Court: Unlimited Surety Bond Not Required to Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that an unlimited surety bond is not required for an appeal of a civil case from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court. Ruling in a 2007 Shelby County case, the court found that a cash bond covering the amount of court costs and litigation taxes is enough to permit an appeal. The unanimous ruling also noted that courts can request additional security under state law if necessary. The AOC has more on the decision.

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.

02 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
02 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - 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


Court: TN Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court


Jerry E. Mitchell and Kevin Baskette, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Campbell Clinic, P.A.

Louis P. Chiozza, Jr., and John W. Leach, Memphis, Tennessee, and Steven R. Walker, Oakland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wilma Griffin.


The plaintiff filed a civil action in the general sessions court asserting a health care liability claim against the defendant. Following a trial, the general sessions court entered judgment in the defendant’s favor. The next day, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and deposited $211.50 with the general sessions court clerk, which represents the amount of the standard court cost of $150 for an appeal to the circuit court required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-21-401(b)(1)(C)(i) plus state and local litigation taxes. The circuit court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff failed to file a bond “with good security...for the costs of the appeal” under Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-5-103. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment, concluding that payment of the standard court cost is sufficient to perfect an appeal from the general sessions court to the circuit court. After a thorough review of the statutory scheme at issue, we conclude that the plaintiff’s cash bond was sufficient to perfect her appeal to the circuit court. We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kannon C. Conway, Memphis, Tennessee, and Dustin N. Pickens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the appellant, Santander Consumer USA, Inc.

Kevin A. Snider, Germantown, Tennessee, for the appellee, Samuel Bridgefourth, Jr.


Plaintiff’s car was repossessed. Plaintiff paid the amount owed, but never received the car. Plaintiff sued and won a judgment for conversion. He was also awarded attorney’s fees, first as special damages and then, in an amended order, as punitive damages. Defendant appeals. We reverse because attorney’s fees cannot be awarded as punitive damages and no statute or contract involved in this case provides for attorney’s fees.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Christopher J. Pittman, Clarksville, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellant Mark Stephen Lambert

Steven T. Atkins, Clarksville, Tennessee, for Plaintiff/Appellee Ok Nan Kim Lambert

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves the interpretation of two marital dissolution agreements. The parties married, divorced , and then remarried each other. They stayed remarried for a few years and then divorced again. In both divorces, the parties entered into a marital dissolution agreement. Years later, after the husband retired from military service, this litigation was commenced regarding the award of a portion of the husband’s military retirement benefits to the wife. The trial court held that the wife’s award of benefits was based on the combined duration of both marriages. Both parties appeal. The husband argues that the trial court erred in not limiting the wife’s award to the duration of the first marriage only. We construe the parties’ marital dissolution agreement as awarding the wife the agreed percentage of all of the husband’s military retirement benefits, irrespective of the duration of marriage. Thus, we decline to adopt the husband’s argument. The wife does not argue on appeal that the trial court erred in failing to award her the agreed percentage of all of the husband’s military retirement benefits. Accordingly, we are constrained to affirm the trial court’s decision to base the award on the combined duration of both of the parties’ marriages.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Tillman W. Payne, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tommy Dale Adams.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General; Laura Bush, Assistant District Attorney General; for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


A Wilson County Jury convicted Defendant, Tommy Dale Adams, of first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. He received concurrent sentences of life for first degree felony murder, twenty years for second degree murder, and twenty years for especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the trial court erred in admitting a photograph into evidence after finding that its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect; (2) that the trial court erred in excluding testimony by Dewy Raymond, finding that it was inadmissible hearsay; and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. After a thorough review, we remand the matter to the trial court for entry of a corrected judgment to reflect that the convictions of felony murder and second degree murder are merged into one count of felony murder. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Justices Call Attack Ad ‘Absolutely False’

The first TV attack ad aimed at three incumbent state Supreme Court justices hit the air Saturday morning, News Channel 5 reports. The 30-second spot, sponsored by the Tennessee Forum, argues that “liberal Democrats control our court and threaten your freedom.” The ad also claims that the justices “advanced Obamacare in Tennessee.” In a news conference Saturday, the justices countered those claims and their campaign called the Obamacare allegation “absolutely false." "They don't have anything to do with ... Obamacare,” said Carol Andrews. “It does not come before their court and won’t come before their court.” Justice at Stake reports that TV ad time purchases by the Tennessee Forum total at least $119,055

Former Supreme Court Justices Take Issue with Attack Ad

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Koch Jr., who earlier served as legal counsel to Republican Gov. Lamar Alexander, denounced a new TV attack ad that began running against three incumbent justices this weekend, the Tennessean reports. “I have served with these three judges. While we have not agreed on every issue, they have done their work professionally and competently. The smear tactics being used by the special interest groups to attack three of my former colleagues wrongly undermines Tennesseans’ confidence in their state courts,” he said. In addition, retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Mickey Barker appears in a new ad released today by the justices' campaign, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. “Although I’m a Republican,” Barker says, “politics has no place in our courts.”

Newest Justices Remain on Ballot for Lower Courts

Because of the unusual timing of their appointments to the state’s highest court and related state laws, Justice Jeff Bivins and soon-to-be Justice Holly Kirby will still appear on the general election ballot as standing for retention to their prior posts. Bivins was a Court of Criminal Appeals judge before taking his Supreme Court seat. Kirby will leave her seat on the Court of Appeals Aug. 31. Knoxnews’ Humphrey on the Hill reports that when the judges were named to the Supreme Court they asked if their names could be removed from the lower court ballots. But Mark Goins, state coordinator of elections, said state law does not allow for that.

Steen: Criticism of Judicial Conduct Board Misplaced

TBA President Jonathan Steen has responded to an opinion piece by state Sen. Todd Gardenhire that recently ran in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The piece questioned the motives and decision of the Board of Judicial Conduct in dismissing an ethics complaint against Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade, and suggested that the board twisted words and conjured up technicalities to hide a serious breach of ethics. In his response, Steen said such criticism is “unjust and deserves to be examined.” He notes that the board followed the procedure created by the legislature when it revised judicial ethics rules in 2012. Rather than being “technicalities,” the rules created by the legislature are designed “to bring better clarity and definition” to the process “to ensure that the provisions do not violate the state constitution,” Steen said. Read the full response.

Commission OKs Early Release for Drug Felons

Tens of thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug crimes may be eligible for early release under a cost-cutting proposal adopted Friday by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The panel, which earlier this year voted to substantially lower recommended sentences for drug-dealing felons, voted unanimously to retroactively apply that change to prisoners now behind bars. That could affect more than 46,000 inmates, the Associated Press reports. Under the proposed process, a judge would review the case of each prisoner to decide if release would jeopardize public safety. Releases would start in November 2015 and be phased in over a period of years. Congress has until this November to voice opposition to the plan. WATE has the story.

Obama Order Protects LGBT Employees

President Barack Obama signed an executive order today that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on sexual preference or gender identity. The president also used the occasion to urge Congress to extend the same protections to all employees by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Of note, the Memphis Business Journal reports that the order does not include the same religious exemption for employers that is included in the legislation. Several gay rights groups recently withdrew their longstanding support for ENDA over fear that the bill’s language might allow private companies to use the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case as justification for discriminating. The Washington Post has more on that story.

Family, Friends Gather to Remember Judge Moss

Family, friends and colleagues gathered last week to remember the life and public service of Cleveland City Judge Bill Moss, who died Monday. Moss, 76, had served as city judge for 38 years at the time of his death. Hundreds packed the County Commission Room of the Bradley County Courthouse to share stories of Moss’ service and friendships with the people of Cleveland, the reports. People remembered Moss as a man of compassion and fairness on the bench. "I have often said that even when Bill had to fine or sentence someone from the bench, they left his courtroom knowing their particular case was handled…with dignity and respect," Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said.

Williamson County Bar Elects New Officers

The Williamson County Bar Association has elected new officers for the 2014-2015 bar year. They are President Neil Campbell, a solo practioner in Spring Hill; Vice President Shauna Billingsley with the City of Franklin; Secretary Kristen Corn with the City of Franklin; Treasurer David O’Neil with the City of Brentwood; and Past President Craig Brent, a solo practioner in Franklin.

Colorado Supreme Court Ends Gay Marriages Pending Appeal

Colorado's Supreme Court has ordered an end to gay marriages while the state's ban against the unions remains in place, WDEF reports. The court on Friday ordered Denver's clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It responded to an appeal from the state attorney general, who had been unable to persuade lower courts to stop clerks in Boulder and Denver from distributing the documents. A federal appeals court upheld gay marriage in the state but stayed its ruling pending appeal. The AG also is asking the state Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the ban. A lower court judge found that law unconstitutional but also stayed his ruling until the high court reviews it.

Lawyer with Shelby Public Defender’s Office Dies

Lawrence Russell “Rusty” White died July 12. White, 55, was a criminal defense attorney with the Public Defender's office in Shelby County. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made to the Mid-South Make A Wish Foundation, 1780 Moriah Woods Blvd. Suite 10, Memphis, TN 38117. Read tributes to White on the Memorial Park Funeral Home’s website. The Commercial Appeal 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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