Tenn. Report Shows 42% of Attorneys Doing Pro Bono

The Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission has released the 2013 Pro Bono Report, which catalogs pro bono programs and initiatives taking place in the state. The report indicates that approximately 42 percent of attorneys licensed in Tennessee reported doing some pro bono work during 2012. These attorneys reported 672,976 total hours of pro bono service, an average of 73.8 hours per attorney reporting pro bono work, well above the national average. The report also describes the significant work being done by bar associations, law schools, legal aid organizations and faith-based communities across Tennessee and includes information from some of the nearly 70 legal organizations that have adopted pro bono policies. The report, along with the recently updated ATJ Commission Strategic Plan, provide a thorough overview of pro bono and related civil legal services access issues in Tennessee.

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
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

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TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Glenn B. Rose and John David McDowell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, The Bank of New York Mellon f/k/a The Bank of New York.

James Douglas Kay, John B. Enkema, and Benjamin Ealey Goldammer, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dana Baugh Goodman.

David M. Smythe, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Pinnacle Bank, f/k/a Pinnacle National Bank.


Bank made a loan to an individual who owned real property and obtained a deed of trust on the property securing the loan. Bank recorded the deed of trust in the wrong county. A few years later Second Bank obtained two judgment liens and properly registered them in the correct county. Bank later realized its error and registered its deed of trust in the correct county but was by that time in the junior creditor position. Bank filed a complaint seeking equitable subrogation in an effort to obtain the priority creditor position and get placed ahead of Second Bank, which had no security interest in the property at issue, but which had filed its liens first. The trial court denied Bank this relief after balancing the equities of the parties. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Rolfe A. Straussfogel, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, J. C.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Martha A. Campbell, Deputy Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services

Robert L. Huddleston, Maryville, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem for Josephine E. M. C.


This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her young daughter. The trial court terminated the mother’s parental rights based upon four separate grounds: substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; abandonment by willful failure to visit; abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; and persistent conditions. We find that DCS failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that it made reasonable efforts to reunify the mother and her child, and we reverse the trial court’s finding that grounds for termination were proven by clear and convincing evidence. This matter is remanded for such further proceedings as may be necessary.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Odell Horton, Jr., Kacey L. Faughnan, Ahsaki E. Baptist, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Duckworth Pathology Group, Inc.

Saul C. Belz, Michael D. Tauer, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Shelby County Healthcare Corp., d/b/a The Regional Medical Center at Memphis


A surgical pathology group filed this action in chancery court, claiming that the Med violated its own rules and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to award the petitioner with a contract after a lengthy request for proposals process. The petition stated that the chancery court had subject matter jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to the statutes governing petitions for certiorari. The trial court granted the Med’s motion to dismiss for numerous reasons, including lack of jurisdiction. We find that the petition was not subject to dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and we reverse the trial court’s finding to the contrary. However, due to the petitioner’s failure to appeal the trial court’s alternative grounds for dismissal, we find it unnecessary to consider the issues raised on appeal, and we otherwise affirm the order of dismissal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John P. Konvalinka and David C. Higney, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellants, Susan E. Rich, Janis S. Burger, and Carole Klimesch.

Phillip A. Noblett and Keith J. Reisman, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Chattanooga.

J. Christopher Clem, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Hamilton County Election Commission and Commissioners.


This case presents the issue of whether citizens who reside on real property that is proposed for deannexation by a municipal ordinance may, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-51-201 (2011), properly bring a quo warranto or declaratory judgment action against the municipality to challenge adoption of the deannexation ordinance. The trial court dismissed these claims against the municipality, and the plaintiffs have appealed. The plaintiffs have also taken issue with the propriety of the trial court’s determination regarding who would be qualified to vote in the referendum election, as well as other procedural and evidentiary issues. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and Mary S. Foust, Senior Counsel; for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Robert I. Thomason, Jr. And Mark C. Odle, Waverly, Tennessee, Tennessee, for the appellee, Richardson Lumber.


This is a condemnation case in which the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation acquired 20.93 acres of a 46.813 parcel of land by eminent domain for the purpose of constructing a highway. The jury awarded the landowner money for the value of the land acquired, the improvements on the land (including interior roads and culverts), and incidental damages to the remainder of the property not acquired by the State. The trial court suggested an additur and also awarded the landowner discretionary costs. The State appeals the trial court’s award of an additur and discretionary costs. We have determined that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s suggestion of additur on the issues of incidental damages and interior roads; however, we find the evidence preponderates against the court’s additur with respect to culverts. We also find the trial court erred in assessing discretionary costs against the State.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ricky A.W. Curtis, Blountville, Tennessee (at trial); and Gregory W. Francisco, Kingsport, Tennessee (at motion for new trial hearing and on appeal), for the appellant, Joseph H. Adkins a/k/a Joseph H. Morrison.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Barry Staubus, District Attorney General; and William B. Harper, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Joseph H. Adkins a/k/a Joseph H. Morrison, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder; first degree felony murder; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -13-202, -14-403. The trial court merged the felony murder conviction into the premeditated murder conviction and imposed a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to six years for each of the remaining convictions and ordered all of the sentences to be served consecutively for an effective sentence of life plus twenty-four years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s pro se motion to remove appointed trial counsel; (2) that the trial court erred by not allowing the Defendant to crossexamine a witness about a prior instance where the witness allegedly lied under oath; (3) that the trial court improperly allowed the admission of hearsay evidence at trial; (4) that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on flight; (5) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder; (6) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions for two of the aggravated assault charges; (7) that the trial court erred by correcting a “typographical error” on the jury’s verdict form; and (8) that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. Following 1 our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jeremy W. Parham, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Aso Hassan Nejad.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Petitioner, Aso Hassan Nejad, was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to commit first degree murder and sentenced by the trial court to 25 years’ incarceration. This court affirmed Petitioner’s conviction and sentence on appeal. State v. Aso Hassan Nejad a.k.a. Diako Nejad and Ako Hassan Nejad, No. M2009-00481-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 3562015 (Tenn. Crim. App., Sept. 14, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Feb. 17, 2011). Petitioner now appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner asserts that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joseph A. Fanduzz, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travei Pryor.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; and Ta Kisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Travei Pryor, of eleven counts of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and one count of possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class C felonies; and one count of criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twelve-year sentence. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for employing/possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct the jury as provided by State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012). Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury pursuant to White constitutes reversible error. Therefore, the appellant’s eleven convictions for aggravated kidnapping must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses. The appellant’s remaining convictions are affirmed. However, upon remand, the trial court is to merge the appellant’s aggravated robbery convictions in counts 7 and 8 and counts 9 and 10 and enter single judgments of conviction for those offenses.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Douglas Thompson Bates, IV, Centerville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cordell Remont Vaughn.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Stacey B. Edmonton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


A Perry County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Cordell Remont Vaughn, charging him with first degree murder. After Defendant’s first trial, this court reversed a jury’s verdict that found Defendant guilty of first degree murder. State v. Vaughn, 279 S.W.3d 584, 586-87 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2008). Pursuant to a second jury trial, Defendant was again found guilty of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for new trial. The State filed a Rule 10 application for an extraordinary appeal with this court, which was granted. On appeal, this court reversed the trial court’s granting of a new trial. State v. Vaughn, No. M2011-00067-CCA-R10-CD, 2012 WL 1484191 (Tenn. Crim. App. April 25, 2012) perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 16, 2012). On May 31, 2013, the trial court entered judgment and sentenced Defendant again to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) the evidence was not sufficient to support his first degree murder conviction; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the toxicology report; and (3) whether his right to be free from double jeopardy was violated. After a review of the record, we affirm Defendant’s conviction of first degree murder; we reverse the sentence of life without possibility of parole and remand this case to the trial court for entry of a judgment of conviction of first degree murder with a sentence of life imprisonment.

TBA Leaders Lobby Legislators During D.C. Event

Tennessee Bar Association leaders joined more than 350 of their colleagues from across the country for 2014 ABA Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., April 8-10. The annual event provides legal leaders the opportunity to meet individually with legislators and their staffs to cut through the noise of other special interests on Capitol Hill and successfully educate Congress on issues of importance to lawyers. In addition to urging the legislators to support funding for the Legal Services Corp., TBA leaders urged lawmakers to reject tax reform legislation that would tax certain law firms using accrual rather than cash accounting. TBA President Cindy Wyrick, President-elect Jonathan Steen and Executive Director Allan Ramsaur made up the delegation. See photos from the visit.

State Ranks Near Top in Courtroom Language Assistance

Tennessee’s statewide courtroom interpreter program was ranked sixth in the country in the “Justice Index” published by the National Center for Access to Justice at the Cordoza School of Law. By Tennessee Supreme Court Rule, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) assists in providing equal access to the courts to any participant who has a limited ability to speak or understand the English language. “This recognition is the culmination of years of hard work by many individuals who have recognized that justice requires that a participant in the courtroom be able to fully understand the proceedings,” said Administrative Office of the Courts Director Bill Young in a press release.

Circuit Court Judges Recuse Themselves from Mosque Trial

All of Rutherford County’s Circuit Court judges eligible to hear the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro cemetery lawsuit have recently recused themselves, according to court records. While waiting on a judge and a court date to be announced, the plaintiffs led by Bonnie Golczynski attempted unsuccessfully to challenge whether attorney John Green should be allowed to represent the ICM in the lawsuit filed against the congregation and the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals for approving the cemetery request. The Daily News Journal has more.

Baker Donelson Memphis Office Elects 13 New Shareholders

Baker Donelson recently announced it has elected 13 new shareholders firm-wide. The new shareholders are: Natalie R. Bolling, Joel R. Buckberg, Ashby Q. Burks, Scott L. Campbell, Alisa L. Chestler, Jennifer G. Hall, Lee Harrell, Christie M. Hayes, Michael W. Horst, Erin E. Pelleteri, Tyler Weidlich, Everett White and Mason W. Wilson. Baker Donelson is the largest law firm in the Southeast, counting more than 680 attorneys in 18 offices across seven states, the Memphis Business Journal reports.

2014 Law Day Events Set Across the State

Bar associations and legal organizations across the state are gearing up for this year’s Law Day with events that begin this week and run through May. Activities include programs for lawyers, public service opportunities, presentation of awards and recognition of students who participate in law-related education programs. The theme of this year’s celebration is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” which asks Americans to reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the challenges we still face in ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in our democracy. If your organization is hosting an event that is not listed, please send details to tbatoday@tnbar.org.

General Assembly Adjourns

The 108th Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned for the year. Legislation passing this session included measures to allow wine sales in grocery stores, fight methamphetamine production and give high school graduates free tuition at community colleges, which was a signature proposal of the governor, Knoxnews reports.

Lawmakers Reach Amp Compromise

Tennessee lawmakers approved a compromise bill today that will allow the Amp to proceed as currently designed, although they aren’t ceding oversight of the planned $174 million bus rapid-transit project entirely. The Nashville Business Journal reports that under the compromise projects using a dedicated lane of traffic on a state highway would need the approval of a local legislative body and the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Bus rapid-transit projects that are state funded would be approved by the General Assembly in annual appropriations to TDOT, while projects that don't involve state funding will require individual approval by the General Assembly in the form of a joint resolution.

Court to Review Prayer vs. Medicine Question In Child Abuse Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in a 12-year legal battle in Loudon County that pitted a mother’s religious freedom rights against state authorities who deemed her choice of prayer over medicine to be child abuse. Jacqueline Crank was convicted of misdemeanor child neglect after her daughter, Jessica Crank, died at the age of 15 in September 2002 from a rare form of bone cancer. Knoxnews has has the story.

Glover to Retire as General Sessions Judge, Run for Commissioner

Robertson County General Sessions Judge Burton Glover told the Tennessean he is retiring from the bench but won’t be retiring from government service completely. Glover has filed paperwork to enter the Robertson County Commission race in district 10. The position is contested with a total of four candidates, including one incumbent, Bobby Jones, seeking the two spots up for grabs in August. Assistant District Attorney Joel Perry will seek Glover’s judgeship. He is unopposed in the race.

Crowded Field Seeks General Sessions Seat

Seven attorneys are competing to be the Democratic nominee for Davidson County General Sessions Court, Division IX, following Judge Sue McKnight Evans’ announcement that she is retiring after 18 years. With such a crowded field, a candidate needs to win just 15 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. The winner then will face Republican Adam Dread, a former Metro councilman, in the general election in August. The Tennessean has more.

Campaign Finance Statements Out for 13th District

The Herald Citizen details the financial disclosure statements of candidates running for posts within the 13th Judicial District -- Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam and White counties. The statements include financial information from the first quarter that ran through March 31 and includes current campaign balances and how much candidates have spent so far. Because the candidates will appear on the May 6 primary election ballots, their next financial disclosure statements will be due on April 29.

Davidson County Lawyer Censured

Robert Allen Doll III received a public censure on April 14. In conjunction with a probate matter, Doll failed to render competent representation, failed to act with reasonable diligence and failed to expedite litigation. Also, Doll failed to attend hearings and failed to comply with court orders, for which he was ultimately held in contempt. View BPR notice.

Bedford County Lawyer Censured

On April 15, Christopher Paul Westmoreland received a public censure for depositing client settlement funds into his operating account instead of his trust account on five separate occasions. In the first instance in March 2012, the client funds remained in Westmoreland’s operating account for more than three months. In each of the other instances, the client funds remained in his operating account for less than one month. View the BPR notice.

Reduced-Rate Display Ads Available for Lawyers

Lawyers and firms now may promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards or any other news in the Tennessee Bar Journal. These Professional Announcements are display ads, available at special, lower-rate pricing. Show your peers across the state about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information, contact Debbie Taylor at (503) 445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the next issue, please contact her as soon as possible.


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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