Chief Endorses Amendment 2 at KBA Event

Newly installed Chief Justice Sharon Lee last night endorsed Amendment 2 on judicial selection and thanked the bench and bar for the “civics lesson” on the importance of fair and impartial courts delivered to the citizens this summer as part of the judicial retention campaign. Her remarks came during the Knoxville Bar Association's Supreme Court Dinner last night. More than 500 judges and lawyers attended the gathering and celebrated the retention of Justices Lee, Clark and Wade. Justices Jeff Bivins and Holly Kirby, both recently appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam, also were on hand as the court opened its new term in East Tennessee today. KBA President Wade Davies presented a special token of appreciation to Justice Janice Holder upon her retirement.

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
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 Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Henry D. Forrester, III, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Temitope “Michael” Bamiji Ogunmola.

David D. Noel, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jennifer Scarlett Robbins Goodman.


This appeal involves Defendant’s motion to set aside a default judgment entered against him in a divorce action. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Saul Solomon, Lora Barkenbus Fox, and Emily Herring Lamb, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

Garrett E. Asher, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, CBS Outdoor, Inc. and Felix Z. Wilson, II, Revocable Living Trust, and Equitable Trust Company.


Company which builds and manages billboards applied to the Metropolitan Department of Codes and Building Safety for permits to convert two static billboards to digital billboards. When the applications were denied by the Zoning Administrator, the company appealed to the Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals, which reversed the administrator’s decision and granted the permits. The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of the Board’s decision; the trial court dismissed the petition on the ground that the Metropolitan Government did not have standing to bring the proceeding. We reverse the decision and remand for further proceedings.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender, and Robert C. Edwards, Assistant Public Defender, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, James Cody Burnett.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kenneth F. Irvine, Jr., and Leland L. Price, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, James Cody Burnett, pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide by intoxication with an agreed sentence of eight years and the manner of the service of the sentence to be determined by the trial court. After a hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. The Defendant filed a Rule 35 motion to reduce his sentence, which the trial court denied. The Defendant filed an appeal of both the trial court’s sentence of confinement and its denial of his Rule 35 motion to reduce his sentence. We consolidated those two appeals. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s sentencing of the Defendant and its denial of his motion to reduce his sentence.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James R. Hickman, Jr., Sevierville, Tennessee (on coram nobis petition and on appeal); and David S. Wigler, Knoxville, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Mark Lipton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; James B. (“Jimmy”) Dunn, District Attorney General; and George C. Ioannides and Ashley McDermott, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Mark Lipton, was convicted by a Sevier County jury of aggravated assault and received a five-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction, citing to the inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimony and to the “physical facts rule”; (2) whether the trial court erred in the admission of improper character evidence, alleging both procedural and substantive errors in that ruling; and (3) whether the trial court properly denied his petition for error coram nobis relief by concluding that the new witness’s testimony was not credible.1 After reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Jeffery C. Kelly, District Public Defender (at trial); William Donaldson, Assistant Public Defender (at trial); and Steve McEwen, Mountain City, Tennessee (on appeal), for the appellant, Morris Marsh.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Anthony Wade Clark, District Attorney General; Dennis Dwayne Brooks and Matthew Edward Roark, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Morris Marsh, was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39- 13-202. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress his statement given to an investigator; (2) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss the presentment against him; (3) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s pro se motion to remove his appointed trial counsel; (4) that the State failed to disclose an incriminating statement made by the Defendant to a witness; (5) that the trial court erred in admitting audio recordings of prison phone calls made by the Defendant; (6) that the trial court erred in admitting an autopsy photograph of the victim; (7) that the trial court erred in determining that a witness was unavailable and allowing the witness’s preliminary hearing testimony to be presented at trial; (8) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction; and (9) that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Supreme Court to Hear Faith Healing Case

An East Tennessee woman convicted of child neglect in her teenage daughter's cancer death is asking the state Supreme Court to declare that she is innocent because she relied on prayer to heal the girl. Jacqueline Crank was sentenced to unsupervised probation after her 15-year-old daughter died of Ewing's Sarcoma in 2002. State law makes it a crime to fail to provide medical care to children, but there is an exception for those who rely on prayer alone for healing. However, the Spiritual Treatment Exemption Act applies only to faith healing performed by an accredited practitioner of a recognized church or religious denomination. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in Knoxville today. Knoxnews has more.

Fired Prosecutor Speaks Out Against Recent Firings

Leticia Alexander was fired Tuesday morning, the latest of six prosecutors let go by new Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk. She isn’t going quietly, however. Alexander tells WSMV she believes that she and several others were terminated for political reasons. She was featured in an advertisement supporting Funk's opponent. "I don't think the prosecutor's office should ever be used as political animals," Alexander said. "I mean, we don't work there for political purposes. We work there to serve the community." When asked why he terminated six attorneys, Funk responded, "Out of consideration for the people who have left the office, I'm not going to make any comments."

Justice Lee: No Politics in AG Selection

Sharon Lee, the new Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice, said there will be no partisan politics involved when the court selects a new state attorney general, Gavel Grab reports. “I think the voters rejected partisan politics in our judiciary with the election,” Justice Lee said this week, according to a blog of the Knoxville News Sentinel. ”And they certainly will not have any place in the selection of the attorney general, or how we do the rest of our jobs.” The court will conduct public interviews of eight candidates Monday.

Monroe County Votes to Buy Land for New Jail

The Monroe County Commission voted 8-1 Tuesday morning to purchase land for a new jail. The county’s need for a new jail may have been given an extra impetus after newly-elected 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump announced it would be the policy of his office for a first-time parole violator to receive a 30-day sentence, while a second-time parole offender would have to serve their entire sentence. County officials also said last week they had been told by two state officials the county would have to show progress or risk losing its jail certification this month. The county will buy 20 acres on New Highway 68 just down from Warren Street in Madisonville for of $450,000. Estimates on how much it will cost to build a jail have varied anywhere from $15 million to $30 million, The Advocate and Democrat reports.

Immigration Law has Rock ‘n’ Roll Roots

The argument over President Barack Obama's legal authority to defer deportations begins 42 years ago with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, WSMV reports from the Associated Press. In 1968, Lennon was convicted of possession of "cannabis resin" in London and faced deportation in New York by the Nixon administration. In time, the effort to extend Lennon's stay in the United States would become an integral part of the legal foundation the Obama administration relied on in 2012 to set up a program that has deferred the deportation of more than 580,000 immigrants who entered the country without documents as children. The extent of Obama's legal authority is now central to the White House deliberations over what else Obama can do — and when — without congressional action to reduce deportations and give many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States the ability to stay and work without fear of being removed.

Legal Aid Receives $5,000 Grant from ABA

The American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation Legal Services Access to Justice Committee has awarded Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands a $5,000 Justice Assistance Fund Grant. The money will be used to expand and deepen relationships with rural attorneys, private law firms, government agencies and private businesses for Legal Aid Society’s Volunteer Lawyers Program as well as to expand its Campaign for Equal Justice.

6 Counties Giving Judges Access to Drug Database

Six counties in Tennessee have been chosen to take part in a pilot project that gives drug court judges access to information in the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database to help ensure the success of program participants, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Cocke, Grainger, Hamilton, Jefferson, Sevier and Sullivan counties were selected to represent rural, semi-urban and urban areas. “This program is designed to give judges more tools in their tool box to assist those persons who suffer from addiction and who are in drug court treatment programs,” said Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, a co-sponsor of the legislation allowing the program. If successful, the legislation sponsors believe the pilot program could be extended statewide.

Gov. Haslam Requests Report on DCS Center Violence

Gov. Bill Haslam has asked the top executive at the Department of Children's Services for a report on the violence at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, the Tennessean reports. Officials handcuffed 24 teenagers early this morning after a riot broke out at Woodland Hills, the site of an escape that drew national headlines earlier this week. Six of those escapees remained at large as of last night. It is unclear when Commissioner Jim Henry will complete the report.

Gannett Makes More Cuts to Newsroom; Rejects Buyout

An effort to purchase Nashville’s daily newspaper by a local group has apparently fallen short, and the Tennessean’s parent corporation is moving ahead with a reorganization and additional layoffs at the daily. The Nashville Scene reports in a pair of articles that a Nashville-based group that included former Tennessean publisher Craig Moon and former Scene editor Bruce Dobie tried to buy Gannett’s Tennessee properties this summer, but had their offer rejected. Today, the Scene reports, the Tennessean cut about 15 percent of its newsroom staff as part of its transformation into the “Newsroom of the Future.”

Longtime District Court Judge Steps Down

After 28 years as 12th Judicial District Court judge, Buddy Perry stepped down from the bench, the Herald Chronicle reports. Opting not to seek re-election, Perry is being replaced
 by Justin C. Angel, a Republican who defeated Democrat Steve Blount in the Franklin County general election on Aug. 7. Perry, a Winchester native and a Democrat, was first elected in May 1986 as a 12th Judicial District candidate
 with no Republican opposition. Perry said he plans to return to school and is venturing 
back into private practice in a new area of law now that his term is expired

9 Losing Candidates Challenge August Vote

Nine losing candidates from the August election are contesting results in a Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit, the Memphis Daily News reports. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 2 by Criminal Court candidates Kenya Brooks, Alicia Howard and Mozella Ross; General Sessions Court candidates Kim Sims and J. Nathan Toney; District Attorney candidate Joe Brown; Juvenile Court clerk candidate Henri Brooks; Criminal Court clerk candidate Wanda Halbert; and Doris Deberry-Bradshaw, who ran in a state House Democratic primary. The lawsuit — originally filed in General Sessions Court — seeks “a vote recount and/or the setting aside of the election results as they are individually affected and a declaration declaring them to have won the election.” The action also seeks an open inspection of records from the election, including computer records.

Series Explores Ballot Items Leading Up to Election

In the upcoming November elections, ballots in nine states will have 10 court-related items, ranging from mandatory retirement ages, to selection methods for appellate judges, to the creation of an intermediate appellate court. To increase awareness of these issues, Gavel to Gavel has launched a weekly series that will explore one ballot item per week through election day. In addition, Gavel to Gavel reports it will provide election-night tracking of each of these issues. See the ballot initiatives listed by state. Follow the weekly post at Gavel Grab. Tennessee's constitutional amendment is featured this week.

Medical-Legal Partnerships, Copyright and More in New TBJ

TBA President Jonathan Steen explains medical-legal partnerships in his September Tennessee Bar Journal column and his hopes for fostering more MLPs in the state. Technology versus the Copyright Act is covered by Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock, while columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Russ write about forced marriage.

TBAImpact Connects Lawyers to Legislative Issues and Lawmakers

TBA now provides resources for those who want to follow legislative action. On TBAImpact, members can learn about issues important to lawyers, track legislation pending before the General Assembly and contact their legislators to express their opinions. The TBA has a long tradition of advocating on behalf of its members in the state legislature. TBAImpact will enhance these efforts, giving you an opportunity to weigh in on issues important to the profession. Log in to your TBA account, then click on the TBAImpact tab to make sure your voice is heard. Get started here.

Second City Improv Tour Benefitting CASA Oct. 10

Wilson County CASA will welcome Chicago’s improv comedy powerhouse The Second City’s 55th Anniversary Tour on Oct. 10 at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon. This event benefitting Wilson County CASA is the first of its kind in Wilson County and marks the troupe’s only Tennessee appearance in 2014. Tickets are $50, or upgrade to VIP for $25 more, and can be purchased at or by calling 615-443-2002.


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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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