Special Supreme Court Denies Hooker’s Petition to Rehear

The Tennessee Special Supreme Court has issued an order denying John Jay Hooker’s petition to rehear the case in which he challenged the constitutionality of the state’s judicial selection process. Hooker filed the petition with the Court March 27, seeking a rehearing on the issue of the constitutionality of the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) under the Tennessee Plan, on the issue of the constitutionality of statewide voting for the judges of the intermediate appellate courts, and on the issue of the competence of the Court of Appeals to have ruled in this case. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

Today's Opinions

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TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court


Hershell Koger (on appeal), Pulaski, Tennessee, and Forest A. Durard, Jr. (at trial and on appeal), Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kiara Tashawn King.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Mark A. Fulks and Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WADE

The defendant pled guilty to aggravated burglary and theft of property over five hundred dollars. The trial court imposed concurrent, Range I sentences of five years and one year and six months, respectively, all to be served on probation. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial court erred by imposing excessive sentences and by denying her application for judicial diversion. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We granted the application for permission to appeal in order to clarify the appropriate standard of appellate review for the grant or denial of judicial diversion. We hold that when the trial court places on the record its considerations for the grant or denial of judicial diversion, the determination should be given a presumption of reasonableness on appeal and reviewed for an abuse of discretion. In the absence of appropriate considerations on the record, the appellate court should either remand for reconsideration or perform a de novo review. After our own de novo review of this record, we hold that the defendant is not entitled to judicial diversion.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Christopher Brett Jaeger and Gregory Dye Smith, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brenda J. Hutcherson.

Robert E. Kolarich, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wallace Jackson Hutcherson.


This is a contract interpretation case involving the proper apportionment of proceeds from the sale of several properties owned by the parties as tenants in common. When Husband and Wife divorced in 2005, a marital dissolution agreement was incorporated into their Final Decree of Divorce. In pertinent part, the agreement required the parties to sell six properties and split the proceeds therefrom. The agreement listed each of the properties with a dollar amount beside it. The agreement provided that Wife could be compelled to accept an offer for a particular property so long as her share of the proceeds equaled the dollar amount listed with that property in the agreement. The sum of the amounts listed with the properties at issue was $565,800. Real estate values declined substantially after the agreement was entered, and the properties were finally sold together for $322,287.71 in 2012. Following the sale Husband filed a motion seeking an equal division of the sale proceeds. Wife answered, insisting that the agreement entitled her to $565,800 and that she was therefore entitled to all of the sale proceeds, less Husband’s expenses related to the properties. During a bench trial, the court found the agreement ambiguous and therefore considered parol evidence to determine the intent of the parties. Based on its findings, the trial court determined that the parties intended to split the sale proceeds equally. Additionally, the trial court concluded that the agreement entitled Husband to reimbursement for one-half of his expenses on the properties, which the parties stipulated to be $156,270.48. In its final accounting, the trial court awarded $234,834.09 to Husband and $87,453.62 to Wife. We affirm.

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


L. Gilbert Anglin, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant(s), RCK Joint Venture, (a joint venture comprised of River Road Construction, LLC, Creative Homes, LLC and Keystone Homes of TN, Inc.).

Rodney M. Scott, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Garrison Cove Homeowners Association, a Tennessee Nonprofit Corporation.


The only issue in this appeal is whether two property owners in a subdivision are entitled to an award of attorney fees for prevailing in a third-party action brought against them by the homeowners association to enforce restrictive covenants. The association argued that the property owners were not entitled to attorney fees because they did not prevail on every issue that came up during litigation, because the attorney fee provision in the restrictive covenants could be read to mean that no such award could be made if additional damages were not also awarded, and because they did not personally pay their own attorney fees. The trial court agreed with those arguments and denied the motion for attorney fees. We reverse the trial court and remand the case for a determination of the amount of the attorney fee award.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


G. W. Sherrod, III, Henderson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephanie M.

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

Lanis L. Karnes, Jackson, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem


Mother’s parental rights to her three sons were terminated after she pled guilty to the second degree murder of a fourth son. On appeal, Mother concedes that termination grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence; she challenges only the trial court’s finding that termination of her parental rights is in the children’s best interest. We affirm the trial court’s best interest finding, and thus, its termination of Mother’s parental rights.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gerald L. Melton, District Public Defender, for the appellant, William G. Barnett, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Senior Counsel; William Whitesell, District Attorney General; and Laural A. Hemenway, Assistant District Attorney Generals, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, William G. Barnett, Jr., pled guilty to four counts of aggravated statutory rape, Class D felonies, and one count of attempted solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor. Based upon the imposition of consecutive sentencing, the petitioner was sentenced to serve three years in the Department of Correction, followed by three years of probation. At the guilty plea hearing, the State noted that the petitioner asked to be allowed to reserve a certified question of law to appeal. The State read the petitioner’s question on the record, and the handwritten and signed statement was included in the record. It stated, “I would like to reserve my right to appeal the decision on the motion to dismiss.” The petitioner filed notice of direct appeal. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus, which the trial court summarily dismissed based upon the pending direct appeal. The petitioner appealed that dismissal. This court has now consolidated those two issues into a single case. Thus, the issues presently before us are: (1) whether the defendant’s direct appeal of his certified question is properly before this court; and (2) whether the trial court properly dismissed the petition for the writ of habeas corpus. Upon review, we conclude that the certified question is not properly before this court and dismiss that portion of the appeal. However, with regard to habeas corpus relief, the petitioner has established what may be an illegal sentence. Remand to the trial court is necessary for further factual findings and actions taken in accordance with this opinion.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Stephen M. Wallace, District Public Defender, Blountville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Howard Brackson Carrier.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Barry Staubus, District Attorney General; and Joseph Eugene Perrin and Julie Canter, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Sullivan County jury convicted appellant, Howard Brackson Carrier, of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder committed during the perpetration of a burglary, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated burglary, for which he received a sentence of life for the merged murder convictions, fifteen years, and three years, respectively. After the trial but before the hearing on the motion for a new trial, defense counsel discovered new evidence indicating that one of the State’s witnesses had falsely testified that a knife sharpener found at the murder scene belonged to appellant. At the motion for a new trial hearing, appellant argued that the testimony was crucial because it formed the basis for premeditation and intent. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal follows. Herein, appellant raises one issue for our review: whether the witness’s false testimony necessitates a new trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgments for attempted first degree murder and aggravated burglary. We affirm the convictions for first degree premeditated murder and felony murder but vacate the judgments and remand the case to the trial court for entry of a single judgment for first degree murder noting merger of the two convictions.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


C. Richard Hughes, Jr., District Public Defender; and Keith Roberts, Assistant District Public Defender, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ramsey Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Robert Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and Andrew D. Watts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee

Judge: PAGE

Petitioner, Ramsey Harris, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, false reporting to a law enforcement officer, and two counts of felony theft of property. He received an effective sentence of twenty years as a Range III offender. As part of the plea agreement, several other charges were dismissed. In his post-conviction proceedings, petitioner asserts that numerous errors with respect to trial counsel’s advice to him regarding the guilty plea to false reporting amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James Ronald Tucker, Jr., Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, George Scott Mason.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, George Scott Mason, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief for his conviction of possession of a Schedule II substance for resale. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in failing to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


L. Willis Jones, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Aaron Page.

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

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Steven Aaron Page, pled guilty in Davidson County to one count of aggravated child abuse. Pursuant to the plea, Petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years to be served at 100 percent. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The post-conviction court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the post-conviction court did not err in denying the petition. Therefore, we affirm the denial of the petition.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jarrod Phillips, Pro Se, Only, Tennessee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Jarrod Phillips, was charged with first degree murder in Davidson County. He pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to thirty-two years as a Range II, violent offender. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Hickman County. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the petition.

Supreme Court Clarifies Standard for Review of Judicial Diversion

The Tennessee Supreme Court in a unanimous opinion today clarified the standard of appellate review for a trial court’s decision regarding judicial diversion, the Administrative Office of the Court reports. When a case is appealed, the court must determine what standard of review applies. In the case State v. King, the defendant argued that the Court of Criminal Appeals used the wrong standard when reviewing the trial court’s decision to deny judicial diversion. The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Court of Criminal Appeals, adopting as the appropriate standard of review for judicial diversion rulings “abuse of discretion with a presumption of reasonableness.”

Obama Administration Unveils Clemency Program

Thousands of federal prison inmates could seek early release under details of a new, long-awaited clemency program today unveiled by the Obama administration, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The effort is part of a broader push by the administration and some in Congress to roll back sentencing practices that were largely developed in the 1980s as a reaction to the crack-cocaine epidemic and a rise in crime. House Judiciary Chairman and Virginia Republican Robert W. Goodlatte ripped the new sentencing plan, saying, “The Justice Department’s mission is to ‘enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law,’ not to re-write the laws and to endanger American communities.” Roll Call has more.

Commissioner Files Complaint Against Juvenile Judge

Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks accused Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person of violating her First Amendment rights and failing to promote confidence in the integrity of the court in a complaint filed with the Board of Judicial Conduct. Based on documents she provided to the media yesterday, Brooks said she has repeatedly asked that she and other “community monitors” be allowed to attend juvenile court proceedings but has been denied by Person because of her history of using her public office to attack him and the court, the Commercial Appeal reports.

Sotomayor’s Opinion Her First on Race Issue

In a dissent this week to a U.S. Supreme Court opinion on affirmative action, Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- the first Hispanic justice on the court -- addressed race in American for the first time since going on the bench, Gavel Grab reports. While the six-member majority upheld a voter-approved Michigan ban on affirmative action in university admissions, Justice Sotomayor parted ways, writing: “The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat.” She added, “But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Attorney General Eric Holder today applauded Justice Sotomayor’s dissent and called it “courageous and very personal,” the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

Bill Clinton to Speak In Nashville Monday

Former President Bill Clinton will be in Nashville on Monday to serve as the keynote speaker as LEAD Academy celebrates its inaugural class of graduates. LEAD, the first and only charter high school in Nashville, has boasted 100 percent college acceptance this spring among its 44 seniors. Clinton was a key backer before LEAD opened its doors in 2007 and now will be here during a private "senior signing day" in which graduates will reveal their college plans. During the same stop in Nashville, Clinton will attend an evening fundraiser at the Forest Hills home of real estate developer Bill Freeman benefiting the nonprofit Clinton Foundation, the Tennessean reports.

Nashville Moves Ahead with DNC Convention Bid

Nashville was one of 15 cities that received a request for proposal from the Democratic Party to officially bid on hosting its 2016 convention. Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., said the city could probably meet the room and suite requirements to host, but estimates its price tag to be anywhere from $75 million to $100 million. Complicating the matter is that no exact dates have been set for the convention. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

Circuit Court Clerk Faces Challenger

Incumbent Washington County Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn will face Suzan Sell Mitchell in the Republican primary on May 6. To learn more about the two candidates, visit the Johnson City Press.

DA Candidates Share Passion for Law with Students

Two candidates seeking Shelby County residents’ vote for the office of the district attorney spoke to high school students about their passion for the law, WMCTV News 5 reports. Shelby County DA Amy Weirich and Judge Joe Brown were featured speakers at a special seminar at Southwest Tennessee Community College for high school students interested in careers in the justice system.

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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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