Civil Rights Attorney George Barrett Dies at 86

Nashville lawyer and civil rights defender George E. Barrett, a founding partner of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, died yesterday (Aug. 26). He was 86. After graduating from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1957, Barrett took on authority figures with an attitude of righteous indignation whenever he thought they were abusing power. He routinely called himself “The Citizen.” Barrett represented Nashville college students who fought for integration in the early 1960s, a rare choice for a white attorney at that time. One of his biggest cases was Geier v. Tennessee, a higher education desegregation lawsuit that lasted more than 30 years. The settlement in 2001 aimed to eliminate the final remnants of segregation in the state's colleges and universities by making the schools more attractive to students of all races. The funeral Mass will be held Saturday at  11 a.m. at Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. The TennesseanNashville Public Radio and the Nashville Scene have more on Barrett's life and legacy.

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


David A. Stuart, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellants, Dennis Michael Harris and Judy A. Harris.

Jonathan Swann Taylor and Courtney R. Houpt, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Risk Management Trust.

Robyn Beale Williams and Deanna Lee Fankhauser, Nashville, Tennessee, for the amici curiae, Tennessee Municipal League and Local Government Property and Casualty Fund.

Judge: CLARK

We granted permission to appeal to determine whether a governmental fund established in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-20-401 to -408 (2012), which allows governmental entities to pool resources in order to address liabilities created under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, is subject to the uninsured motorist coverage requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 56-7-1201 to -1206 (2008). We hold that such funds are statutorily exempt from the insurance statutes and therefore the requirements of the uninsured motorist statute do not apply. Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals’ judgment upholding the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment to Tennessee Risk Management Trust and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Tanya L. Crosse, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, McMillan’s Roofing and HVAC.

Robert M. Asbury, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael Corey Peterson.

Judge: WADE

After recovering from a work-related injury, the employee returned to work for his pre-injury employer but resigned after only a few days. Later, he made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. At the conclusion of the proof, the trial court ruled that the employee was deprived of a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits in excess of one and onehalf times his physical medical impairment rating. The employer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by so finding and that the one and one-half times cap should apply. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Berry Foster, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Melisa G.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Galen Pickard, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.


This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Anya G. (“the Child”), the minor child of Melisa G. (“Mother”). In October 2011, temporary custody of the Child was granted to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), and the Child was placed in foster care. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and the Child’s father, Michael G., on December 27, 2012. The petition alleged as statutory grounds for termination abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by an incarcerated parent who exhibited wanton disregard for the welfare of the child prior to incarceration, and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to Mother upon finding that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the grounds of (1) abandonment by engaging in conduct prior to her incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the welfare of the child and (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John P. Konvalinka and Jillyn M. O’Shaughnessy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bonny Browne.

Jennifer H. Lawrence and David H. Lawrence, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Alexander Lee Browne, Jr.


In this divorce action, Wife appeals the trial court’s valuation of Husband’s ownership interest in three businesses, determination of Husband’s income, division of marital assets, duration of rehabilitative alimony awarded to her, amount of child support Husband was ordered to pay, and the amount of attorney’s fees awarded to her. We determine that the trial court accepted the calculation of a $134,085.00 promissory note as a liability for one business co-owned by Husband but failed to require value of the same amount as a note receivable for the business collecting payment on the debt, owned 50% by Husband. We therefore increase the trial court’s valuation of the business collecting payment on the debt by one-half the amount of the applicable note receivable, or $67,042.50. We also determine that the trial court erred by attributing to Husband the full liability for the third business, a limited liability company in which Husband owns a one-half interest. We accordingly reduce the allocation for that liability by one-half, or $45,689.50, increasing the total modification of the value of Husband’s net assets awarded by the trial court by the amount of $112,732.00. We award to Wife 48% of this increase, or $54,111.36, commensurate with what we determine to be the trial court’s equitable distribution of marital property, and we remand for a determination regarding the proper method of distribution for this additional award to Wife. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


W. Kennerly Burger, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas E. Moorhead and Robert S. Moore.

Dominic J. Leonardo, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Joseph Claybon, Barbara Claybon, David W. Vandenbergh, and Heather Vandenbergh.

Thomas W. Lawless, Nashville, Tennessee and Frank H. Reeves, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellee, First Tennessee Bank National Association.


This appeal arises from the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and imposition of discovery sanctions. A bank sued holders of an assumption agreement for default, and the holders of the assumption agreement filed a counter-claim against the bank requesting rescission of the assumption agreement due to the bank’s alleged negligent misrepresentation of the existence of flood insurance on the property as well as a misrepresentation regarding the value of the property. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the bank and imposed discovery sanctions against the holders of the assumption agreement. Finding no genuine issues of material fact, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. In addition, we have reviewed the record and cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in awarding discovery sanctions in this matter. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

CORRECTION: Attorney line changed from "K. Kidwell King, Jr. and Jerry W. Laughlin, Greenville" to "K. Kidwell King, Jr. and Jerry W. Laughlin, Greeneville." (Greeneville was incorrectly spelled)

Court: TN Court of Appeals


David L. Leonard, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeremiah David Hawk.

K. Kidwell King, Jr. and Jerry W. Laughlin, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Erika Leigh Hawk (Ricker).

Matthew W. Sexton, Morristown, Tennessee, guardian ad litem for the minor.


This post-divorce appeal concerns a parenting plan that provided for equal time between the Parents, who subsequently filed competing petitions to modify, claiming that a material change in circumstances necessitated a change in the parenting plan. The trial court found that a change in circumstances had not yet occurred but awarded Mother approximately 12.5 days of additional parenting time after deciding that the Child should attend school in Mother’s county. Father appeals. We affirm the trial court’s decision.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


W. Michael Kilgore, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeremy P.

Georgina K. Hughes, Mount Juliet, Tennessee, for the appellees, Ronald S. and Linda S.

Tiffany D. Hagar, Lebanon, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.


Father appeals the termination of parental rights to his child. The maternal grandparents obtained custody of the child shortly after her birth due to evidence of drugs in the child’s bloodstream. When the child was one year of age, Father was incarcerated and remained so two years later when the maternal grandparents filed a petition for termination of parental rights. The juvenile court found statutory grounds for termination of Father’s parental rights and concluded that it was in the child’s best interest to terminate Father’s parental rights. On appeal, Father argues that the evidence did not support the juvenile court’s conclusion that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. We disagree and affirm the juvenile court’s termination of Father’s parental rights.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Helen Sfikas Rogers, Siew-Ling Shea, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kristi L. Boren (f/k/a Rousos)

Joanie L. Abernathy, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Daniel P. Rousos


This appeal arises out of contentious post-divorce proceedings. The parties had equal parenting time with their three sons. Both parents filed a petition to modify the parenting plan and sought to be named primary residential parent. The parties also filed competing petitions for contempt. Following a five-day trial, the trial court named Father the primary residential parent of the oldest son, but it continued the parties’ equal parenting arrangement for the two younger sons. The trial court found Father guilty of two counts of criminal contempt. The court also made an award of attorney’s fees to Mother. Both parties appeal. We dismiss the appeal of the contempt order for lack of a final judgment. We affirm the custody order, vacate the award of attorney’s fees, and remand for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Kristi J. Murray, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Malinda Annette Stills.

Roger Alan Woolsey, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Chadburn Ober Harmon.


This is an appeal from a Restraining Order entered on May 20, 2014. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until June 20, 2014, thirty-one (31) days after the date of entry of the Restraining Order. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


William A. Cameron, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brenda Judy Moss.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; Randy York, District Attorney General; and Beth Willis, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Brenda Judy Moss, pled guilty to theft over $60,000, a Class B felony, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of the sentence. The trial court subsequently ordered a ten-year split confinement sentence, with the Defendant to serve one year in jail followed by nine years of supervised probation. The Defendant asserts that the sentence is excessive and that split confinement was improper based upon the facts of the case. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Robert L. Jolley, Jr., and Jennifer L. Gower, Knoxville, Tennessee for appellant, Richard Cleophus Smith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kevin Allen, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: SMITH

Appellant, Richard Cleophus Smith, was indicted by presentment by the Knox County Grand Jury for felony murder, first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, evading arrest by motor vehicle, evading arrest, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, driving while privilege suspended, and failure to provide proof of financial responsibility. At the conclusion of a jury trial, the jury found Appellant guilty of all charges except aggravated assault for which he was found guilty of the lesser included offense of reckless endangerment. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an effective sentence of life plus twenty-six years. On appeal, Appellant argues that: (1) the evidence was insufficient; (2) that the trial court constructively amended the presentment charging driving while license suspended, after jeopardy attached by instructing the jury on the offense of driving without a license in possession; (3) that the trial court erred in denying Appellant’s request for a special jury instruction; (4) that the trial court erred in allowing the testimony of two officers; (5) the trial court erred in denying his request for notes and memoranda generated by State witnesses when generating their reports; and (5) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences. We have thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal. We affirm all judgments except the judgment for driving without a license in possession which must be dismissed because the trial court constructively amended the presentment by giving the contested jury instruction.

TN Attorney General Opinions

Expunction of Records

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2014-08-25

Opinion Number: 77

Incoming DA Makes First Hires, Increases Diversity

A day before he is to be sworn in, incoming Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk announced his first four prosecutor hires, the Tennessean reports. Derry Harper, Ed Ryan, Rebecca Miller Warfield and Vince Wyatt will serve as assistant district attorney generals. True to his campaign vow to make the office more diverse to better reflect the community, two of the four hires are black. A fifth hire, Funk's new spokesperson Dorinda Carter, is also black.

Memphis Among 'Most Impressive Law School Buildings' in the World

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law was ranked 24 out of 50 Most Impressive Law School Buildings in the world, according to the website The law school relocated to the former U.S. Post Office, which also served as the U.S. Customs House before it reopened for students in 2010 after an extensive renovation. “This honor confirms what all of us in Memphis have long known,” said Peter Letsou, dean of the school. “We have an absolutely spectacular facility that instills a great sense of pride among our students, alumni, faculty, staff and the greater Memphis community.” The Memphis Business Journal has more.

Great-Grandmother Wrongfully Arrested

A Knoxville great-grandmother says she was wrongfully arrested after another mix-up in the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's office, Knoxnews reports. Virginia Kruithoff was arrested for violation of probation and spent Saturday afternoon to early Sunday morning behind bars. Kruithoff was charged with a misdemeanor in 2012 for a $32 theft charge from Walmart. Records show she paid all her court fees and restitution costs by February 26, 2013, over a year and a half ago. However, on the clerk's office paperwork that the prosecutors saw, not all the payments are shown to have been made. Due to this error, she was listed as having to appear in court. When she showed the court Tuesday she had paid, her $1,500 bond payment was refunded and her violation of probation was dismissed.

Franklin Judge Honored for 27 Years of Service

Franklin city staff and elected officials wished Franklin City Judge Tom Taylor farewell at a reception held yesterday following his successful election as Williamson County General Sessions Judge, Division II. A lifelong Williamson Countian, Taylor will take the oath of office at the county's judicial center Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. for his new position. "It's been a great pleasure to serve this city for this long." Taylor told the crowd. The Williamson County Herald has more.

Judicial Academy Trains 85 New Judges

Appellate, trial, general sessions, juvenile and municipal judges from across the state attended a weeklong training earlier this month in Murfreesboro, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The sessions included information on transitioning from a law practice to the bench, evidence, recent law updates, courtroom security, jury selection, social media and ethics. Most of the 85 judges participating as students will take office Sept. 1, although any judge appointed or elected within the past year also  was invited to attend.

UT Prof Uses Theater to Teach Law Students

Associate professor Joy Radice is using a new, interactive approach to teach criminal law at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Radice recruited actors from UT’s Department of Theatre to make a fictitious criminal case come to life for her first-year students. College of Law Dean Douglas Blaze said he expects Radice's experiment will prompt other law instructors to try innovative teaching techniques, including using actors in the classroom. "Our goal is to connect theory with practice, to help our students understand how the law actually works. Professor Radice's innovative use of experiential learning methods in the first year does just that," Blaze said. "She has helped lead a discussion at the law school about how we might expand those methods across the first-year curriculum."

DOJ Report: Progress in Tribal Prosecutions

Federal attorneys say they are making progress in tackling crime on tribal lands, but admit to continuing problems. A report released yesterday by the Department of Justice shows improvements in investigations and prosecutions since a 5-year-old study was critical of the agency for turning its back on reservatin crime. The report shows 2,542 cases were filed in Indian Country in the 2013 fiscal year, a 34 percent increase from when the federal government began its tribal justice initiative in 2009. More cases were filed in 2012, but officials say a hiring freeze and budget limitations cut in to the progress being made.  "I feel like we're making progress, but these problems are centuries in the making," U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon told the Associated Press. "We're not going to solve this at DOJ in three years with a new program." 

BakerHostetler Hired for Obama Suit

The U.S. House of Representatives has hired BakerHostetler to sue President Obama for allegedly overstepping his powers by taking executive actions to revise the health-care law, the ABA Journal reports. The lead lawyer named in the contract is BakerHostetler partner David Rivkin, who outlined the legal theory supporting a lawsuit in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (subscription required) published on July 30. 

Private Service Held for Vanderbilt Law Prof

Vanderbilt University Law School professor Harold G. (Hal) Maier died Aug. 24 at the age of 77. Maier earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Cincinnati, graduating from law school Order of the Coif. He was an internationally recognized authority on the application of United States regulatory legislation to foreign business activity. Maier founded the student-edited Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law in 1967 and served as its faculty adviser until his retirement in 2006. A family-only memorial service for Maier was held in Nashville. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be directed to Vanderbilt University Law School.

Charlie Brown Blasts Common Core in First Campaign Speech

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Brown gave his first campaign speech Tuesday, at the steps of the old Roane County Courthouse, declaring — among other things — that he’s for “common sense” education and not the Common Core that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is pushing. In his prepared remarks, Brown said he is the candidate who can relate to the working class. According to his website, Brown supports raising the minimum wage and wants to increase the speed limit on certain highways to 80 miles per hour. Tom Humphrey has more on his Knoxnews blog.

Health Insurance Exchange Now Available Through TBA

Fast and easy health insurance enrollment is now available through the TBA Health Insurance Exchange operated by JLBG Health. Affordable health insurance coverage is important, but getting it can be complicated, frustrating and expensive. The TBA Health Insurance Exchange can help make the whole process simpler and easier to navigate.


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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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