Barker: Not All GOP Want to Oust Democratic Justices

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William “Mickey” Barker says an effort by some Republicans to unseat three incumbent Democratic justices in August elections is nothing less than “an attack on the entire judicial system.” The Signal Mountain Republican, who served nearly seven years on the state’s highest court, called the effort led by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, a “frightening” attempt to turn the judicial branch into another “partisan branch of government.” “We have three branches of government,” Barker said in an interview. “Each are to be co-equal and each are to be separate. Two of those branches are political branches  —  the legislative and the executive. And the judicial branch is nonpolitical.” Barker said he is “very disappointed that our present legislative branch is apparently seeking to dominate all three branches. We’ve never had that in my lifetime in Tennessee, and it would be a real shame to see that occur.” The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more.

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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


Hillary T. Monroe, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jennifer Loraine G.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Kathryn A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children’s Services.


In this termination of parental rights case, Mother appeals the trial court’s determination that she abandoned her son by failing to support him and that termination was in the child’s best interest. Finding clear and convincing evidence in support of the trial court’s determinations, we affirm the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Mark J. Downton, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Glenn C.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


This is a dependency and neglect case. The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the minor child was dependent and neglected under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 37-1-102(b)(23)(A)(i) due to Appellant/Father’s knowing use of force upon the child, which force was likely to cause the child serious bodily injury. Father appeals this finding. We conclude that the evidence clearly and convincingly establishes that Father did knowingly “use . . . force on [the] child that [was] likely to cause serious bodily injury or death.” Affirmed and remanded.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William T. Edwards, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Lee Hutcherson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; Julie K. Pillow, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, David Lee Hutcherson, pled guilty to one count each of possession of less than .5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, and possession of drug paraphernalia. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-417, - 17-433, -17-425. He received an effective sentence of three years on all counts. As a condition of his guilty plea, the Defendant sought to reserve the right to appeal a certified question of law challenging the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress. Following our review of the record, we dismiss the appeal because the Defendant failed to properly certify his question of law in accordance with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2).


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Warren P. Campbell, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Malone.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Marquis Young, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Steven Malone, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel pretrial and at trial. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jerred A. Creasy, Dickson, Tennessee for the appellant, Alan F. Watson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Dan. M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, and Suzanne Lockert-Mash, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Alan F. Watson, was indicted by the Houston County Grand Jury for aggravated robbery. Prior to trial, Appellant sought to suppress the evidence seized after execution of a search warrant at his home. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. At the conclusion of the jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of the aggravated robbery of Crystal’s Check Cashing. As a result, he was sentenced to nine years in incarceration as a Range I, standard offender. Appellant appeals, arguing: (1) that the trial court improperly denied the motion to suppress; (2) that he was denied a fair trial when the trial court excluded evidence; and (3) that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. After a review of the evidence, we determine that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress where the affidavit in support of the search warrant established probable cause and did not contain false and misleading information. Additionally, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding irrelevant evidence and that the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction for aggravated robbery. As a result, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Memorial Service Monday for Nashville Lawyer Cecil Branstetter

Nashville lawyer Cecil Branstetter died yesterday at the age of 93. A World War II veteran and graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, Branstetter was a member of the commission that wrote Metro’s charter in 1961 and 1962, the year Nashville and Davidson County voters agreed to consolidate the sometimes overlapping city and county governments into one entity, a groundbreaking move. Mayor Karl Dean called Branstetter "an outstanding attorney and civic leader who dedicated his life to making Nashville a better city and the world a more just place." His daughter, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, said "He thought the way to improve the lives of the people was through government. And he thought this government would provide fair treatment to all people in a broader way." Visitation is scheduled for 4 - 7 p.m. Sunday at Immanuel Baptist Church. A public memorial service will be held at the church at 11 a.m. Monday.

Services Sunday for Chattanooga Lawyer

Chattanooga lawyer Stephen Goldstein died Tuesday. The funeral service will held Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Mizpah Congregation Sanctuary, located at 923 McCallie Ave. A graveside service will follow immediately at the Mizpah Congregation Cemetery.

Conner: Ramsey Attacks 'Misleading' on Death Row Cases

Two former death row inmates could become the poster children for a campaign by Republican activists to unseat three state Supreme Court justices, News Channel 5 reports. As a follow-up story to Tuesday's news that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's office has prepared a campaign strategy against the three, the TV station is reporting that the plan highlights the cases of Arthur Copeland and Leonard Edward Smith to suggest the justices are soft on crime. In the Smith case, Ramsey questions how the court could "let this double murderer off death row." He also maintains that some of the "heinous crimes that have been overturned" have been for " frivolous reasons." Republican lawyer Lew Conner, after looking the cases, calls the attacks "misleading." He provides insight into the cases as well as the general observation that in 21 of the death penalty cases that have come before the Supreme Court on direct appeal since 2006, the court has upheld the death penalty in 18 of them. "How can that be soft on crime?" Conner asks.

Law Offices in Walmarts? It's Happening in Canada

Walmart is now selling legal services in some of its supermarkets in Canada, Find Law reports. Axess Law, founded by Toronto lawyers Lena Koke and Mark Morris, has three of it's four current offices (with one more on the way) in Walmarts in Ontario. According to the Toronto Star, the firm practices on a volume model, which allows them to charge low rates, such as $99 for a will or $25 for a notarized document. While the United States has strict rules on non-lawyer ownership of firms, Find Law says that if a firm were to simply lease space in multiple Walmarts, without sharing profits or ownership, it would likely be legal.

Trial Group Honors Chief Justice, Judge

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Davidson County Circuit Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr. were recently honored by the Southeastern chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (SEABOTA) at its annual conference in Nashville, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. Chief Justice Wade, of Sevier County, was named the organization’s 2014 Appellate Judge of the Year. SEABOTA also gave special recognition and honorary membership to Judge Binkley of Nashville, a long-time trial attorney in Nashville before beginning his career on the bench. The program featured former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.

Arizona to Offer First B.A. in Law

The University of Arizona will be the first major U.S. university to offer a bachelor of arts degree in law when it launches its program next fall, administrators announced this week. Arizona’s program will differ from the prelaw or legal-studies majors offered by many universities. Those programs tend to focus broadly on the social sciences, while Arizona’s will closely resemble a law school curriculum, with the law classes taught by full-time law school faculty. The program is designed to complement Arizona’s new “3+3” program, which allows students to complete a bachelor's in law and a juris doctor degree within six years, rather than the typical seven. The National Law Journal has more.

Nashville Attorney Announces Run for Mayor

Charles Robert Bone of Nashville’s Bone McAllster Norton PLLC announced today he is running for mayor of Nashville next year. Bone, an attorney, businessman and Democratic Party fund-raiser with strong ties to the city's power base, joins second-term Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry in the campaign to succeed Mayor Karl Dean. He told the Tennessean he'll make a formal announcement and appoint a campaign treasurer "in the coming weeks" and hold an opening event and fund-raiser on June 25.

Knoxville Attorney Arraigned on Drug Charges

Veteran Knoxville defense attorney Bruce Poston was arraigned today on charges he gave prescription painkillers to the wife of a client, Knoxnews reports. He was arrested last month after a probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and accused of two counts of delivery of hydrocodone, one count of attempted delivery and driving on a suspended license. Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood set an Oct. 28 trial date.

Lawyer Files Motion to Marry His Laptop

A Tennessee lawyer living in Florida has filed a motion to marry his laptop. The ABA Journal reports that Chris Sevier intervened in a high-profile case involving recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Sevier argued that if same-sex couples have the right to marry, Sevier should be permitted to wed his "preferred sexual object," which he describes as a "porn-filled Apple computer," the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports. Last year, Sevier made headlines when he filed a product liability suit contenting that Apple Inc. was responsible for the pornography addiction that he says resulted when he mistyped a Web address into a MacBook Pro laptop. He made further headlines when he was arrested for allegedly stalking country singer John Rich and a 17-year-old-girl.

Drug Court Celebrates First Graduation

The Hawkins County Recovery Court, a division of General Sessions Court, will hold its first graduation ceremony Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. at Rogersville City Park's main stage. The event is in celebration of National Drug Court Month and the 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts nationwide. Patty Ward will be recognized as the first graduate for completing an intensive program of comprehensive drug treatment, close supervision and full accountability. The Rogersville Review has more. 

TBJ Columns Cover Electronic Surveillance, 'McCutcheon' and More

Columns in the May Tennessee Bar Journal include electronic surveillance in family law by Marlene Moses and Benjamin Russ; Tenn. Code Ann. §20-1-119 and its relationship with the federal courts by John Day; and the late Don Paine wrote about convicted murderer Paul Dennis Reid Jr. Bill Haltom explains how the "McCutcheon" case makes the phrase "free speech" into an oxymoron.

Additional Lawyers Suspended for 2014 Fee, IOLTA Violations

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Monday issued three orders suspending nine Tennessee-licensed attorneys who did not pay their registration fee to the Board of Professional Responsibility and/or did not file a mandatory compliance statement that eligible client funds are held in accounts participating in the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. Lawyers who since have complied with the requirements are noted as reinstated. See the updated lists and download the orders.

UPS Puts the Power of Logistics to Work for You

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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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