TBA Earns National Award for Public Service

The Tennessee Bar Association has been awarded the LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award for production and distribution of the 2014 Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors. Written and edited by volunteers working with the TBA Public Education Committee, the handbook contains practical information on topics ranging from Social Security benefits to long-term care considerations and estate planning, as well as sections addressing online security and new health care legislation. The handbook has been distributed to several thousand Tennesseans through live presentations and requests on the TBA.org website since its launch in February. Members of the National Association of Bar Executives who reviewed entries for the award praised the breadth of information in the handbook and the volunteer involvement with its preparation and outreach. Formal presentation of the award will take place during the NABE's annual meeting this August in Boston.

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
04 - TN Court of Appeals
04 - 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


R. Wayne Culbertson, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mardonna Shawn Fogle.

Keith A. Hopson and Daniel B. Minor, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Allan Fogle, Sr.


In this divorce action, the trial court granted Wife a divorce, divided the marital assets, and awarded Wife alimony of $700 per month for 48 months. Wife appeals. We modify the trial court’s judgment to reflect an award of periodic alimony in the amount of $1,000 per month.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Garth R. Segroves, Tullahoma, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan D.

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

Peter Trenchi, III, Sewanee, Tennessee, for the appellee, Antonia M. R.


The circuit court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected on the ground of severe child abuse by her father. The father appeals contending the evidence is insufficient to sustain a finding of severe child abuse. Finding the evidence clear and convincing, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Barbara G. Lovejoy, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Eugenie B. Whitesell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Intellectual & Development Disabilities.


This is an appeal from an order dismissing a petition for judicial review of a decision of the Tennessee Civil Service Commission. Because the appellant did not file her notice of appeal with the trial court clerk within the time permitted by Tenn. R. App. P. 4, we dismiss the appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Adam C. Davis, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Isaiah B.

Stacy S. Neisler, Spring Hill, Tennessee, for the appellant, Erica L.


In this termination of parental rights proceeding, both Mother and Father maintain that the trial court erred in finding clear and convincing evidence that they willfully abandoned the child by failure to visit within the four months preceding the filing of the termination petition. Mother additionally claims that the trial court erred in finding clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate Mother’s parental rights. We affirm the trial court’s findings that both parents abandoned the child by willfully failing to visit and that the termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Consequently, we affirm the trial court’s decision to terminate the parental rights of both parents.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Timothy J. Williams and Krista Holder-Williams, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cordell Bufford.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Abby Wallace and Jennifer Nichols, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Cordell Bufford, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of rape of a child, claiming that the trial court erred by refusing to enforce a plea agreement with the State, by denying his request for funds to hire an expert witness, by denying his motions to exclude certain evidence, by prohibiting cross-examination of the victim’s mother about the victim’s previous sexual abuse pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412, and by denying his request for a special jury instruction. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Thomas Paul Gagne, Jr., Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; and D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Thomas Paul Gagne, Jr., appeals the Hardeman County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief from his 1998 convictions for two counts of felony murder, aggravated burglary, and two counts of theft of property valued at $500 or less and his effective life sentence. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by dismissing his petition without an evidentiary hearing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jimmy R. Griffin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Jimmy R. Griffin, appeals his Madison County Circuit Court conviction of theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, challenging the sentence imposed by the trial court. We affirm the denial of alternative sentencing but remand the case for a determination of the proper amount of restitution.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Harry E. Sayle III (on appeal) and Mary Katherine Kent and Paul Pera (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Donquarius Person.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Alanda Dwyer and Abby Wallace, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Donquarius Person, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder, aggravated assault, and two counts of attempted first degree murder, challenging the admission of certain hearsay testimony that was admitted pursuant to the excited utterance exception and the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Nashville’s New Courthouse Tops Judiciary Wish List

Nashville is again atop the U.S. judiciary's priority list for a new federal courthouse, but whether or how soon construction begins depends on Congress setting aside $182 million for the project, the Tennessean reports. The quest for a new courthouse to replace the Estes Kefauver Federal Building on Broadway has been a two-decade quest for Nashville's federal courts. Already, $26 million has been spent on land acquisition and design. "The many security, space and operational deficiencies of the aging (building) make a new Nashville federal courthouse the number one priority on the Judiciary's Five-Year Plan," said Judge D. Brooks Smith, the chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Space and Facilities.

TLAP Announces New Leadership

The Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) has announced that Judge John Everett Williams has been appointed chair of the organization. His term will expire June 1, 2016. Branch H. Henard III, Bethany Spiller, A. Randolph Sykes, Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr., Mark Vorder-Bruegge, Judge Williams and Judge Thomas T. Woodall were reappointed to the governing board. Judge Glenn Wright has replaced Teresa Jones. View the updated membership list.

Commission Accepting Applications for Workers’ Comp Appeals Board

The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments is now accepting applications for three vacancies on the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Any interested applicant must be an attorney licensed in Tennessee who is at least 30 years of age, has a Tennessee law license, has at least seven years experience in workers’ compensation matters and will attend annual training on workers’ compensation. The deadline to submit applications to the Administrative Office of the Courts is noon CDT on June 2.

Circuit Court Judge on Medical Leave

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge W. Neil Thomas III has taken a medical leave because of an undisclosed medical condition, the Times Free Press reports. For the time being, the other circuit judges are handling Thomas' docket. If Thomas' absence is extended there are mechanisms for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts to appoint a temporary judge to sit for him and handle his caseload, Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth said.

Investiture for Appellate Judge McBrayer Set for May 29

The investiture ceremony for the state’s newest Court of Appeals Judge, Neal McBrayer, will be held at the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. Gov. Bill Haslam, who appointed McBrayer to the court last year, will administer the oath of office. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

Editorial: Judicial Elections a Bad Idea

In a recent editorial, the New York Times writes that judicial elections have always been “a bad idea” and that special-interest money has made it worse by greatly increasing the influence of corporations, unions and other interests with issues before the courts. The publication cites examples in North Carolina and Arkansas, where out-of-state money is being used to influence Supreme Court elections. “It would be nice to report that states are responding to rising special-interest spending by devising rules for judicial recusal to take campaign contributions into account,” the publication states. “But a new report on state recusal rules by the Center for American Progress suggests otherwise. It seems the best that can be hoped for is that voters will ignore untruthful attack ads when they go to the polls.”

Court to Review 4 Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently granted review to four cases. Two criminal cases involve jury instructions when a kidnapping charge is related to another felony, while a third criminal case pertains to judicial diversion. The civil case granted review involves expert testimony in informed consent suits. The Raybin-Perky Hot List has summaries of each case and offers a prediction as to how they may be decided.

Services Saturday for Lawyer, Author

Memphis lawyer Roger Rutledge died Tuesday at the age of 67. He graduated cum laude from American University Washington College of Law in 1977 and practiced corporate law, litigation, international, family and estate law with his father, J.P. Rutledge, at Rutledge and Rutledge Attorneys. In 2012, he wrote and published, “A Revolution to Win: The Founder’s Solution to the Current Crisis,” a book about democracy in America. Visitation will be held Friday from 5-8 p.m. and services will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at Memorial Park Funeral Home. Memorials may be sent to the Roger K. Rutledge Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 38344, Germantown, TN.

Memphis Law Firm Founder Hancock Dies at 85

Henry H. Hancock died May 16. He was 85. He earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1957 and joined the law firm of Burch Porter & Johnson. In 1965, he partnered with William Farris to create the Farris Hancock law firm (now Farris Bobango). Hancock also spent 18 years teaching law students the finer points of trial procedure at the then Memphis State Law School. A remembrance and celebration of his life was held Tuesday at the University Club. The family requests that memorials be sent to the Church Health Center or a charity of their choice.

Services Held Today for Memphis Attorney

Memphis attorney Terry Thomas Owen Sr. died May 16 at the age of 64. He served in the Marine Corps and Navy from 1967-1972 and earned his law degree from the University of Memphis in 1988. He worked for the Attorney General’s Office until 1996 when he began his private law practice. Services were held today at Bartlett Baptist Church, with interment following in West Tennessee Veterans Cemetary. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Bartlett Baptist Church Mission Program.

Wilson County to Hold Candidate Forums in June, July

Three public forums have been scheduled for candidates running for office in Wilson County. Judicial candidates will meet June 5 at 7:30 a.m. at Library Hall at Cumberland University in Lebanon. Candidates running for state Senate, state House, county commissioners on the west side of the county and the Wilson County School Board Zone 4 will meet July 10 at 5:30 p.m. at West Wilson Middle School in Mt. Juliet. Candidates running for state House, the county commission seats on the east side, Wilson County School Board Zones 2 and 5, and the Lebanon Special School District Board will meet July 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Winfree Bryant Middle School in Lebanon. The Tennessean has more on the events being hosted by the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

Supreme Court Halts Missouri Execution

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday halted the execution of a Missouri inmate who had challenged the state's refusal to disclose the source of its lethal injection drug. The justices said a lower federal court needs to take another look at the case of Russell Bucklew, whose execution would have been the nation's first since last month's botched execution in Oklahoma, WJHL reports.

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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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