Questions Raised About GOP Group Opposing Justices

Since the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) burst onto the national political stage, it has become one of the most influential players on the right, but the group’s swift ascent has not come without controversy or legal hazard, reports Politico. According to a memo prepared by the Washington law firm BakerHostetler in 2011 but just recently leaked, the group – which is now fighting for the ouster of three Tennessee Supreme Court justices – conspired improperly with the Alabama Republican Party to serve as a pass-through for Indian tribe donations. The memo warned that the arrangement could trigger “possible criminal penalties” and “ultimately threaten the organization’s continued existence.” RSLC leaders have denied there was anything inappropriate about their activities in Alabama. In the Tennessee judicial retention election, the group has reported spending almost $400,000, according to an AP report today.

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
02 - TN Court of Appeals
05 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
02 - 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


Vanedda Prince Webb, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Derek Andrew S.

No Appellee Brief filed.


Father petitioned the trial court to, inter alia, modify the residential parenting schedule set forth in the permanent parenting plan. By a preponderance of the evidence, the trial court found that there was no material change in circumstances that would justify a change in the residential parenting schedule and, accordingly, dismissed Father’s petition. We reverse and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Steven Wilson and John Feild, Memphis, Tennessee, for Plaintiff/Appellant Ricardo Torres.

James L. Holt, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee for Defendant/Appellees Terry Hedrick, Vicki Hedrick, P.I., Inc. d/b/a/ Precision Industries.


This appeal involves whether an unauthorized alien has standing to bring a retaliatory discharge claim. The appellant employee, an undocumented worker, alleged that the appellee employer terminated his employment as a direct result of the employee asserting a workers’ compensation claim. The employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the employee could not bring a claim for retaliatory discharge because he was not legally authorized to work in Tennessee or capable of performing the job from which he was fired. The trial court granted summary judgment based solely on the illegal status of the employee, concluding he was incapable of employment, and therefore, could not assert a claim for retaliatory discharge. We reverse, holding that the undocumented employee does have standing to bring a retaliatory discharge claim and remand for further proceedings.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Kevin R. Bryant, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Leslie Warren Blevins.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Lori Phillips-Jones, District Attorney General; and John G. Galloway, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

The Fentress County Grand Jury indicted Appellant, Leslie Warren Blevins, with three counts of aggravated assault. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of one count of aggravated assault and two counts of assault. As a result, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of five years in confinement. Appellant appeals, challenging both the sufficiency of the evidence and his sentence. After a review of the record and the applicable authorities, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Appellant. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Lance R. Chism (on appeal) and James Prentice DeRossitt, IV (at hearing), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anthony Boyland.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Susan Taylor, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Anthony Boyland, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree felony murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated burglary and his effective life sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mike Settle a/k/a Michael Dewayne Settle, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; and Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Mike Settle a/k/a Michael Dewayne Settle, appeals the Lauderdale County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus. The Petitioner contends that, because his sentence is illegal because it was ordered to run concurrently with a federal sentence he had received in another case rather than consecutively, the habeas corpus court erred when it dismissed his petition. Upon a review of the record in this case, we are persuaded that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition. Accordingly, the judgment of the habeas corpus court is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John S. Anderson, Rogersville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Elmer Herbert Simpson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, Jr., District Attorney General; and Alex Pearson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Elmer Herbert Simpson, appeals his Hawkins County Criminal Court jury convictions of possession of a Schedule III drug with intent to deliver, see T.C.A. § 39-17- 417(a)(4), (d)(1), and maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are kept or sold, see id. § 53-11-401(a)(5), both Class D felonies. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the propriety of his effective three-year sentence. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


John Philip Parsons, Cookeville, Tennessee for the Appellant, Michael Kent Walker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Randy York, District Attorney General; and Anthony Craighead, Assistant District Attorney General for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Michael Kent Walker, pleaded guilty to selling Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances in a drug-free zone. The plea agreement provided that the Defendant would receive concurrent Range I sentences for one Class B felony and one Class C felony, with the trial court to determine his sentences. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of twelve years of incarceration. The Defendant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering an effective twelve-year sentence. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

TN Attorney General Opinions

County Fee for Transportation of City School Children

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-07-31

Opinion Number: 73

Distribution of Federal Gasoline Tax Revenues

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-08-01

Opinion Number: 74

Companies Unhappy with Rulings Donate to Defeat Justices

Tennessee corporations have donated at least $144,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) during this election cycle, although a full accounting will not be available until later this month. The largest donations reported were $25,000 from the Murfreesboro-based nursing home chain National HealthCare Corp., and $25,000 from Dorothy Scarlett, the wife of Tractor Supply retired CEO Joe Scarlett. Both companies have seen adverse rulings by the Tennessee Supreme Court and are mentioned in Sen. Ron Ramsey’s presentation that the justices are tough on business in the state. News Channel 5 has more on the story and a list of all donations given to RSLC through June.

Yarbrough: Corporate Giving Opens Door to ‘Buying Courts’

Commenting on the involvement of corporate interests in the Supreme Court election, former U.S. Attorney and George W. Bush appointee Ed Yarbrough said he worries about the implications of big corporations trying to overthrow a state’s high court. “I think it's opening the door to the possibility of people buying courts. I'm pro-business, I think most people are. But if the pro-business attitude begins to control what the Constitution says, then that’s the tail wagging the dog.” With regard to the campaign to unseat the sitting justices, Yarbrough said, “The public is being asked to throw out three very good judges … not knowing what they might get in place of that.” Read more of his comments from News Channel 5.

Barker: Ads Are ‘Lies,’ Those Behind Them ‘Extremists’

One of the most vocal supporters of the three Tennessee Supreme Court justices is former Chief Justice William "Mickey" Barker. A prominent Republican, Barker has been traveling the state with the justices and speaking on their behalf. In an interview with the Associated Press published today, Barker went even further calling the ads against the justices “lies” and laying the blame at the feet of the state’s lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey. “I'm sorry to say that our lieutenant governor is the main culprit. All of it goes back to him. The people who are running these opposition things are extremists who have political ambitions and they want to control the whole state of Tennessee,” he said. Knoxnews has the AP story.

State Considered Test for Efforts to Reshape Courts

Conservatives with ambitions to reshape courts across the country say results in Tennessee could give their efforts a burst of confidence, The New York Times reports. According to the paper, the Republican State Leadership Committee plans to spend at least $5 million on judicial races this year in places like North Carolina, where more than half of the state’s Supreme Court seats are on the ballot. Conservatives also are closely following races in Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas. Matt Walter, president of the group, says in Tennessee they would be happy defeating just one justice, which would give Republicans a majority on the body of five. “Success on Election Day is winning one because that flips the complexion of the court,” Walter told the paper.

Cohen Denounces Signs From Group Supporting Wilkins

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, called “totally false and outrageous” campaign signs from an entity called the National Democratic Party of the U.S.A., which endorse Ricky Wilkins, his opponent in the congressional primary, and include a photo of Wilkins alongside a photo of President Barack Obama. Cohen called on Wilkins to ask the group to cease and desist — but Wilkins declined saying, "If there are issues and questions … they need to be directed to whoever’s put them out there. They were not put out by my campaign team." Wilkins also said he had no financial relationship with the group. Yesterday, Cohen's campaign obtained a restraining order directing the group to stop distributing campaign materials. The Commercial Appeal has more.

Shelby Commission Asks for Election Monitors

Shelby County Commissioners voted Monday to ask U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton to monitor Thursday’s election in the county, Memphis Daily News reports. The commission approved the resolution after former Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton said there have been “serious” irregularities already during the early voting period as well as problems in the past. Among the concerns Bolton identified during early voting were complaints that machines were not working properly and that election officials were asking voters if they live at the address on their driver’s licenses. Democratic Party leaders also said they probably would challenge some results given election problems that routinely occur in the county.

McCoin Named Interim City Judge, Will Not Seek Full Term

Cleveland attorney George McCoin has been appointed as interim city judge until Sept. 4, when a new city judge will be appointed by the city council. McCoin's appointment comes after the death of Judge Bill Moss. In accepting the appointment, McCoin said, "I'm doing it to try to help out … to give the city an opportunity to come up with a process so they can fairly consider qualified candidates.” He also said he would not apply for the two-year term. The city council also announced the process and qualifications for candidates interested in the post. Applications must be submitted to the mayor's office no later than 10 a.m. Aug. 15. Learn more in

Nearly 30 Amicus Briefs Filed in Same-Sex Case

With a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals set to hear a same-sex marriage appeal from Tennessee on Wednesday, groups representing law enforcement officers, military families, psychologists, lawmakers and others have filed more than two dozen friend-of-the-court briefs in the case. Of the total, 26 support recognizing gay marriage in Tennessee, while three back the state’s ban. Many of the same organizations also have filed briefs in the Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio cases, which also will be heard by the court on Wednesday. Knoxnews has more on the arguments made in the briefs.

Wayne County Lawyer Reinstated with Conditions

Wayne County lawyer John W. Castleman Jr. was reinstated to the practice of law on Aug. 4, subject to several conditions. He had been suspended in July 2011 for one year, retroactive to Dec. 14, 2009. Based on the recommendation from a hearing panel, the state Supreme Court reinstated the license so long as Castleman (1) continues a monitoring program for one year, including random drug screenings; (2) continues participation in a Buprenorphine program; (3) continues counseling; (4) participates in a twelve-step program; and (5) engages a practice monitor for one year. Download the BPR notice.

Lipscomb, Nashville Church Host Legal Clinic Aug. 19

On Aug. 19 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society and St. James Missionary Baptist Church will host a general legal advice clinic for underserved individuals in Nashville. The event will be held at the church at 600 28th Ave., North. Attorney volunteers are needed to work with clients. No specific legal expertise is required. To participate or for more information contact the Institute's academic director Randy Spivey at (615) 966-2503.

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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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