New Clemency Criteria Aims to Reduce Prison Rolls

New Justice Department criteria for evaluating clemency petitions will likely result in thousands of new applications from federal prisoners, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday. The new criteria are aimed at inmates serving time for nonviolent drug offenses and are intended to reduce the nation's federal prison population. Holder said the change will "ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens." WRCB carried the Associated Press report.

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
08 - 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

SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT DISCRETIONARY APPEALS Grants & Denials List

Court: TN Supreme Court


TN Court of Appeals

CARL SCOTT BLANKENSHIP v. AMY LYNN COX

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Rebecca E. Byrd, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Amy Lynn Cox.

Virginia Lee Story, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Carl Scott Blankenship.

Judge: CLEMENT

This appeals arises from the post-divorce modification of child support following the emancipation of the parties’ oldest of three children. Both parents appeal numerous rulings by the trial court including its child support calculations, a judgment against Mother arising from Father’s overpayment of child support following the emancipation of their oldest child, the imputation of income to Mother for voluntary unemployment, an upward deviation for extraordinary education expenses, allocation of the uncovered medical expenses, allocation of the tax exemptions for the two minors, and attorney’s fees. We have determined that although the trial court was justified in finding a deviation for extraordinary education expenses, the trial court erred by applying the deviation prospectively rather than retroactively to the date of the petition. We reverse the trial court only on this issue and remand for the trial court to recalculate the amount of child support and the judgment against Mother consistent with this finding. We affirm the trial court in all other respects and deny both parties’ request to recover attorneys’ fees incurred in this appeal.


IN RE: JOHN H. B.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Braden Bellar, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellant, Father.

Lisa C. Cothron, Lafayette, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mother.

Judge: FARMER

Father appeals the trial court’s determination that he is willfully and voluntarily underemployed and the parenting schedule established by the trial court. Mother appeals the trial court’s determination that it lacked the authority to award attorney’s fees under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-103(c). We affirm the trial court’s judgment with respect to the parenting schedule and the finding of voluntary underemployment, and vacate with respect to the issue of attorney’s fees. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STEVIE R. DICKSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gregory D. Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stevie R. Dickson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General, and Arthur Bieber, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Stevie Dickson, was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault. Petitioner entered a best interest plea to second degree murder and attempted second degree murder. He was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty years. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the record supports the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. GARY HAWKINS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Claiborne H. Ferguson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gary Hawkins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Jennifer Nichols and Eric Christensen, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Gary Hawkins, was convicted of first degree felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child neglect and aggravated child neglect following a jury trial. Defendant received a life sentence for the murder conviction and a concurrent sentence of 22 years as a violent offender for the aggravated child neglect conviction. In this direct appeal, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred by allowing evidence of a prior conviction for child abuse into evidence. Finding no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


JASON OSMOND HINES v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Yolanda E. Mitchell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Jason Osmond Hines.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Cynthia Lecroy- Schemel, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Jason Osmond Hines, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief for his conviction of second-degree murder. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel’s failure to properly impeach the State’s witnesses and adequately present a theory of self-defense. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


ERNEST LEE JENNINGS, III v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

W. Erik Haas, Somerville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ernest Lee Jennings, III.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Catherine Walsh, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Ernest Lee Jennings, III, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress and in admitting at trial evidence seized from his room. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOSEPH SAMUEL KYLE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Neil Thompson, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joseph Samuel Kyle.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Hansel J. McCadams, District Attorney General; and James E. Williams, III, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Joseph Samuel Kyle, was convicted by a Benton County Circuit Court jury of aggravated criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to probation after serving thirty days in jail. On appeal, he argues: (1) interrelated issues that the trial court erred in overruling his motions for judgment of acquittal and new trial and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (2) the trial court erred in allowing hearsay testimony into evidence over his objection. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ARMARD REEVES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph A. McClusky, Lorna S. McClusky, and William Dennis Massey, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Armard Reeves.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Christopher Scruggs, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Armard Reeves, was convicted of one count of unlawful and knowing possession with intent to deliver three hundred pounds (300 lbs) (136,050 grams) or more of a controlled substance, to wit: marijuana. The trial court sentenced the defendant as a Range I offender to the maximum sentence of twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The defendant was arrested as a part of a larger investigation that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) were conducting into narcotics distribution. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury as to the lesser-included offense of facilitation; (2) the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the amount of marijuana in question; (3) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury that the defendant must knowingly possess certain amounts of marijuana; (4) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (5) the trial court erred when it failed to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress; and (6) the trial court improperly sentenced the defendant to the maximum sentence for a Range I offender. After a thorough review of the record we conclude that facilitation was properly omitted as a jury instruction, that the “knowing” mens rea requirement does not apply to the amount of marijuana, the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction, the trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress, and that the defendant was properly sentenced to the maximum term of incarceration.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JERRY R. SHOUSE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; and Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

J. Russell Parkes and Charles M. Molder, Columbia, Tennessee for the appellee, Jerry R. Shouse.

Judge: SMITH

Appellee, Jerry R. Shouse, was indicted by the Maury County Grand Jury with one count of driving under the influence and one count of violation of the open container law. Prior to trial, Appellee filed a motion to suppress the evidence on the basis that the warrantless seizure was arbitrary and oppressive. After a hearing, the trial court granted the motion to suppress by written order. The State filed a notice of appeal on the same day that the order of nolle prosequi was entered. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine based on the recent decision of State v. Moats, 403 S.W.3d 170 (Tenn. 2013), the trial court properly granted the motion to suppress where the actions of the officer were not authorized under any exception to the warrant requirement. Consequently, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


DAVID LYNN SMITH V. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kendra L. Tidwell, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Lynn Smith.

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

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, David Lynn Smith, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and is currently serving a sentence of twenty-four years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he contends that the denial of his petition was error because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by: (1) failing to adequately prepare the petitioner to testify at trial; and (2) failing to investigate and interview an alibi witness. The petitioner further argues that the post-conviction court committed reversible error by refusing to exclude trial counsel from the post-conviction proceedings pursuant to Rule 615 of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. Following review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that the petitioner was not denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel, and no Rule 615 violation was established. Therefore, we conclude that the petition was properly denied and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


6th Circuit Reinstates Age Bias Suit

The 6th Circuit on Friday reversed a Nashville court ruling and reinstated the age discrimination lawsuit James C. Pierson vs. Quad/Graphics Printing Corp., et al. The District Court had granted Quad/Graphics summary judgment dismissing the case, but a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit unanimously disagreed with the lower court, holding that an employee does not need to meet heightened standard of proof for age discrimination during a reduction in force. Business Insurance has more.


UAW Drops Appeal in VW Vote

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has dropped its appeal of the failed February vote to unionize workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, the UAW announced this morning. At the same time, NewsChannel5.com reported, the union called on Congress to specifically investigate Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s use of federal funds as a part of a $300 million incentive package that his administration appeared to have used as leverage against the UAW. This major development came as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was set to begin hearings on the UAW appeal. The union had wanted the NLRB to order new elections, claiming third-party interference tainted the vote. In the announcement, UAW President Bob King noted that the NLRB process could take months or years. The union also cited efforts by Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker to fight UAW subpoenas requiring them to testify about their involvement in the anti-union effort.


Survey: People Now Search Internet First When Needing a Lawyer

People in need of legal representation now are more likely to turn to the internet to find a lawyer, a recent survey suggests. This is a reversal since just a decade ago, when studies showed the internet was the least popular source, behind personal referrals, the Yellow Pages or local bar associations. The new survey, conducted by FindLaw.com and Thomson Reuters, found that 38 percent of the 1,000 respondents said that they would use the Internet first. That was considerably higher than the other available options: 29 percent of respondents would ask a friend or relative first, 10 percent would go straight to the local bar association; and 4 percent would rely on the Yellow Pages. ABAJournal.com has more details.


Accused Gang Member Fatally Shot During Trial

An accused street gang member standing trial in federal court in Salt Lake City who was shot by a U.S. marshal this morning has died of his wounds, according to an FBI spokesperson. The defendant was shot when he attacked a witness who was testifying against him, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The defendant, Siale Angilau, 25, who was not handcuffed, lunged at the witness on the first day of testimony in his trial. After the shooting, a group of marshals continued to hold Angilau at gunpoint near the jury box. The incident is being investigated by the FBI. The Chicago Tribute reported.


Shipley is New Special Master in Knox

Luke Shipley has been named special master under Judge Bill Swann for the Knox County Fourth Circuit Court, according to the Johnson City Press. For this 26-year-old who is legally blind, it's a dream come true.


Eggleston is New White House Counsel

President Obama today named Neil Eggleston, a Washington lawyer who specializes in representing high-profile public figures in government investigations, as the next White House counsel. He replaces Kathryn Ruemmler. The Los Angeles Times has the story.


Elliott: Lewis Shepherd's Colorful Career

Chattanooga lawyer and former TBA president Sam D. Elliott writes in the Times Free Press about "the best known lawyer in Chattanooga" around the turn of the century, Lewis Shepherd. His colorful career included being district attorney general and serving in the Tennessee General Assembly (resigning because he didn't enjoy "serving with men with less intelligence than his wife's mule"). He left a Circuit Court judgeship because he was "born to be an advocate, not a referee." He died in 1917 in the midst of trying a lawsuit. The Chattanooga Times observed that Shepherd's last wish was satisfied: "to go to his reward straight from the courtroom."


Shelby DA Race Heating Up

The two candidates -- incumbent Amy Weirich and Joe Brown -- vying to be the next district attorney general in Shelby County won’t face each other until August, but they were making news this week with what panelists on News Channel 3's "Informed Sources" called "questionable comments." The program reviewed recent developments in the race.


Meet 1st District's Candidates for AG, Criminal Court Judge

Candidates for attorney general in the First Judicial District -- incumbent Tony Clark, Jerome Cochran and Dan Smith -- answer questions about what they would bring to the office. The Johnson City Press reports. The paper also looks at the race for Criminal Court Judge Part I. The seat, held by Judge Robert Cupp since 1998, has two candidates seeking the seat. Cupp did not file paperwork to seek re-election to the bench. Dennis Brooks, an assistant district attorney, and Lisa Nidiffer Rice, a private practice lawyer, will go head-to-head on the May 6 Republican primary ballot. The district includes Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties.


TBA Offers CLE Your Way

Remember to use the three hours of free CLE programming that comes with your TBA membership. Members can use this credit to cover all or part of the cost of live programs across the state, weekly webcasts or any of the 300-plus online courses offered in both video and text formats. Find a course now.


'Dinner with the Tennessee Supreme Court' to Benefit LAET

Justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court will gather in Kingsport May 6 as guests of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) to honor attorneys who have donated hours of their time to those unable to afford civil legal counsel. Chief Justice Gary R. Wade is the keynote speaker, and is scheduled to be joined by justices Cornelia A. Clark, Janice M. Holder, William C. Koch and Sharon G. Lee for the dinner and silent auction that benefit LAET’s Pro Bono Project. The event is open to the public; tickets are $50. For reservations or more information, contact Christy Harris at (800) 821-1312 or at charris@laet.org.


Bike Ride to Honor Lebanon Attorney, Raise Funds

A bicycle ride to honor Lebanon attorney Jere McCulloch's life and to raise funds for a special needs organization will be April 26 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds. McCulloch died of a heart attack last August while competing in the Heart of Tennessee 100, a bicycle race sponsored by the Murfreesboro Bicycle Club. He was a founding partner of Rochelle, McCulloch and Aulds. The first "Jere’s Ride," sponsored by Leadership Wilson, will feature three course options, a three-mile family ride, a 15-mile novice course and a 31-mile expert race. Jere’s Ride will benefit the Empower Me Day Camp, a nonprofit corporation established to provide more opportunities for children with disabilities in the greater Nashville area. The Lebanon Democrat has more.


Memphis Lawyer Stephen Tapp Dies

Memphis lawyer Stephen Kyle Tapp died April 12 at the age of 64. He graduated from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1990. Read his obituary in The Commercial Appeal.


 
 

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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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