May TBJ Looks Into Alternative Careers for Lawyers

A recent study indicates that fewer lawyers are practicing traditional law than ever before. In the May issue, the Tennessee Bar Journal takes a look at some Tennessee lawyers who have chosen career paths that use their law degrees in alternative ways. Also headlining this issue, George Orwell's classic essay on writing and how it can help lawyers and judges communicate more effectively. Read these and more in the May TBJ.

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
09 - 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









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 Court of Appeals

IN RE: ALEXIS L., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Bruce N. Oldham, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Amy C.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter and Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children’s Services.

Judge: BENNETT

Mother appealed the trial court’s determination that several grounds for terminating her parental rights had been met and that termination was in the best interest of her children. She failed to appeal or argue one of the grounds for termination, so the trial court’s finding regarding that ground is final. Because only one ground need be found, we decline to examine the other grounds. We agree with the trial court’s determination that clear and convincing evidence existed to conclude that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the best interest of the children.


IN RE: ASHLEY B.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Benjamin Scott Harmon, Savannah, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ruby J.G.

Leslie Curry, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

Judge: PER CURIAM

The order appealed is not a final judgment and therefore, this appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.


A TO Z SMART PRODUCTS & CONSULTING, ET AL. V. BANK OF AMERICA

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Phillip L. Robertson, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, A to Z Smart Products and Consulting and Kenneth B. Zangara.

Harold Frederick Humbracht, Jr. and Frankie Neil Spero, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bank of America.

Judge: DINKINS

Garnishor obtained a final judgment which held Garnishee liable for full amount of outstanding debt of the judgment-debtor. The trial court granted Garnishee’s motion to alter or amend and vacated the conditional judgment and the final judgment against the Garnishee; Garnishor appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.


CITY PRESS COMMUNICATIONS, LLC ET AL. V. TENNESSEE SECONDARY SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Richard L. Colbert and Courtney L. Wilbert, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.

John P. Williams, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, City Press Communications, LLC, Steve Cavendish, and Ken Whitehouse.

Judge: CLEMENT

The principal issue is whether an association that governs and coordinates interscholastic athletic competition of substantially all public and private secondary schools in Tennessee is the functional equivalent of a government agency for purposes of the Tennessee Public Records Act. Two reporters and their newspaper filed this action pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-505 to obtain records from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association regarding the enforcement of its bylaws on member schools. The chancery court held that the association was the functional equivalent of a government agency; therefore, it was subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act, codified at Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503 et seq. The court also ordered it to produce the records at issue, subject to the redaction of students’ names. We affirm.


IN RE ELLA M. I., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Seth M. Lasater, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Elisabeth I.

Stacy D. Attkisson, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellees, Thomas I. and Jacqueline I.

Judge: BENNETT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. We conclude from the record that clear and convincing evidence does not support the trial court’s finding of willful abandonment and, accordingly, reverse.


IN RE: GLENN J., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Patti B. Garner, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael G.

M. Allen Ehmling and Elizabeth R. McClellan, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellees, Tracy J. and Shannon J.

Judge: DINKINS

Father of two children appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to support and the finding that termination of his parental rights would be in the best interest of the children. Finding no error we affirm.


ANTONIUS HARRIS, ET AL. V. TENNESSEE REHABILITATIVE INITIATIVE IN CORRECTION

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Steven Calvin Compton, Nolensville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Antonius Harris, Timothy Bowles, Robert Payne, and Randy Mills.

Pamela S. Lorch, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction.

Judge: COTTRELL

Four men who worked for Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction (TRICOR) while incarcerated in the Department of Corrections filed a grievance with the Department, contending that TRICOR had failed to pay them all the wages they had been promised. The Grievance Committee ruled in their favor, but TRICOR and the Department refused to authorize any additional pay. The men filed two different actions in the Davidson County Chancery Court. This appeal is from the denial of the trial court in Part III of a motion to reconsider. The trial court denied the motion. We affirm.


JIM NAJIB JIRJIS v. TAMMY SUE JIRJIS

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Lee Davies, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tammy Sue Jirjis.

Helen Sfikas Rogers, Lawrence James Kamm, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jim Najib Jirjis.

Judge: COTTRELL

The trial court granted a divorce to a husband and wife after a marriage of nineteen years. The court named the husband as the primary residential parent of the parties’ children, divided the marital property between the parties, and awarded the wife transitional alimony of $3,000 per month for five years. The husband argues on appeal that the trial court erred in including his separate property in the marital estate subject to division. The wife argues that the alimony award was insufficient in light of the length of the parties’ marriage and the disparity in income between them, and that the court erred in failing to award her attorney’s fees. We agree that husband’s separate property should not be included in the marital estate, but that the division of property is still equitable. We hold that the wife is entitled to alimony in futuro. We also find that she should be awarded one-half of the attorney’s fees she incurred at trial.


MARGARET RENEE WRIGHT v. PATRICIA DUNLAP ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Margaret Renee Wright, Clarksville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Roger Kreis White, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Patricia Dunlap.

Judge: CLEMENT

The plaintiff, Margaret Renee Wright, has appealed from the dismissal of her action for damages arising out of an automobile accident. Upon review of the record, this court determined that neither Ms. Wright’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59 motion nor her notice of appeal were timely filed. We thus ordered Ms. Wright to show cause why her appeal should not be dismissed. Ms. Wright’s trial counsel has filed a response asserting that both Ms. Wright’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59 motion and her notice of appeal were in fact timely filed. It appears from Ms. Wright’s response that certain documents were omitted from the record. Nevertheless, we still conclude that Ms. Wright’s Tenn. R. Civ. P.59 motion was untimely and thus dismiss the appeal.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

CHRISTOPHER RODNEY BUTLER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, (on appeal); and Joseph R. Taggart, Jackson, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, Christopher Rodney Butler.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Rolf Hazlehurst, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Christopher Rodney Butler, appeals the dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. More specifically he contends that (1) trial counsel failed to “solicit” the testimony of Albert Sweat; (2) trial counsel failed to depose the State’s witnesses prior to trial; and (3) trial counsel failed to obtain video surveillance footage from the cameras at the “Mix Factory in Jackson, Tennessee showing that he had been approached by a young black man, who drove him to the purported crime scene.” After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to show that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARVIN DAVIS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Barry W. Kuhn, Assistant Public Defender (on appeal); and E. Jane Sturdivant and Sanjeev Memula, Assistant Public Defenders (at trial), for the appellant, Marvin Davis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Terre Fratesi and Abby Wallace, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Marvin Davis, of rape of a child, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-five years at 100%. On appeal, the defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in admitting the videotaped forensic interview of the victim; and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


REUBEN HICKOK FAIRFIELD v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Reuben Hickok Fairfield.

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

Judge: WEDEMEYER

The Petitioner, Reuben Hickok Fairfield, pled guilty to second degree murder and tampering with evidence, and he agreed to concurrent sentences of thirty-five years, at 100 percent, for the second degree murder conviction and to six years, at 30 percent, for the tampering with evidence conviction. The Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which was amended by appointed counsel. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the post-conviction court erred when it dismissed his petition because his counsel was ineffective and his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that the post-conviction court did not err when it dismissed the petition. The post-conviction court’s judgment is, therefore, affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. THOMAS LEE HUTCHISON
CORRECTION: Page 2 "Lacy Wilbur" changed to "Lacy Wilber"

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert L. Jolley, Jr., and Megan A. Swain, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas Lee Hutchison.

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

Judge: PAGE

A Knox County jury convicted appellant of three counts of facilitation of first degree murder and one count of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the facilitation of first degree murder convictions and sentenced appellant to seventeen years. The trial court also sentenced appellant to a concurrent sentence of eight years for facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, appellant presents thirteen issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in overruling appellant’s motion to suppress evidence seized in an extended warrantless search of his house; (2) whether the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce video footage of the crime scene; (3) whether the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence of blood samples taken from appellant without a warrant; (4) whether the trial court erred in admitting prior bad act evidence; (5) whether the trial court erred by allowing testimony regarding evidence that had been destroyed; (6) whether the trial court erred by allowing a medical examiner to testify about an autopsy performed by another medical examiner; (7) whether the trial court erred in denying appellant’s three motions for mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct; (8) whether the trial court erred when it denied appellant’s request for a continuance in light of the State’s late disclosure of certain evidence; (9) whether the trial court erred by denying appellant’s request to strike a witness’s testimony when the testimony was internally contradictory; (10) whether the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce graphic photographs of the victim’s injuries; (11) whether the trial court erred in its jury instructions; (12) whether the evidence was sufficient to support appellant’s convictions; and (13) whether appellant is entitled to a new trial due to cumulative error. Based on our thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


GARY ALLEN JORDAN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gary Allen Jordan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian M. Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Gary Allen Jordan, appeals the denial of his petitions for post-conviction relief from his guilty plea convictions for possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, felony evading arrest, and two counts of aggravated assault. He argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. After review, we affirm the denial of the petitions.


FREDERICK PARKS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Frederick Parks.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

In 2000, the Petitioner, Frederick Parks, pled guilty to one count of escape. The trial court sentenced him to one year in the Tennessee Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to a prior six-year sentence as well as any other prior sentences. This Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions on appeal. State v. Frederick Parks, No. W1999-01357-CCA-R3-CD, 2000 WL 1672341, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Oct. 27, 2000), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 filed. In 2012, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, which was dismissed. This Court affirmed the dismissal of the petition on appeal. Frederick Parks v. Cherry Lindamood, No. W2013-00361-CCA-R3-HC, 2013 WL 6529307, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Dec. 10, 2013), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 filed. In 2013, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, in which he presented multiple claims, including that his guilty plea to the escape charge had been illegally induced by the prosecutor. After a hearing, the coram nobis court dismissed the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that the coram nobis court erred when it dismissed his petition, contending that the newly discovered evidence warrants a waiver of the statute of limitations. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the coram nobis court’s judgment.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LORENZO SPENCER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Phyllis L. Aluko (on appeal) and William Otis Yonkowski (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Lorenzo Spencer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr, Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Christopher Judson Lareau, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Lorenzo Spencer, was convicted of aggravated burglary. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 34-14-403. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to a ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the Shelby County Criminal Court.


CAMERON WINSELLE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Cameron Winselle, Tiptonville, Tennessee, pro se.

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

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Cameron Winselle, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief. However, this court is without jurisdiction in this case because the Petitioner failed to comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-117(c). Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.


S.C. Court Rejects UPL Claim Against LegalZoom

The South Carolina Supreme Court has approved LegalZoom’s business practices on the basis that they mirror other self-help services offered by various state and local agencies, the ABA Journal reports. The court found that since documents offered by the company do not provide legal advice, and since the company itself does not provide legal assistance in the creation of the documents, it is not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The company operates in all 50 states and has faced claims of unauthorized practice of law elsewhere. It is currently fighting a challenge in North Carolina.


New Head Named for Civil Rights Unit

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton has named Brian K. Coleman, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, to lead the civil rights unit of his office. Coleman has been a federal prosecutor since 2008 and was a state prosecutor before that. Stanton created the unit in 2011 to handle traditional civil rights violations, as well as government corruption, human trafficking and hate crime cases. Larry Laurenzi, who previously led the unit, has been named first assistant in the office, the Memphis Daily News reports.


Shelby County Likely to Expand Environmental Court

An expansion of the Shelby County Environmental Court is “fairly assured” now that the General Sessions’ clerk has agreed to eliminate a position in his office to fund the project, the Commercial Appeal reports. Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter praised the move and outlined his plans for splitting the work of the court into two courtrooms: one that would focus exclusively on environmental cases and one that would handle traffic citations, which the court hears as a division of the General Sessions Criminal Court. Funding also would pay for a referee to stand in for Judge Potter in traffic court so he can focus more on environmental cases.


New Sevier County Prosecutor Joins Staff

Keith Cole was sworn in as a new Sevier County prosecutor yesterday, Knoxnews reports. Cole, who was given the oath of office by Circuit Court Judge Richard Vance, will be assigned to Sevier County General Sessions Court. Cole earned his law degree from Lincoln Memorial University's Duncan School of Law and was licensed in October.


UT Moot Court Team Earns High Finish

The University of Tennessee College of Law’s Prince Moot Court Team advanced to the final round of the 29th Annual Prince Evidence Moot Court Competition in New York City after placing among the top 16 teams in preliminary rounds. Although the team did not ultimately win, the law school reports that team members Kyle Rate, Drew Carter and Casey Dunlap won the praise of judges and fellow competitors for their presentations. See a photo of the team in this week's Informant.


Rape Kit Backlog Poses Testing, Prosecution Challenges

The former federal prosecutor investigating the rape kit backlog in Memphis says clearing the backlog will mean more than an investment in testing the rape kits for DNA. “Let’s say out of the 2,000 there are 1,000 that are prosecutable," Veronica Coleman-Davis said. "Think about what the prosecutor’s office is going to have to do in terms of resources.” Coleman-Davis said she has interviewed more than 25 people so far in trying to determine how the backlog occurred. She expects to have a report to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. in about two weeks.


Brown Contempt Hearing Delay Denied

Former Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown’s contempt citation in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court is set to be heard tomorrow by Senior Judge Paul G. Summers, who is acting as a special judge in the case, after Summers denied motions to delay the hearing. Brown’s lawyers had sought to delay the hearing to add additional claims regarding Brown’s unsuccessful attempt to get a hearing before Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person Jr., who set bail in the original contempt case.


Memphis Attorney Honored at Harvard Law Exhibit

Portraits of more than 60 prominent women -- including Memphis lawyer Lynn Susser -- were displayed at Harvard Law School for its inaugural International Women's Day Exhibition. Susser, who is managing partner at the Siskind Susser law firm and practices exclusively in immigration and nationality law, was nominated for the honor by members of the Harvard community, the Memphis Business Journal reports.


Chancery Candidates Allege False Statements, File Complaints Against Each Other

With Tuesday’s Republican primary just days away, the rhetoric between two candidates for Anderson County chancellor is heating up, Knoxnews reports. Nichole “Nicki” Cantrell and Michael S. Farley are accusing each other of making false and misleading statements about the other, and both candidates have filed complaints with the state Board of Judicial Conduct. The pair will face a third Republican, Phil Harber, in the primary. The winner of that race will take the seat as no Democrats are running.


Cannon County Judge Announces Re-election Plans

Cannon County’s General Sessions Judge Susan Melton has announced she will seek re-election as an independent candidate during the Aug. 7 general election. Melton has served as a general sessions and juvenile judge in the county for 13 years and is the former president of the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference. Melton says she describes herself as a conservative constitutionalist, who seeks justice above all else, while valuing compassion and understanding. WBRY News Radio has the story.


23rd Judicial District PD Seeks Re-election

William B. “Jake” Lockert is seeking re-election to the office of district public defender in the 23rd Judicial District, The Tennessean reports. Lockert earned his law degree from the University of Memphis School of Law and began his career as an assistant district attorney in the 23rd Judicial District. He has served as the district public defender since 1998, and for one year served as president of the state District Public Defender's Conference. Lockert touts his work creating the first CASA program and the first drug court in the district and pledged to continue working to create the first misdemeanor drug court and veteran’s court in the area.


Longtime Maury Court Clerk Dies

Former Maury County Circuit Court Clerk Kathy Wright Kelley, 66, was remembered this week as an outstanding public servant and caring supervisor. At funeral services Monday, county and court officials praised Kelley, who died last Thursday (April 24) after a lengthy illness. Kelley served for 19 years as circuit court clerk. She had retired last December due to medical issues. Current court clerk Sandy McLain said Kelley was “an outstanding circuit court clerk. She was very devoted to this office. She always gave 100 percent when she was here to the service of this county.”


NBA Golf Tournament Set for May 15

The 2014 Nashville Bar Association and Nashville Bar Foundation Golf Tournament is set for May 15 at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin. Range balls will be available at noon with a shotgun start at 1 p.m. A cookout and presentation of prizes for teams and individuals will take place at the conclusion of the tournament. Register online or contact Traci Hollandsworth at (615) 242-9272 for more information.


ABA Offers Retirement Benefits for the Legal Sector

Looking for a retirement plan for yourself or your employees? The ABA Retirement Fund provides unique, full service 401(k) plans specifically for the legal community. By leveraging the assets of its 3,800 client firms, the ABA plan offers packages typically available only to large corporations. For more information contact a regional representative at (800) 826-8901 or visit www.abaretirement.com.


 
 

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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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