Court Face Challenges; Justice Urges Courage

Judges and lawyers need to stand up against challenges facing the courts today, Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady told a Bench/Bar Luncheon audience today during the TBA Annual Convention in Gatlinburg. Cady, who saw three of his colleagues fall in retention elections after the court ruled to allow same-sex marriages in Iowa, spoke of the importance of a fair and impartial judiciary and the courage necessary to sustain it. Cady’s keynote address followed a pair of CLE programs. The first featured author Keel Hunt, former U.S. Attorney Hal Hardin and former Tennessean publisher John Seigenthaler discussing Hunt’s book on the scandal surrounding former Gov. Ray Blanton. The second session featured former Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice Oliver E Diaz Jr., who detailed attacks from special interest groups he suffered while on the court.

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
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

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TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


George Ellis Copple, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, and Suzette Peyton, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Q. Acree.

C. Dewey Branstetter, Jr. and Stacey K. Skillman, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Nancy Acree.

Mary Beth Boone, Pro Se.

June House, Pro Se.


The trial court approved and affirmed the final accounting of a trust held in a conservatorship estate and closed the conservatorship following the death of the Ward. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


L. “Rocky” McElhaney, L. Russell Belk, Jr.,, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jerry Beech

Alan M. Sowell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Great West Casualty Company


The plaintiff in this case brought suit to recover uninsured motorist benefits. The insurance company moved for summary judgment contending that the plaintiff was not entitled to coverage because he was not “upon” the insured vehicle so as to “occupy” it. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company and we affirm.

CORRECTION: Per Ms. Busler's request, we have deleted her daughter's name and birth date from the opinion. Changes were made on pages 2 and 5. On page 2, we added a footnote stating, "Upon Mother's request, the name and birth date of the parties' child has been removed from the opinion."

Court: TN Court of Appeals


John C. Lee, Franklin, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Joanie Lucie Abernathy, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Melinda B. Busler (Lee).


Father appeals the trial court’s decision to decline to exercise jurisdiction and to transfer his petition to modify custody to a Florida court pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Kari I. Weber, Somerville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Paul Epps.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Mark Davidson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Paul Epps, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his original two-year sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the record does not contain substantial evidence to show that a violation of probation occurred and that the trial court erred in failing to consider a disposition other than incarceration after revoking his probation. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


J. Colin Morris, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Petitioner-Appellant, Guy Graves.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun A. Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Guy Graves, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief by the Madison County Circuit Court. He was convicted of two counts of burglary and received an effective sentence of twenty-four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. 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


Joseph P. Atnip, District Public Defender; and William K. Randolph, Assistant District Public Defender, Dresden, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Billy Joe Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Thomas A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and James T. Cannon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


Following a bench trial, the Defendant-Appellant, Billy Joe Harris, was convicted in the Obion County Circuit Court of violation of the sexual offender registry, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. § 40-39-208 (2012). The trial court imposed a one-year sentence with ninety days to be served in the county jail and the balance to be served on community corrections. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Ryan K. H. Nevin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terry R. Whitefield.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Roger Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Terry R. Whitefield, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 Davidson County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of aggravated sexual battery, for which he received a sentence of 16 years’ incarceration. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Editorial: Party Endorsements are Meaningless

The Memphis Flyer writes that judicial endorsements by political parties are a bad idea, and that although our political system thrives on the play of special interests, judges are different. "They have the same function regarding the civil and criminal aspects of society as referees do in sports," the paper says. "The ultimate check-and-balance is the independent judiciary. Judges don't make the rules, but once the rules are made, judges enforce them. Without bias. That, in any case, is how it is supposed to be." Saying that parties' recommendations should be ignored because they are not based on evaluating the legal credentials of the candidates, the paper adds that when the Memphis Bar Association's local candidate poll comes out later this month, "those are judgments that might mean something."

Ashland City Lawyers in Race for Circuit Court

Two Ashland City lawyers are running for Circuit Court judge in the 23rd Judicial District. Jack Arnold announced his candidacy Wednesday. He runs a general legal practice specializing in criminal defense in Ashland City. An Iraq war veteran, Arnold attended Vanderbilt University Law School and worked at the Office of the District Attorney General in Nashville. Steve Powers is also a candidate for Circuit Court judge. He currently serves as an assistant district attorney general in the 23rd Judicial District. Powers has been in private practice in Ashland City, deputy sheriff/D.A.R.E. officer for Cheatham Sheriff’s Department, Ashland City police officer, dispatcher and part-time EMT. The Tennessean has profiles on both candidates.

Group Behind White's Ouster Undecided About Getting Involved This Time

When state Supreme Court Justice Penny White was not retained in office, the group that led the charge against her was the Tennessee Conservative Union, primarily over the issue of the death penalty. The TCU effort against White was derided beforehand as “two guys and a fax machine,” Metro Pulse reports, but the money in August's retention vote is expected to be considerably more. TCU Chair Lloyd Daugherty says his members are divided on whether or not they will get involved this time.

Fired Road Workers Win Settlement in Free Speech Case

Seventeen road workers will receive half a million dollars in a settlement from Monroe County in a federal lawsuit that alleged the workers were fired for their political participation. The workers all campaigned for Phil Axley, the former Road Superintendent, who lost the 2010 election to Steve Teague by about 2,000 votes. All lost their jobs on Sept. 1, 2010 -- the day Teague took office. Teague admitted no wrongdoing, but attorneys for the ex-workers hailed the settlement as a victory for free speech. “Nobody will get their job back, but we think this sends an important message that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated,” said David Garrison, an attorney with the Nashville-based law firm of Barrett Johnston, which represented the workers. Knoxnews has the story.

iPhone Password Key to Murder Investigation

Assistant District Attorney Paul Newman is seeking a court order to obtain the password for the iPhone belonging to one of the men charged in a January double murder at a Walmart parking lot, the Murfreesboro Post reports. Murfreesboro Police turned the defendant’s iPhone over to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for processing. But, the "TBI says without a password on an iPhone, we can’t open it,” Newman said. The cell phone of Danarius Coleman is considered central to the case for several reasons. The defendant showed his girlfriend cell phone video of blood and brains in their car and glass shot out, according to her court testimony.

Group Hopes Rally, Meeting Will Improve Police Accountability

People who claim they have been harassed by Memphis police hope to revive the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board to hold officers accountable to the community, WMC-TV reports. They held a rally on Wednesday to bring attention to their concerns. Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's Paul Garner said police need to restore public confidence. "I think a lot of times the community is afraid to come forward when they do have legitimate complaints," Garner said. The organizers say they will hold a town hall style meeting on June 24 at Lewis Davis CME Church at 6 p.m. to talk about ways to make the board more effective.

Public Safety and Advocacy Groups Partner to Review Sentencing Policies

The Governor's Public Safety Subcabinet is partnering with a national advocacy group to review Tennessee's sentencing and correction policies, WDEF reports. Officials say the partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice is aimed at improving public safety for all Tennesseans. Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield, a member of the subcabinet, led the charge in putting the partnership together. Officials say the review will build on the subcabinet's work over the last three years, including the state's public safety action plan that was introduced in January 2012.

Hershey's Files Suit Against Companies with Pot-Infused Look-alikes

Hershey's has filed two trademark infringement complaints over marijuana edibles the candy company says look like their products. The Pennsylvania-based chocolate maker is suing Tincturebelle, a pot-infused candy manufacturer in Colorado, and Conscious Care Cooperative, a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington state. The lawsuits claim the pot-infused candy violates Hershey's trademarks, dilutes its brand and is "unfair competition" to the company. WBIR reported this USA Today story.

Homeland Security Chief Testifies on Deportation Before Judiciary Committee

Government lawyers will review how the Obama administration releases some criminal immigrants facing deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Wednesday. WRCB reports that Johnson, the former top lawyer at the Pentagon, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his agency's lawyers will review federal policies, which he said were based on a Supreme Court ruling, that require the government to release criminal immigrants if the U.S. can't send them to their home country within six months. Johnson said he wants to know several things, including whether the government can hold them in immigration jails as threats to national security or public safety.

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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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