NSL Dean Joseph C. Loser Jr. Dies at 81

Joseph C. Loser Jr., the dean of the Nashville School of Law (NSL) for more than two decades, died Sunday (May 11) of congestive heart failure. He was 81. Loser graduated from NSL when it was known as the Nashville YMCA Night Law School. After a lengthy career in the legal profession, in which he served as a Davidson County Circuit Court judge and a special judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals and Supreme Court, Loser was named dean of the school in 1986. He then led an initiative to change the name of the 113-year-old school. Loser was set to retire in July. Visitation will be Tuesday from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. and Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home & Memorial Park. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

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.

01 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
03 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - 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 Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals


Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Ray Hoggatt.

Jerry Hoffer, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Lori Ann Hoggatt.


The divorce in this case brought to an end the thirteen-year marriage of David Ray Hoggatt (“Husband”) and Lori Ann Hoggatt (“Wife”). The trial court classified, valued, and distributed the parties’ property. On this appeal, Husband challenges aspects of the division of marital property. We modify the amount that the trial court ordered Wife to pay Husband in the property division. In all other respects, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Richard E. Collins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Deborah R. Smith.

Dallas T. Reynolds, III, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, John P. Stanley and Dinah Stanley.


Deborah R. Smith (“Plaintiff”) sued John P. Stanley and Dinah Stanley (“Defendants”) with regard to injuries Plaintiff suffered when she fell down stairs while visiting a cabin (“the Cabin”) owned by Defendants. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) granted Defendants summary judgment after finding and holding that Defendants owed no duty to Plaintiff. Plaintiff appeals the grant of summary judgment. We find and hold, as did the Trial Court, that there are no genuine disputed issues of material fact, and that Defendants have shown that Plaintiff cannot establish an essential element of her claim, specifically duty. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Ashonti T. Davis, Nashville, Tennessee, and Susanna M. Moldoveanu, Memphis, for the appellant, Marceia Turner-Bonin.

Stanley A. Kweller and Margaret Lane Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bruce Wayne Turner.


This is a conservatorship modification case. Appellant/Mother sought modification of the trial court’s previous order, naming Appellee/Father as the conservator over the parties’ mentally-disabled, adult son, and mandating that Mother’s visitation with the Ward be supervised. Because Mother had made numerous, unfounded allegations of sexual abuse against the Ward by his older brother, the trial court enjoined Mother from making any future allegations of sexual abuse against the Ward by his older brother, and further enjoined her from discussing, with the Ward, any purported sexual abuse by his older brother. Although the trial court modified its previous order to grant Mother four additional hours of visitation per month, it ordered that her visitation would continue to be supervised. The court further modified the conservatorship by holding that Father, at his discretion, would be allowed to tape record any telephone conversations between the Ward and Mother. On appeal, Mother contends that the injunction constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint on her free speech. We adopt the “modern rule,” holding that defamatory speech may be enjoined after a determination that the speech is, in fact, false, and upon the condition that the injunction be narrowly tailored to limit the prohibited speech to that which has been determined to be false. We conclude that the injunction in this case satisfies both of these criteria such that it does not constitute a prior restraint on Mother’s free speech. Mother also appeals the trial court’s order concerning the amount of visitation, the fact that the visitation is to be supervised, and recording of her telephone conversations with the Ward. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Mother eight hours of visitation per month. Furthermore, because of Mother’s behavior during the pendency of this litigation, we further conclude that the imposition of supervised visitation and the recording of her telephone conversation serve two functions. First, these requirements preserve the Ward’s best interest by providing safeguards against future negative impacts from Mother’s actions. Second, because Mother has shown a propensity to disregard the orders of the court, the requirements ensure that the court’s orders will be followed. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, and there is no abuse of the trial court’s discretion, we affirm and remand.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Timothy J. Gudmundson, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner-Appellant, Kevin Allen Gentry.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Jeremy D. Ball, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Kevin Allen Gentry, appeals the Sevier County Circuit Court’s denial of postconviction relief from his conviction for rape of a child. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Gerald L. Melton, District Public Defender, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charles E. May.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; and William C. Whitesell, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to suspend the balance of a sixyear sentence he was serving in the Rutherford County jail. He claims that the trial court erred; (1) in limiting Appellant’s opportunity to present proof at the motion hearing; (2) denying his motion to suspend sentence because of a waiver included in a probation violation agreement; (3) denying Appellant’s motion on an improper basis; and (4) that Appellant received ineffective assistance of counsel at the motion hearing. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender; and Crystal L. Myers, Assistant District Public Defender, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Petra Oum.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Robert Nash, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Defendant, Phtra Oum, was indicted by the Montgomery County grand jury for first degree premeditated murder, attempted second degree murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during an attempt to commit second degree murder. The trial court set aside the firearm conviction and sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment for his first degree murder conviction. Defendant appeals his conviction, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction for first degree murder. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Defendant’s conviction and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Donna Orr Hargrove, District Public Defender; Michael J. Collins and Andrew Jackson Dearing, III, Assistant Public Defenders, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dustin Mark Vaughn.

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


Defendant, Dustin Mark Vaughn, entered guilty pleas to the promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and the initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent sentences of four years for the promotion of methamphetamine manufacture conviction and twelve years for the methamphetamine initiation process conviction. The trial court denied Defendant’s request for alternative sentencing. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his request for alternative sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender and Ann M. Kroeger, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Brian Garrett Wallace.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General and Jason White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Brian G. Wallace, pled guilty to five counts of attempted especially aggravated exploitation of a minor and one count of attempted sexual battery. The plea was an open guilty plea, and the trial court sentenced Appellant to an effective sentence of eighteen years which included consecutive sentencing. On appeal, Appellant argues that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Supreme Court Names New Appellate Courts Clerk

James M. Hivner of Bartlett has been named as the Clerk of the Appellate Court by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Hivner currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Shelby County Chancery Court. He will replace Mike Catalano, who is retiring in early June after more than 10 years as clerk. In his role as Clerk of the Appellate Courts, Hivner will oversee a staff of 29 at offices in Jackson, Nashville and Knoxville. He will serve the Supreme Court as well as the Court of Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

5 Considered for Bankruptcy Court Vacancy

A Sixth Circuit Merit Selection Panel has recommended five candidates for a bankruptcy judge vacancy in the Eastern District of Tennessee. The opening was created by the retirement of Judge Richard Stair. The candidates are Suzanne H. Bauknight, Mark S. Dessauer, Thomas H. Dickenson and Michael W. Ewell of Knoxville, and TBA President Cynthia R. Wyrick of Sevierville.  The Sixth Circuit Judicial Council must now narrow the list down to three and submit those names to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which will make a final selection. 

Cooper Counters ‘Enemy of Job Creators' Label

Attorney General Bob Cooper responded to attacks from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey with an email noting that the multistate lawsuit settlements cited by Ramsey as anti-business were all supported by elected Republican attorney generals in other states and show that “we take seriously our duty to protect Tennessee taxpayers, consumers and businesses," Knoxnews reports. Ramsey has been showing a PowerPoint presentation that labels Cooper an “enemy of job creators,” noting that the multistate lawsuits cost the defendant companies millions of dollars when they were settled. The presentation also cites two Supreme Court decisions to depict Supreme Court Justices Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade as “soft on crime."

Some Expect Costly, Divisive Judicial Campaign

Tennessee could be facing the costliest state Supreme Court election in its history now that conservatives have targeted three sitting justices on the state's highest court, Knoxnews reports from the Associated Press. While Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has been meeting with business leaders, victims' rights groups and others to make the case that all three should go, supporters of the justices are already trying to raise money to counter the outside money they expect to be coming in to influence the race.

Primary Opponent of ‘Idol’ Star Aiken Dies in N.C.

N.C. businessman Keith Crisco, who was in a close race with former “American Idol” star Clay Aiken to be the Democratic nominee for the state's Second Congressional District seat, died today at 71, ABC News reports. At the time of his death, voting results had not yet officiallly been certified, though Aiken was leading by just 369 votes.

ABA Under Fire for Underrating Female, Minority Judicial Candidates

The American Bar Association is coming under fire for allegedly rating women and minority judicial candidates lower than white men, MSNBC reports. Maya Sen, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester, recently published a study finding that even when women and minority candidates have similar qualifications to their white male peers, the ABA committee gives them lower ratings. ABA President James R. Silkenat disputed Sen's findings, writing in a letter to the New York Times that Sen "dusted off Mad Men-era data” and "wrongly places blame for this serious problem with the American Bar Association’s nonpartisan process to evaluate the professional qualifications of potential judicial nominees."

Nashville Lawyers Share Views on Criminal Appeals Candidates

Nashville lawyers gave their opinions of nine candidates seeking to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in a poll released today by the Nashville Bar Association (NBA). Timothy Lee Easter, a Circuit Court Judge in Williamson County, earned the highest recommendation from the NBA members. The second highest level of support went to Russell Fletcher Thomas, a solo practitioner in Davidson County. The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments will interview all nine applicants on Tuesday in Nashville and recommend three finalists to pass on to Gov. Bill Haslam. Judge Jerry Smith, who currently holds the Middle District position, earlier said he would not seek to retain his seat in the August general election.

Federalist Society Event Explores Religious Liberties

The Memphis Lawyers’ Chapter of The Federalist Society presents a panel discussion on religious liberties May 28 at The Madison Hotel, 79 Madison Ave. Speakers include Scott Gaylord, professor with Elon University School of Law, and Lisa Shaw Roy, professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charmiane G. Claxton will moderate. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m., with the program beginning at noon. Cost is $25 for society members, $30 for non-members. To register, contact Greg Grisham at (901) 462-2616 or gregory.grisham@jacksonlewis.com

CASA Road Race May 31

The 8th annual CASA Road Race will be held May 31 at Crockett Spring Park in historic downtown Rogersville. The event will include 8K and mile races. All proceeds from the running events will benefit CASA for Kids, Inc. to advocate for abused and neglected children in Hawkins County. The event is part of the 2014 Skelton Law Racing Series and is directed by Rogersville attorney Mark Skelton. For information, contact Mark Skelton at (423) 272-4812 or markskelton@markskelton.com. Skelton, a University of Tennessee College of Law alum, founded the racing series with his wife in 2002 to promote fitness and health in East Tennessee. Today, his children -- avid runners Todd and Amy -- will follow in his footsteps, with both graduating from UT Law on the same day.

AWA Golf Tournament Set for May 30

The Memphis-based Association for Women Attorneys (AWA) will hold its 3rd Annual AWA Foundation Golf Tournament at Mirimichi Golf Course May 30. Entry fee includes scramble play, lunch, drink tickets, prizes, a gift bag and a chance to win a new Lexus from Lexus of Memphis. An environmental tour of Mirimichi also is available.

Branstetter Family Names Memorial Recipients

The family of Cecil D. Branstetter, who died Wednesday, have announced that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Tennessee Environmental Council, 1 Vantage Way E250, Nashville 37228, or the Morgan Scott Project, 1022 Old Deer Lodge Pike, Deer Lodge 37726. A memorial service was held today, followed by a reception with the family. A private interment will take place at Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at a later date, the family said. The Tennessean reported the updated information.

Funeral Services Today for Harlan Mathews

Funeral services were held for former U.S. Sen. Harlan Mathews who died Friday at the age of 87. Visitation and service were held at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home. The Nashville Ledger has more on Harlan’s life and legacy.

Bradley County Lawyer Censured

Brent J. McIntosh of Cleveland was publicly censured on May 9 after a hearing panel determined that, while representing a client, McIntosh threatened to present a criminal charge against an unrepresented person for the purpose of obtaining advantage in a civil matter. View the BPR notice.

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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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