Justices Ask For Support; Ouster Campaign Possible

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justice Sharon Lee told a group of lawyers and judges in Memphis that they might need protection at the ballot box in August. Fox News 13, reporting from the University of Memphis School of Law event, said that the pair, along with Justice Cornelia Clark, are targets of an ouster campaign against their retention. According to UM law professor Dr. Steve Mulroy, there is "a coordinated effort to target them to get them off the Supreme Court, and I know that's it's being headed up by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. My understanding also is there's outside Tennessee money involved."

In related news, former Knoxville Mayor and Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe writes in the Shopper News that the “there is considerable speculation that wealthy conservative forces outside Tennessee will wage a ‘no vote’ on these justices, spending as much as $2.5 million.” Ashe says that Tennessee’s unique process, which relies on the state Supreme Court to choose the attorney general, has “placed the justices in the middle of a political firestorm.” Dissatisfied with a Democrat attorney general, “the GOP probably needs to defeat just one of [the justices] to have three Republicans on the court, which, in theory, would bring a Republican AG,” he writes.

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
06 - TN Court of Appeals
06 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
01 - 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


Steven C. Girsky, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Reynaldo Aragon.

M. Joel Wallace, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Cassidy Aragon.


This post-divorce case concerns parental relocation. Father sought to relocate to Arizona, citing family ties and increased career opportunities. The parties agreed that Father spent substantially more time with the child than Mother; however, Mother objected to the relocation, arguing that the move had no reasonable purpose. The trial court agreed with Mother and entered a parenting plan naming Mother primary residential parent. Because the trial court made no best interest finding regarding either the proposed relocation, or the parenting plan, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings. Vacated and Remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Thomas C. Jessee, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellants, Kathy Austin, Vickie Shipley, and Sherry Foshie.

Ben W. Hooper, III, Newport, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jacob Wilds, Jr. and James Wilds.


Kathy Austin, Vickie Shipley, and Sherry Foshie (“Plaintiffs”) sued their brothers, Jacob Wilds, Jr. and James Wilds (“Defendants”), seeking to have certain deeds from their mother set aside due to alleged undue influence and/or duress. After a bench trial, the Chancery Court for Greene County (“Trial Court”) entered its order rendering judgment in favor of Defendants after finding and holding, inter alia, that Plaintiffs had failed to prove the existence of a confidential relationship necessary to show that the subject deeds were procured through undue influence. Plaintiffs appeal. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings, and we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Paula Ogle Blair, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael James Little, Jr.

Rhonda G. Little, Pro se.


The trial court determined that no material and substantial change in circumstance had occurred and denied Father’s petition to modify the parties’ parenting plan. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Charles S. Kelly, Sr., Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Faye Fowler.

Bruce Conley, Union City, Tennessee, for the appellee, Norma Simpson.


This is the second appeal of this case, involving the application of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 31-1-105 to set aside certain transfers by decedent to his long-term companion, which transfers were allegedly made with intent to deny his surviving spouse of her share of his estate. From the totality of the circumstances, and applying the factors outlined by this Court in Finley v. Finley, 726 S.W.2d 923 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986), we conclude that the evidence preponderates in favor of the trial court’s award of $8,500.00 in insurance proceeds to the surviving spouse for decedent’s funeral costs, but that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s award of a $28,000.00 bank account to the surviving spouse. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jason R. Creasy, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronald Wayne Metzinger

Albert Wade, Jr., Paris, Tennessee, for the appellee, Melinda Jan Metzinger


This appeal involves the classification and division of Husband’s $66,000.00 personal injury settlement in a divorce proceeding. The trial court classified the settlement as marital property, it deducted $13,400.00 for what it found to be “legitimate expense[s] of the marriage” paid by Husband, and it awarded Wife one-half of the balance, or $26,300.00. We reverse the trial court’s award to Wife.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Joseph M. Clark and Casey Shannon, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Olugbenga Faleye, M.D. and PrimeHealth Medical Center, P.C.

J. Kimbrough Johnson and Andrea N. Malkin, Memphis, Tennessee for the appellants, John J. Harris, M.D. and John J. Harris, M.D., P.C.

Marty R. Phillips and Ashley D. Cleek, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellants, UHS Lakeside, LLC d/b/a Lakeside Behavioral Health System.

Cameron C. Jehl, Carey L. Acerra, and Deena K. Arnold, Memphis, Tennessee, and Deborah Truby Riordan, Little Rock, Arkansas, for the appellee, Caroll Marie Stovall.


Appellant medical providers appeal the trial court’s denial of their motions to dismiss a medical malpractice complaint for failure to strictly comply with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-26-122(d)(4). Because we conclude that the trial court had good cause to grant an extension, within which to file a certificate of good faith, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Richard Hughes, District Public Defender, and Jeanne L. Wiggins, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Danny Adams.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and James H. Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Danny Adams, was convicted by a jury of simple assault. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for that conviction, including an argument therein of inconsistent verdicts. We have thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal, and although the evidence is sufficient, we must reverse the Defendant’s conviction because an incorrect mental state was included in the jury charge. Moreover, we cannot deem the error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Curtis F. Hopper, Savannah, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Steven R. Bryson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Hansel J. McCadams, District Attorney General; and Ed N. McDaniel, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Steven R. Bryson, was convicted by a Hardin County jury of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-504 (2011). The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to eight years and six months in the Department of Correction. On appeal, Bryson argues that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal; and (3) the trial court committed plain error in its jury instructions. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ryan B. Feeney, Selmer, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Devin Jay Davis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Devin Jay Davis, was convicted by a Chester County jury of criminally negligent homicide and aggravated child abuse and neglect, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty years. In this appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated child abuse and neglect, the jury’s verdicts in count one and count two are fatally inconsistent, and his convictions violate double jeopardy. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mindy S. Dodd, Memphis, Tennessee, pro se.

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


The petitioner, Mindy S. Dodd, appeals the denial of her petition for a writ of error coram nobis. On appeal, she contends that she presented newly discovered evidence that may have affected the outcome of her trial and that the error coram nobis court erred in denying her petition. Because the petition was not filed within the statutory limitations period, we affirm the denial of the petition.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Edward C. Miller, District Public Defender, for the appellant, Jessica Root.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Greg Eshbaugh, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Jessica Root, appeals the trial court’s nine-year sentence to her open plea of guilt to vehicular homicide by intoxication, contending (1) that the trial court failed to consider applicable mitigating factors and a sentencing practices report; (2) that she should have received the minimum sentence; and (3) that the trial court improperly denied all forms of alternative sentencing. Upon consideration of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender, Clarksville, Tennessee; and Collier W. Goodlett, Assistant District Public Defender, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant, Keenan D. Singletary.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Jason White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Keenan D. Singletary (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to facilitation of aggravated robbery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to five years’ incarceration and ordered the Defendant to pay $174 in restitution. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the length and manner of service of his sentence. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Validity of Legislation Authorizing Traffic-Enforcement Cameras on School Buses

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-04-21

Opinion Number: 48

Deportation Policy Change Being Considered

Thousands of immigrants in the United States without documentation could be shielded from deportation under a policy change being considered by the Homeland Security Department, the Associated Press reports. The change, if adopted, could limit removals of people who have repeat immigration violations but little or no criminal record. That change would fall short of the sweeping changes sought by many activists. At a news conference last week, President Obama said, “The only way to truly fix [the problem] is through congressional action. We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could."

Hospitals’ Use of Conservatorship Law Questioned

Conservatorship reform, supported by the TBA and signed into law by the governor, has been in effect for 10 months and early reports from judges indicate the law is providing improved guidelines for handling extraordinary cases. One provision, which is just now receiving media attention, is a mechanism for hospitals to use to discharge patients that no longer need the costly care of a major health facility. A report in The Tennessean questions whether the provision is working as intended. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur points out that the law provides a standardized method with extra due process protections for patients, while previously, hospitals had handled such matters on an ad hoc basis.

Court Upholds Michigan's Affirmative Action Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions, CNN reports. The justices found 6-2 that a lower court did not have the authority to set aside a referendum measure approved in 2006 by 58 percent of voters. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the decision is "not about the constitutionality or merits" of affirmative action but “about who may resolve it." University of Notre Dame law professor Jennifer Mason McAward summed up the ruling as follows: "With today's opinion, the court has placed responsibility for affirmative action squarely in the hands of the states. State universities can choose to adopt affirmative action admissions programs, and state voters can choose to discontinue them." Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the majority decision saying it "eviscerates" the equal-protection guarantee that government should not make it harder for minorities to participate in self-government. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case.

Court Hears Arguments in Aereo Case

A startup that threatens to shake up the television industry was the subject of heated debate today at the U.S. Supreme Court, the NY Times reports. A powerful coalition of broadcast and cable television stations asked the panel to rule against Aereo, which allows customers to rent a tiny Internet-linked antenna to watch or record over-the-air broadcasts. A similarly strong alliance that included technology firms and consumer groups pressed for the opposite outcome, saying a ruling for Aereo would send a signal in favor of technological innovation. The justices questioned whether Aereo was violating copyright law and what impact a ruling on either side would have on a growing cloud computing sector.

Event Raises Funds for Paine Scholarship

The Knoxville Bar Association will hold a fundraiser May 15 to honor the memory of Don Paine and raise funds for the Tennessee Judicial Conference Foundation’s Don Paine Scholarship. “The Tie That Binds: A Blind Wine Fundraiser” will take place at the Island Home Airport from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. A $25 ticket includes entrance to the event and two drinks. A wide assortment of Paine’s ties will be auctioned off to raise money. Those who cannot attend the event may still bid on the ties by emailing Marsha Wilson. Those participating in the blind wine tasting should bring two 750 ml bottles of the exact same wine (red, white or sparkling) by 7 p.m. The “best” wine will be determined in each category. Winners will receive a cache of wines.

Dress for Success: New Program Wants Your Clothes

Dress for Success Nashville, a program of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee that promotes economic independence for women by providing professional attire and career development, is looking for clothing, purses, briefcases and portfolios. Donors can drop off items this Friday at Lipscomb University's Ezell Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Clothing must be in nearly new condition and on hangers. Nashville lawyer Marisa Combs is among the volunteers leading the effort.

Documentary Looks at Recidivism in NE Tennessee

"Outcasts: Surviving the Culture of Rejection," a locally produced documentary that looks at the high cost of recidivism and its impact on Northeast Tennessee, will premier Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Wellmont Regional Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Northeast State Community College. Produced by Jane Hillhouse of Hillhouse Video Works in Kingsport, "Outcasts" also examines viable solutions that are making a difference. After the premiere, the documentary will air on East Tennessee PBS and affiliates nationwide. Learn more or RSVP online. The Kingsport Times News has more on the making of the film.

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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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