Trial Courts Must Explain Summary Judgment Motions

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that trial judges must explain why they are granting or denying a motion for summary judgment before they ask the lawyer for the winning party to prepare a proposed order. Saying that deciding a motion for summary judgment is a “high judicial function,” the justices found that requiring the court to state its grounds “promotes respect for the judicial system” and ensures the decision is “the product of the trial court’s own independent analysis.”

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
01 - TN Court of Appeals
11 - 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

MARY C. SMITH v. UHS OF LAKESIDE, INC. ET AL.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Ashley D. Cleek and Marty R. Phillips, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, UHS of Lakeside, Inc.

Mimi Phillips, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mary C. Smith.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal involves the manner in which a trial court granted motions for summary judgment in a proceeding involving the death of a patient whose treatment for viral encephalitis was delayed because he was also being assessed for involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital. The widow of the deceased patient filed suit against three health care providers in the Circuit Court for Shelby County. In her original complaint and four subsequent amended complaints, the widow asserted eight causes of action against one or more of the providers. The trial court eventually granted a series of summary judgments dismissing all the claims against one of the providers without explaining the grounds for its decisions and requested counsel for the provider to prepare appropriate orders “establish[ing] the rationale for the [c]ourt’s ruling in quite specific detail.” The provider’s counsel prepared detailed orders adopting all the arguments the provider had made in favor of its summary judgment motions, and the trial court signed these orders over the widow’s objections. The widow appealed, arguing that the trial court had failed to provide reasons for its decisions and that the orders did not accurately reflect what had occurred at the summary judgment hearings. The Court of Appeals vacated the disputed orders because the trial court had failed to state the legal grounds for its decisions as required by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04 and remanded the case to the trial court. Smith v. UHS of Lakeside, Inc., No. W2011-02405- COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 210250, at *12-13 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 18, 2013). We granted the provider’s application for permission to appeal. We have determined that the record establishes that the contested orders were not the product of the trial court’s independent judgment, and therefore, we hold that the trial court failed to comply with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04.


TN Court of Appeals

TENNESSEE FARMERS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY v. JUDY PAULINE SIMMONS ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Clifton Corker, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charles Casey.

David R. Shults, Erwin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company.

Judge: FRIERSON

This case presents an issue regarding the proper interpretation of a policy of insurance. The insurance company filed a declaratory judgment action against the defendants, seeking a determination from the trial court regarding whether the insurance policy afforded coverage for an accident involving a four-wheeler vehicle owned by one of the defendants. The accident resulted in the death of a minor, Ryan Casey. The child’s father intervened in the declaratory judgment action. Following a hearing, the trial court concluded that the policy did not provide coverage. The intervenor has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KEITH COLLINS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James E. Thomas (on appeal) and Rhonda D. Hooks and Michael Harris (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Keith Collins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Ray Lepone and Paul Hagerman, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Keith Collins, of conspiracy to possess with intent to sell more than 300 grams of cocaine, a Class A felony, and attempt to possess more than 300 grams of cocaine with intent to sell, a Class B felony. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender to consecutive sentences of forty and twenty years, respectively. On appeal, the appellant contends that (1) the trial court should have given an accomplice instruction with regard to one of the State’s witnesses; (2) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (3) the trial court improperly allowed a State witness to testify about a bad act pursuant to 404(b), Tennessee Rules of Evidence; (4) he is entitled to a new trial based on a witness’s false testimony; and (5) consecutive sentencing was improper. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BOBBY JOE CROOM

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Lee R. Sparks, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Bobby Joe Croom.

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

Judge: MCMULLEN

A Madison County Circuit Court jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Bobby Joe Croom, as charged of three counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and three counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. See State v. Bobby Joe Croom, No. W2011-00461-CCAR3- CD, 2012 WL 1656718, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 10, 2012). In his first direct appeal, Croom argued that the trial court erred in failing to require the State to elect the particular instances of rape and sexual battery on which it was relying for each conviction and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Id. at *1. In counts 1 through 4, which charged Croom with rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery during the period of July 1-4, 2009, and with rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery during the period of July 5-11, 2009, this court reversed Croom’s convictions, dismissed his charges, and vacated his sentences after concluding that there was no proof presented at trial that the offenses occurred within the time periods charged. Id. at *8. The court also reversed Croom’s convictions in counts 5 and 6, which charged Croom with rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery during the period of July 12-18, 2009, and remanded the case for a new trial on those counts. Id. Following a retrial on counts 5 and 6, Croom was again convicted as charged, and the trial court imposed consecutive sentences of thirty-five years for the rape of a child conviction and fifteen years for the aggravated sexual battery conviction. In this direct appeal, Croom argues that (1) the trial court erred in allowing a physician to testify about the statements made by the victim and the victim’s mother during a medical examination and erred in admitting the physician’s medical report containing those statements because the statements were not made for the purposes of medical diagnosis and treatment pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 803(4), and (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


RICARDO DALE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Vicki M. Carriker (on appeal) and Michael E. Scholl (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ricardo Dale.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel, Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General, and Kirby May, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The petitioner, Ricardo Dale, filed a petition in the Shelby County Criminal Court, seeking post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the petitioner appeals this ruling. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WENDELL GUINN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Lauren M. Fuchs (at trial); William D. Massey (at trial); Lorna Sullivan McClusky (at trial); and Joseph Andrew McClusky (on appeal), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wendell Guinn.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Hamilton Douglas Carriker and Karen Cook, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Wendell Guinn, was indicted for aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; rape, a Class B felony; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and domestic assault, a Class A misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-111, -13-304, -13-503, -14-403. The State ultimately dismissed the domestic assault charge, and, following a jury trial, the Defendant was acquitted of the aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary charges. The jury convicted the Defendant of rape as charged in the indictment. The trial court imposed a sentence of nine years, with two years to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) that the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence; and (3) that the trial court erred in providing a supplemental instruction to the jury in response to a question from the jury during deliberations. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CURTIS W. HAMMOCK

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Timothy V. Potter (at plea acceptance hearing and on appeal); and Andrew E. Mills (on appeal), Dickson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Curtis W. Hammock.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Dan Mitchum Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Margaret F. Sagi and Carey J. Thompson, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Appellant, Curtis W. Hammock was indicted for initiating a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine, being a felon in possession of a handgun, and child neglect. He pleaded guilty to the first two counts and received a sentence of ten years on the drug charge to be served in community corrections and a concurrent sentence of two years in community corrections for the handgun charge. The State dismissed the child neglect charge. As a condition of his guilty plea, appellant, with agreement from the State and the trial court, reserved a certified question of law for our consideration: “Whether the trial court correctly ruled[,] following a suppression hearing[,] that the Defendant did voluntarily consent to a search of his residence subsequent to the unlawful entry of law enforcement on June 12, 2012?” Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DWIGHT JAMES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Kenneth K. Crites, Centerville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dwight James.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Kate Yeager, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

After a jury trial, appellant, Dwight James, was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender. The trial court sentenced appellant to two years in confinement, suspended to probation after 150 days of incarceration. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to vacate his prior guilty plea to two counts of sexual battery in 1989 and that the requirement that he register as a sex offender violates the Ex Post Facto Clause and his procedural due process rights. Following our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LADARION PEARSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Gregory D. Gookin, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Ladarion Pearson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant, Ladarion Pearson, entered guilty pleas to one count of aggravated criminal trespassing, two counts of assault, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of robbery. He received an effective sentence of five years to be served in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KHALIQ RA-EL
With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender; Tony N. Brayton and Jimmy Hale, Assistant Public Defenders; Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Khaliq Ra-el.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Kirby May, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

A Shelby County Jury convicted Defendant, Khaliq Ra-el, of attempted voluntary manslaughter, reckless aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. He received concurrent sentences of three years each for attempted voluntary manslaughter and reckless aggravated assault to be served consecutively to a sixyear sentence for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARVIN ROSCOE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stephanie Johnson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

John Scott, Memphis, Tennessee, and Randall B. Tolley, Gulf Shores, Alabama, for the appellee, Marvin Roscoe.

Judge: GLENN

This is a Rule 9, Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, interlocutory appeal by the State of Tennessee of the trial court’s granting in part the defendant’s motion to suppress. On March 1, 2012, the Shelby County Grand Jury returned a two-count indictment charging the defendant, Marvin Roscoe, with DUI and DUI over .08%. The defendant filed a motion to suppress any evidence seized or statements made as a result of his stop and arrest. The trial court entered an order denying in part the defendant’s motion to suppress any evidence pertaining to the initial traffic stop and granting in part the defendant’s motion to suppress any evidence pertaining to the defendant’s subsequent arrest. The State now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in granting in part the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence regarding his subsequent arrest. Based upon our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. EVERETT RUSS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Paul K. Guibao (on appeal and remand); and Eran E. Julian and Mark A. Saripkin (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Everett Russ.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General (on remand); Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General (on remand); Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General (on previous appeal); Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Gregory Thomas Carman and Carrie Shelton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Tennessee Supreme Court has remanded this case for reconsideration in light of State v. James Allen Pollard, — S.W.3d —, No. M2011-00332-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Dec. 20, 2013). See State v. Everett Russ, No. M2012-00461-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 9, 2013), perm. app. granted, case remanded (Tenn. May 15, 2014). Relevant to the current remand, this court concluded in the previous appeal that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences when only one of the statutory aggravating factors applied to the Defendant’s two offenses involving the sexual abuse of a minor. See T.C.A. § 40-35- 115(b)(5) (2010). Upon further review, we conclude that the aggravating factors were sufficient to support the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


GEORGE A. WYLIE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

George A. Wylie, Memphis, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, George A. Wylie, appeals the Criminal Court for Shelby County’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Prosecutors Counter Claims Justices Are ‘Soft on Crime’

A bipartisan group of 13 district attorneys has come forward in support of Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee, saying they have “outstanding records and deserve to be retained.” The spokesperson for the group, 15th Judicial District Tom P. Thompson Jr., said though “prosecutors may not agree with every decision made by this court...the fact is these justices…have upheld almost 90 percent of death penalty cases. They are not soft on crime.” Thompson also said the three are fair and impartial, and protect Tennesseans’ rights under the state and federal constitutions.


Justices Respond to RSLC, Tennessee Forum Mailings

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) and Tennessee Forum have launched a mailing that attacks three Tennessee Supreme Court justices as “left wing” and “liberal” and though their pieces are similar they say they are not working together, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Carol Andrews, spokeswoman for the justices’ campaign, said the mailings were another example of “murky money” from outside the state. Chief Justice Gary Wade responded to the effort yesterday saying, “I’m personally not taking this as a personal attack against me or the other justices. I view this as a challenge to the entire bench and bar and third branch of government.” Read more about the justices' response in this Knoxnews article.


Paper: Keep Politics Out of Judicial Branch

The editorial staff of the Tullahoma News and the Citizen Tribune write in recent editions of the papers that voters should not be “persuaded by negative ads attacking” three of the state’s Supreme Court justices but should vote to retain each of them on the Aug. 7 ballot. The paper addresses a number of criticisms that have been lodged against the three and concludes that all have the highest integrity, are fair and impartial, and are tough on crime. The editors conclude: “Tennesseans should not tolerate one person in one branch of government injecting partisan politics into the judicial branch where politics have no place. Our Tennessee Supreme Court must remain a politics-free zone where cases and issues are decided on the merits.”


O'Connor Decries 'Cash in the Court'

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor decries letting 'cash in the court' with judicial elections and is lending her voice to the Quality Judges Initiative, which advocates for the use of nominating commissions to replace elections for judges. O'Connor has released a plan for revamping the selection process for state court judges, the New York Daily News reports. “In recent years, I have been distressed to see persistent efforts in some states to politicize the bench and the role of our judges,” O’Connor said in an announcement of the initiative this week. “You just can’t have a fair and impartial system if you have cash in the court,” she added.


Accrual Accounting Requirements Resurface in Draft Tax Bills

The ABA is opposing two draft tax bills that would require many law firms to switch accounting methods and pay taxes on phantom income before it is received. ABA President-Elect William Hubbard submitted written testimony opposing draft bills that would require all personal services businesses with annual gross receipts over $10 million to use the accrual method of accounting. "This particular issue has become one of the most important issues to our members – and many state and local bars throughout the country – because of the serious negative effects that the proposed legislation would have on practicing lawyers, their law firms and their clients," Hubbard said. The ABA Journal has more.


Tenncare Submits Plan to Correct Deficiencies

The Haslam administration responded Monday to criticisms of the state’s implementation of rules intended to facilitate enrollment of low-income individuals in the federal health care program. In a letter to regulators, TennCare Director Darin Gordon took issue with a number of the government’s assertions. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified the state last week that it was not in compliance with six of seven "critical success factors" aimed at streamlining the eligibility and enrollment processes for Medicaid. As requested, Gordon submitted an updated plan but sought permission to work with federal officials in resolving several issues. The Times Free Press has details.


First Mom Charged Under Prenatal Drug Law

A 26-year-old Tennessee woman has become the first mother to be charged under a state law that criminalizes drug use by pregnant women, MSNBC reports. Mallory Loyola was arrested and charged Tuesday with simple assault after she and the baby girl she gave birth to on July 6 both tested positive for methamphetamine, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said. Loyola told police she smoked the drug a few days before she gave birth. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of one year. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to allow such charges.


Former Grad Student Files $20M Suit Against Vanderbilt

Allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination have surfaced in a $20 million lawsuit brought by a former graduate student against Vanderbilt University, News Channel 5 reports. The suit comes at a time when Vanderbilt is already being scrutinized for how it handles harassment complaints. The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the university based on six allegations in 2013 that the school mishandled complaints of sexual assault and harassment. Vanderbilt officials declined to comment for the story saying they had not had time to review the lawsuit.


DOJ Looking at Price Fixing Among Music Publishers

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating possible pricing coordination among music publishers in its negotiations with performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI, the Wall Street Journal reports. Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the paper suggests that the investigation has become part of the department's previously announced broader review into the longstanding system for determining the cost of licensing songs. The Tennessean reports that the revelation comes as Sony/ATV Music Publishing is threatening to withdraw all of its licensing rights from the performance rights organizations if regulators don’t allow for the partial withdraw of digital rights.


House GOP Outlines Response to Border Crisis

House Republicans announced today that they will recommend dispatching the National Guard to South Texas to help overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, increase the number of immigration judges, provide assistance to Central American nations and change a 2008 trafficking law that guarantees immigration hearings for Central American youth. Republicans also reportedly are looking to pare down President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request, the Associated Press reports. In response, the White House, Democrats and immigration advocates called for action on a "clean" spending bill without any controversial policy changes attached. WRCB-TV has the story.


Sevier CASA Holds Youth Rodeo Fundraiser

CASA of Sevier County will host a youth rodeo to raise money for its work. Cowboys for CASA will take place Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at Tri C Farms in Seymour. Tickets are $20 and corporate sponsorships are available for $300. For more information, contact director Jim King, (865) 654-7097.


Cleveland Judge Reportedly Takes His Own Life

Longtime Cleveland City Judge Bill Moss, 76, died Monday morning from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, Chattanoogan.com reports. Moss’ body was found at his normal work parking spot after police responded to a call that shots had been fired. His longtime law partner, Jim Logan, said Moss fell at his home this past spring and struck his head. Tests showed that he had suffered brain injury. He later lost the use of his right arm and right leg and was experiencing headaches. Moss, who focused on social security disability cases, had been in private practice since 1965. Logan praised Moss for 38 years of service as city judge and for conducting his courtroom with dignity and fairness. Mayor Tom Rowland said flags are being flown at half-staff in memory of Moss and city court has been suspended for two weeks. WDEF News 12 has additional details.


Retired Murfreesboro Lawyer Dies

TBA senior counselor and retired Nashville lawyer John William "J.W. Bill” Martin died July 2 at age 87. A veteran of World War II, Martin graduated from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C. and attended the then-Nashville YMCA Law School. He earned his law degree from the then-McKenzie College of Law in Chattanooga. Martin spent much of his career at the Tennessee Department of Employment Security, retiring as senior claimant hearing officer in 1995. He spent his latter days in Murfreesboro. No services will be held as Martin donated his body to Meharry Medical College. The Tennessean has more on his life.


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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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