Koch Talks Elections and More at Lipscomb Event

Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch Jr. was honored Thursday night by Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society as part of its “Conversations of Significance” series. During the event, Koch commented on the judicial retention elections and judicial independence in general. When asked why the retention election was so contentious this year, Koch replied “absolute power corrupts absolutely … Today, we have some at the levers of power who want more power. They have said ‘I want judges who think just like me.’ Is that the system we really want?” Read more from the conversation with Koch and see photos from the event.

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
01 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


W. Gary Blackburn, C. Dewees Berry IV, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jane Field

Robb S. Harvey, Mark M. Bell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Ladies’ Hermitage Association

This is the third round in a battle between these parties over the terms of a deed requiring certain payments to the heirs of the grantor. The property at issue is the historic Tulip Grove Mansion near The Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee. The deed conveying Tulip Grove to the Ladies’ Hermitage Association required payments to the heirs of the grantor of one-third “of all gate receipts received by [the LHA] from visitors to Tulip Grove House[.]” In a prior appeal, we held that “the term ‘gate receipts’ in the deed includes the rent paid to LHA for use of the property for special events.” The parties now dispute whether the LHA can deduct expenses from the special event rental fees prior to calculating the heirs’ one-third share. The chancellor held that such a deduction is permissible. We hold that it is not. We therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jeffrey A. DeVasher (on appeal), Gary Tamkin (at trial), and Kristin Neff (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy Howard Cunningham.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Lauren Spero and Jeff Burks, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Timothy Howard Cunningham, of reckless endangerment by use of a deadly weapon, namely a motor vehicle. The trial court sentenced him to four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Fedex Names Lawyers for Drug-Shipping Case

FedEx has named two law firms as its representatives in its coming drug trafficking case, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Both of the firms — Arguedas, Cassman & Headley LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — have offices in Northern California, where the charges were filed. The company was indicted last week for allegedly having lax controls on pharmaceutical shipments.

Hamilton Juvenile Court Launches Video Hearings

The Hamilton County Juvenile Court initiated its first video hearing this week, Chattanoogan.com reports. Officials said the new technology will save the sheriff’s office and juvenile corrections staff both time and fuel costs and will increase security of the court by not moving prisoners through public areas. Juvenile Court Clerk Gary Behler proposed the idea and Judge Rob Philyaw signed off on it.

Nashville Magistrates Using Summonses for Domestic Violence Suspects

Some domestic violence suspects in Nashville are no longer being arrested, being ordered to stay away from victims or being subjected to 12-hour “cooling off” periods, the Tennessean reports. The reason, according to the paper, is a change in state law that went into effect on July 1, which has led judicial commissioners to begin issuing court summonses instead of warrants to domestic violence suspects. It is unclear who is responsible for the shift in how the suspects are being managed. A spokesman for the commissioners blamed the new law. The legislator who wrote the law says the magistrates are not following it properly. Meanwhile, prosecutors warn that victims may be in danger as there are no meaningful consequences for ignoring a summons.

Nashville Bar Foundation Names 1st Leadership Class

The Nashville Bar Foundation (NBF) has named 28 attorneys to the inaugural class of its Leadership Forum program. The nine-month professional development program will kick-off in September and run through May 2015. Class members are Jeffrey Allen, Laura Baker, Rebecca Barnett, Joshua Burgener, Grover Collins, Alicia Cottrell, Jeff Gibson, Allen Grant, Sheryl Guinn, William Hicky, Lauren Kilgore, Whitney Henry Kimerling, Emily Lamb, Jennifer Lankford, Joseph McKinney, Josh Mullen, Tony Orlandi, Bart Pickett, Rachel Rosenblatt, Lindsay Schenk, Rebekah Shulman, Elizabeth Sitgreaves, Lauran Sturm, Taylor Sutherland, Jennifer Wade, Dannelle Walker, Charlotte Wolfe and Gulam Zade. The NBF also is seeking lawyers to serve as mentors for class members. Download an application or contact Traci Hollandsworth for more information.

Opinion: JPEC Citizen Member Speaks Out

Mike Tant, a citizen member of the Tennessee Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC), writes in the Tennessean this week about his experience serving on the commission. He explains the evaluation process and says allegations that JPEC is just a “rubber stamp” commission “is a shamefully uninformed statement.” He points to several judges who have decided to retire rather than face negative evaluations but says commission members are bound by an oath of confidentiality against releasing that kind of information. With regard to the current slate of judges, he says, “I have interviewed each of the appellate judges at least twice, and I can confidently report that these individuals are some of the hardest-working people in Tennessee. Their integrity rises above partisan politics.”

Tennessee ABOTA Endorses Justices, Funds TV Ad

The Tennessee Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates today released a statement supporting the retention of Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee. The statement calls recent attacks on the justices a “smear campaign” and “blatant misrepresentation” of their rulings. A story from News Channel 5 also reports that the group gave $25,000 to the Tennesseans for Fair Courts PAC to help fund a television ad countering claims that the justices support Obamacare and are soft on crime.

2 More County Bars Endorse Retention

The McMinn County Bar Association recently passed a resolution supporting retention of the three Supreme Court justices on the general election ballot, the Daily Post Athenian reports. "Some [of our members] are Republicans, some Democrats, some moderates, but we all felt strongly there should be no political involvement in judicial races at the appellate and Supreme Court levels," said McMinn County Bar Association President Sarah Kennedy. "We wanted to pass a resolution to show our support of the justices and our current system." In addition, the DeKalb County Bar Association adopted a resolution supporting all judges standing for a retention vote. General Sessions Judge Bratten Hale Cook II, president of the association, presented a copy of the resolution to Justice Connie Clark during her visit to the area yesterday, WJLE Radio reports.

Justices Cite Blackwell Case as Proof of 2nd Amendment Support

A spokeswoman for the campaign of three Supreme Court justices is now citing the case of David Scott Blackwell as backing up the contention, made in TV advertising, that the court has supported Second Amendment rights, Humphrey on the Hill reports. In that particular case, Blackwell sued for his right to own a gun after he received a pardon for a drug crime. The Court of Appeals ruled in Blackwell’s favor and the Supreme Court let that ruling stand. Blackwell's attorney, David Raybin, says the justices “functionally upheld” his client’s Second Amendment right. News Channel 5 has more on the story.

East Ridge Judicial Forum Set for Next Week

The East Ridge Ruritan Club will be sponsoring a judicial forum next Thursday, Chattanoogan.com reports. The event will be held at the East Ridge Elementary School Gym from 6 to 8 p.m. and feature candidates for city judge and court clerk. Attendees will be allowed to ask questions of the candidates. Local attorney Kellyann Mulroony Johnson will moderate the forum. Three candidates are running for judge: incumbent Arvin Reingold, Ryan Hanzelik and Cris Helton. For the first time the city also choose between two – Patricia Cassidy and Richard “Cubby” Owens – for the newly elected position of court clerk.

TACDL Meeting to Feature Judge Fowlkes

The Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL) will hold its 41st Annual Meeting Aug. 1-2 at the University of Memphis School of Law. Speakers include TACDL President Mike Whalen, 30th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee, Kansas District Court Judge Joe D. Johnson and U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes, who will give a presentation on the importance of judicial independence. Learn more on the association’s website.

Services Pending for Nashville Attorney

Nashville lawyer Peter Halverstadt, a member of the TBA’s Government Affairs Committee, has died. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, Halverstadt worked for both the Davidson County district attorney and public defender while in school. Following graduation, he opened a solo civil and criminal defense practice, which he maintained from 1994 to 1998. He later joined the Workers’ Compensation Division of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and most recently was serving as assistant administrator of the division and legislative representative for the office. Halverstadt is a past president of the Guardianship and Trusts Corporation, a non-profit organization that provides financial management services for those unable to make informed decisions on their own behalf. Obituary and funeral information is not yet available.

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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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