Advocacy Groups File Suit Over Medicaid Coverage

Three nonprofit legal firms today filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Tennessee, contending TennCare illegally denied residents of Medicaid coverage, the Tennessean reports. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Tennessee Justice Center and the National Health Law Program are representing the plaintiffs in the suit, which comes on the heels of a letter the federal Medicaid director sent state officials for failing to meet six of seven critical success factors required by federal health care law. According to the groups’ joint press release, Tennessee makes it harder than any other state to enroll in its Medicaid program by forcing applicants to apply for TennCare through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace website, which was not designed for this purpose.

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
00 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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 Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jason Chaffin, Nashville, Tennessee for the petitioner, Leonard Allen.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cailtin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Dan Hamm, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

On January 3, 2003 the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner, Leonard Allen, for especially aggravated robbery. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of the charged offense. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to twenty years of incarceration. Petitioner filed a notice of appeal. Subsequently, Petitioner filed a petition to plead guilty to aggravated robbery in the same case. The trial court, upon agreement of the parties, vacated the conviction for especially aggravated robbery and accepted a plea agreement to aggravated robbery with a sentence of ten years at thirty percent with credit for time served and the balance of the sentence to be served on probation. Petitioner appealed, challenging various aspects of his original conviction as well as the guilty plea. See State v. Leonard Allen, No. M2007-02581-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 1344462 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, April 5, 2011), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. July 14, 2011). On direct appeal, this Court invalidated the plea agreement, finding, among other things, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the plea agreement where Petitioner had already filed a notice of appeal. This Court then reinstated Petitioner’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery. On remand, the trial court reinstated the accompanying twenty-year sentence. Subsequently, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief in which he argued, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court entered an order denying Petitioner relief. On appeal, Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief based on ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court denying the petition for relief.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


David A. Collins, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven James McCain.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Katrin Miller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The petitioner, Steven James McCain, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 1998 Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, claiming that the State withheld material evidence at trial and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Keith Lowe, Knoxville, Tennessee, (on appeal), and John M. Boucher, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee (at trial), for appellant, James Joseph Ryan.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kenneth F. Irvine, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.


Following a jury trial in Knox County Criminal Court, Defendant, James Joseph Ryan, was convicted of burglary of a business (an automobile dealership) and theft of property of more than $10,000.00 in value. He was sentenced as a Range II offender to an effective sentence of ten years. In this appeal, Defendant asserts that accomplice testimony was not corroborated, that the trial court erred by not finding a certain witness was an accomplice as a matter of law, and that the trial court erred by ordering Defendant to pay the court costs. After a thorough review we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

2 New Groups Join Supreme Court Battle

Two new groups have joined the battle for control of the Tennessee Supreme Court, News Channel 5 reports. The conservative organization Americans for Prosperity — funded, in large part, by the billionaire Koch Brothers — launched a radio ad calling to replace "liberal justices" Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee. Tennesseans for Fair Courts, a political action committee led by Hendersonville trial lawyer Clint Kelly, aired a television ad in support of the justices and takes aim at the "extremists attacking our Supreme Court justices," pointing to several questionable claims made by the justices' opponents. As ads on both sides hit Tennessee airwaves, groups such as Justice At Stake and the Brennon Center for Justice have continued to monitor the flood of money in judicial elections. “The ads in Tennessee are just the latest in a disturbing trend of outside groups attempting to influence who sits on our courts,” said Alicia Bannon, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “People need to feel that judges are accountable to the law, not special interest groups pouring money into retention elections. Ads that politicize judges’ records on the bench undermine the independence of our courts.” 

Bar Associations Support Justices’ Retention

The Montgomery County and Tipton County bar associations today issued resolutions endorsing the retention of Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee. The resolutions encourage citizens to vote in the Aug. 7 elections, specifically in support of the three incumbent justices. Nashville Bar Association President Charles K. Grant also is talking about the importance of the upcoming election, using his most recent column in the Nashville Bar Journal to break down the campaign, the issues and the players. The NBA has joined with other legal groups in the Coalition for Fair Courts, and Grant urges attorneys to use the resources available from the group to get involved in the election.

Groups Encourage Early Voting

State election officials are encouraging voters to cast their ballots early and keep Election Day lines manageable for the Aug. 7 election, which may have the longest ballot in state history, the Tennessean reports. Numbers show more than 143,600 people have voted through Tuesday. In Knoxville, a group of lawyers is encouraging area law firms to allow attorneys and staff a longer lunch break in order to vote at the City County Building. All Knoxville lawyers also are invited to gather on the patio of the First Tennessee Plaza at 11:30 a.m. to enjoy refreshments before voting opens at noon.

Black Leaders Worry About Low Voter Turnout

Civil rights leaders at the NAACP annual convention in Las Vegas yesterday worried that dwindling African-American turnout in November could lead to the expansion of voter-identification laws that make it harder for that community to vote in subsequent contests. According to NAACP voting rights director Jotaka Eaddy, 22 states passed laws stiffening requirements on the identification needed to vote – a move that disproportionately affects poor and minority voters. Polls have also shown that Democrats, including black voters, are far less enthusiastic about the coming midterm elections than Republicans, who could win control of the U.S. Senate. WATE has more from the Associated Press.

Justices Continue Campaign Trail Across State

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee have been making appearances across Tennessee this week to talk with voters in advance of the Aug. 7 retention elections. Justice Wade made a stop in Dayton at the Rhea County Courthouse, Justice Clark visited the Coffee County Justice Center in Manchester and Justice Lee greeted local residents at the Dyer County Courthouse. Wade refuted claims stated in an attack ad that the three are “liberal justices,” saying partisan politics has no place in the judicial branch. Lee made similar remarks. "The bottom line is they are trying to put politics in the courtroom," she said. "When we go into court, we leave our politics at the door. My job is to uphold the constitution and uphold the laws of the state.”

Battle in Full Swing Over Abortion Vote

Voters won’t decide the issue until November, but the fundraising, education and organizational battle is already in full swing over a proposed Tennessee constitutional amendment granting state lawmakers more power over abortion laws. According to campaign finance disclosures, abortion opponents raised over $500,000 as of June 30, while supporters of abortion rights have raised a little over $360,000. The Columbia Daily Herald has more.

Davidson County Lawyer Disbarred

Hal Wilkes Wilkins was disbarred on July 22 on two complaints of misconduct. Wilkins was ordered to pay restitution to two former clients or to the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection, if appropriate, in the amount of $3,500. View the BPR notice.

Hamilton County Lawyer Reinstated

H. Owen Maddux was reinstated to the practice of law. Maddux had been suspended on August 9, 2013, for none months. View the BPR notice.

Blount County Lawyer Temporarily Suspended

Cynthia Lee Costner-Sexton was temporarily suspended on July 21 for failing to respond to the Board of Professional responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. View the BPR notice.

Details Released for CLC 20th Anniversary Celebration

The Memphis-based Community Legal Center (CLC) will mark its 20th anniversary with a celebration on July 31 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the home of Leslie and Renelle Ballin, 254 Cloister Green Lane, Memphis 38120. The event will feature a presentation of the center’s plans for the future as well as a celebration of past accomplishments. The CLC provides pro bono legal services and educational programs to those who are not eligible for assistance from Memphis Area Legal Services.

Williamson County CASA Welcomes New Leaders, Wins $24K Grant

Williamson County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) recently announced new leadership for the coming year, including President Matt Roberts, Vice President Elizabeth Jewell, Secretary Davidson French and Treasurer Ken Johnson. The organization also recently received a grant totaling more than $24,000 from The Baptist Healing Trust, a private grant making foundation. The funds will help serve CASA’s mission to find safe and permanent homes for abused and neglected children in the county’s court system. The Williamson Source has more.

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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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