Justices Say They Are Defending ‘Independence’ of Courts

The three state Supreme Court justices facing a retention vote in August talked with News Channel 5 about their battle to defend the independence of Tennessee Courts. Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Sharon Lee and Justice Connie Clark are facing a campaign orchestrated by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to oust them from the state’s highest court. "Well, I'm troubled by the partisan attack on our judicial system," Lee said. "Politics has no place in the courtroom.” 

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
07 - 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

SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT DISCRETIONARY APPEALS Grants & Denials List

Court: TN Supreme Court


TN Court of Appeals

JAMES G. AKERS v. MCLEMORE AUCTION COMPANY, LLC, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

James G. Akers, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Paul Richard White and Charles W. Cross, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, McLemore Auction Company, LLC, and William T. McLemore.

Judge: DINKINS

Plaintiff in action to recover for negligence, professional negligence, breach of duty, constructive fraud, constructive breach of contract, and inducement of failure to perform a lawful contract, appeals dismissal of various parties and claims; plaintiff also appeals a portion of the jury instructions, the jury’s verdict awarding him $474.00, and the denial of his motion for a new trial. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.


IN RE C.L. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Shannon Garrison, Dayton, Tennessee, for the appellant, A.L.

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

Judge: SUSANO

A.L. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her rights with respect to her five minor children (collectively, when referring to all five, “the Children”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) placed the Children in temporary state custody based on the youngest child’s exposure to methamphetamine in utero. The court found that Mother’s conduct constituted severe abuse against that child; consequently, the court relieved DCS of its obligation to make reasonable efforts toward reunification of the Children with Mother. Some 17 months after the Children were placed in foster care, DCS initiated these termination proceedings. After a bench trial, the court terminated Mother’s rights based on its finding of multiple grounds for termination and its further finding that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Both findings were said by the trial court to be made by clear and convincing evidence. Mother appeals. We affirm.


TANYA L. COOPER v. VIRGINIA A. EVERETT

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Tanya L. Cooper, Memphis, Tennessee, self-represented appellant.

Bradley Wayne Eskins, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Virginia A. Everett.

Judge: PER CURIAM

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter. Thus, the appeal is dismissed.


KIRBY MIRANDA GENTRY v. MICHAEL ANTHONY GENTRY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kirby Miranda Gentry.

No appearance by, or on behalf of, Michael Anthony Gentry.

Judge: SUSANO

In this post-divorce case, the trial court entered an order on March 12, 2012, incorporating a permanent parenting plan. The order states that “[t]his matter shall be reviewed in one year.” On April 18, 2013, the court entered an order stating that “the Court, sua sponte, finds that the Permanent Parenting Plan attached to the Order of [March 12, 2012], should in fact be a Temporary Parenting Plan and by this Order [the court] corrects such.” We hold that under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-404(a) (2010), which provides that “[a]ny final decree or decree of modification in an action for absolute divorce . . . involving a minor child shall incorporate a permanent parenting plan,” the parenting plan incorporated by the trial court’s March 12, 2012 order was a permanent plan. Because of the mandatory statutory language, the trial court was without authority to subsequently “convert” it to a temporary parenting plan. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.


IN THE MATTER OF: JAMAZIN H. M.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

William E. Tallent, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, J. M.

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

Lanis L. Karnes, Guardian ad Litem, Jackson, Tennessee

Judge: HIGHERS

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights on numerous grounds. We affirm the trial court’s finding that grounds for termination exist, due to incarceration under a ten year sentence, severe child abuse, persistent conditions, and abandonment by an incarcerated parent, and we affirm the trial court’s finding that termination is in the child’s best interest. We vacate the trial court’s finding of willful failure to pay child support but otherwise affirm the order as modified.


IN RE K.P. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert M. Burts, Rutledge, Tennessee, for the appellant, R.P.

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

Judge: SUSANO

This is a dependency and neglect case. R.P. (“Mother”) appeals the trial court’s finding that she severely abused her minor daughter, K.P. The Department of Children’s Services petitioned the juvenile court to declare K.P. and her sister, K.J. (collectively, “the Children”) dependent and neglected. Following a hearing, the juvenile court found 1 that the Children were dependent and neglected in the care of Mother and her then-boyfriend, B.J.2 The juvenile court further found that B.J. committed severe abuse against K.P.,3 but that Mother did not. DCS appealed to the trial court. Following an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, (1) that the Children were dependent and neglected and (2) that Mother committed severe child abuse against K.P. in that she failed to protect K.P. from abuse at the hands of B.J. Mother appeals. We affirm.


LISA M. PATERSON POTTER v. SCOTT D. PATERSON

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Perry L. Stout, Mountain City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Scott D. Paterson.

Lisa M. Paterson Potter, Mountain City, Tennessee, appellee, pro se.

Janice A. Russell, Mountain City, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem for minor, Lauren M. Paterson.

Judge: SUSANO

This post-divorce case involves the application of Supreme Court Rule 40A, which governs the appointment, role and duties of a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem in this case, Janice Russell, was appointed on November 7, 2008. She filed a motion requesting the court to hold her ward’s father, appellant Scott D. Paterson (“father”), in contempt. After father filed a response pointing out that Rule 40A, § 9(a)(4) did not authorize a guardian ad litem to file a contempt motion, the trial court, in response, entered an order on March 17, 2010, appointing Ms. Russell “attorney ad litem.” Subsequently, Rule 40A, § 9 was amended to allow a guardian ad litem to “take any action that may be taken by an attorney representing a party pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure.” After the amendment took effect, Russell referred to herself in her filings as “guardian ad litem.” The trial court followed suit in its final order. On January 20, 2011, the trial court entered an order that disposed of all matters relating to custody of the child. More than a year later, father filed a petition to modify his child support. On May 16, 2013, the guardian ad litem filed a “motion for emergency hearing and motion for contempt.” On May 20, 2013, the trial court conducted a hearing, after which it entered an order holding father in contempt on four counts, sentencing him to 40 days in jail, suspending all of his parenting time, and reducing contact with his daughter to one telephone call per week. Father appeals. We hold that, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 40A, § 5, the guardian ad litem’s appointment terminated when, with the passage of time, the court’s order disposing of the custody matters became final. Hence, the guardian ad litem had no authority to file her motion for “emergency hearing” and for contempt. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RANDALL SCOTT MCCOY

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Matthew A. Spivey and Richard A. Spivey, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randall Scott McCoy.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General; and Julie R. Canter, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Randall Scott McCoy (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eight years’ incarceration. The Defendant reserved a certified question of law concerning the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. AARON D. OSTINE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael J. Flanagan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Aaron D. Ostine.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie Price, Senior Counsel; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Robert S. Wilson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

A Cheatham County jury convicted the Defendant, Aaron D. Ostine, of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the two murder convictions and imposed a life sentence. The court then sentenced the Defendant to 00twelve years for the aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it denied a motion to suppress his statements to police; and (3) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


RODRICKO O. THOMAS v. JERRY LESTER, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Rodricko O. Thomas, Henning, Tennessee, pro se.

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

Judge: OGLE

The petitioner, Rodricko O. Thomas, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief in the Lauderdale County Circuit Court. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition for failure to state a basis on which relief could be granted. On appeal, the petitioner challenges the dismissal, contending that the habeas corpus court should have appointed counsel and held a hearing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ARTHUR RAY TURNER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Jeffrey A. DeVasher, Assistant Public Defender (on appeal), Jon Wing and Kevin Griffith, Assistant Public Defenders (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Arthur Ray Turner.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Pamela Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WEDEMEYER

In this procedurally complex case, a Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Arthur Ray Turner, of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated rape, and attempted aggravated rape. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of seventy years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress his statements to police; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss based upon the State’s destruction of evidence; (3) the trial court erred when it ruled on the admissibility of DNA evidence; (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for two counts of aggravated rape because the State did not prove that he was armed with a weapon or anything the victim reasonably believed was a weapon; (5) the trial court erred when it allowed separate convictions for aggravated rape in Counts 3 and 4 and attempted aggravated rape in Count 5 because separate convictions violate his protections against double jeopardy; (6) the trial court erred when it ordered his sentences to run consecutively and when it ordered him to serve his sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping at 100 percent. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments in all respects save one. The trial court’s judgment in Count 1, especially aggravated kidnapping, should be modified to reflect a release eligibility date of 30 percent.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MICHAEL WILDER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

George Morton Googe, District Public Defender; and Jeremy B. Epperson, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Michael Wilder.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Michael Wilder, was convicted by a Madison County Circuit Court jury of robbery, a Class C felony, and sentenced by the trial court as a Range III, persistent offender to fourteen years in the Department of Correction. He raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police; (2) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his conviction; and (3) whether the trial court imposed an excessive sentence by misapplying enhancement and mitigating factors and erroneously classifying him as a persistent offender. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


NSL Recognition Dinner to Honor Dean Loser

Nashville School of Law will host its 21st Annual Recognition Dinner on June 6 at the Renaissance Hotel. The event will pay special tribute to the late Dean Joe C. Loser Jr., who led the institution for nearly 28 years and passed away earlier this month, just weeks prior to his retirement. Cocktails will be served at 5:30 p.m., with dinner and remarks following at 7 p.m. Visit the school's website to purchase tickets or call (615) 780-2241 for more information.


Editorial: Judicial Election No Place for Partisan Politics

An editorial in the Mountain Press condemns Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s campaign to unseat Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Cornelia Clark and/or Justice Sharon Lee. The newspaper notes that a concerted effort to unseat sitting judges simply to put in people of different party affiliation will only cause more petty partisanship in the state. “It's our feeling that partisan politics is best left to the politicians,” the editorial says. “Judges, especially those dealing with the philosophical decisions often made at appellate and Supreme Court level, should be left alone to fulfill their duties without concern as to what campaign donors or state political parties might think.” (Subscription required.)


Judges Bring Status, Experience to Law Schools

Law schools paid federal appeals judges anywhere from several thousand dollars for a lecture to nearly $278,000 for full-semester teaching in 2012 — at once buying prestige and giving students a direct line to some of the judiciary's top legal minds. Fifty-seven active and senior appellate court judges reported income from U.S. law schools, according to the most recent financial reports reviewed by the National Law Journal. Judges are "cost-effective" hires, Vanderbilt Law School professor Tracey George said. Skills that make a good judge often carry over to the classroom, she said, and law schools see returns if students build relationships that lead to clerkships and jobs. "Judges are appealing because not only do they have the special expertise … they have status," she said.


Bar Sponsors Art Contest for Law Day

The Jackson-Madison County Bar Association sponsored an art day at Malesus Elementary School in conjunction with Law Day. The theme of the day was “Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.” The top five students received certificates, another five won honorable mention and the top three students received Law Day medals. Hewitt Chatman, president of the Jackson-Madison County Bar Association, and Jonathan Steen, president-elect of the Tennessee Bar Association, presented awards. The Jackson Sun has more.


Right to Work Attorneys Drop Lawsuit Against Auto Union

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have dropped a federal lawsuit — which they filed on behalf of some Volkswagen (VW) employees — that sought to block "collusion" between the United Auto Workers union (UAW) and VW, Nooga reports. In February, VW employees at the Chattanooga plant voted against union representation in a 712-626 vote. A foundation spokesman said the organization will continue to monitor the situation at the plant.


Enjoy a Night of Baseball with the TJC June 2

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) will be recognized as the Nashville Sounds' Charity of the Night on June 2 at 7 p.m. TJC Executive Director Michele Johnson and her nine-year-old son Henry will be throwing the first pitch. Buy your tickets (and t-shirts) on the TJC website.


Dickson County Judicial Candidate Back on Ballot

The Dickson County Election Commission must put Blake Kruse on the August 2014 ballot as candidate for General Sessions Judge, a Davidson County Chancery Court has ruled. Election officials refused to approve Kruse’s name on the ballot after he did not sign a section of his qualifying paperwork required to prove he’s a licensed lawyer. He was alerted to the oversight five minutes before the noon April 3 qualifying deadline, at which point he said he faxed his signature to the election office. In a lawsuit Kruse filed to prevent Elections Coordinator Mark Goins from “interfering,” Kruse claimed election staff OK'd the faxed material at first, but called back later and told him they needed an original copy of his signature. In its order, the court ruled that Kruse’s noncompliance was excused since he was misled by a mistake of an election official, and that his name should be added to the ballot. The Tennessean has more.


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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