Tennessee Law Schools Celebrate Graduation

The six law schools in Tennessee are celebrating commencement for the graduating Class of 2014 with ceremonies this month. The University of Tennessee College of Law welcomed Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee, who addressed the class during the spring hooding ceremony today. Vanderbilt University Law School celebrated commencement today as well, honoring 21 graduates with academic and citizenship awards. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito will speak at the inaugural commencement for Belmont University College of Law tomorrow at the Curb Event Center. The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law also will hold its graduation tomorrow at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Memphis. Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law will hold commencement May 17 at LMU Tex Turner Arena. Nashville School of Law will celebrate the commencement ceremony for their Cooper Term of graduates on May 24 at the Nashville Convention Center.

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
03 - 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

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


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Vincent Garrard, Only, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Bill Young, Solicitor General; Jennifer L. Brenner, Civil Rights and Claims Division, for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.


This appeal involves the trial court’s denial of relief to an inmate based upon a writ of certiorari. The inmate raises several issues regarding violations of the Tennessee Department of Correction Uniform Disciplinary Procedures, as well as basic due process. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Gregory E. Bennett, Seymour, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ryan M.

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

Robert L. Huddleston, Maryville, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.


This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Garvin M. and Brianna M., the minor children (“the Children”) of Ryan M. (“Father”) and Jennifer M. (“Mother”). In July 2012, the Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and placed in foster care. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father on February 26, 2013. The petition alleged as statutory grounds for termination: (1) severe child abuse, (2) abandonment by the parents’ failure to provide a suitable home, (3) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, (4) persistent conditions, and (5) abandonment by an incarcerated parent who exhibits wanton disregard for the Children’s welfare prior to incarceration. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to both parents upon finding that DCS had proven all of the grounds alleged by clear and convincing evidence. The court also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


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

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General, and Pamela S. Lorch, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction and Tennessee Department of Correction.


Inmates in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction who are housed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee, filed various claims related to their “prison jobs,” inter alia, for wages and damages under the Tennessee Wage Regulation Act, specifically Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-2-101 and 50-2-104, and for breach of oral contract, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and conversion. The Tennessee Claims Commission dismissed all of the inmates’ claims upon the defendants’ Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02 (1) and (6) motion to dismiss. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William E. Griffith, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Selwyn Forbes George.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General, and Rachel Sobrero, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Selwyn Forbes George, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for one count of possession with intent to sell or deliver .5 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone. Petitioner entered a negotiated plea agreement in which he pled guilty to possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine for resale in exchange for a twenty-year sentence to be served as a Range I, standard offender. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that trial counsel was ineffective. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Petitioner appeals. After a review, we determine that Petitioner has failed to show clear and convincing evidence that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Further, we determine that Petitioner has failed to show that his guilty plea was involuntarily or unknowingly entered. As a result, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jonathan M. Holcomb, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher D. Seals.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General; and Kim Morrison, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The appellant, Christopher D. Seals, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, and the trial court imposed a sentence of three years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant asserts that the trial court erred by denying judicial diversion and in determining the amount of restitution. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Barry J. McWhirter (on appeal) and William Atrel Townsend aka Abdullah R.S. Ashanti (pro se at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Atrel Townsend aka Abdullah R.S. Ashanti.

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


The Petitioner, William Atrel Townsend aka Abdullah R.S. Ashanti, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis regarding his conviction for attempt to commit especially aggravated robbery, for which he is serving an eight-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by denying him relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Circuit Court Judge Being Treated for Cancer

One day after winning the Republican primary for Third Judicial District Circuit Judge Part III, Mike Faulk announced Wednesday that doctors have discovered a sizeable malignant tumor in his esophagus. A former state senator, county commissioner, and longtime Hawkins County-based attorney, Faulk was appointed last year to replace retiring Circuit Judge Kindall Lawson. This will be his first actual election to that seat. "Other than the days I have chemotherapy and the days I'm recovering from it, I expect to be on the job," he said. "I want to publicly thank Chancellor Doug Jenkins and Judge Tom Wright who have agreed to fill in for me on those days so no one will have to wait to have his or her case heard." The Times News has the story.

Oklahoma Court Agrees to 6-Month Stay of Executions

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed yesterday to a six-month stay of execution for death row inmate Charles Warner while an investigation is conducted into last week's botched lethal injection. The court reset Warner’s execution date to Nov. 13 after his attorneys requested the delay, and state Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a court filing he wouldn't object. While the stay only applies to Warner, the attorney general and governor have said Oklahoma will not carry out any executions until the investigation is finished, which is expected to take at least eight weeks, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Belmont Law Professor Joins Bone McAllester

Entertainment attorney and Belmont University College of Law professor Loren E. Mulraine will join Nashville’s Bone McAllester Norton as the firm’s 38th attorney. Mulraine will serve as of counsel at Bone McAllester Norton, where he will focus his practice on entertainment law, intellectual property and business and corporate law. He will continue in his role at Belmont, teaching courses in copyright law, entertainment law, media law and intellectual property law, the Nashville Ledger reports.

Legal Publisher Changes Policy on Returned Casebooks

Aspen Publishers has changed its policy on requiring law students to return their property law casebooks at the end of the semester after blogger outcry. The company will now offer students two options: buy a hard copy of the book without digital materials and keep the book at the end of the semester, or buy the digital book along with the hard copy, and return the hard copy at semester's end, keeping the electronic version. The ABA Journal has more.

Siblings who Fled War-Torn Bosnia Are Now UT Law Grads

As young children, siblings Goran and Nina Musinovic were forced to flee from their home in Sarajevo, Bosnia, during the civil war in Yugoslavia. Today, they are both graduates from the University of Tennessee College of Law. After fleeing Sarajevo, the siblings lived with their mother in Serbia before immigrating as a family with their father to the U.S. in 1995 when Goran was 11 and Nina was 7. Both received their undergraduate degrees from the UT College of Business Administration, and today Nina will follow in her brother’s footsteps as she graduates from UT Law. Goran practices with Woolf, McClaine, Bright, Allen & Carpenter PLLC and Nina will join the firm of Butler, Vines & Babb after graduation. View the press release

Funeral Arrangements Pending for Longtime State Official Harlan Mathews

Former U.S. Sen. and Deputy Gov. Harlan Mathews died this morning from brain cancer. He was 87. A graduate of the Nashville School of Law, Mathews was a fixture at the Capitol for all but a couple of years from 1950 into the 1990s, serving under four Democratic governors and holding the constitutional office of state treasurer — a position elected by the General Assembly — from 1974 to 1987. He served in the Senate for two years after being appointed to fill the remainder of Vice President Al Gore’s term. “Harlan Mathews was my friend, an extraordinary public servant, and a true gentleman respected by Democrats and Republicans alike for his masterful knowledge of policy and his principled, honest dealing," former President Bill Clinton said in a statement. "In addition to his nearly half-century of service in Tennessee, I will always be grateful for the years he spent in the Senate, during which he cast important votes for the 1993 economic plan and the 1994 crime bill, votes which made our nation more prosperous and safer." The Tennessean reports funeral arrangements are pending. 

Blue Ribbon Walk May 14

Junior’s House Child Advocacy Center will host the 10th Annual Blue Ribbon Walk Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at Stone Bridge Memorial Park in Fayetteville. State Sen. Jim Tracy and State Rep. Pat Marsh will be this year’s grand marshals. Nationally, April is known as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Pinwheels that are placed in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse represent 500 child abuse referrals reviewed by Junior’s House and child protective investigative team this year. For additional information please call Crystal Guess, director of Junior’s House, at (931) 438-3233. The Elk Valley Times has more. 

LAET to Honor Volunteer Attorneys May 15

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) will host its Annual Pro Bono Night next Thursday at Bessie Smith Hall in Chattanooga. The event will celebrate local attorneys who have donated time and legal services during the past year to aid those who otherwise could not afford an attorney. The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of four annual awards, including honoring Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee, an outspoken advocate for access to justice for all Tennesseans, with the Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award. Tickets are $25 per person. All proceeds from the event will benefit the programs of LAET. Learn more or buy tickets online or by calling (423) 756-4013, extension 1105.

Show Your Professional Pride with the TBA Visa

TBA members can now show their professional pride and get rewarded for doing so. The Tennessee Bar Association Visa® Platinum Rewards Card is now available to all members. Apply now and earn points at hundreds of online retailers. Redeem your points for name-brand merchandise, event tickets, gift cards, travel rewards options and more. Apply now!


Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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.

© Copyright 2014 Tennessee Bar Association