobs for all the new lawyers coming out of law school. Silkenat believes the answer may be to find ways to make pro bono work more attractive to new graduates. "We are working on ways to get young lawyers to engage in pro bono work. So many of our citizens have never even met a lawyer or can't afford a lawyer. It would seem natural to put those two together and find the funding to make that work."

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
02 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
03 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
02 - 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 Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Second Injury Fund.

Randy M. Chism, Union City, Tennessee, for the appellee, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.


An employee sustained a compensable lower back injury, had surgery, returned to work, and settled his claim. Several months later, he re-injured his lower back. After several surgical procedures, he was unable to return to work. He filed this action for workers’ compensation benefits against his employer and the Second Injury Fund. The trial court awarded permanent total disability benefits, apportioning 50% of the award to the employer and 50% to the Fund. The Fund has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by assigning any liability to it because the later injury rendered the employee totally disabled without regard to the first injury. We conclude that the trial court failed to provide the basis for its apportionment of liability between the Fund and the employer. We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment to that extent and remand the case for further consideration on this issue.


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Steve Taylor, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jose Umanzor.

Margaret Sams Gratz, Tupelo, Mississippi, for the appellee, Zurich American Insurance Company and F.L. Crane and Sons, Inc.


An employee asserted that he injured his lower back while working as a construction laborer for his employer. Approximately two years after the incident, the employee provided written notice of his injury to his employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee failed to give timely notice of his injury and that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court agreed with the employer and entered judgment in its favor. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Daniel Davis Warlick, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Joseph D. Blankenship, M.D., Med-North Clinic, PLLC f/k/a MNG, PLLC, Med-North Group, PLLC, and Caresouth Clinic, P.C.

Jonathan David Buckner, Donald D. Glenn and William B. Mauldin, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bayrock Investment Co.


This is a breach of contract case stemming from a commercial lease between Plaintiff Landlord and Defendant Tenants. Beginning in August 2011, Defendants failed to make rent payments in violation of their lease with Plaintiff. Plaintiff subsequently filed this lawsuit seeking damages specified in the lease. In response, Defendants raised the affirmative defense of unclean hands, contending that Plaintiff breached the lease first by objecting to and/or interfering with Defendants’ right under the lease to sublease the property without Plaintiff’s consent. The trial court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff, finding that Defendants failed to perform under the lease by failing to pay rent, and finding no genuine issue of material fact regarding any allegation that Plaintiff interfered with Defendant’s ability to sublease the property. The Defendants argue that summary judgment was inappropriate because there exists a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Bayrock breached the lease first by interfering with Defendants’ right to sublease. We disagree and affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Donald L. Scholes and Benjamin A. Gastel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Laurel Hills Condominiums Property Owners’ Association.

Kelly A. Cashman-Grams and Shiva K. Bozarth, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

Melanie E. Davis, Maryville, Tennessee, for the Customer Intervenors.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and Charlena S. Aumiller, Assistant Attorney General; for the Consumer Advocate and Protection Division of the Tennessee Attorney General.


A water utility challenges the authority of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority to order it to divest itself of the water system and to continue providing service until the sale. We find no error in the actions of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John M. Wolfe, Jr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stanley Walker.

Thomas E. LeQuire and Michael A. Kent, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Bradley County, Tennessee and Capt. Gabriel Thomas.


This appeal arises out of an inmate’s allegedly improper early release from jail. Stanley Walker (“Walker”), alleging that he was improperly released early from jail because the authorities did not want to pay for his medical care, sued Bradley County and Capt. Gabriel Thomas (“the Defendants”) in the Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court dismissed certain of Walker’s claims for failure to state a claim and ultimately granted summary judgment for the Defendants on the remaining claim. Walker timely appealed. We hold, inter alia, that Walker has no private right of action for being released early from jail, and we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court in its entirety.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Michael T. Pugh, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Curteis Benjamin Arzon.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Tim Peters, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Curteis Benjamin Arzon, pled guilty in the Montgomery County Circuit Court to two counts of aggravated burglary. The trial court sentenced the appellant to four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction for each offense. On appeal, the appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Paul K. Guibao, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lacey Jones.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; David Zak, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Lacey Jones, of four counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated burglary, and two counts of aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the aggravated robbery convictions into the convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping and ordered the Petitioner to serve an effective sentence of forty-two years. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court. State v. Lacey Jones, No. W2004-01628-CCA-R3-CD, 2005 WL 1848476, at *6 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Aug. 4, 2005), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 19, 2005). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Daniel J. Taylor, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rommel Obligacion.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Garry Brown, District Attorney General; Larry Hardister and Hillary Lawler-Parham, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Rommel Obligacion, appeals from his jury convictions for three counts of felony reckless endangerment, contending that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt and that the trial court improperly denied his requests for probation and judicial diversion. After reviewing the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court failed to demonstrate on the record that it considered all the relevant judicial diversion factors, assigned weight to each factor, and explained how some factors outweighed others. This error, however, was harmless in light of the other findings made by the trial court. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Alicia N. Napier, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eddie L. Readus.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Richard Cawley, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Bedford County Circuit Court, seeking relief from his convictions for selling less than one-half gram of cocaine, delivering less than one-half gram of cocaine, possessing one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell, and possessing one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver and resulting effective thirty-year sentence. In the petition, the Petitioner claimed that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court concluded that the Petitioner did not receive the ineffective assistance of counsel but ruled sua sponte that he was entitled to a delayed appeal in order for this court to determine whether his effective thirty-year sentence was excessive. After a review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition for post-conviction relief but reverse the court’s granting the Petitioner a delayed appeal.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James O. Martin, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Danny Ray Smith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Danny Ray Smith, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

TN Attorney General Opinions

City’’s Water and Sewage Rates Outside Corporate Limits

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-04-14

Opinion Number: 46

Constitutionality of Legislation Authorizing Partial Relocation of Nursing Home

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-04-15

Opinion Number: 47

General Assembly Faces Critical Votes in Final Hours

The last week of the legislative session is seeing several high profile bills die or finally make their way through the process, though at the end of today’s Senate session, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said more than 120 bills are still pending before the body. Among the proposals failing to gain traction were Gov. Bill Haslam's voucher bill, which failed to pass the House Finance Committee and was withdrawn, and an open carry gun bill, which was killed by the same committee. Measures limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine Tennesseans may buy are headed to a conference committee to hammer out differences between Senate and House versions. Bills moving on to the governor’s desk include a measure allowing the sale of high-gravity beer in grocery stores and authorizing criminal assault charges against women using illegal drugs during pregnancy. The latter issue gained national attention with a story in the New York Times today.

State Supreme Court Added to Historic Register

Six Tennessee sites, including the state Supreme Court Building in Nashville, have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, a list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The court was nominated for the recognition in January by the Tennessee Historical Commission. The other sites are the Grand Guitar in Bristol, Mead and Ross Marble Quarries in Knox County, the Martin-Dobyns House in Kingsport and the Blountville Historic District. WDEF News 12 has the news from the Associated Press.

Judge Sets Date for Joe Brown Contempt Case

Senior Judge Paul Summers, who has been assigned to preside over former judge Joe Brown’s contempt-of-court appeal, ordered both sides to file “concise” briefs by the end of the day Thursday, the Commercial Appeal reports. Brown, a retired judge and TV personality, was held in contempt and sentenced to five days in jail by Juvenile Court Magistrate Harold “Hal” Horne after Brown called the juvenile court “a circus” and a “sorry operation.” Summers requested briefs on whether the appeal belongs in the local criminal court or in an appellate court. He scheduled a May 2 hearing on the matter.

LMU ‘Optimistic’ About Law School Accreditation

Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) is "optimistic" about its ability to achieve ABA accreditation for its law school, Knoxnews reports. Officials say accreditation could be settled this fall as they point to the school’s pass rate on the February bar exam. Duncan Law School Dean Parham Williams said he’s hopeful the school will receive provisional approval before the end of the year. “We are, frankly, more optimistic than we’ve been in some time,” Williams said. The Council of the Section on Legal Education, the ABA's accrediting body, first rejected LMU’s bid for approval in December 2011. Since then the school has submitted a new application. In July, 74 graduates took the bar exam, with 81 percent passing the test.

Tennessee CASA Names New Director

Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) has named Lynne Farrar as its new executive director. She will take office April 28 after serving for four years as executive director of CASA Works Inc., which serves children in Bedford, Coffee and Franklin counties. Farrar's “wealth of experience and demonstrated leadership in serving as a local CASA program executive director will ensure continuity and a seamless transition,” Tennessee CASA Board President Kevin Balkwill said. She replaces recently retired director Cheryl Hultman.

Opinion: Public Suffers When Judgeships are Vacant

Americans who use the federal courts to resolve their cases are the ones hurt most by dozens of vacancies on the federal bench, Gavel Grab writes. Quoting heavily from an editorial that first appeared in the Bryan (Texas) Eagle, Gavel Grab points to 10 federal judgeships in Texas that have been vacant for an average of almost two years, and calls the situation “unacceptable.” The piece goes on to point out that there are 85 district court vacancies around the country, but only 48 nominees have been named to fill those posts. The editorial blames both the Obama Administration -- for not nominating more individuals -- and key senators -- for delaying votes on those who have been nominated.

Knoxville Lawyer Charged with Swapping Pills for Sex

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) arrested prominent Knoxville defense attorney Bruce Poston today, charging that he swapped hydrocodone pills for sex, Knoxnews reports. Poston, 67, was arrested at the City County Building in downtown Knoxville on three counts of the delivery of hydrocodone in January and February. The charges also accuse him of making those deliveries while driving on a suspended driver’s license. According to the TBI, a woman stepped forward in January to complain Poston “was supplying her with money and pills.” The woman further alleged that Poston had represented her husband in a criminal case and “mishandled her husband’s case in order to further his sexual relationship with her.” Retired District Attorney General Greeley Wells has been assigned to the case in place of the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office, which has recused itself.

Sumner Bar Evaluates Judicial Candidates

The Sumner County Bar Association recently conducted a poll of its members to evaluate candidates running for circuit and criminal court judge, chancellor, attorney general, public defender, general sessions judge, circuit court clerk and sheriff. Participants were asked to rank candidates “highly recommend,” “recommend” or “not recommend.” Those receiving the highest rankings in contested races were Joe Thompson for circuit court judge, Louis W. Oliver III for chancellor, Barry R. Brown for general sessions judge and Vickie Sutton Trull for circuit court clerk. See the full results.

Service Thursday for Pro Bono, Mediation Trailblazer

Knoxville lawyer Milli Cunningham, the first pro bono director for the Knoxville Legal Aid Society, died Saturday (April 12). Cunningham entered the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1973 after putting her husband through school, following him to three international assignments and raising two children, Knoxnews reports. Following graduation, she joined the school’s legal clinic and helped establish its first family law unit. At the Knoxville Legal Aid Society (now Legal Aid of East Tennessee), Cunningham was influential in recruiting private attorneys to provide pro bono services. She also was an early proponent of increased legal protections for domestic violence victims. After five years with Legal Aid, Cunningham opened her own family law practice with an emphasis on mediation and collaboration. A memorial service will take place at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church, 3700 Keowee Ave., Knoxville on Thursday at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the church, Erskine College, CONTACT Care Line or Jewish Voice for Peace.

Lipscomb Hosts Community Clinic April 29

Lipscomb University will host a legal clinic April 29 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Swang 108 on its Nashville campus. The event is being held in response to the growing need for legal support in the community. Those who would like to volunteer also are invited to a meet and greet at 5:30 p.m. to discuss issues that may be brought up by clients. Email Randy Spivey, academic director of the university’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, by April 18. Or call him at (615) 966-2503 to get involved.

MBA Memorial Service Set for May 2

The Memphis Bar Association (MBA) will hold its 2014 Memorial Service May 2 at noon at the downtown Calvary Episcopal Church. Attorneys to be honored include: Fred Acuff, Alex Barnett, Howard R. “Roy” Berkenstock Jr., James C. Blackburn, Malford A. Blankenship, Leo J. Buchignani, Susan McKwen Clark, Bill Clifton, Elizabeth Tansil Collins, Clarence J. Colbert Jr., Thomas E. Crawford, Lundy Webb Daniel, David M. Discenza, Gayden Drew IV, Dauphine Mahoney Garthright, Lyman Christian Harrell III, Leroy L. Hidinger Jr., Evie Randolph Horton, W. Thomas Hutton, Paul D. Leitch, Col. Paul J. McClure Jr., James McMahon, Etandra Fenae Miller Douglas, Charles A. Sevier, G. Donald Siemer, William J. Simmons, Sonja White-Simpson, Cecil D. Smith, Frank T. Stegbauer, Stephen K. Tapp, Richard S. Wade and William C. Wilson. Those who would like to submit a memorial about any of the deceased should email Mary Lynes or call her at (901) 527-3573.

Wilson County Lawyer Suspended

Wilson County lawyer Nathan Scott Moore was suspended April 14 for two years, but was allowed to serve 21 months on suspension after three months of active suspension, so long as he pays restitution within a year. The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Moore after finding that he failed to pay restitution as ordered in January 2011, accepted fees and failed to perform services for clients and neglected to communicate with clients. View the BPR release.

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Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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