Group Opposing Justices Refuses to ID Backers

A group opposing the retention of three Tennessee Supreme Court justices is refusing to say where it is getting its money, News Channel 5 reports. Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability claims to be a non-partisan, non-profit organization but may be “the first hint of so-called ‘dark money’ in the battle for the state's high court,” the report suggests. A spokesperson for the group says it was intentionally set up as a "social welfare organization," which means it does not have to disclose its donors. The report also questions the group’s direct call to replace the justices and its attack on “Democratic” elements supporting the justices given its status as a 501(c)(4) organization. A founder of the group denies they are advocating for specific candidates, though a recent press release says Tennesseans “should vote to replace them in August.”

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
01 - 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

AUSTIN DAVIS, ET AL. v. COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Duncan Cates Cave, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Austin Davis, et al.

Thomas M. Donnell, Jr., Autumn L. Gentry, and Kelly M. Telfeyan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Covenant Presbyterian Church, et al.

Judge: BENNETT

Plaintiffs sued four individual defendants and three religious institutions for invasion of privacy; malicious harassment; assault; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence; negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention; and civil conspiracy. The trial court dismissed all of plaintiffs’ causes of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We affirm the dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims against two of the religious institutions for failure to state a claim for vicarious liability. We also affirm the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims for invasion of privacy; malicious harassment; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence; negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention; and civil conspiracy. However, having liberally construed the complaint as we must at this stage of the pleading process, we find the complaint states a cause of action for assault against the individual defendants and one of the religious institutions. Therefore, we must reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ allegation of assault and affirm the court in all other respects.


JANET WYNN SNYDER v. FIRST TENNESSEE BANK, N.A.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Mark E. Brown, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Janet Wynn Snyder.

J. Michael Winchester, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, First Tennessee Bank, N.A.

Judge: SWINEY

This appeal concerns a breach of contract claim brought for an alleged wrongful acceleration of a note in default, a cause of action currently unrecognized in Tennessee law. Janet Wynn Snyder (“Snyder”) sued First Tennessee Bank (“the Bank”) in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Snyder alleged that the Bank abused its discretion in accelerating her debt when it knew that it held funds of Snyder’s in a trust sufficient to cover her debt to the Bank. The Bank filed a motion to dismiss under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), which the Trial Court granted. Snyder appeals. We hold that this claimed wrongful acceleration is not an existing cause of action in this state, and we decline the invitation to create such a cause of action. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.


VODAFONE AMERICAS HOLDINGS INC. & SUBSIDIARIES v. RICHARD H. ROBERTS, COMMISSIONER OF REVENUE, STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael D. Sontag, Stephen J. Jasper, and Ashley N. Bassel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vodafone Americas Holdings, Inc.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General, Charles L. Lewis, Deputy Attorney General, and Talmage M. Watts, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BENNETT

At issue in this case is the methodology by which multi-state taxpayers are to compute their liability for franchise and excise taxes to Tennessee and, specifically, the authority of the Commissioner of Revenue to require the taxpayers to use an apportionment methodology other than the standard cost of performance methodology codified in Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 67-4-2012 and 67-4-2110. Plaintiffs, taxpayers that provide wireless communication and data services within and without Tennessee, contend they are entitled to apportion their receipts (income) based upon Tennessee’s standard apportionment formulas because the majority of their “earnings producing activities” occurred in a state other than Tennessee. The Commissioner of Revenue disagreed, insisting that Plaintiffs’ approach, even if statistically correct and derived from the language of Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2012(i)(2), fails to meet the higher goal of fairly representing the business Plaintiffs derive from Tennessee. For this reason the Commissioner, acting pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2014(a), varied the standard formula requiring Plaintiffs to include “as Tennessee sales” its receipts from service provided to customers with Tennessee billing addresses. The trial court affirmed the decision. In this appeal, Plaintiffs contend the Commissioner does not have authority to impose a variance unless “unusual fact situations,” which are unique to the particular taxpayers, produce “incongruous results” unintended by Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2012; they also insist that no unusual fact situations exist and that no incongruous results occurred when the statutorily-mandated cost of performance methodology was applied. We have determined that the Commissioner acted within the scope of the discretion granted to him by the statutes and rules. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s decision.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ROBERT KIZER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James L. Baum, Burns, Tennessee; Drew W. Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, Ashland City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert Kizer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; Sarah Wojnarowski, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Petitioner, Robert Kizer, appeals from the Stewart County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief after a 2009 guilty plea to the sale of cocaine. Petitioner argues he was deprived of due process because the court dismissed his post- conviction petition without a hearing or notice during his probation revocation hearing, and that the post-conviction court erred by concluding that the petition was untimely. We agree, and we remand this case for further post-conviction proceedings.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. PATRICK DAVID MCCOLLUM

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Matthew M. Maddox, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Patrick David McCollum.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun Alan Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Patrick David McCollum, pled guilty to one count of solicitation to commit aggravated assault, a Class E felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-102, -13-102. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twenty months’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying his request for alternative sentencing; (2) that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request for judicial diversion; and (3) that the State abused its discretion in denying his request for pretrial diversion. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JAMES SELLARS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James Sellars, Pro Se, Clifton, Tennessee.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; William Whitesell, District Attorney General; Shawn Puckett, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

This matter is before the Court upon the State’s motion to dismiss or in the alternative to affirm the judgment of the trial court by memorandum opinion pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Petitioner, James Sellars, has appealed the lower court’s order dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that the trial court improperly sentenced him as a career offender. Upon a review of the record in this case, we are persuaded that the trial court was correct in dismissing the petition for post-conviction relief and that this case meets the criteria for affirmance pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Accordingly, the State’s motion is granted, and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 2014-F-158

Court: Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR

Can a lawyer who represented a testator refuse to honor a court order or subpoena to disclose, prior to the client’s death, a Will or other testamentary document executed when the testator was competent on the basis that the document is protected against disclosure by the attorney-client privilege or confidentiality?


Burnstein to Replace Tishler as Waller Chair

The Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis has named Matthew Burnstein as its new chairman, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Burnstein will succeed John Tishler effective Aug. 1. Tishler, who led the firm since 2008, will resume his bankruptcy and restructuring practice and assume the role of chairman emeritus. Burnstein’s practice focuses on corporate transaction, mostly in the health care industry. He served on Waller’s board of directors from 2006 to 2012.


BPR Opinion Looks at Disclosure of Client Wills

A formal ethics opinion issued by the Board of Professional Responsibility on June 13 looks at whether a lawyer who represented a testator can refuse to disclose the will prior to the client’s death based on attorney-client privilege or confidentiality. The opinion was requested by an attorney who says it is becoming more common for courts to order wills and other testamentary documents drafted for competent clients be made available to guardians or conservators handling the affairs of the individual after he or she is no longer competent.


Drug Court Graduates Praise Judge Moreland

A controversial domestic violence case has left county officials and editorial writers calling for the resignation of Davidson County General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland. But those who have gone through the misdemeanor drug court run by Moreland say he saved their lives. "If it wasn't for the drug court program, I would not be here today," said Shane Demonbruen, a recovering drug addict. Others echoed that sentiment. Interviewed by WSMV TV, the group did not make excuses for Moreland, but asked that people wait before rushing to judgment – something they say Moreland did for each of them.


Senate Panel Grills Board Over Handling of Ethics Complaint

A Senate panel grilled court officers for more than four hours Tuesday at a hearing focused on the Board of Judicial Conduct’s handling of a complaint against Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade, the Tennessean reports. State Sen. Mike Bell, a critic of the judiciary, chaired the hearing of the Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Accountability. Judge Chris Craft, chair of the Board of Judicial Conduct, and the board’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel Timothy R. Discenza were among the witnesses. Both testified that Wade did not appear to have done anything wrong and nothing was amiss in the board’s consideration of the complaint.


Former State Rep. Killed in Hit-and-Run Incident

Former Tennessee state representative and Kingsport businessman Michael K. Locke was killed last night when he was struck by a vehicle while standing on the shoulder of the road. The driver of the vehicle allegedly fled the scene but was arrested a short time later, Knoxnews reports. Locke, 61, was chair of the Bud Hulsey campaign for the 2nd District seat he formerly held in the House of Representatives. He was placing a campaign sign when he was struck by the vehicle and knocked into a deep ravine.


Silent Auction to Benefit Legal Aid Society

The Nashville Chapter of NALS will host the 2nd Annual NALS After Hours Silent Auction on July 10 to benefit the work of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz, 211 Commerce St., Suite 800. Last year, the auction raised $3,350 for the agency and sponsors are hoping to top that amount with a range of items including autographed memorabilia from the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans, hotel stays, wine and restaurant gift certificates. For more information, to volunteer or to donate an item, contact nalsnashville@yahoo.com.


Save the Date for CLC's 20th Anniversary Celebration

Supporters of the Community Legal Center (CLC) in Memphis are asked to save the date of July 31 for the group’s 20th anniversary celebration. The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. that evening. The CLC provides pro bono legal services and educational programs to those who are not eligible for assistance from Memphis Area Legal Services. Watch for more information on the event.


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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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